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December 18, 2012
• Madejski Stadium, Reading, Berkshire
Referee: A. Taylor
• Attendance: 24125
A. Le Fondre 66'
J. Kébé 71'
L. Podolski 14'
Cazorla 32', 35', 60'
T. Walcott 80'
Well then. That's it from me for tonight. I wanted goals, and I feel pretty satisfied. Another entertaining game between these two sides, and we've got plenty more big fixtures to look forward to over the Christmas period. I've been Tom McKeown and it's been a pleasure to describe the action for you. Good night!
Just before we go, there's time for Wayne Veysey's full-time thoughts: "There were some familiar late defensive wobbles but a five-star Arsenal performance swept aside a weak Reading side. Arsene Wenger's team were irresisitible at times, with Santi Cazorla, who became only the third Spaniard to score a Premier League hat-trick, the star of the show. Theo Walcott scored the fifth and was impressive in a rare centre-forward outing. Arsenal climb to fifth place but Reading are six points adrift of safety and already look down and out."
Reading are now rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, six points from safety having conceded 36 goals in their 17 games. Arsenal, meanwhile, jump up to fifth place and suddenly things are looking much rosier for Arsene Wenger's men.
FULL-TIME at the Majeski Stadium and Arsenal run out winners after another goal-filled encounter between these two sides. Santi Cazorla was the hero with a fine hat-trick and an all-round excellent performance. More questions than answers for Brian McDermott's side, however.
90' + 3'
Giroud is almost through on goal but Federici does well to come out and close down the danger.
90' + 2'
Cummings whips a ball in from the right but Arsenal clear. It's worked to Le Fondre who tries a chipped effort which Szczesny comfortably saves.
McAnuff is almost through on goal after a fine pass but Vermaelen does superbly to cut the ball out as we enter three minutes of stoppage time.
The home stands are emptying with the Arsenal fans in fine voice. The visitors have the ball and are just seeing the game out now.
Reading have the ball but aren't pushing forward with any real determination. Robson-Kanu gives it away in midfield and Giroud nearly gets on the end of a cross, but the hosts are able to clear.
Wilshere spreads out to the right-hand side, but Sagna had checked his run and the ball rolls out of play for a throw. Olivier Giroud comes on for goalscorer Theo Walcott, with the visitors looking to savour these last few minutes.
Cazorla comes off to a standing ovation as Francis Coquelin replaces him. It has been a magnificent performance from the midfielder tonight, and his hat-trick is by no means flattering.
Podolski almost makes it six as he collects on the left-hand side of the area, but the Germany striker wastes his chance as he blasts the ball well wide.
Here are Wayne Veysey's thoughts after that Walcott strike: "'Theo, Theo, Theo' and 'Wenger sign him up' sing the Gooners after Walcott slides in what should surely be Arsenal's decisive fifth. It is well deserved for the forward, who has looked a menace in the striker's position."
WALCOTT GETS HIS GOAL!! And that is surely game over. Cazorla skips away from two defenders before sliding the ball into the path of Walcott, who cuts inside and rolls a left-footed effort into the corner with ease.
Wilshere loses out to Hunt and Reading try to push forward again. Shorey is then tackled by Wilshere who does well to track back and recover the ball from his earlier error.
Tabb takes out Wilshere in the air with a firm challenge and Arsenal are in possession once more. After that crazy few minutes it looks like settling back into the same rhythm.
Arsenal are doing their best to kill the game again with some accurate passing. Cazorla gives the ball away though, with a rare bad pass that runs straight through to Federici.
Szczesny gets away with an unconvincing punch as the visitors clear the danger, before Arsenal break forward yet again, and Cazorla nearly grabs his fourth as he drives a strike towards the top corner, but Federici comfortably parries the ball away.
Yellow CardJack Wilshere
Wayne Veysey is sensing a change in atmosphere: "Could we have the comeback to end all comebacks on the cards? Ten minutes ago it looked like we could have a massacre on our hands, with Arsenal four up and strolling it. Now, Reading fans are starting to believe the impossible."
KEBE GETS ANOTHER!! Well, this is incredible. Robson-Kanu darts inside and shows fantastic footwork before releasing Kebe, who takes one touch and stabs it past Szczesny into the bottom corner.
