A home match following an international break against a side in the bottom 3 with a new manager? This had the recipe for a classic Arsenal cock-up, but Arsenal, for the third time this season, pulverised Reading. The scoreline, 4-1, doesn't even accurately represent the disparity; Reading made several goal-line blocks, Arsenal eased off and tried passing the ball into the net after the 4th, and there were two stonewall penalties that should've been given.
The party got started after just 11 minutes. Gervinho, who's inclusion ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain raised the ire of noted berk Tony Gale, drove at the Reading defence and then laid the ball off for Olivier Giroud. Giroud tried shifting the ball a little wider to get a better shooting angle, but lost out to Alex Pearce. The ball came to Santi Cazorla coming in on the left, and he drove a cross-cum-shot across the face of goal to where Gervinho was standing; the Ivorian could hardly miss. This was a classic "good" Gervinho game; he was still incredibly frustrating, but he was ripping one-time England International Nicky Shorey (I know) to pieces. Arsenal could've easily got a second when Giroud was played in, and then lifted the ball over Stuart Taylor, who apparently is a football player, not just a bench fixture. Taylor clattered Giroud, preventing him from keeping the ball in play, and noted specsaver needer Chris Foy inconceivably failed to give Arsenal a penalty. Arsenal had 16 shots at the break to Reading's 2, and it could've been 2-0 on multiple occasions: Santi Cazorla drove a shot just wide of the right-hand post, and Gervinho had a goal-bound effort well blocked by Pearce.
Many Arsenal fans had a bad feeling after only scoring one goal, but those feelings were soothed after just 3 minutes of the second half. Once again, Gervinho was heavily involved; he played the ball to Olivier Giroud, got the return flick, and then patiently waited for an option. It arrived in the form of Santi Cazorla, who superbly curled his shot past a motionless Taylor to make it 2-0.
The party pieces were coming out, but there was still a job to be done. Gervinho, set free by Cazorla down the left, made a poor cutback that led to a Reading corner. But Reading faffed about with the corner, Sagna played the ball over the top for Gervinho, who took on the 2 and then 3 players coming back, delaying his final ball until Giroud came up with him; Gervinho then passed, and Giroud slammed home his first Premier League goal in two months.
Reading, though, grabbed, well, not a lifeline, but some form of respectability moments later, when Nacho Monreal fell asleep and allowed Hal Robson-Kanu to head home from Jobi McAnuff's dangerous corner. Monreal collided with the post during the incident, and was replaced by Kieran Gibbs. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski came on for Gervinho and Giroud, with Podolski excitingly taking up a central position. Oxlade-Chamberlain was involved very quickly; Reading, who were constantly giving the ball away throughout the match, did so again. Marriappa passed straight to Oxlade-Chamberlain, who drove past Leighterwood and into the penalty box, where he was taken down by Marriappa. Arteta smashed the resulting penalty into the side netting to make it 4-1.
There was still time for one more: a glorious passing move saw Cazorla chip the ball over Rosicky to run onto, but instead of shooting, the Czech tried cutting back to Podolski, but failing to do so. A pity, but the important thing was the three points and the change in goal difference. With Chelsea losing and Tottenham winning, Arsenal are now 2 points out of 4th and 4 points, with a game in hand, out of 3rd. Tottenham and Chelsea play each other. Let's do this.