30 March 2013

Arsenal 4-1 Reading: Knockin' on 4th Place's Door


What a brilliant, brilliant game. Even our misses looked beautiful. This was the kind of dominating, swash-buckling game we've needed after a few tenser, tighter matches (even a few 2-0 games can feel that way). Passes were tight and audacious, and shots were plentiful, so much so that we could afford to squander a few. Gervinho tallied early, giving us space to relax and to attack with more verve, and the second half saw the floodgates open with three more goals. Yes, we conceded one, but I did after all predict a 3-1 score and don't mind that Fabianski's string of clean sheets comes to an end. It's enough wiggle-room to permit Wenger to bring Szczęsny back to the first team next week without anyone complaining too much. Another clean-sheet might have proved difficult for Wenger to make that change. Back to the actual game, though...

Goals from Gervinho (11', Cazorla assists), Cazorla (47', Gervinho assists), Giroud (67', Gervinho assists), and Arteta (77' penalty) saw Arsenal eviscerate Reading despite a pretty headed goal from Robson-Kanu in the 68th minute. More seriously, Monreal was injured on the goal as he went for the block. Gibbs came on for him and deputized well. The only real complaint to make, and it's a tetchy one after scoring four, is that we were so profligate in front of goal. We really could have put a more on frame, if not in the back of the net. I won't complain too loudly, as the scoreline says all that really needs to be said. In a game we were really supposed to win, we did so in style, and the dominance was so thorough that even the Reading goal should provoke little more than an "aw, shucks."

It was disappointing to see Gervinho come off for the Ox in the 75th minute, but I'm giving him my MOTM for the day anyway. Cazorla had another one of his games, and it's a sign of the high expectations that he's creating for himself that he ends up as second-fiddle despite the strength of his play today, which includes a new career-high for goals in a season, but Gervinho gets the nod because he came in, showed no signs of rust, and was bright and intelligent all game long. His runs, his hold-up play, and his passing were all spot-on for most of the game. I'll admit that I'm engaging in a bit of self-esteem-building, not normally something I wallow in, but Gervinho seems to need a boost, even on a day when he scored and notched two assists. I hope that Cazorla is generous enough not to hoard the accolades.

A few numbers for the wonkier fans:
  • Possession: Arsenal 70%-30% Reading
  • Shots (on goal): Arsenal 26 (6), Reading 5 (2)
  • Corners: Arsenal 11, Reading 3
  • Passing Accuracy: Arsenal 88%, Reading 71%
  • Final score (all that really matters): Arsenal 4-1 Reading
Just as important as the three points, we added to our goal differential as we pursue the top four finish. We now stand at +26 on the season, while Spurs are at +15, Chelsea +27, and Everton, who play later today, are at a mere +11. In other words, should it come down to a tie with Spurs or Everton on points, our goal-differential is strong enough to see us through. A tie with Chelsea is a bit more touch-and-go. We'll see, though. At our current rate, we may just have enough momentum to seize a top-four finish outright. Spurs did just enough against Swansea to win today 2-1, while Chelsea stumbled to a loss against Southampton by the same score. We'll keep pace with Spurs for the week, four points behind (keeping in mind we still have a game in hand) while closing to two back of Chelsea (no game in hand there).  A closer look at these scenarios is forthcoming.

For now, sit back, relax, and enjoy a win. Not just any win, but an Arsenal kind of win. Enough passing to make an opponent dizzy, goals left and right, and winning with style, passion, and skill. Brilliant.