Arsenal kept up their pursuit of a top-four finish with a comfortable 4-1 win over Reading at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Santi Cazorla inspired the home side to an utterly dominant first-half display, though they only had Gervinho’s early strike to show for it.
The Spaniard struck a sweet second himself just after the restart. Olivier Giroud and Mikel Arteta’s penalty completed the scoring. Inbetween those last two goals, Hal Robson-Kanu nodded home but, in truth, Reading were well beaten this afternoon.
The Berkshire side slipped to the bottom of the table after this defeat but, in fairness, they had given Manchester United significant problems in a narrow defeat at Old Trafford a fortnight ago.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have now rattled up six wins, one draw and one defeat in their last eight Premier League games.
Spurs lost in the last round of games, Chelsea were defeated at Southampton this afternoon. It all means that four points straddle that trio of teams in the Premier League table, though third-placed Tottenham have played a game more than the others.
It is set to be very tight and very tense for the remaining eight games but, if momentum means anything, Arsenal have a very decent chance.
"Santi Cazorla inspired the home side to an utterly dominant first-half display"
Wenger made four changes from the side that had brought back a heartening victory from Swansea a fortnight ago.
Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho started instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the injured Theo Walcott.
Bacary Sagna came back into the side for Carl Jenkinson and Tomas Rosicky replaced Abou Diaby.
The French midfielder had suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in midweek and his season was over. However his team-mates remembered him by wearing shirts with 'Get well soon Abou' on the front in the warm-up.
But then it was a day when Arsenal paid its dues with class and respect. Legendary midfielder David Rocastle died 12 years ago this weekend and the home fans had just finished singing his name when they took the lead.
In the 11th minute, Cazorla drove a ball across the face of goal and Gervinho stabbed it into the roof of the net from close range.
A couple of minutes later the Ivorian glanced a header past the far post from Sagna’s cross and, midway through the half, Giroud burst through and flicked the ball over Stuart Taylor. The effort was cleared but the home fans claimed a penalty as the former Arsenal trainee had clattered the Frenchman.
Reading, under new manager Nigel Adkins, had shown some attacking intent before the goal but Arsenal had taken their confidence when they took the lead.
Giroud had a crack from distance while Gervinho burst through the middle only to trickle a disappointing shot wide.
However it did not affect Arsenal’s dominance. This was one-way traffic with the home side in the driving seat.
"Gervinho set up Cazorla to curl a delightful low shot into the far corner. The strike made it a dozen for the Spaniard in just 30 Premier League appearances"
Gervinho, Cazorla and Giroud all had a succession of half-chances. Only desperate defending from Reading kept them out. That would only intensify as the interval approached.
Seven minutes from half-time Cazorla rolled a shot wide after a sweeping four-man move had created the chance.
Giroud and Gervinho then saw shots blocked and Monreal thrashed a drive beyond the post.
Arsenal had deserved a second goal before the break. In the end they got it just after it.
Gervinho set up Cazorla to curl a delightful low shot into the far corner. The strike made it a dozen for the Spaniard in just 30 Premier League appearances – a very good return in his first season.
Seconds later he set up Ramsey, whose shot deflected narrowly wide.
As we reached the hour, Reading looked utterly beaten. They had not produced a shot on target. Adrian Mariappa put that right shortly afterwards but Lukas Fabianski saved easily.
Reading knew they had to gamble now. And Arsenal’s third goal sprung from the visitors pushing forward and winning a corner. Sagna stole possession and sent Gervinho racing through. He set up Giroud to slam home his 16th goal of the season.
A minute later Reading grabbed a goal when Jobi McAnuff whipped in a cross and Robson-Kanu converted a diving header.
Nacho Monreal crashed into the woodwork in trying to prevent the goal and was replaced by Kieran Gibbs, who was making his 100th appearance for the Club.
Oxlade-Chamberlain came on shortly afterwards and, within a minute of his introduction, was bundled over in the area by Mariappa. Arteta converted the penalty with ease.
Ramsey nearly blasted a fifth but Taylor saved well. Per Mertesacker saw a shot deflected wide and Gibbs dragged his effort beyond the woodwork aswell.
It was a tame end to performance of complete control.
Make no mistake, the scoreline was a fair reflection of Arsenal’s dominance this afternoon.
Referee: Chris Foy
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