Wilshere looks to set Walcott free again but Mariappa heads back to Federici. It's slowed right down again here.
After Robson-Kanu concedes a foul in Arsenal's half, the visitors slow the play down with some passing along the back line.
Comeback on? Surely not...
GoalAdam Le Fondre
LE FONDRE GETS ONE BACK!! It's an absolute gift from the visitors, who fail to register a clean sheet. Gibbs gives it straight to Tabb, who slides through for Le Fondre, and the substitute does well to round Szczesny and tap it home.
The Royals have a rare foray forward but Kebe loses out easily. Arsenal break quickly yet again and Walcott has another chance, firing straight at Federici from the edge of the box.
Walcott has another shot blocked as the visitors sense they could grab a hatful here tonight. It's been far from convincing from Reading tonight as they throw on Hal Robson-Kanu and Adam Le Fondre.
Adam Le Fondre
CAZORLA GETS HIS HAT-TRICK!! It's a classic Arsenal move and the midfielder caps a superb performance with his third goal. Wilshere is found by Arteta and the England international slots through to Podolski in the box, and he slides across to Cazorla who has the easiest of finishes to bag his third.
Arsenal win a corner and Walcott's cross is met by Mertesacker at the near post, but Gorkss bravely dives in to clear.
Cazorla is in space again and shows some magnificent footwork to move into the penalty area, but eventually gives the ball away. It has been a show-stopping performance from the Spaniard so far this evening.
Arsenal spread it around comfortably again and Cazorla moves the ball inside to Walcott, who cuts on to his right foot before driving a low 20-yard effort wide of the post.
Shorey finds Pogrebnyak with a pinpoint pass, but the Russia striker is flagged offside as he blasts a shot straight at Wojciech Szczesny.
Time for a quick check-in with Wayne Veysey: "Chants of 'Wenger, sign him up' from the Arsenal fans after Theo Walcott nearly adds a fourth for Arsenal. With the visitors tearing Reading's defence to shreds, the opportunity is there for Walcott to demonstrate that he is deserving of more than just collectors item chances in the centre-forward role."
Arsenal have so much space in midfield at the moment. Reading are letting the visitors come at them and it could spell trouble.
So close! Wilshere sets Walcott away, but the striker is forced wide. He manages to drive the ball across goal and it's nearly diverted into his own net by Kaspars Gorkss, but Federici is able to smother before Cazorla can poke it in.
Tabb and Leigertwood exchange passes in the middle but are forced further and further back by Arsenal and eventually have to pass to the defence before Adrian Mariappa boots the ball straight out of play.
Kebe gets a stroke of luck, picking up the ball after a deflection off the referee, and breaks forward down the right-hand side, but can't find a man in the box with his cross and Arsenal clear.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has plenty of time to run forward and eventually belts a long-range effort wide. Kebe does well to deal with pressure from Gibbs in midfield and wins a free kick for the hosts.
Reading kick off the second half. No changes for either side.
We're moments away from getting underway in the second half. I imagine the team talks were somewhat different - particularly in volume - in either dressing room. What have we got in store in the next 45 minutes?
According to Infostrada, the last time Arsenal were at least three goals ahead at the break was at Newcastle in February 2011. They were, in fact, 4-0 up at St James' Park and ended up drawing 4-4. Call me a cynic, but there's no chance of that happening tonight, right?
It's looking very possible that the Royals could have the curse of being bottom on Christmas Day is this form continues. Reading need an early goal if they are to have any chance tonight.
Wayne Veysey's been kind enough to give us his thoughts at the break. Here they are: "Some half-hearted jeers from the home fans and enthusiastic applause from the travelling Gooners at the end of an opening period entirely dominated by Arsenal. After Reading spurned two early opportunities, Arsenal took control through Lukas Podolski's goal, which has been supplemented by two from Santi Cazorla. Arsenal are cutting open the powderpuff home defence at will, and we could have a massacre on our hands if they really go for the jugular."
HALF-TIME at the Madejski Stadium and Arsenal are cruising with a 3-0 lead. Brian McDermott's side have been nothing short of dreadful and need a miraculous turnaround if they are to salvage anything from this game.
