Last night Reading and Arsenal were involved in one of the greatest matches in League Cup history. It was one of those games that makes me say, this is why I love football.
With Reading 3-0 up within 20 minutes it looked as if Arsenal were heading for another defeat along with another abysmal performance and so when Reading made it 4-0 things looked all over and Arsenal, and fans around the world were questioning the universe as to what is going on with their club. Some may have hoped for a comeback, but honestly I don’t think even the ones that hoped for it actually believed it would happen, but when Theo Walcott scored just before half time, the fans and the team were given a little but of hope, while Reading manager McDermott must have thought is this a dream. it soon turned into a nightmare.
Reading fans must have feared the worst but still believed that their team had done enough to still win the game. They must have known they would have conceded again during the 90, but never guessed that the game would be pulled level the way it did. Things got even more dramatic in extra time with Arsenal taking the lead and then Reading squaring things up at 5-5 but Arsenal put the game to bed with 2 more goals.
After the game I must say that I was still exhilarated so can only imagine what the fans in the ground and the players felt like.
Quick fire reading
Reading started the brightest out of the two teams, and I am sure McDermott drilled his team to push Arsenal from the start especially as everyone has seen recently how slow Arsenal have been starting games. It paid off as yet again Arsenal started the game with the mentality of keep ball, rather than score goals. Reading got the ball and attacked.
They were unlucky not to score from an early corner as Sean Morrison’s header came off the post and hit the diving Martinez on the head to effectively have the young Argentine to head it away unwittingly. Reading kept pressing and looked like scoring and soon got their reward when Robson-Kanu set up Jason Roberts. Jason Roberts lost Koscielny and converted into the roof of the net from a driven cross from Robson-Kanu. Those two would be a real threat to Arsenal for the rest of the game. Roberts bullied, man handled, out muscled you can choose any way of saying it but Djourou and Koscielny were made to look like fools but the veteran striker. He was constantly making things difficult for the defence and keeper and was in constant conversation with the ref and even when he was off, his reactions to Arsenal late goal showed me something in him that makes me think that one day he may well become a manager himself.
Like a shark with a taste of blood Reading kept up their attack with wave after wave and soon the Madejski Stadium were celebrating again. Chris Gunter fired in another low cross but instead of a Reading player converting it was Laurent Koscielny who tried to cut it up put it past his own ‘keeper. Then minute’s later
Reading fans were cheering yet another goal with Mikele Leigertwood shooting form long range and Martinez’s elaborate dive looked good but was not effective with the ball spinning in the air and into the net. It was poor goalkeeping, but all experience that I am sure will be essential for his future. I am sure he will be working on things like that more often now.
To the credit of Reading they didn’t rest up at 3-0 and with Arsenal still looking toothless it was no real surprise when they scored again. Reading passing the ball well found McCleary who crossed for Noel Hunt to out jump Jenkinson and score past Martinez, although he did get a slight touch on it.
For one fan at least it was too much and he had seen enough. Now I don’t advocate leaving a match early. But if you are going a couple of minutes early as your team has won or lost and your are going to beat the rush for trains, I can in some way understand, but to leave watching your club in the first have is a disgrace. And all I could think was if Arsenal come back how is he going to feel. Well. Does anyone know who he is? Is he on Twitter? Please let us know. For those who don’t know would or what I mean, please enjoy this gif.
Arsenal had tried to work their way through Reading’s defence, but this was not like the game against Norwich were they defended brilliantly. Reading were the attacking team and normally in instances like that Arsenal are able to work their magic. But in that first half it seems they had run out of any pixie dust. To their credit they didn’t give up trying and when Walcott was put through down the middle he used his pace and put away in a cool calm and stylish way to give Arsenal some hope. McDermott even said that as soon as they scored he felt nervous. Scoring just before half time must have given the rest of the team a bit of a lift as well as the
bollocking motivational speech I am sure they got from Wenger.
All Out Attack
The second half started and again Reading went on the attack, and for the first 5-10 minutes they still looked like scoring. Arsenal did start the second half a lot brighter than they did the first, but that wasn’t hard to do with how poor they were in the first half. Walcott continued his bright finish to the first half in the second and was a constant threat for Reading. As soon as youngster Serge Gnarby got a one on one opportunity he came alive. A game like this was great experience for him, but you can see that he still needs some time before he gets more starting time. Maybe a loan. Players like Chamakh and Arshavin were again showing why they were not getting more playing time and why fans are happy to see them go, as they were ineffectual and seemed bored. Wenger decided to bring on fresh legs and when Giroud and youngster Eisfeld were warming up everyone though that was the end for Chamakh and Arshavin, but to the surprise to most Chamakh and Arshavin stayed on and it was Frimpong, who played well in the holding midfield role, and Serge Gnarby who came off. Giroud had an instant impact as within 90 second off coming on he had pulled one back with a nice header. Giroud could have scored again 10 minutes later but Federici saved it. The Frenchman was showing Chamakh just how to play his position. He was constantly moving, trying to bring players into the game and then getting into attacking positions.
