Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Reading at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Incredibly, Arsenal’s last three meetings with Reading have featured no fewer than 24 goals - but this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final is unlikely to be such a goalfest, with Royals boss Steve Clarke focusing upon defence.
Reading aren’t playing well at the moment, having failed to win in their last six Championship matches, and Clarke has been chopping and changing in terms of both system and personnel.
A hybrid between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2 seems most likely, but he could attempt to surprise Arsenal with an unexpected shape.
The centre backs will be Alex Pearce and Michael Hector - and while the latter is significantly taller, it’s Pearce who usually takes command in aerial battles, and will attempt to beat Olivier Giroud to long clearances. Hector is more composed, and capable of distributing the ball into the final third.
Both full backs can get forward - right-sided Chris Gunter is decent on the ball, while left-sided Jordan Obita is Reading’s joint-leading assister this season. He’s comfortable of playing higher up the pitch, hence his No 11 shirt.
Clarke has fielded six different central midfielders in the last couple of weeks, although on-loan Chelsea man Nathan Ake is cup-tied and unavailable on Saturday.
It remains to be seen who Clarke selects, although the smart money is probably on another Chelsea loanee Nathaniel Chalobah (Clarke retains a good relationship with his former boss Jose Mourinho) and Oliver Norwood, a Manchester United youth product. Both are technically proficient and energetic enough to close down constantly.
Reading are likely to attack with great width on the break. Garath McCleary is a straightforward, old-fashioned winger who loves dribbling with the ball down either flank, while Hal Robson-Kanu is a similar case - they can switch sides if needed.
While Clarke could opt for a fifth midfielder, he’s more likely to ask Jamie Mackie to play as a second striker, dropping back when Reading don’t have possession.
Mackie is hard-working enough to play this role, and capable of fine finishes too. He’s most likely to be supporting Pavel Pogrebnyak, a classic No 9, although Simon Cox, a more wily player, has managed more goals this season and could be more useful for running the channels.