45' + 1'
Pogrebnyak has some space moving forward and spreads it to Kebe, but the midfielder takes too long and eventually loses out.
We will have one added minute at the Madejski Stadium. For the hosts, the break can't come soon enough.
Ironic cheers of "ole" ring around the ground as the hosts manage to string a few passes together, but Kebe's cross is cut out by Mertesacker and Arsenal press forward. At the other end Sagna has acres of space on the right to find Oxlade-Chamberlain, who forces a low save from Federici with a fine header.
Cazorla and Podolski link up with some sublime passing on the edge of the box before the Spaniard finds his team-mate once more, but the striker's blasted effort is blocked.
Oxlade-Chamberlain tries to break down the right-hand side but Shorey is there to block the cross and concede a corner. Walcott's ball in is cleared towards Pogrebnyak but the striker can't gather and Arsenal have the ball once more.
Yellow CardJobi McAnuff
Wilshere is down in a heap after taking a boot to the leg from McAnuff. It looks in the replay like the Reading winger missed the ball and caught Wilshere accidentally, but the referee brandishes the first yellow card of the game.
More from Wayne Veysey who - like all of us - is worried about Reading's defence: "There are boos from the home side after powderpuff defending allows Cazorla to steer in his second and Arsenal's third. The visitors are being given far too much space to strutt their stuff. Could there be another magnificent seven haul on the cards?"
Shaun Cummings is having a torrid time this evening. He's been beaten by two crosses and was nowhere to be seen as Gibbs headed back in the build-up to that third. Worrying times for Reading, here.
CAZORLA GETS ANOTHER!! This is looking very bad for Reading, and oh so comfortable for the Gunners. Walcott chips across the box and Gibbs is alone at the far post to nod back to Cazorla, who takes a touch and swivels to fire in left-footed past Federici.
Wayne Veysey has chimed in with his thoughts after that second goal: "Arsenal's fans have been singing the name of Santi Cazorla at regular intervals since kick-off. Now they have real reason to do so, after the diminutive Spaniard stoops to head home a Lukas Podolski cross from the left. It will take an epic comeback from Reading to stop a cakewalk win for the visitors."
CAZORLA MAKES IT TWO!! It's more poor defending from the hosts as another cross from the left undoes the Royals' back line. Podolski turns provider this time as he dinks the ball into the box and Cazorla gets down low to nod into the near post.
A rare prolonged spell of possession for Reading ends as Cazorla slides in to dispossess Tabb. The diminutive midfielder is working hard tonight.
Walcott bursts forward in another break, and chips the ball over to Cazorla, but the Spaniard can't beat the first man with his cross and the hosts survive Arsenal's latest attack.
Great defending from Thomas Vermaelen! Pogrebnyak is set free on the left and rolls the ball across the six yard box looking for Hunt, but Vermaelen is there to snuff out the danger.
Podolski is found on the left by Wilshere, and the front man pulls it back. Reading make a hash of clearing the ball and it falls to Gibbs, who tries a volley which Federici has to palm away.
Sagna releases Oxlade-Chamberlain once more, and the youngster wins a corner. Arsenal have plenty of attacking options going forward tonight, with plenty of movement.
The visitors are still enjoying the lion's share of possession, but we've entered a scrappy spell. Reading win it back but Cazorla works hard to close down and put it out for a throw.
That really was an excellent chance for Walcott. Tonight is his chance to show he can play as a central striker, and he'll be hoping he won't come to regret missing that opportunity.
Great chance for Walcott! The England man springs the offside trap and is through one-on-one, but fails to outwit Federici in the Reading goal and the shot-stopper is able to divert Walcott's effort wide.
Jay Tabb has a shot blocked by Per Mertesacker on the edge of the box but Reading keep the ball. The midfielder then spreads wide to McAnuff but the Arsenal back line moves forward as one and the Royals winger is caught offside.
The visitors are looking settled now, and are keeping hold of the ball with ease. Cazorla feigns a shot with his left foot before cutting inside and unleashing a rasping strike from 25 yards which flies wide of the post.
