Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Reading, League Cup Fourth Round

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, October 25
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Graham Scott
    • Assistants: Richard West and David Bryan
    • 4th Official: Mike Jones
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 13 Arsenal wins
  • All-Time in the League Cup: 3 Arsenal wins
  • Arsenal's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Nottingham Forest, 4-0
  • Reading's Path Here
    • First Round: Beat Plymouth Argyle, 2-0
    • Second Round: Drew Milton Keynes Dons 2-2, won 4-2 on penalties
    • Third Round: Beat Brighton & Hove Albion, 2-1
  • Arsenal's Premier League Form: W-W-W-W-W-D
  • Reading's Championship Form: W-L-D-D-L-W
Ah, we're back to photos like these now.
You can't win 'em all. One of the first things I checked after the match was to see points dropped at home to bottom-half teams in a championship winning season, something Sean ended up independently noting in his recap. Leicester City, who won the league last season, had draws at home to West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth. Burnley got a draw at Stamford Bridge two years ago. Sunderland drew at Manchester City three years ago. Even the Invincibles had home draws against the likes of Portsmouth, Birmingham City, and Fulham.

You can't make a habit of dropping points at home, of course, something I've waxed poetic about on many occasions. Arsenal have already dropped five points at home this year and it's still October. Sure, they're only second on goal difference, as part of a three-way tie for first place. But results like this can catch up with you in the long run. I get the sense that, like last season, the seriousness of this title challenge will be decided in February and March.

So now, we turn our focus to the League Cup and some squad rotation. Time to recharge the batteries before a trip to Sunderland, a trip to Bulgaria, and a North London derby on the horizon.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Cazorla (Achilles,) Ramsey (hamstring,) Akpom (back,) Mertesacker (knee,) Welbeck (knee)
Suspended: Xhaka (second of three, serious foul play)

Who's ready for some BANTER?!
Arsenal's attack has been so prolific of late, you can understand why Arsène Wenger would be reluctant to make changes to the forward quartet in league and European fixtures. At the same time, when every cross against Middlesbrough found the head of a center back instead of the diminutive Alexis Sánchez or Theo Walcott, you could really see how Arsenal need some different options every once in a while, a plan B, possibly in the form of a tall bearded Frenchman. Enter Olivier Giroud, who has returned from the black hole with some much needed height, hold-up play, and possibly scientific research, I don't know. My guess is he comes in off the bench for a cameo.

Elsewhere in the squad, Aaron Ramsey is back in full training (he's been gone over two months now,) but will still be short for this match, while Santi Cazorla has been ruled out for a second straight match with an Achilles problem he picked up against Ludogorets.

As for the rotation, Wenger said, "It will be a similar squad to against Nottingham Forest." He spoke about the back four in specifics, as Kieran Gibbs will captain the squad from the left back position, Gabriel and Rob Holding will play in the center of defense, and Carl Jenkinson will make his first appearance for the red and white since scoring against Norwich on the final day of the 2013/14 season. Wenger also mentioned Jeff Reine-Adélaïde as being in line for a start and said that Alex Iwobi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Alex Lucas Pérez will all play. Chuba Akpom is out with a back injury, however.

As is tradition, I do not predict line-ups for League Cup ties, as I could end up being completely off base. The above paragraph gives some pretty good indications as to my expectations, however.

Reading Squad News

Out: Mendes (hamstring,) Quinn (knee,) Rakels (ankle,) Méïte (ankle)
Doubts: Cooper (ankle)
Suspended: Gunter (one match, accumulation)

These are terrible change kits, Reading. Just awful.
A lot of the talk coming out of the Reading camp is a lot of what you would expect from a second division team going up against a top flight opponent. Captain Paul McShane, who scored the match winner at the weekend on his return from injury, said, "it will be a good test for everyone. The shackles are off – we’ll go and enjoy the game, and everything is possible." Manager Jaap Stam has said the club hadn't really focused on the upcoming tie until this week, having played six Championship fixtures since the drawing originally took place. Pretty much your standard "we're gonna go out there and have fun with it and see if we can get something, but we know the league matters more."

Basically, Reading have nothing to lose, which is dangerous ground for Arsenal.

