The Monday night football this week comes from the Madejski stadium as Reading host Arsenal. These two teams faced each other on the 30th October in the League Cup and served up one of the classics. Reading raced in to a 4-0 lead but a Theo Walcott hat-trick inspired Arsenal as they overcame the deficit to win 5-7 after extra time. Reading are in a torrent run of form having lost their last five. Last week’s capitulation at fellow relegation candidates Sunderland will have hurt the squad so manager Brian McDermott will hope his side can build some momentum on Monday night.
The “Wenger out” parade has been in force this season and it doesn’t look like stopping. Their poor form in the league, where they have collected just nine points from their last 18, was topped off as they were knocked out of the League Cup by League 2’s Bradford. A late Thomas Vermaelen leveller took Arsenal to extra-time yet he missed the decisive penalty to send Bradford through to their first ever League Cup semi-final. Arsene Wenger will be hoping his side can replicate the spirit shown from their last visit to the Madejski.
The last league game at the Madejski between these sides was in the 2007/2008 season when Reading were relegated. Arsenal comfortably won 1-3 with goals from Mathieu Flamini, Emanuel Adebayor and Aliaksandr Hleb while Nicky Shorey scored the consolation for the Royals.
Arsenal again will miss the services of summer signing Oliver Giroud through a back injury while Theo Walcott is a major doubt. Abou Diaby, Laurent Koscielny and Andre Santos are also all major doubts for the game.
Reading also have many injury worries themselves. Sean Morrison misses out again while keeper Alex McCarthy out for the season. Jimmy Kebe, Jem Karacan and Pavel Pogrebynak are fighting to be fit for the game.
Ones to Watch
In a shocking performance against Bradford on Tuesday night only one player went about trying to make things happen for Arsenal. And that was an English 20-year-old. Jack Wilshere missed the whole of last season through injury but in the last few weeks has slotted right back in to his midfield role.
His passing accuracy of 88% this season seems like he has never been away. He has also won 88% of his tackles showing that he isn’t afraid to put in some hard graft for the side. With the side in poor form Wenger will be relying on his English magician to pull them out of this rot.
Brian McDermott will be hoping Jason Roberts can cause similar problems as he did against Wenger’s side in that classic cup tie. The 34-year-old caused havoc in that game and scored the opening goal. Despite him failing to open his tally in the league he has been a vital part of Reading’s attacking play. He has been the focal point for every Reading attack and McDermott will be hoping he continues to be that solid base on Monday evening.
This game will do very well to live up to the Carling Cup game back in October. Wenger will be looking for a fight from his players after their cup exit. McDermott will be looking for a kick-start to their season that they definitely need before they get cut adrift. Arsenal lacked creativity against Bradford so I expect reading to pick up a priceless three points.
Prediction: Reading 2-1 Arsenal