The two clubs who competed in that Carling Cup clash that produced one of the best nights in football this season go head to head again. Reading, having led 4-0 only to lose 5-7 after extra-time, take on Arsenal once more at the Madejski Stadium.
This time the situation is much more different. Having only won one Premier League game this season, Reading know there isn’t a better time for revenge as the Gunners look to get three points of their own.
Taking a look at the player match-ups over the pitch, can the winners of these personal clashes determine the outcome of the game?
Jason Roberts vs. Per Mertesacker
Having arguably given the best performance of his campaign so far, Jason Roberts absolutely bullied the Arsenal back four in October. Getting the opener that led to the 4-1 score-line at half-time, Roberts played the influential target-man in the first half.
With Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker not featuring in the Carling Cup game, he will have to be at his very best to stop Roberts from dictating play. Known to lack pace and the ability to bully opponents, the 6ft 6in defender will struggle against the plucky Grenada international.
Roberts and strike-partner Pavel Pogrebnyak are both doubts for this match and if neither plays replacement Noel Hunt won’t bother Mertesacker too much. I think Roberts will play however.
Reading 1-0 Arsenal
Mikele Leigertwood vs. Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta has had a mixed season so far, having missed a stoppage-time penalty against Fulham before scoring two at home to West Brom to gift Arsenal three points. He was deemed to be the missing link when the Reds crashed out to Bradford in the quarter-finals of the League cup and he will be just as important against Reading. Currently the fourth best passer in the whole of Europe, he will be up against combative Mikele Leigertwood.
The Reading midfielder is the same age as Arteta and carries a wealth of experience with him. Getting a bit of a reputation by shooting from distance, Leigertwood will have to try and trump his Spanish opponent if he wants to have a pop at goal. I think Arteta’s Premier League experience betters Leigertwood’s and the Spanish maestro will routinely control possession.
Reading 1-1 Arsenal
Nicky Shorey vs. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
The only player to have held his head high in the aftermath of the 5-7 cup defeat, Nicky Shorey was Reading’s best player who helped turn defence into attack. Always full of running, he was the silver lining as he kept Arsenal at bay in the first half. However, after his team’s collapse in the second 45 minutes, Shorey struggled to keep pace with Theo Walcott and once again, he looks set to scrap it out with Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Arsenal winger hasn’t been on the best form since his impressive first season and will have to try and get the better of a veteran left-back. If the Ox doesn’t get the better of Shorey in the first half, he will find it much easier to run at tired legs towards the end of a game. I feel the Reading defender will come out on top as he learns from his Carling Cup errors and Chamberlain struggles for form.
Reading 2-1 Arsenal
Ultimately it comes down to how good the goalkeepers are and whether they will keep the all-important clean sheet which halfway guarantees a victory.
Adam Federici vs. Wojciech Szczęsny
The Royals’ keeper Adam Federici has not been enjoying the best of times recently and in the nine league games he has played in, he has only managed one clean sheet. Poor positioning in this Carling Cup fixture cost Reading badly as headers from Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny could and should have been repelled. He struggled in the 5-7 defeat and will find it hard to keep the Gunners at bay yet again.
On the other side, Wojciech Szczęsny has gotten back into good form and kept his third clean sheet of the season after coming back from an ankle injury. With a newfound domination in the box, Szczęsny seems to be the ideal man between the sticks after Arsenal’s good defensive attributes have been shattered recently.
If anyone were to keep a clean sheet, Szczęsny does seem more likely to keep Reading from scoring and his command will be vital in helping Arsenal win three points. Although he is much younger than Federici, the Polish international is on paper a better ‘keeper.
Predictions: Reading 2-2 Arsenal
Where To Watch Online: Arsenal vs. Reading
Will the score end as a tie or will one of the teams push for three points that are badly needed. Reading need victory to stay up and keep the relegation battle going whereas Arsenal need to keep within touching distance of the top four.
May the better team win.944312