Cazorla's class fires Gunners and sounds death rattle for Reading

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The Independent Online

If there was one Premier League opponent that Arsène Wenger might have chosen to play last night after one of the lowest weeks in his 16 years as Arsenal manager, then it would surely have been Reading, a club struggling to find their place in the world every bit as much as their famous opponents.

The bottom-placed team in the league were skewered by a Santi Cazorla hat-trick and two more from Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott, briefly staging their own two-goal mini-revival somewhere in between before going down in flames.

In Bradford seven days ago, Arsenal were very bad indeed but it will have been a relief last night to re-assert something of their standing in the order of things.

These two sides have now produced 19 goals between them in two games at the Madejski Stadium – this one and the Capital One Cup tie in October – a pretty impressive testament to their attacking philosophy and less flattering about their occasionally calamitous defences.

The two goals Arsenal conceded in the second half, scored by Adam Le Fondre and Jimmy Kebe, were something of an embarrassment but ultimately they could not detract from the relief that they will have felt at getting a result that takes them to fifth place in the Premier League on goal difference and within two points of fourth.

Put like that it really does not seem that bad after all.

The reality is that there will be much more severe tests than this against a Reading side who looked, quite frankly, doomed. The space and time afforded to Cazorla was scarcely believable at times. Their defensive vulnerability down their own right side was catastrophic. But to give them their due they did try to attack when they could.

That the Arsenal players went to the away end to throw in their shirts at full-time said something about the guilt they felt about the elimination on penalties to Bradford last Tuesday. They face a run now over Christmas, starting with Wigan away on Saturday, of games that do not look as daunting until they face Manchester City and Chelsea in mid January.