With Arsenal struggling to get a point against Middlesbrough at the weekend, our League Cup opponents Reading managed a hard-fought win over Rotherham to move up to 8th place in the Championship. After these games, Tom Marshall-Bailey at Getreading.co.uk gave an analysis of how the Royals could make life difficult for the Gunners tomorrow night.
Here is his excellent analysis from his article: The Royals head to the Emirates this week for their third-round clash looking to spring an upset, but what will they have learned from the game from yesterday?
How did Arsenal perform – and were injuries to blame?
Wenger can probably be thankful that his side earned a point yesterday. Instead of laying down a marker to fellow top-flight pacesetters Liverpool and Manchester City, his side seemed unusually subdued and were unable to pick the lock in a stubborn Middlesbrough defence.
Cech ensured they would earn the point needed to temporarily go top with a series of stunning saves, not least from a back-post Gaston Ramirez header following a superb cross from Traore, who particularly caught the eye.
Arsenal lacked their normal incision, with neither Francis Coquelin or Mohamed Elneny able to provide the kind of intricate passing Santi Cazorla is renowned for at the heart of the midfield.
Mohamed Elneny failed to shine in Santi Cazorla’s absence
With Boro’s midfield three effectively nullifying Mesut Ozil and the inward movement of Alex Iwobi from the left, they tried to play around Middlesbrough, but Olivier Giroud’s continued absence with a toe injury meant they were unable to threaten aerially from any crosses which came in.
Wenger hinted after the game that Giroud could return for the Reading game, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Coquelin and Elneny continue as the central midfield pairing with Cazorla still struggling with an Achilles injury.
Where were the weaknesses?
Nacho Monreal’s form has been called into question this season and the Spaniard suffered against the pace and directness of Traore at the Emirates yesterday.
Traore earned plenty of plaudits for his performance, but Arsenal fans will rightly be worried about a second successive league game in which Monreal has struggled to deal with a jet-heeled wideman, with Swansea City’s Mo Barrow also inflicting plenty of damage last weekend.
It’s difficult to assess who in this XI will play from the start against the Royals, with Kieran Gibbs likely to be afforded a chance to stake a claim for more involvement, as well as other fringe squad members like Gabriel and Lucas Perez.
Lucas Perez is likely to start against Reading
But even in their convincing Champions League win over Ludogorets, a lot of attacks came down the Arsenal left so Garath McCleary and Chris Gunter’s likely stand-in Tennai Watson will be encouraged to target that area.
That could be where Reading get most joy on Tuesday night, while the likes of George Evans, John Swift and Danny Williams will need to smother Coquelin and Elneny in the same way Boro’s midfield trio Adam Clayton, Marten de Roon and Adam Forshaw succeeded with.
Arsenal’s inability to move the ball out quickly from deep allowed Boro to snuff out Mesut Ozil’s threat and create a frustrating afternoon for the home crowd – it’s something Reading will have to replicate on Tuesday.
Obviously many Arsenal fans will remember Reading giving Arsenal a fright in the League Cup a few years ago, when the Gunners won 5-3 after extra time. If they play their first team against our second string players, could we in for another exciting game tomorrow?