Reading had their chances but it was Arsenal’s Young Guns who ran the show during Tuesday night’s EFL Cup clash.
Despite seeing a practically entirely changed Arsenal squad to the one we saw draw 0-0 against Boro in the Premier League at the weekend, the pass-and-move style remained. The Gunners, predictably, saw the most of the ball during and had the most chances throughout.
Carl Jenkinson, who has been out of action for nine months after having surgery on a cruciate knee ligament injury, which he sustained against Manchester City while on loan at West Ham, looked eager to prove a point. In the opening minutes he even made a surging run into the box but shot the ball directly at the Reading goalkeeper. He then headed the rebound over the bar.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lucas, who scored a brace during the last round of the EFL Cup against Nottingham Forest, also had chances but lacked that cutting edge in front of goal early on.
Our passing was a little wayward. It was a young starting XI and you could tell that they were buzzing to be playing on the big stage. This was summed up when Ainsley Maitland-Niles had an attempt from range seemingly because the crowd were telling him to.
Reading didn’t manage to have their first proper chance until after the 20-minute mark.
Alex Iwobi, the only regular first team starter, had one or two shots but none that genuinely tested the Reading keeper. Saying that, he continued to get into all the right spaces and look dangerous.
Lucas also challenged and perhaps should have shot more. Instead, he opted to square the ball to Iwobi but the pass often wasn’t heavy enough and got intercepted.
It was the Ox who finally managed to break the deadlock in the 34th minute, picking up a poor pass from Reading, dancing past defenders and coolly slotting the ball along the floor into the bottom left corner.
Although going forward we were sound, at the back we weren’t so solid. Mainly because Gabriel’s defending, at times, is nothing short of bizarre. At one point late in the first half, the Royals earned a corner because he ducked from the ball but stood up in time for it to narrowly deflect over the goal.
The second half saw Lucas get forward more than once but the striker has a habit of stopping dead in his tracks on the attack. More often than not, it’s completely the opposite what we require and the move breaks down.
Some of the youngsters, like Maitland-Niles, did appear to be a little wasteful. Whether this was inexperience, nerves, excitement or all of the above, I’m not sure.
Emi Martinez was forced into action from a Reading header but he claimed it at full stretch. Excellent work from the youth goalkeeper.
Arsenal’s first substitution was Olivier Giroud, who’s just recovered from a toe injury, for Jeff Reine-Adelaide.
In the 70th minute, the Frenchman thought he’d scored via a header from a free-kick but the ball was cleared from the goal line. Unfortunately, Lucas, who earned the free-kick, was still carrying the affects of his knock and had to be subbed off for Chris Willock a minute later.
Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud linked up well, with the winger going close more than once despite a couple of wayward shots after the France international came on.
It was only a matter of time before the Ox scored again and despite his second goal taking a massive deflection, he was in the right place at the right time. The 23-year-old was brought off to a huge round of applause a minute later for Gedion Zelalem.
All in all, a decent day at the office. A solid, effective performance.