Arsenal face Reading at Wembley knowing that, should they win, they will be just 90 minutes away from becoming the greatest team the FA Cup has ever seen.
So here’s everything they need to know to ensure they don’t Arsenal it up.
|Home Ground||The Madeijski (24,200)|
|League Position||18th (Championship)|
|Record Signing||Adrian Mariappa (£3m in 2012)|
|Ex Gunners||None (known!)|
|Top Scorer||Simon Cox (8)|
|Top Assister||Jordan Obita (8)|
|Most Yellow Cards||Michael Hector (8) Jordan Obita (8)|
|Star Player||Jamie Mackie|
|Biggest Liability||Hal Robson-Kanu|
Style of play
Reading’s approach is first and foremost about defence, conceding 64 goals at a rate of 1.52 per game (Arsenal are at 1.00, a huge improvement on previous seasons). However, the consequence of this defence-first approach is that they have scored just 44 goals in 42 games in the Championship at a rate of 1.05 compared with Arsenal’s 1.97.
Perhaps this approach becomes less of a surprise when you consider that Reading are managed by Steve Clarke, a man who has worked as assistant manager to Jose Mourinho, and operate on a pretty tight budget. Indeed, it is a Chelsea loanee – Nathaniel Chalobah – who is likely to sit deep in front of the defence and try to frustrate Arsenal on Saturday.
It’s probably fair to say that creativity can be hard to come by for the Royals then – when it comes to going forward 13 of their goals have come from set pieces, and of the 31 goals they have scored from open play, more than a quarter have come from outside the box.
Veteran striker Pavel Pogrebnyak is doubtful for the weekend, but if he does play then Arsenal must be wary of his current form. He has three goals in his last three games, which has bumped his numbers up from four goals in thirteen games for the rest of the season. Otherwise there is little to trouble a red-hot Arsenal side – except for the fact that form counts for nothing in the one-off world of cup games.
Arsenal must come out of the blocks fast, as it could turn into a very long afternoon if Reading have anything to hold on to. However, the lessons of Wigan and Hull last year should see an improved Wembley performance that takes us through to the final.
The two clubs have only met nine times, and Arsenal have won all nine. Let’s make it ten on Saturday.
Season so far
This Saturday’s trip to Wembley is Reading’s first FA Cup semi-final for 88 years, and they have been helped, in part, by a relatively kind draw to date, avoiding Premier League opposition and facing Huddersfield, Cardiff, Derby and Bradford. This weekend will be an altogether tougher test.
A relatively good start to the season, rising as high as 10th, was somewhat derailed by a seven-game winless streak in the autumn, but sporadic wins and regular draws in the interim have seen them stay clear of trouble, but uninspiringly low in the table. Rarely have the Royals moved from their cosy spot between 14th and 16th in the table.
Getting points on the table early has certainly been beneficial however, as the FA Cup has clearly been a distraction in recent weeks, seeing the club slide down to 18th in the table. A number of the players have been notably uncommitted to challenges in the run up to cup games, and the league outcomes have suffered as a result.
In spite of that, the Royals remain eight points clear of the relegation zone having won just one of their last ten league games, but with only three games remaining they are all but safe and able to turn their full attention to Wembley.
Arsenal’s last 5 results against Reading: WWWWW
|League||30/03/2013||(H)||W 4-1||Arsenal: Gervinho (11) Cazorla (48) Giroud (67) Arteta (77 pen)
Reading: Robson-Kanu (68)
|League||17/12/2012||(A)||W 5-2||Arsenal: Podolski (14) Cazorla (32, 34, 60) Walcott (80)
Reading: Le Fondre (66) Kebe (71)
|League Cup||30/10/2012||(A)||W 7-5
|Arsenal: Walcott (45, 90, 120) Giroud (64) Koscielny (89) Chamakh (103, 120)
Reading: Roberts (12) Koscielny OG (18) Leigertwood (20) Hunt (37) Pogrebnyak (116)
|League||19/04/2008||(H)||W 2-0||Arsenal: Adebayor (30) Gilberto (38)
|League||12/11/2007||(A)||W 3-1||Arsenal: Flamini (44) Adebayor (52) Hleb (78)
Reading: Shorey (87)
Arsenal and Reading have never met on neutral ground before.
Overall record between the two clubs:
Reading’s last 5 results: LDDDL
|League||Blackpool||(A)||D 1-1||Own Goal|
|League||Charlton||(A)||L 2-3||Pogrebnyak (2)|