Arsenal face Reading in the Capital One Cup fourth round at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday evening.
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STRIKING GOLD - GIROUD'S CENTRAL ROLE
Figure One - Giroud v West Ham Figure Two - Giroud v QPR
Olivier Giroud has been included in Arsène Wenger's 18-man squad for tonight's trip to the Madejski Stadium, and is set to be handed another chance to lead the line. The 26-year-old opened his Arsenal account against Coventry in the third round, and will be looking to add to his tally tonight against the Royals.
The France international has proved an effective focal point in the Gunners attack and used his physicality and direct style to unsettle the West Ham defence earlier this month. Giroud played very centrally (Figure One) and helped push back the Hammers defence, opening up space for Santi Cazorla to roam into and dictate play. Giroud made a series of driving runs into the West Ham box, and eventually scored from one of these as he latched on to Lukas Podolski's cross.
Against QPR on Saturday, he again played very centrally but with the opposition defence sitting deep to prevent Arsenal getting in behind them, he was forced to come deep for the ball. As Figure Two shows, the forward dropped into the area just in front of midfield to link up play and was unable to drive into the box as often as he did at Upton Park.
But against a Reading defence playing in front of their home fans - and unlikely to sit as deep as QPR - Giroud is likely to find more space in front of him, and will attempt to bully his opposing centre backs. It will be another fresh test for the Frenchman, but one he is likely to relish.
PLAYER COMPARISON - WALCOTT v ROBSON-KANU
Both Theo Walcott and Hal Robson-Kanu have primarily been used off the bench for their respective clubs this season (making substitute appearances six and five times in the league respectively), and have certainly made a big impression. On Saturday, Walcott's introduction helped turn the tide in Arsenal's favour in the wake of QPR defender Stephane Mbia's red card, while his Reading counterpart scored the last-gasp goal that rescued a point against Fulham.
Both are expected to start at the Madejski Stadium, and Walcott will be hoping to pick up from where he left off in the last round against Coventry, against whom he scored twice. Walcott has made 28 more passes than Robson-Kanu this season, but that does not prevent him from boasting a superior pass success rate (83.1 per cent to 67.7 per cent).
The players are statistically evenly matched, with both having won 12 duels so far this season, both having scored two league goals and both seeing 40 per cent of their shots land on target. Walcott has created one assist to his counterpart's 0, although Robson-Kanu has achieved more successful crosses than the Arsenal forward. Walcott though, has created six chances in the Premier League so far this term, while Robson-Kanu has made two.
With both likely to be cetral to their respective team's performance tonight, it will be a fascinating contest between these two speed merchants at the Madejski Stadium.
READING v ARSENAL - FACTS
- Reading and Arsenal have met twice before in the League Cup, with the Gunners winning both games
- Arsenal have won all nine matches in all competitions played against Reading
- Andrey Arshavin has scored three goals and assisted six more in just seven appearances in the League Cup
- Theo Walcott has scored five goals in his last six League Cup starts
- Pavel Pogrebnyak has scored in both of his League Cup appearances
- Arsenal have made the quarter final of the League Cup in each of the last nine seasons, the longest consecutive run of any team in the history of the competition
- Reading have not failed to score in any of their last 14 League Cup matches - scoring 35 goals in that time
- Victory over QPR last time out ended a run of nine League Cup games without a win against top-flight teams (L5 D4) for the Royals
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