With the final international break of the season consigned to the past, the home straight looms and the finish line is in sight.
Arsenal are looking to build on a couple of impressive 2-0 away wins where their defensive solidity really stuck out. Against relegation threatened Reading, they will be expected to cut the reigns a little.
The Royals sacked ex Gunners midfielder Brian McDermott as manager recently and recently sacked Southampton boss Nigel Adkins takes charge of his first Reading game in N5 on Saturday.
The Gunners sit four points behind Spurs in fourth with a game in hand, whilst Reading are currently seven points from safety in 19th place.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger is expecting a committed game with both sides fighting for Premier League points which will go some way to determining their future, ‘”Reading fight not to go down, we fight to be in the top four, so all the ingredients are there to have a passionate, committed game, but in the end what is important is we come out on top.”
‘It is the sprint for the line now and we want to continue our run, to have the satisfaction where we want to be at the end of the season,”
“It is just down to consistency, you try to achieve that on your own side knowing all teams can drop points everywhere, so you want to be the team who drops less, and if possible not at all.
“That is he only attitude we can have to be successful.”
Reading boss Nigel Adkins believes his side have the attacking prowess to cause Arsenal problems, ‘”I watched Reading take a 4-0 lead against Arsenal earlier this season – so there`s no doubt that this team can score against Arsenal.
“There have been a couple of interesting games already between Reading and Arsenal. We will be playing against good players and we will have to narrow the spaces down when we don`t have the ball.
“When we have it we will look to play to our own strengths – Reading have always been very good on the counter-attack.’
Arsenal Team News:
The Gunners welcome back Lukas Podolski and Bacary Sagna from injury, but Theo Walcott (groin) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) are slightly short of fitness. Abou Diaby will miss much of the rest of 2013 with a cruciate ligament injury.
Kieran Gibbs appears to have recovered from ‘flu. Lukasz Fabianski looks set to continue in goal.
Arsenal (from): Fabianski, Szczesny; Jenkinson, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Monreal, Arteta, Coquelin, Ramsey, Rosicky, S.Cazorla, Chamberlain, Gervinho, Podolski, Arshavin, Giroud.
Player to watch: Aaron Ramsey
With Wilshere and Diaby unavailable, the Welshman will look to build on his improved form of late. Having moved back to a deeper position in midfield, Ramsey looks to have simplified his game.
Yet he ran the British derby against Scotland last week from a more attacking position. Reading will invite Arsenal onto them and Rambo will have to show both sides of his game.
Reading Team News:
Pavel Pogbrenyak returns from a three match suspension, but Arsenal trainee Stuart Taylor will continue in goal, with Adam Federici still battling an ankle problem.
Jimmy Kebe (groin) will have a late test. Jason Roberts (hip) is still out.
Reading (from): Taylor, McCarthy, Gunter, Pearce, Mariappa, Morrison, Kelly, Cummings, Harte, Shorey, McLearey, McAnuff, Leigertwood, Karacan, Kebe, Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre, Hunt, Pogbrenyak, Church.
Player to watch: Hal Robson-Kanu
Scored the winner for Wales against Scotland this week and will be key to Reading’s counter attacking game. They’ll sit deep and try to frustrate Arsenal, but a point isn’t a huge lot of use to them.
They’ll need to be efficient when they do have the ball and Robson-Kanu’s supply for his strikers and his own end product will be key if Reading are to pull off a result.
Match Facts & Stats
Arsenal have won all 11 of their meetings with Reading.
The two meetings between Arsenal and Reading in 2012-13 already have seen 19 goals scored; with Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla each scoring hat-tricks for Arsenal over these meetings.
Reading have conceded more Premier League goals against Arsenal (16) than versus any other opponent in the competition.
Stuart Taylor faces his old club.
Arsenal have averaged the highest possession figure in the Premier League this season (57.9%), while Reading have the lowest (39.4%).
Arsenal have conceded only two goals after the 75th minute of Premier League games this season; a league-low.
The referee will be Chris Foy.
Arsenal really ease opponents nowadays, Reading have the potential for ‘new manager syndrome’ and an international break rarely aids a team’s flow.
The Blackburn result ought to have inoculated players and supporters from complacency forever more. I’m plumping for a 2-0 Arsenal win, with Chamberlain and Cazorla amongst the goals.
Arsenal are away at West Bromwich Albion next Saturday at 3pm. Reading will play away at Southampton next Saturday at 12.45pm.