Preview by Numbers: Reading v. Arsenal

Madejski Stadium, Reading
Monday, December 17
3:00 p.m. EST, 20:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Anthony Taylor
    • Assistants: Andy Garratt and Gary Beswick
    • 4th Official: Mark Clattenburg
  • This Match, Last Time: Reading 1 - 3 Arsenal (November 12, 2007)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 10 Arsenal wins, no Reading wins, no draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W-D-D-L-W
  • Reading's League Form: W-L-L-L-L-L
  • Weather: Clear, 43 °F (6 °C)

Times are tough right now, so I'm
replacing all normal images with
pictures of animals from Twitter's

Okay, calm down. Calm down, stop yelling.

It's gonna be... calm down, shhh, just be quiet for... DAMN IT, STOP YELLING!

Yes, yes, things are bad right now. While it is not my job to do any sort of analysis of past events (I leave my analysis for the future based on past events,) I would feel remiss not to touch on the... touchy... subjects.

I've always been pretty firmly in the pro-Wenger camp, something which is becoming more and more difficult as results continue to falter. However, it is also already mid-December and the transfer window is opening again in just a couple of weeks. A new manager or even an interim manager would not have enough time to come up with an attack plan to fix a desperately thin squad in this amount of time. Changing managers now would do more damage than standing pat, I believe. At least give Wenger one last chance to fix this mess. I do not trust any currently available possible replacements to do a better job with the same players. If the mess is not fixed by season's end, then some serious moves have to be made.

Alright, on to Monday night's match. Reading have lost five straight, and they and QPR look pretty much like locks to be relegated.

Three points, please!

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Some People (with injured things)
Doubts: Everyone Else (shattered confidence)

I think this squad could beat
Bradford City.

I'm typing this on the Thursday before a Monday night match, so there is practically nothing available in terms of concrete team news for the match. Random guesswork to follow:
  • Abou Diaby? What do we think, about two or three weeks away? It's gotta be something like that.
  • Theo Walcott? Acute contract-itis.
  • Laurent Koscielny? Still out with a... what was it? Thigh? Groin?
  • Andre Santos? Tummyache.
  • Olivier Giroud? Missed the fiasco with a back injury. I think he'll return. If not, there's always Gervinho up top, right? Amiright, folks?
  • Lukasz Fabianski? Next question.
  • Can't we just agree that this is all Denilson's fault?
If you're wondering why I didn't just wait longer for team news to come out and post this later, it's that I've learned over the years that nobody reads this if it's not up on Friday morning. And, let's face it, injury reports probably aren't the reason you read these previews. It's my sharp wit and handsomeness! Yeah, that must be it...

Reading Squad News

Out: Karacan (knee), McCarthy (shoulder), Morrison (foot)
Doubts: Roberts (knock), Pogrebnyak (knock), Kebe (who's there?), Robson-Kanu (knock) (knock who?) (I'm sorry...)

Leicester City are nicknamed the
Foxes... so this picture is pretty much
irrelevant for Reading...
Reading actually released a team news update on Thursday! Oh my God, I actually have something to say here. This is exciting. I shall start with a quote from their official site:

"With the Arsenal clash still days away, Brian [McDermott] couldn't confirm whether a number of players would be available for Monday night."

Oh well, that's just... this is no better than the Arsenal news situation!

Jason Roberts pulled out of the squad the day before the loss to Sunderland, and Reading will "wait and see." As for Pavel Pogrebnyak, Brian McDermott said "we don't know."

You know, this is really unhelpful, guys.

"The fitness of Hal Robson-Kanu will also be waited on." Jimmy Kebe will "hopefully train."

Gahhhhhhhhh, this is the worst.

Let's talk about who we know is out: Jem Karacan has returned to training after a setback in his MCL injury, but he will be short for this match. Alex McCarthy is out for the season. Sean Morrison is out for an indeterminate period of time.