Thomas Eisfeld, who was making his debut, put in an amazing performance. He was commanding with the ball, always looking for it. Coming deep, always getting into space and making the right decision to either run at people or pass it. And it wasn’t just a short pass but and cutting direct pass. I was very impressed with the performance of the younger German and looks to me as another great player that will be coming through in the next year or two. From what I saw between Gnarby and Eisfeld I have to say that I see more promise for Eisfeld.
Arsenal pushed and pushed and were showing heart that they had not shown in a long time, but it just seemed that they were going to lose out. To their credit they didn’t give up, and their persistence paid off when Laurent Koscielny made up for his earlier own goal with a thumping header minutes before the 90 was up.
With only one goal being in it was always going to be a nail biting added time and with 4 minutes being shown McDermott must have been praying for it to go quickly. Trying to prolong any Arsenal attack he brought on his final substitute, but that seemed to lead referee Kevin Friend to add even more time onto the 4 allocated. It was that decision by the referee that allowed Arsenal to grab an equaliser and keep the game alive.
Reading manager McDermott was rightfully frustrated as was Jason Roberts who couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
They think it’s all over
It was all too much for some and it seems that Oliver Giroud and Francis Coquelin didn’t seem to understand that Walcott’s goal, which has been given to Carl Jenkinson, only put the game into extra time and the game was not won on away goals as they threw their shirts into the crowd only having to ask for them back when promoted by one of the Arsenal backroom staff. Full credit to Jenkinson. If he had not been following up and kept his head to put the clearance in then Arsenal would have been out. For me it looked as if it had gone over the line for Walcott, but Jenkinson will want to claim it. The post match interview between them was great. Walcott’s expression tops Henry telling Fabregas to say yes. It will be at the bottom so go check it out. 1:46
Dramatic 30 minutes
With the game going into extra time there was another 30 minutes of end to end direct football. Arsenal took first advantage with a goal from the most unlikely source with Marouane Chamakh scoring a great goal from outside the box. When Chamakh first came to Arsenal he was scoring goals and looked to be a good player. But when van Perise came back from injury Chamakh was benched. But when a striker was coming on it was Nicklas Bendtner. Now if I were Chamakh and I had been scoring and Bendtner was coming on instead of me, I would lose confidence in myself.
There was a point in the game, around the 75th minute where Arshavin and Chamakh seemed to come to life. Chamakh was making runs and coming deep. And it seemed strange because if he had started the game like that, or even the second half he may have grabbed a goal sooner. And for the goal it started with him when he neatly slid the ball to Giroud who then plays it to Arshavin. Arshavin the lays it off to Chamakh who got forward and ran into space faked and then with a driven low shot beat Federici at the near post.
In the second half of extra time, 25 minutes in, Reading equalised with a goal from substitute Pavel Pogrebnyak. The Russian powered in a header from a whipped in cross leaving the mid air Martinez unable to do anything.
With only five minutes left of extra time it seemed like the game may go to penalties but with how the game had gone, it seemed more likely that there were going to be more goals and there were.
Arsenal broke from defence and with Andrei Arshavin running into the box saw his shot cleared off the line but Walcott walloped it home, breaking the Reading fans hearts as well as almost breaking the back of the net. Arsenal then went on to kill the game when Walcott lumped the ball forward and with the ball bouncing just over the last Reading man, Chamakh ran onto it, nodded it forward and then with Federici off his line chipped him to score his second of the game. It was a well taken finish, one that if he hadn’t have scored early may not have even attempted.
It must have been heart breaking for Reading fans and all at the club, while for Arsenal fans, especially the ones who stayed, and all that were watching on TV will be hoping that the direct style of play they were forced into playing will be something to feature more often in the future.
At one point of the match the Arsenal fans, who were in good voice even when their club were losing, did start to chant, we want our money back, we want our arsenal back. Well they got it. The direct attacking arsenal that was show in the second half was one not seen for many years. I think back to when Arsenal had Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry. Over the years Arsenal have become a pass, pass, pass team. They still score goals, but before it was pass, pass, cutting pass, goal.
Wenger said how he went to a 4-2-4 formation. That would have been Arshavin on the left and Walcott on the right with Giroud and Chamakh upfront. But with Eisfeld so forward it was at times 5 in attack. Chamakh scored two good goals last night. And with the movement he showed he can fit into the team. I wonder if he takes his next chance in the same way will there be spot for him. Because if he played like that more often, then why not. But that is a bigger question to most of the team. If they had played the way they did for the second half and extra time from the first kick of the game, then they wouldn’t be needing extra time and be 6th in the league. Maybe it is about time Wenger and Arsenal started to realise that. And if they have realised it, then do something about it.
full highlights of the game. http://www.footytube.com/video/reading-arsenal-oct30-139237