More chanting news from Wayne Veysey in the wake of that strike: "'Lukas Podolski, he scores when he wants' sing the Arsenal fans after the German international put the away team 1-0 up with a neat finish after accepting the opportunity provided by Kieran Gibbs' excellent run and cross from the left flank."
Brian McDermott will be very upset with that goal. The defending was non-existent and those early chances are long forgotten already.
GOAL!! It's the Germany international who breaks the deadlock. Kieran Gibbs whips in a cross from the left, and Podolski has plenty of space in the box to take a touch and fire low past Federici.
Arsenal slow things down as they try to stem that brief wave of Reading pressure. Shorey stops Bacary Sagna in his tracks and puts it out for a throw to the visitors.
Pogrebnyak is working hard on his return to the side, and the Russia international wins the hosts a corner. Nicky Shorey's whipped delivery is met at the near post by Noel Hunt, who rises highest to flick a header just over the bar.
Real opening for the hosts as Pavel Pogrebnyak skips past Kieran Gibbs and into the area, before drilling it low across the six yard box. Unfortunately for Reading, Jobi McAnuff can't get a clean contact on it and the chance goes begging.
Wayne Veysey's heard a bit of playful banter from the fans: "Reading supporters are trying to goad their Arsenal counterparts with chants about old boy Phil Parkinson, who engineered the shock Capital One Cup triumph over the Gunners last week."
Leigertwood brings down Wilshere 30 yards out and the visitors have a free kick. Theo Walcott steps up and goes straight for goal, but can't bend it into the far corner as it flies wide.
Mikele Leigertwood is dispossessed by Cazorla and Arsenal move forward again. Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross from the right is turned behind by Shaun Cummings.
Arsenal have settled quickly here, and are moving it around with purpose. Lukas Podolski then gives the ball away as he searches for Jack Wilshere and Reading are able to clear.
Jimmy Kebe's cross is cleared and Arsenal sweep forward with a quick counter-attack. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finds Santi Cazorla, then takes the ball back from his team-mate before blasting a low effort from 20 yards which Adam Federici parries away. Lukas Podolski is first to the rebound but is flagged offside.
We're underway in Berkshire as Arsenal get the game going.
We're just minutes away from kick-off at the Madejski Stadium, and the teams are leaving the tunnel. Can Reading get revenge for that 7-5 defeat, or will Arsenal bounce back from the shock giantkilling at the hands of Bradford in the Capital One Cup last week?
Wayne Veysey is overseeing events inside the stadium this evening. Here are his thoughts: "Good evening from the Madejski Stadium, where the two teams are going through their final practice drills before returning to the dressing rooms to prepare for kick-off. If this match is half as entertaining and downright bonkers as Arsenal's 7-5 Capital One Cup win here last month we should be in for something special. Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick that night and, perhaps due to how he caused such tremors to the Reading defence, he is set to make a rare start in his favourite centre-forward position."
STAT ATTACK: In the last four Premier League meetings between these two, Arsenal have scored eleven times, while Reading have netted only once. A sign of things to come, perhaps?
Interestingly, Arsenal will climb up to fifth in the Premier League table if they win this evening, while the Royals can push themselves off the bottom and leapfrog QPR with anything but defeat. But with five losses in a row, Brian McDermott's side have their work cut out this evening.
So, Reading keep the same side from the 3-0 at Sunderland, while Theo Walcott earns a start through the middle for the Gunners; could that be something to do with his hat-trick in the Capital One Cup against the hosts not so long ago?
ARSENAL: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Podolski. Subs: Mannone, Koscielny, Coquelin, Ramsey, Rosicky, Giroud, Gervinho
READING: Federici; Cummings, Shorey, Gorkss, Mariappa; Leigertwood, Tabb, Kebe, McAnuff; Hunt, Pogrebnyak. Subs: Taylor, Gunter, Harte, Pearce, McCleary, Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre
First of all, the teams are in, so let's take a look...
Good evening one and all, and welcome to play-by-play coverage of tonight's Premier League clash between Reading and Arsenal at the Madejski Stadium. I'm Tom McKeown and I'll be here throughout the match to guide you through the action. Will we see a repeat of that crazy 7-5 win for Arsenal in the Capital One Cup? Don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind seeing some goals!
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