Current Form

Arsenal's last road win came at the
Madejski. This dog is all ready to
have another away day.
You know, technically speaking, losing on penalties counts as a draw when you're talking about form. So, Arsenal are unbeaten in two, kinda. They still have not won on the road since winning at the Madejski against Reading in the fourth round of the League Cup, though.

To make ourselves feel better, let's talk about how Reading have lost five in a row (sorry, Reading fans who are reading an Arsenal blog, for some reason.) While Arsenal were struggling in Bradford, Reading shipped three goals to a Sunderland side that entered the match with fewer goals scored than games played.

Reading have won once in the league this year, a shock 2-1 win over Everton on November 17. Since then, they have lost 3-2 to Wigan, 1-0 to Aston Villa, 4-3 to Manchester United, 1-0 to Southampton, and 3-0 to Sunderland. Relegation seems to beckon, based on these results.

Judging by what I've read around the Internet, Reading probably fancy their chances against Arsenal less than Bradford City did.

Match Facts

Marouane Chamakh scored twice at
Reading in the 7-5 absurd-fest.
Arsenal and Reading have now met ten times throughout all of history, including the bonkers 7-5 League Cup tie at the end of October. Arsenal have won all ten meetings.

You'll likely already recall the story of the 7-5 cup tie, but I'll tell you again, because we all need to feel a little better about our decisions to support Arsenal Football Club. As you know, Reading went ahead 4-0 in half an hour. Arsenal pinged one back just before halftime. Then, they scored three more, including the equalizer with the final kick of regular time. Then, Marouane Chamakh scored to put Arsenal ahead, but Reading drew level again. In the 120th minute, Theo Walcott scored a winner. Then, Chamakh scored again, just to further confuse everyone.

Four of Arsenal's ten previous meetings with Reading have come in the league; the other six have come in cup ties. In 2006/07, Reading's first top flight season, Arsenal won 4-0 away and 2-1 at the Emirates. In 2007/08, Reading's last top flight season before this year, Arsenal won 3-1 away and 2-0 at the Emirates.

The Referee

Here's the dog I voted for
in November.
The referee is Manchester-based Anthony Taylor. Arsenal have seen Taylor once this season. On that occasion, late in a 0-0 match against Queens Park Rangers, Taylor showed a red card to Stephane Mbia, then Mikel Arteta scored an 84th minute winner that was probably offside. So, there was some luck with Taylor that will hopefully carry over, considering he had denied Arsenal penalties in two of the previous three matches he worked for the Gunners.

As for Taylor's record with Reading, this will be his first such match this season. He last worked a Reading match on October 1 of last year, in the Championship, when the Royals drew 0-0 with Middlesbrough at the Madejski. He showed all of one yellow card in that match.

Around the League

Sunderland looks for their first win at Old Trafford since
the late '60s and I think these surprise starters might help.
Arsenal plays Reading on Monday night, meaning there's a full weekend of games to be played beforehand. Actually, it's not a full weekend at all, since Chelsea is in Japan to face Corinthians in the Club World Cup Final. That means their scheduled fixture, home to Southampton, has been postponed.

That leaves six matches on Saturday, two on Sunday, and Reading v. Arsenal on Monday. Saturday's early match will take place in the North East, as struggling Newcastle host no-longer-unbeaten Manchester City. There's no late game, so the other five Saturday matches are at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. Manchester United hosts Sunderland at Old Trafford; the Black Cats have not won there since 1968. Meanwhile, Liverpool hosts Aston Villa at Anfield, Norwich hosts Wigan at Carrow Road, QPR hosts Fulham in a West London derby, and Stoke hosts Everton at the Britannia.

On Sunday, Swansea takes their show on the road to face Tottenham at White Hart Lane, so let's hope the Swans win another one in North London. In the late game, stumbling West Brom hosts West Ham at the Hawthorns.

The reverse of these fixtures will be played the weekend of March 30-31.