Arsenal beats Reading 5-2 in Premier League

Santi Cazorla scored a hat trick Monday as Arsenal emphatically
bounced back from its recent disappointments with a 5-2 win at
last-place Reading in the Premier League.

Coming off an embarrassing loss on penalties at fourth-tier
Bradford in the League Cup last week, Arsenal was back to its best
for the first hour at the Madejski Stadium, attacking at will and
taking a 4-0 lead when Cazorla netted his third in the 60th
minute.

Reading then somehow made a game of it by scoring two cheap
goals in five minutes, but Cazorla settled any nerves by setting
Theo Walcott up for the fifth in the 80th.

Lukas Podolski opened the scoring for Arsenal in the 14th, while
Adam Le Fondre and Jimmy Kebe netted for Reading.

The win lifts Arsenal back up to fifth place, two points behind
Tottenham and Chelsea, and more importantly restored some
confidence after last week’s fiasco at Bradford and a stretch of
inconsistent league results.

”We showed people, hopefully, the real Arsenal,” said Walcott,
who was given a rare chance to play up front rather than his usual
place on the wing.

Cazorla and Podolski had been among several Arsenal players to
struggle recently but the Spaniard especially seems to have
recovered his flair and creativity after imposing his will on the
Reading defense throughout the game.

It was Podolski, though, who put Arsenal in front after laying
the ball off to Kieran Gibbs on the left flank and then running
into the area to meet the defender’s cross. The German controlled
the ball with one deft touch before firing a shot past goalkeeper
Adam Federici.

Podolski then turned provider for Cazorla’s first goal came in
the 32nd minute, running down the left flank and sending a perfect
cross in toward the Spanish midfielder, who dove in to send a
header into the near corner. Cazorla then added his second just two
minutes later from a similar spot after Walcott’s cross from the
right was headed back by Gibbs. Cazorla controlled the ball with
his back toward goal before turning and slotting it into the bottom
corner.

Arsenal kept attacking after the break, and Cazorla completed
his hat trick after a text-book attack by the Gunners. Jack
Wilshere released Podolski down the left side of the area, and the
German slotted another cross back toward Cazorla to drill the ball
in at the far post.

Arsenal then relaxed, with Gibbs turning the ball over sloppily
in midfield and Jay Tabb feeding Le Fondre, who calmly rounded
goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to slot into an empty net. Kebe then
slotted home the second after a failed offside trap by the Arsenal
defense.

”I thought our response in the second half was excellent,”
said Reading manager Brian McDermott, whose team has just nine
points from 17 games. ”We gave our home crowd something to cheer
about.”

But the Gunners – who rallied from 4-0 down at Reading in the
League Cup in October to win 7-5 after extra time – ended any hopes
of a comeback when Cazorla led a quick counterattack and released
Walcott into the area, and the England winger stepped back inside
before slotting a curling effort into the far corner.

That capped off a night in which Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
said he saw some ”very encouraging signs” from his squad.

”I’ve said many times I believe in this team,” Wenger said.
”We need now to go from strength to strength.”