Reading have rotated their squad for previous League Cup ties, but this is the first time they will be facing a Premier League opponent, so it's not clear if Stam will maintain his league XI against stiffer competition. Right back Chris Gunter will be forced to miss out, having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season at the weekend.

I'm unclear on the severity of some of Reading's injuries, but as of late, they have been without Joseph Mendes, Stephen Quinn, Deniss Rakels, who broke his ankle in an earlier League Cup tie, Jake Cooper, and Yakou Méïte. Méïte, signed from PSG this summer, featured for Reading's Under-23s on Sunday and was removed at halftime. Cooper could return for this match.

Current Form

It took some Matrix-style maneuvering to deny Boro at times.
Well, the winning streak was snapped at six games in the league and seven across all competitions. Not too shabby, all things considered, as Arsenal went from stumbling out of the gate in August to joint top of the table in both the league and Europe. They are unbeaten in 12 across all competitions dating back to their season opening loss to Liverpool. They will look to extend that streak to lucky 13 for the first time since a 14 match run spanning both seasons between April and September of 2014. Arsenal also had a 12 match run within the same season at the start of 2013/14, which also came after a season opening home loss. Both of these previous unbeaten runs were snapped by Borussia Dortmund.

Reading are currently eighth in the Championship and have advanced to this stage of the League Cup after wins over Plymouth Argyle, Milton Keynes Dons, and Brighton & Hove Albion; the win over MK Dons required a penalty shootout. Prior to this recent weekend, however, Reading had been winless in four, with losses to Brentford and Aston Villa and draws against Derby County and Queens Park Rangers. On Saturday, the Royals returned to winning ways with a 1-0 win over Rotherham United, a side who are currently deadbolted to the bottom of the table.

Match Facts

Could use some more scoring.
Arsenal and Reading have met 13 times across all competitions and Arsenal have ended up on the winning end all 13 times. The last two cup ties between the two both required extra time, under very different circumstances.

In the fourth round of the League Cup in 2012, Arsenal spotted Reading a 4-0 lead, then 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. 7-5, after extra time.

In 2015, en route to Arsenal's second consecutive FA Cup title, the clubs met in the semi-final at Wembley. Just as in 2014 against Wigan, Arsenal needed extra time to advance against a second division opponent. Against Reading, however, Alexis Sánchez scored in added time of the first half of extra time (so 105+1') on an Adam Federici howler.

Arsenal have been eliminated in this round of the competition or earlier in each of the last three seasons. The last time Arsenal advanced past the fourth round was 2012/13, after beating Reading 7-5. They lost in the fifth round to Bradford City on penalties. I'm sorry for reminding you of that. Reading have not reached the fifth round since 1997/98.

The Referee

For some reason, I'm picturing him as a Bond villain.
The referee is Oxfordshire-based Graham Scott. The 48-year-old Scott was promoted to the Select Group in the summer of 2015, replacing the retired Chris Foy. He has only worked one Arsenal match in his career, but unfortunately for the Gunners, that was their failure at this stage of this competition last season, the 3-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday. That match was, of course, a total nightmare. Despite his promotion to the Select Group, Scott only worked four Premier League matches last season and has only worked one top flight match this season (and that was a win for Tottenham, so that's disappointing...)

Scott has not worked a Reading match since February 10, 2015, a midweek Championship fixture between Reading and Leeds at the Madjeski, which the Royals lost 2-0.

Scott has found himself in the center of some controversy in the past, particularly when he subbed in for an ill Andre Marriner in a fixture between Swansea and Sunderland back in January. Scott gave Swansea a dubious penalty, but also gave them a dubious red card as Sunderland went on to win 4-2. The red card, to Kyle Naughton, was later rescinded. Scott was said to have "all the major decisions completely wrong."

This does not fill me with much confidence.

Around the Fourth Round
  • Tuesday: Bristol City v. Hull City; Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol
  • Tuesday: Leeds United v. Norwich City; Elland Road, Leeds
  • Tuesday: Liverpool v. Tottenham Hotspur; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Tuesday: Newcastle United v. Preston North End; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Wednesday: Southampton v. Sunderland; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Wednesday: West Ham United v. Chelsea; Olympic Stadium, London
  • Wednesday: Manchester United v. Manchester City; Old Trafford, Manchester
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a marsupial. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to ask how marsupials can type so well.