Date: 26th October 2016 at 3:34pm
Written by:

It was always going to be a tough acquisition for Reading, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s double sent the Gunners through to the quarter finals of the EFL Cup.

As promised, Jaap Stam did make changes to his starting XI – five in total, with Watson, Blackett, Evans, Harriot and Samuel coming in. Despite his disappointment against Rotherham last Saturday after being brought off after 25 minutes, Liam Kelly started in midfield.

Straight away you could see that Stam’s men wanted to play the Premier League giants at their own game – trying to play the ball on the floor and pressing high up the pitch. Carl Jenkinson had a good chance to open the scoring a few minutes in after a neat interchange with Oxlade-Chamberlain, but made his shot easy for Al-Habsi to save.

The England international then had a chance of his own shortly after, being gifted good space on the right, but his drilled cross-shot came to nothing. After this frantic start, Reading did finally start to find their feet to slow the tempo down to their advantage, without creating any clear cut opportunites to test Martinez in the Arsenal goal.

The best chance of the game fell to summer signing Lucas Perez, who beat our offside trap to bare down on goal – unselfishly he tried to slip it across to Iwobi, but Blackett was covering really well. Just when we had a stranglehold in the game, Wenger’s side took the lead following some very sloppy play, attempting to play out from the back.

Al-Habsi passed to Van der Berg on the edge of his box from a goal kick, although may not have been ready for it. He duly gifted the ball to the best player on the park, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who did well to beat Al-Habsi from a tigh angle. A massively frustrating goal to concede when we looked in control, but I suppose that’s the risk of playing how we do.

A response was very nearly immediate from the Royals, as neat play on the right side gave Harriot space to have a shot from the edge of the area – it took a big deflection and very nearly looked into the net with Marrtinez helpless, but landed on top of the net. From the resulting corner we came close, but Moore couldn’t get enough on his header.

Going in at half time we were still very much in the game, especially as we weren’t being harmed by Arsenal for the most part. The Gunners came out firing in the second period though and had us under a fair amount of pressure. Perez and Oxlade-Chamberlain both went close, as Arsenal looked to kill the game off.

Our best move of the match led to what could have been the perfect equaliser, as patient play allowed Obita time to swing in a perfect cross for substitute Yann Kermorgant, but couldn’t direct his header enough in to the corner as Martinez stretched to gather. Al Habsi kept us in the game soon after with a terrific save from Giroud’s close range header, similar to the one at Rotherham on Saturday.

Another silly mistake at the back allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain to work a shot at goal, but the Omani keeper saved again, while Iwobi fluffed the follow up from a good position. The pressure eventually told on Reading, as the Ox got his second of the goal, albeit a lucky deflection, as he struck from the edge of the area.

It seemed to kill us off, despite Yann Kermorgant forcing Martinez into a good save from a free kick from the edge of the area with a couple of minutes to go. A valiant effort in the end, with Ali having to keep us in it, but plenty to take away for the young players who acquitted themselves extremely well against good opposition. Let’s now take this into the league on Saturday against Forest.

Arsenal – 4-2-3-1: Martinez; Jenkinson, Holding, Gabriel, Gibbs; Eleneny, Maitland Niles; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi; Perez.
Subs: Macey, Sheaf, Bola, Bielik, Zelalem, Willock, Giroud.

Reading – 4-3-3: Al-Habsi; Watson, Moore, Blackett, Obita; Kelly, Evans, Van der Berg; McCleary, Samuel, Harriot.
Subs: Moore, Gravenberch, Weiser, Quinn, Swift, Meite, Kermorgant.