Date: 18th December 2012 at 11:51am
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Reading were picked apart and outplayed by Arsene Wenger`s Arsenal side at the Madejski Stadium, as they fired five past them in a 5-2 defeat for the Royals.

Royals boss Brian McDermott opted to make three changes from the side that lost to Sunderland last week, with Kaspars Gorkss and the returning Jimmy Kebe and Pavel Pogrebnyak coming in for Alex Pearce, Garath McCleary and Adam Le Fondre. The Gunners were the side making the early running and forced Adam Federici into an early save, following good interchange between Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Pavel Pogrebnyak has reportedly requested talks between himself and owner Anton Zingarevich to discuss his future at the club, but he almost create Reading’s only opening of the half. The Russian exchanged passes with Hunt, which allowed him to dissect the Arsenal backline, but his pull back wasn’t connected with properly by his strike partner, allowing Arsenal to clear.

However, Arsenal were to take the lead on 14 minutes, which the balance of play would probably agree with. Keiran Gibbs was given the space and freedom on the left side, allowing him to fire in a low cross, which Lukas Podolski pounced upon from 8 yards and he didn’t need a second invitation to finish expertly into the corner.

Arsenal were growing in confidence and Santi Cazorla’s 25-yard fizzing drive just went past Federici’s right-hand post. The Royals were starting to crumble and Theo Walcott found himself through on goal after a simple ball over the top, but the Australian keeper denied him well. Despite this, the second goal eventually came minutes later.

Once again, the Royals left side was exposed as the German international Podolski turned provider, crossing for the smallest player on the pitch in Santi Cazorla to head home, past a helpless Federici. The extremely-impressive Spaniard then added an inevitable third just minutes later, swiveling in the box after Reading failed to clear and scored with a composed finished on the turn.

Reading were shell-shocked, but we’re being completely outplayed by Arsene Wenger’s side, who didn’t seem they were low on confidence. Into the second period, Royals boss Brian McDermott opted to go with a five-man midfield to nullify the Gunners’ threat and it appeared to work in the opening exchanges, despite early Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain efforts.

Although, even the five-man midfield would not stop the majestic Cazorla, who scored his first hat-trick in English football. As Reading were pushing for a consolation goal, they were stretched at the other end and Podolski’s pull back was easy for the Spaniard to score his third into an open goal from five yards.

In the famous game back in October, Reading were 4-0 up against Arsenal, with the Gunners coming back and the Royals may have thought revenge could be possible. After a slack square pass from Keiran Gibbs, Jay Tabb slipped through substitute Adam Le Fondre, who rounded Szczesny and tapped home calmly to give the home crowd something to shout about.

Just as it seemed their was no way back, Brian McDermott’s side scored a second with 20 minutes still to play. Hal Robson-Kanu was proving a problem for the Gunners defence following his introduction and his superb footwork slipped in Jimmy Kebe, to slot home comfortably to give Arsenal some problems in the last quarter of the game.

Adam Federici has received criticism in recent weeks for his performances, but no one could doubt his abilities after his display in this encounter. This time he saved from Cazorla, after the Spanish international danced through the Reading backline. However, the Royals’ hopes were dashed with ten minutes to play, as Theo Walcott recieved the ball 30 yards out, before driving through the Reading defence at will and slotting past Federici comfortably to seal the three points at the Madejski Stadium.

At the end of the day, we were outplayed. I don’t mind losing games like this, but not in the manner we did it. Hopefully that second half showed Brian how a five-man midfield is the only way forward in this league at the moment for us. Like Gary Neville said, if we played 4-4-2 at City, we will get battered.

Reading: Federici, Cummings, Gorkss, Mariappa, Shorey, Kebe, Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff, Hunt, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Taylor, Gunter, Harte, Pearce, McCleary, Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Vermaelen; Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Chamberlain, Podolski, Walcott
Subs: Mannone, Koscielny, Ramsey, Coquelin, Rosicky, Gervinho, Giroud

Player Ratings

Federici 7
See above.

Cummings 5
From a positional point of view, he continues to frustrate me. Always way too tight, his side was exposed way too many times in this game and was integral in three of their goals.

Mariappa 6
Did a decent job. His pace was a crucial asset considering Arsenal’s front three, but still tempted to see him as a right-back.

Gorkss 5
Made some good interceptions, but still not good enough for the Premier League. Walcott probably couldn’t have believed his luck for his fifth goal, waltzed past Gorkss too easily.

Shorey 6
Continues to be consistent, but let Cazorla get in front of him for the second goal. Could have also prevented the third had he have been in position, which dragged Gorkss out.

Kebe 6
Hit and miss. Showed what we were missing at times with some bright sparks, but his footballing brain is not there. If he had the reading of the game to make the right runs, he would be a much better player. Took his goal well.

Leigertwood 4
Biggest injustice in Premier League football that he is still managing to play week in, week out. His passing is simply awful.

Tabb 6
Worked hard as ever for the team. Harried Wilshere well for our first goal. Is much more effective in a five man midfield.

McAnuff 3
Rubbish, say no more.

Hunt 5
Didn’t have a massive effect on the game, won the odd header.

Pogrebnyak 6
I thought he had a decent game. A much better player when its into his feet, also can’t fault his work rate.

Robson-Kanu 8
Made a huge difference when he came on. Realised the space to run inside and did extremely well for the second goal, has to start on Saturday.

Le Fondre 7
Did very well on his own. With Guthrie playing behind him in a five-man midfield, Alfie could cherish it. Did superb for his goal.
Didn’t have a massive impact, probably a better substitute than starter.