Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Giroud the winning catalyst -Chamakh finds the goal! -Arshavin has a stinker

Morning Gooners.

I'll admit something straight away. When it was 4-1 at half time and my friends were discussing leaving, I wasn't going anywhere. I wanted to see it out. I still couldn't see this team coming back and winning the game but I wanted a reaction and I certainly go that.

On paper that team looked good enough to win the game, I tweeted before the match. And upon reflection that was an assumption made upon the basis that all 11 players would turn up and work hard. As we saw Arsene Wenger didn't get what he had hoped for.

We went behind to an early Jason Roberts goal. The veteran was a hand full and our central defensive partnership couldn't handle his physical power. They made him look like Pele said one guy around me. Matters got worse when Laurent Koscielny diverted the ball beyond his own goalkeeper in the 18th minute before a third was added two minutes later, Martinez unable to stop a shot from Leigertwood going into the back of the net and Hunt added a fourth with a simple header.

4-0 down at Reading and I wondered why I had made the decision to come to the game. There was no fight, we were being bullied and not allowed to play our own game. We were our own worst enemy.

The first problem was the midfield partnership of Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin. It wasn't working. Neither player seemed to know there job was to break down the opposition attack and play it to our forward players. In this system, that role is arguably the most important on the pitch, because whoever plays there has to dictate the way we play.

Frimpong was misplacing passes and Coquelin couldn't or wouldn't get a tackle in. It was embarrassing the lack of fight there was.

The next problem for me was our wide players. Neither Serge Gnabry or Theo Walcott were tracking back to help their full back out. If they had been perhaps they might have helped prevent those crosses which came in and Reading scored from.

And then there was the central defensive partnership which was out played by a 34-year-old veteran. It was maddening that neither captain for the night Johan Djourou nor our best defender last season Laurent Koscielny would take responsibility for picking up the player who didn't stop running and harrying for his team. We should have marked him out of the game. Instead Djourou and Koscielny didn't get near him.

With 37 minutes gone, I thought I was about to witness a new low in the Arsene Wenger era. Last week I saw us lose our unbeaten record against non English teams in the Champions League at the Grove. Last night I thought I was going to see us fail to reach the quarter finals of the league cup for the tenth successive season.

But on the stroke of half time, Theo Walcott got a goal which gave some of us hope that we could get back into the game. 4-1 with 45 minutes still to go. The team who scored the next goal would win it. Arsene Wenger had to give these players the instructions they needed during the 15 minute break at the Madejski which would bring his side back into the game.

Looking at the substitutes bench, the only player who could come on and try to make an impact was Olivier Giroud. But I felt there was no point making that change. These 11 players who got us into this mess needed to put in a performance to get us out of it.

Reading had some early chances and should have killed the game off. But then on the 62nd minute, Wenger made his move. The hapless Frimpong and the wilting Gnarby were replaced by the forementioned Giroud and the young German Thomas Eisfeld.

Two minutes later, we had a goal. Giroud put Walcott's corner into the back of the net. Was this a false dawn or were we back?  The 4,000 members of the away support were right behind the players from this point. But it didn't stop a few leaving early, trying to beat the rush. But if there is a lesson to be learnt from this game, never ever leave until the final whistle.

From another corner we added our third, this time Koscielny headed home and it was game on. We needed a fourth to put the game into extra time. But we hardly had the ball in added on time. Reading were trying to run down the clock by taking the ball into the corner flag areas. We needed a chance and we got it.

Walcott's shot appeared to go over the line, but it was Carl Jenkinson's follow-up which certainly did beyond doubt. The lifelong Arsenal fan credited with scoring his first goal for the club.

As the referee blew for full time, Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin came to thank the away support and threw their shirts into the crowd. No one had told them that this game was going into extra time. They had to ask the fans who had taken possession of their shirts for them back! They got them and into extra time we went.

Marounae Chamakh made his mark on the game with his first goal for the club for what feels like ages - was it Blackburn away in the 4-3 last season? - with minutes left of the first period of extra time. We'd finally taken the lead in this game. Could we now see it out? No, of course we couldn't.

Reading came back and drew level with four minute remaining of extra time. But this Arsenal team had got the bit between it's teeth and it was Walcott who added his second for the night, smashing home from close range.

Chamakh scored the winner, lobbing the goalkeeper from outside the box to send all traveling Gooners into a mad frenzy. I'd lost my voice from all the singing and I was shattered. Arsenal you certainly know how to put us through it!

A mad game which ended 7-5 to Arsenal after we were 4-0 down after 37 minutes. To their credit Reading played some good football and certainly shouldn't have lost. But it was Olivier Giroud in my mind who changed the game for us. He wouldn't let us be beaten and his introduction along with Eisfled made a huge difference.

It's not often said that Arsene Wenger's substitutions make a difference. Last night they won him the game. Now we're through to the quarter finals for the tenth successive year.

Of course I'm delighted by the win. But there were some players who had absolute stinkers... Andrey Arshavin for one. Everything he tried just didn't come off for him. But he kept going and attempted to make passes and crosses. It just wasn't his night.

Arsene Wenger often talks about the character of his team. In Olivier Giroud, he's signed someone who has exactly the right attitude. For me, the big hunky Frenchman has to start on Saturday now. He's the one who changed this game.

I know our away fans are often lauded. But again last night all those guys and girls around me sang their hearts out. I was so proud to be there among them. And as for the Reading fans... Aaaahhhhhh! as they say.

That's it for today. Back with more tomorrow.


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