MATCH REPORT: 2007/2008 Season

12 November 2007: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: Shorey (87 mins).
Fulham: Flamini (44 mins), Adebayor (52 mins), Hleb (78 mins).
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 24,024

Pos Team P Pts GD
11 Newcastle 12 18 +1
12 READING 13 13 -13
13 Fulham 13 12 -4
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Convey (Oster 70), Gunnarsson, Harper (Fae 59), Hunt, Kitson, Doyle (Long 83). Subs Not Used: Federici, Bikey.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Eboue, Fabregas, Flamini, Rosicky (Walcott 83), Hleb (Diarra 79), Adebayor (Bendtner 83). Subs Not Used: Lehmann, Silva.
Reading: Gunnarsson
Arsenal: Fabregas
Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).
Reading failed at an impossible mission to take points from England's best side, and were never close to causing an upset against first class opposition. Following plenty of heavy defeats already this season, the Royals opted for a defensive line-up despite the inclusion of Doyle and Kitson. The two players took turns to play as lone strikers before switching back to midfield, and neither player saw much of the action as Reading concentrated on containing the visitors. Reading put in a reasonable hard working first half showing and were unlucky to be a goal down at the break. However, the second half saw Reading fail to compete as they seemed to accept the game was lost. A late flurry saw Shorey score a consolation goal but Arsenal already had the game wrapped up.

Defensively we impressed early on, with Harper taking too long on the ball giving Arsenal a rare first clear cut chance. Thankfully, Hahnemann was quick off the line when it was the right thing to do on this opportunity and the resulting strike was wide of the target. Neither side was getting much room to play the ball around, although there was no denying that Arsenal were capable of keeping hold of it for longer. Arsenal hit the post, but Reading had one of the best efforts of the opening forty minutes when Gunnarsson unleashed a powerful long range effort that seemed to be curling into the side of the net before Almunia pulled out an impressive save. Right before the break Arsenal delivered a killer blow. Hahnemann shouldn't have come for it but did, allowing a gift of a goal after such strong defensive efforts for the rest of the half.

The second half was a disappointment as Reading stuck to their defensive habits and allowed Arsenal to attack. We'd had some reasonable possession in the first half but that quickly drifted away in the second as Arsenal dominated the game. We'd barely touched the ball before it was 0-2 seven minutes into the half. Arsenal broke at ridiculous pace moments later and looked to have made it three only for Reading to be spared by the linesman's flag. As Arsenal began stroking the ball around, Reading could only watch. Hahnemann looked a little silly again as the ball was taken round him for Arsenal's third. Reading fans started making for the exits long before Reading attempted to make the game respectable in the dying five minutes.

The introduction of Long gave us something extra and we, at last, looked capable of doing something up front. A free-kick from the edge of the area saw Shorey slam the ball into the foot of the near post, before a late consolation. Long caused some problems for Arsenal diving through the area to win the ball and Hunt's effort came back off the crossbar from the resulting attempt, before dropping to Shorey who slammed it home. Reading pushed forward looking for a second that didn't come, but we had already been well beaten.

Arsenal moved back to the top of the Premier League with an entirely predictable win over the Royals. Everyone predictably will sing the praises of a fine Arsenal team, for Reading fans there was a great deal of comfort to be drawn from this performance. Tactically Steve Coppell and his coaching staff got everything right. It would have taken something exceptional to overcome this Arsenal team but I don't believe Reading could have significantly improved on any aspect of their performance.The difference was simply the quality of the players available to Arsene Wenger. Yes they are all very quick and have excellent touch and passing ability but the understanding and cohesion they have achieved elevate them one of the best teams in Europe.

Reading opted for a 4-5-1 formation with Doyle and later Kitson playing the line role up front which was a thankless task with the support from midfield often waiting on the edge of their own box fro the next wave of Arsenal attacks. For all their possession Arsenal found it very hard to penetrate the Reading defence and the best attempt on goal in the first half was a long range strike from Gunnarsson which Almunia saved at full stretch. Harper had a very mixed opening five minutes. First he dallied and lost possession to Rosicky on the half way line who released Adebayor for a run on goal which ended with a shot clipping the outside of the post. Next minute Harper found himself in a shooting position after a well timed forward run but his effort was easily saved by Almunia. Having looked to have survived the first half a slick break which was always a threat resulted in Flamiini scoring in spite of a desperate challenge from Sonko.

Any hope of a come back was brushed aside with a second half onslaught from the Gunners. The second goal came from Adebayor. Again the passing and movement was mesmerising but this time the finish was outstanding as the big Arsenal striker curled the ball around defenders and Hahnemannn's left hand into the corner of the net.As so often this season reading looked likely to concede when they were awarded a corner. On one occasion Arsenal broke with such pace and in such numbers it was frightening! Only some individual good defending saved the day.The third goal came as Oster misplaced a pass and Hleb took full advantage teasing Hahnemann before slipping the ball into the net with typical composure. Oster for some reason wanted to blame anyone but himself which must be discouraged for everyone's sake. Fae came on and was caught in possession just like every other Reading player in midfield but he did show he can pass and move with skill and purpose. Shorey smacked a good free kick against the post with Almunia beaten near the end. Shorey did finally score a deserved goal for Reading. Long coming on near the end made a determined leap to head the ball against the frame of the goal and Shorey was there to pop the rebound into the unguarded net. If reading can play as well as this against Middlesbrough the result will surely be better.

The disappointment for me in the last two games was the Fulham result – losing to Arsenal was a gimme. So out of 6 points we were only playing for 3 anyway. The result last night told us nothing new. Fortunately it was not a confidence busting 6 nil but it might have been. I would have liked to have seen us more in their faces with some biting tackles but we seemed to be content to invite them towards our 18 yard line with the challenge of pass it through us if you can – and guess what, they did, eventually. More and more I’m getting concerned with midfield, it doesn’t seem to be offering enough attacking or defending and we simply bypass it with our style of play. Last night was about if not perfect football then at least not offering sloppy misplaced passes for them to attack us quickly but at least two goals came from giving away possession unnecessarily – we need to do better.
Nick Tilehurst

Got an opinion? E-Mail us at
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages

It was a thoroughly convincing win for Arsene Wenger's side, although Reading's approach was more than slightly perplexing. The home side defended in numbers from the start... with Kevin Doyle completely isolated up front... Steve Coppell's side dug in and set out to frustrate the visitors. Their ultra-defensive approach meant Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia had little to do [in the first half], apart from push away Brynjar Gunnarsson's 30-yard shot.

When, midway through the half, Reading strung three passes together, their fans cheered each touch. But they began to enjoy more possession and Manuel Almunia was forced to stretch to hold a Doyle shot. In the 32nd minute Brynjar Gunnarsson unleashed a dipping volley from 30 yards which Almunia dealt with well, turning the ball around his left post... "There are two ways of playing Arsenal," Reading manager Steve Coppell said. "You can go gung ho and force them into submission, or you can be a little more selective, as we were - but once they got their noses in front, it was going to be hard for us."
John Ley, The Telegraph