A typically cold English Tuesday night saw Arsene Wenger’s men comfortably defeat the luminous yellow of The Royals 2-0 at the Emirates stadium, courtesy of two Oxlade-Chamberlain strikes.
The Gunners set out with Egyptian International Mohamed ElNeny being deployed as the deeper lying midfielder in a pivot with England u20 midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Arsenal began the game as we’ve become accustom to this season, fluid football instigate by Alex Iwobi saw the first chance of the game fall to Carl Jenkinson, who was making his first appearance in a red and white shirt since scoring against Norwich in may 2014. The die-hard Arsenal fan within the right back will have felt aggrieved with the finish he produced, driving his shot straight at Reading shot-stopper El-Habsi. The fullback wasn’t the only guilty culprit of poor decision making, with Lucas Perez opting to square the ball across goal towards Reine-Adelaide when shooting appeared to be the more viable option. Despite dominance in possession, Reading found frequent success getting in behind the Gunners rearguard, with a clearly rusty Gabriel appearing to be rash and indecisive on numerous occasions. Whenever the home side were countered, Maitland-Niles ensured any second balls that dropped down would be his, in a first half display Santi Cazorla would have been proud of. Skipper for the day Kieran Gibbs further enhanced his case to be starting in the league with a vital tackle as Reading looked to capitalise on a 3 on 3 situation they found themselves in midway through the first half.
The Royals lived to rue the indecisiveness of their attacks 10 minutes later, when poor play from the back gifted Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with a chance to drive at the Reading back-line, a chance of which the Englishman took ruthlessly, driving passed two players before drilling the ball home, making it 1-0 to the Arsenal. Despite dominance on the ball, a completely different Gunners defence did cause themselves problems at time, with a deflected effort from Harriott fortuitously for Arsenal landing on the roof of the net. With Martinez stranded, there was no hope for the Uruguayan had the deflected shot been on target. After the following corner causing uncertainty, the Gunners steadied the ship and entered the dressing rooms at half time the deserved leaders of the EFL Cup tie.
Arsenal began the second half with purpose. A revitalised Chamberlain found his effort blocked by former Manchester United graduate Tyler Blackett following a perfectly weighted pass from Lucas. Chamberlain has used the EFL cup as a platform to show Arsene Wenger he’s deserving of starting in an Arsenal shirt, and based on his performances thus far, Iwobi will have to sustain such high levels of performance to keep the dynamic winger out the side. Following the Chamberlain chance on the 48th minute, the following 20 were mired in stalemate, with neither side carving open any real guilt edge chances. Looking to freshen things up, French youth prospect Reine-Adelaide was substituted for fellow Frenchman Olivier Giroud, who did himself no harm in his 25 minute cameo. Just 3 minutes after the Frenchman’s introduction, his competition in the form of Lucas Perez went down clutching his ankle, a worrying sign for a player who has impressed coming off the bench so far this season. On to replace him was Chris Willock.
Man of the match Oxlade-Chamberlain continued his fine performance, linking up well with Giroud before forcing a good save for El-Habsi. Iwobi was saved blushes with the final scoreline after missing an open goal on the rebound, with the ball getting stuck beneath his foot. El-Habsi was kept occupied in the following minutes, thunderous drives from Iwobi and a goalmouth scramble somehow keeping the scoreline at 1-0. On the 78th minute, Arsenal’s man of the match added his second, a rocket shot taking a slight deflection rifled into the net following Rob Holding channelling his inner Eden Hazard. Unfortunately for the Ox, American youngster Gedion Zelalem replaced him from the bench, denying him the chance of a hattrick. From this point onward the game petered out in truth, with the only consequent action of note being a excellent double save from Emi Martinez following a free kcik given away by Gabriel.
Arsene Wenger will be pleased with the display his fringe players and youngsters executed today, and with 10 wins in the Gunners last 12 games, the only way is up.
Player Ratings: Martinez (7), Jenkinson (6), Gabriel (5), Holding (6.5), Gibbs (6), Maitland-Niles (7), ElNeny (7), Chamberlain (9, MOTM), Iwobi (7.5), Reine-Adelaide (6), Perez (6).
Substitute ratings: Giroud (6), Willock (5.5), Zelalem (5.5)