Arsenal 4-1 Reading: Walkover

Bloody hell, Reading are awful, aren't they?

This was always going to be one of the easier games of the run-in for Arsenal, but few would have imagined that a side fighting for their Premier League lives would display so little ambition and fight. A rampant Gunners side made easy work of them, and frankly should have at least doubled their score on the day.

The boss had some personnel decisions going into the match, mainly around Theo Walcott's injury during the international break and the fact that our weak opponents would allow for some rotation. Nacho Monreal was preferred to Kieran Gibbs at left back, there were starts for Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey, and Gervinho stepped in for Theo.

The visitors managed to win a corner inside of the first 60 seconds, but Arsenal asserted their dominance immediately thereafter. Olivier Giroud reacted quickly to get an early header on goal, but former Gunners keeper Stuart Taylor was there to collect (Side note: Has any man in sports made as much money to do so little as Taylor, the Professional Number Three?).

Not too long after, a perfect minute of applause and song was followed at the Emirates (and the Pig, naturally) in memory of Rocky Rocastle. Reading's away support, in a highly classy move, joined in.

Perhaps the man himself was looking down on the proceedings...if he was, he would have been delighted to see Arsenal take the lead a few minutes afterwards. The Gunners let the ball do the work on this occasion, with a series of passes leaving Reading defenders chasing shadows. Giroud found the overlapping Santi Cazorla on the wing, and the Spaniard's resulting low cross was perfect. Gervinho ghosted in off the shoulder of the last defender and hammered the ball into the empty net.

The early lead was welcome, but the rest of the half would prove to be frustrating. Over and over, Arsenal would carve open what passed for the Reading defense, and over and over the chance would be spurned. Gervinho in particular was wasteful. As many plaudits as he will gain for his tally of a goal and two assists (and he did have a pretty good game), it should be noted that he still lacked end product on far too many occasions. I remain to be convinced that he has turned a corner quite yet, but I'd love to see it happen.

When the Arsenal players weren't missing chances, referee Chris Foy was missing obvious calls. It is a damning indictment of the standard of match officials these days that he is nowhere near the worst in the division. But, he had a horrendous afternoon - evidenced by his failure to award a penalty against Taylor for his challenge on Giroud. Look, I'm a keeper and I give my brethren the benefit of the doubt every time. That collision had to be a good four seconds after the ball bobbled away though.

Later, Cazorla just missed wide, followed by Gervinho blazing a shot over the bar. Somehow, Arsenal trudged into the locker room up by a solitary goal despite their comprehensive dominance.

I would love to know what Reading's new boss, Nigel Adkins, had told his club during the interval. Whatever it was, it didn't work - Arsenal doubled their lead just three minutes after the restart. Gervinho was the provider this time, as he teed up Cazorla at the top of the box. Santi picked his shot through a mass of bodies and threaded it just inside the near post. Taylor had no chance, and the points were effectively won.

Much like the first half, the Royals saw precious little of the ball and accomplished nothing when they had it. There was one instance where Pavel Pogrebnyak had the ball at his feet in the penalty area, but Laurent Koscielny nullified the danger with a brilliant sliding tackle. Alex Pearce was able to get a shot away from the resulting corner, but Lukasz Fabianski held it well.

The third was inevitable though, and Gervinho made up for a horrific cut-back to no one by playing in Giroud a minute later. Giroud's shot was pacy and powerful, but from Reading's perspective Taylor had to stop that. Absolutely shocking goalkeeping.

It's difficult for any side to play 90 perfect minutes, but it was disappointing to see us concede a stupid goal just two minutes after going up 3-0. Fabianski had a nice little shutout streak going, and to lose it through no fault of his own must be galling for him. As has been the case all season, the narrowness of our fullbacks has resulted in a goal against. This time, Bacary Sagna was much too far off of Reading captain Jobi McAnuff, allowing his cross to come in uncontested. Nacho Monreal was torched for pace by Hal Robson-Kanu on the back post, leaving him with an easy tap-in.

Worse, Monreal collided with the post as he slid to try and prevent the goal, and he eventually had to be subbed off for Gibbs. Here's hoping he's not too seriously injured.

Arsene made his last two subs with 15 minutes to go, Giroud and Gervinho making way for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski. Clearly, the boss wanted to kill the game off before Reading had a chance to pull another one back.

He got his wish, and it was AOC in the thick of it as Foy finally awarded us a penalty. He got the ball out on the wing and made one of his trademark surging runs into the area. Adrian Mariappa lost out badly to AOC's pace, and could only foul him as he went by. Replays showed that the contact was outside the area, but swings and roundabouts - we should have had one in the first half.  Mikel Arteta put the penalty kick away, cool as you like.

Arsenal didn't rest on their laurels though, and Taylor was called into action again to fist away a shot by Ramsey. The Welshman hit that one right at the keeper, but his passing and movement were solid on the day.

Foy blew the full-time whistle soon after, and three precious points went into the books for the Gunners. Results elsewhere were mixed - our nearest and dearest saw off Swansea, but Chelsea hilariously managed to lose at Southampton. Still, it looks like our boys are peaking at the right time (in the chase for 4th anyway), and the run-in is piss easy other than Everton and United. I would say at this point that it would be a tremendous disappoint to not finish somewhere in that top four, and should in fact be the minimum expectation.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Fabianski 7, Monreal 7 (Gibbs 7), Koscielny 8, Mertesacker 7, Sagna 7, Arteta 7, Ramsey 7, Cazorla 8, Rosicky 7, Gervinho 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 7), Giroud 7 (Podolski 7)

Man of the Match: Many will say it should be it turns out, many are incorrect. The Ivorian did have a goal and two assists, but Santi Cazorla was the best player on the field.