Arsenal face Reading in the Premier League at the Madejski Stadium on Monday evening.
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GETTING BACK TO HIS BEST
Wilshere v West Brom (Key: Successful passes - Heatmap - Wilshere v West Brom
Green, Unsuccessful - Red, Key passes - Yellow)
Jack Wilshere has been in superb form in recent weeks, returning to his best after 17 months on the sidelines.
The England international was exceptional against Bradford in midweek, but Arsène Wenger believes his most accomplished display was in the victory against West Brom last weekend.
"It was the first time I have seen him very, very close to the player he is," the manager said. "He won balls when he closes down and he made a difference running with the ball. It is important in the middle of the park to be capable of passing people to create openings. He can do that."
Wilshere's ability to play with his head up and fashion chances with his intelligent movement was especially prevalent against West Brom, and he was a driving force all afternoon. As our heatmap above shows, the 20-year-old covered a huge amount of ground and was particularly influential in the danger zone between the visitors' defence and midfield.
As our chalkboard above demonstrates, Wilshere was at the heart of numerous passing in the West Brom half, including one breathtaking combination with Arteta and Cazorla that drew instant applause from the Emirates fans. Wilshere also played three 'key passes' - those that directly led to goalscoring opportunities - and had one shot blocked himself.
BATTLE OF THE LEFT BACKS
Kieran Gibbs has made a welcome return to the Arsenal starting XI in recent weeks after recovering from injury. The England international offers width and a genuine attacking outlet on the left flank, but his opposite number at Reading, Nicky Shorey, has created the second-most goalscoring chances in the Premier League this season.
The 31-year-old is a set-piece expert and has made 43 key passes this season - second only to Leighton Baines - while Gibbs has created 13 chances. Shorey has also put in the second highest number of crosses in the Premier League (129), while Arsenal's top crosser is Cazorla on 89. The Reading left back clearly has the potential to be a thorn in the side of the Gunners while he is on the attack, but they may have more joy once he is on the back foot.
Gibbs may not have created as many chances as his counterpart but defensively he has made more than double the number of successful tackles this season (26 to 11), and has also made far more interceptions (35 to 14).
Gibbs' passing accuracy is also superior (87.2 per cent to 70.6 per cent) and he has won close to double the number of his duels (60 to 31) - although Shorey has a marginally better success rate.
READING v ARSENAL - MATCH FACTS
- Reading and Arsenal have met 10 times in all competitions, with the Gunners winning them all
- The two sides have already met once this season, in the Capital One Cup, with Reading taking a 4-0 lead, only to be pegged back to 4-4 and losing 7-5 after extra time
- In that match, Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick with all three goals being netted in added time at the end of the first half (45), second half (90) and extra time (120)
- Reading have won just one of their last 10 Premier League games at the Madejski Stadium (W1 D5 L4)
- Arsenal have won none of their last six away games in all competitions (W0 D4 L2)
- The Royals have only managed one clean sheet in the league all season, the lowest tally of all Premier League sides
- Reading have thrown away more points from winning positions than any other Premier League sides this term (17)
- Arsenal have conceded the lowest number of second-half goals in the top-flight this season (six) while Reading have shipped the joint-most (20)
- The Gunners have made the most passes in the Premier League this season (9221) while the Royals have made the fewest (4823)
- Per Mertesacker has made more last man tackles than any other Premier League player this season (seven)
The Matchday Programme is now available on the iPad! Find out more here.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 17 Dec 2012