Reading 1 (Shorey 87) Arsenal 3 (Flamini 44, Adebayor 52, Hleb 78)
It was easier than expected last night as a stubborn Reading couldn’t quite last until half time with their backs to the wall rearguard, and once behind folded completely as Arsenal cruised to victory in the second half.
The match started brightly, with Adebayor hitting the outside of the post, but was largely tame for most of the first half until Flamini put the Gunners ahead from Hleb’s cut back. Once again the Belarussian spurned a shooting chance to play in a teammate in a better position, and at the moment his tactic is working to perfection. It is easy to see why the ineptitude of Baptista and Aliadiere up front last season made Hleb, in turn, look so poor.
The goal was richly deserved for the ‘goal machine’ Flamini – his first of the season was the only thing his fine start to the campaign was missing. Hopefully he’ll sign a new contract sooner rather than later, I would be surprised if he moved on at the end of the season now that he’s become a fixture in the side.
He almost added a second after half time, before Adebayor broke his eight match duck, scoring Arsenal’s 1000th Premiership goal with a delightful curling finish after fine work by Hleb and Fabregas. The Togolese frontman then scored his second from a quick counter attack, only for the goal to be wrongly ruled out for offside.
It wouldn’t matter, however, Hleb adding the third in typical style – through on goal he refused to shoot either side of the keeper, instead dragging the ball back, beating the defender and keeper before slotting home. His skills are certainly unique.
Shorey grabbed a consolation late on that was probably deserved, as Reading finished strongly, but the two goal margin was enough to leapfrog United back to the top of the league. And with the next game not until a week on Saturday because of the tedious internationals, Wenger can now relax and enjoy the view.
Speaking of the next match, Cesc will now miss the Wigan game after picking up his fifth booking of the season. It may have appeared needless, but having seen Spurs dispatch Wigan 4-0 the previous day, you can imagine the Spaniard figuring he would be needed less for that game that the Chelsea one looming on the horizon. Intelligence beyond his years or just good fortune? I’ll let you decide.
Eleven days of internationals now await, undoubtedly filled with columns about ‘where it all went wrong’, probably concluding with a piece about how it’s all Wenger’s fault.