Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side travel to Berkshire to take on Reading in the Premier League on Monday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist Jonathan Low for their views.
Brian McDermott started the season playing a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Danny Guthrie operating just behind Pavel Pogrebnyak in an attempt to adapt Reading’s strategy to suit the Premier League.
But he has returned to a straightforward 4-4-2 system, and neither of the aforementioned are players likely to start on Monday evening. Instead, two of Noel Hunt, Jason Roberts and Adam Le Fondre will spearhead Reading’s attack, and they all specialise in working the channels, drifting wide to draw opposition centre backs out of position.
They will primarily be a threat on the counter-attack, especially when Arsenal’s full backs advance high up the pitch. Reading average just 41 per cent of possession this season, the lowest of any Premier League side, and will sit back in two banks of four, before transferring the ball forward quickly through their speedy wingers.
Reading’s defensive shape has improved since the start of the season, but they have still struggled against sides playing three central midfielders. Jay Tabb and Mikele Leigertwood are both mobile and have performed well in recent weeks, but Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla should be confident in their ability to pass and rotate around them. McDermott might ask one of his forwards to drop deep into midfield when Arsenal have to the ball, to help out in this zone.
At both ends, Nicky Shorey is likely to be a key player. The left back is vulnerable to pace - Theo Walcott had plenty of joy against him when hitting a hat-trick in the incredible 7-5 win in October - and Arsenal must attack him directly.
However, Shorey is excellent at delivering set-pieces. Only fellow left back Leighton Baines has created more chances in the Premier League this season, and Shorey’s corners are aimed towards centre back Sean Morrison, a perennial threat in the opposition box.
JONATHAN LOW, READING EVENING POST
The pressure will be on Arsenal to get three points. Reading really need a win but they won’t be under pressure on Monday night. Reading only have nine points and have won just one game so far this season. They’ll be hoping they can produce a performance like the one in the first half the last time the sides met, when they were 4-0 up at one stage.
I think it will be quite a high-scoring game. Reading are looking a bit shaky defensively at the moment. Adam Federici is back in the side after being dropped at the start of the season. He hasn’t made any clangers but was arguably at fault for the first goal against Sunderland on Tuesday night.
They have lost four of their last five league games by just one goal. They have played well in patches though. It’s a case of putting in a 90-minute performance which they haven’t done so far this season.
Sean Morrison was injured against Southampton. He’s looked to be Reading’s best defender so far this season, so it was a shame he got injured. Nicky Shorey has probably been Reading’s best player this season. He’s good from set-pieces and has impressed.
It could be a good time for Reading to play Arsenal. They look to be on a bit of a downward spiral at the moment, though that will change at some stage. The Reading players will be really up for it. I think it’s going to be 2-2. I can see there being goals. Hopefully it will be an entertaining game.Copyright 2014 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