Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger and his players travel to Reading in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist Jonathan Low for their views.
Many clubs battling relegation from the Premier League would field a reserve side in the Capital One Cup, but former Arsenal midfielder Brian McDermott has committed to the competition with a strong starting XI in Reading’s previous two rounds.
Reading currently have the lowest pass-completion rate in the Premier League - they aren’t necessarily a long-ball side, but there’s a typically old-fashioned feel to their football. The ball is played out wide to a couple of pacy wingers, where Jobi McAnuff has collected four assists in his last four league games, and the wide players cross towards primary striker Pavel Pogrebnyak. In fact, Reading are not dissimilar in style to Schalke, who caused Arsenal such problems at the Emirates last week - even if they lack the raw quality of the German side.
McDermott can use two separate formations. When he wants to get a grip on midfield, Pogrebnyak is deployed up front alone with support from midfielder Danny Guthrie, but when Reading need to be more direct, the Russian is joined by Adam LeFondre. The former approach appears more likely against an Arsenal side that regularly dominate possession, but a 4-4-2 is a possibility if McDermott wants to go on the attack.
Defensively, Reading are rather passive, their forwards sometimes chase opponents, but the side generally sits deep in two banks of four and doesn’t press as a unit. This will make it difficult for Arsenal to find space in the final third, and Arsène Wenger’s side might be better off attacking the Reading defence quickly - their centre-backs aren’t particularly fast, and through balls in behind them can cause problems. Having conceded more shots than any other Premier League side so far this season, Arsenal should get plenty of goalscoring opportunities, it’s just a question of putting the ball in the net.
JONATHAN LOW, READING EVENING POST
I think there will be a few changes from the side that drew with Fulham at the weekend. Adam Federici could come back into the side along with Noel Hunt if he’s fit. I don’t think Reading will be expecting to win the game. The pressure is off and anything other than a defeat is a bonus. They need to start picking up results in the Premier league and I think that’s their main priority. I think that the majority of the players involved will be from the first team.
McAnuff has looked good in midfield, and Kaspars Gorkss has performed solidly at the heart of defence. He reads the game really well, though he is lacking a bit of face. Pogrebnyak has been inconsistent since he signed. There haven’t been too many stand-out performers so far though.
I’ll go for 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes. I think there will be goals. Reading have nothing to lose and if they play with that mentality, we could see a surprise.Copyright 2016 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