Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League
ARSENAL 4 READING 1
Reading: H Robson-Kanu (68 mins).
Arsenal: Gervinho (11 mins), S Cazorla (48 mins), O Giroud (67 mins), M Arteta (pen, 77 mins).
We're only making plans for Nigel. The day after the death of actor Richard Griffiths, the Reading FC train-wreck careered into London and the plot was the antithesis of one of Griffiths' best and most recently remembered film roles. In 'The History Boys', Griffiths portrayed a teacher who inspired a group of talented students into realising their full potential. The new headmaster of the Reading FC School of Hard Knocks, Nigel Adkins, would have seen at first hand just how desperately gauche his new disciples are and if any positive is to be gained out of this diabolical season then at least the new man has these 8 games in order to sort the footballing wheat from the immeasurable chaff in this desperately weak squad.
This game summed up all that is dire and tedious in modern top flight english football. Another expensively assembled squad - flat-track bullies Arsenal, who rarely seem to beat any sides of any substance - put our modest team to the sword in a one-sided, passionless game played at a soulless concrete bowl in front of a timid crowd of mainly footballing tourists. The match had all the atmosphere of a morgue and the only plus-point to be gained from the day is that at least this entirely hollow experience only cost a little over 25 quid for the privilege. Arsenal don't really deserve much credit for this apparently generous pricing policy, as they had notoriously charged Manchester City followers £62 for the same accommodation earlier in the season. The one benefit of following Reading away in this lop-sided league is that at least our various hosts tend to place our fixture in the bottom bracket, price-wise. Bottom bracket pricing, we got another fourth-rate performance.
Adkins first team selection saw the apparently welcome return of Pavel Pogrebnyak and the entirely less welcome reinstatement of Danny Guthrie in the middle of the park, the man whose tweeting and whingeing this season made Adkins' predecessor's life so difficult. Sadly for Guthrie, no one will ever rate him quite as much as he himself does and a generally mediocre personal performance from him was summed up by Arsenal's third goal, meekly surrendered after a messed-up corner routine resulted in Guthrie himself squandering possession. We have been repeatedly told that Guthrie's ability on the ball is his real strength; in that case, I'd hate to see his weaknesses. If you have a point to make, do so in future with your feet rather than with your thumbs.
To be fair to the misfit, Reading were already dead and buried at this stage anyway. We lasted a luxurious 10 minutes before standing still at a second phase - literally, as Kelly failed to get anywhere near the cross and Gervinho sneaked in at the back door between Mariappa and Shorey who were fast asleep when the Arsenal man found the roof of the net. Reading struggled to make any impact whatsoever in the opening 45, Jem Karacan followed Arsenal men around the park with all the enthusiasm and footballing ability of a teenage girl at a One Direction concert - he must surely have the highest Premier League ratio for most ground covered to actual touches of the ball. Leigertwood was caught in possession time and time again, but its like asking a Painter & Decorator to do up the roof of the Sistine Chapel if you are expecting him to perform some sort of role as playmaker. Pogrebnyak was once again isolated up top in the 4-5-1 and with HRK and McAnuff failing to make any substantive impact whatsoever to the opening half it was almost as if the Russian was serving a further ban, such was his own lack of endeavour in this sleep-walk of a team performance. He was replaced with Hunt after an hour and given our inevitable relegation you suspect that the well-paid Russian's days at the club are surely numbered.
That Reading were only a goal down at half time owed much to Arsenal incompetence, with Gervinho and Cazorla providing a showcase in the wastefulness which has punctuated 8 trophy-free years for one of England's biggest clubs. Still, as long as you can bury dross like Reading then you can pretty much guarantee your place in the closed-shop old-boys network of the Champions League to fill the coffers. Barely 90 seconds after the restart, Cazorla struck home from the edge of the box with half of the 60,000 crowd still taking pictures on their iPhones and the Reading team were presumably in tourist mode too, such was the lack of any sort of challenge from our midfield as the Spaniard picked his spot. Reading briefly and unconvincingly rallied with Pogrebnyak dangerously close to getting on the end of a cross and then - hallelujah - Fabianski in the Arsenal goal being called from his slumber to deny Pearce. But the brief resurgence was checked by the hopeless corner routine I have already mentioned as Giroud slotted home after good work from Gervinho, who looks so mediocre against anyone else yet seems a world-beater against dear old Reading.
The biggest surprise is that we actually registered a score. McAnuff - afforded plenty of time and space to do so by a dithering Arsenal defence playing well within their comfort zone - delivered a sumptuous centre to the far post for HRK to smash home a header which will only be remembered for the small milestone of being the first goal scored under the Adkins regime. We still had time enough to give away a shoddy penalty after Mariappa got himself into one almighty mess, bundling over Oxlade-Chamberlain. The foul was outside of the box, but Mariappa probably deserved to give away a penalty if only for his own ineptitude. So, Reading were truly crucified at Easter and there seems to be miniscule potential for a Christ-esque second coming for this team. Adkins always talks in positive terms which is all very well and good but in all honesty there is nothing remotely upbeat to say about the very many afternoons like this we have endured this season, apart from to say 'thank the Lord there are only 7 games left'.
This Premier League game took place 2085 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.