Arsenal beat Reading 5-2 at the Madejski Stadium in the English Premier League
Spaniard Santi Cazorla nets his first hat-trick in English football as Arsenal cruise
Result eases pressure on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger as club go fifth
Reading remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League after tenth defeat
Arsenal recorded an emphatic 5-2 win at bottom side Reading to ease the pressure on their embattled manager Arsene Wenger and move fifth in the English Premier League.
Wenger has come in for heavy criticism in recent weeks with some calling for his sacking after the Gunners lost a League Cup tie to fourth-tier Bradford City last week despite fielding a full strength side.
But stung by the barbs from their fans and the media, Arsenal cruised into a 4-0 lead with their Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla grabbing his first hat-trick in English football.
And despite Reading dragging the game back to 4-2 at one point, contract rebel Theo Walcott grabbed a fifth goal to make the game safe.
The win takes Arsenal back into fifth in the table, two points off Chelsea in third. Wenger acknowledged it was important to get back to winning ways.
“Its always interesting,” he told Sky Sports of the reaction to their defeat at Bradford. “Difficult because of course you would prefer everything goes well but you discover who is strong.
“In 16 years we went once out against a team from a lower division. If you compare that record to all the other clubs in England it is still the best record on that front. I agree it hurt and it was very disappointing, on the night Bradford did well.”
On the reaction to their shock defeat Wenger added: “I don’t want to judge (the criticism). I’m responsible when it goes well and when it doesn’t I have to take the criticism.”
The two sides shared 12 goals in an amazing League Cup tie back in October, Arsenal running out 7-5 winners, and the visitors were 3-0 up inside 34 minutes.
German international Lukas Podolski opened the scoring just before the quarter hour mark, taking down Kieran Gibbs’ cross before lashing past Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici.
Cazorla doubled Arsenal’s lead when he met Podolski’s cross to convert from close range with a diving header.
And Cazorla grabbed his second when his turn and shot beat Federici after another Gibbs cross caused panic in Reading penalty area.
Reading came out in the second half with more purpose but conceded a fourth when a sweeping Arsenal move ended with Cazorla polishing off another Podolski cross to register a hat-trick.
Reading refused to give up and hit back with two goals in five minutes. First substitute Adam Le Fondre rounded Wojciech Szczesny to finish off Jay Tabb’s cute through ball.
Then Hal Robson-Kanu capitalized on a mistake from Gibbs to set up Jimmy Kebe whose finish reduced the deficit to just two.
But any hopes of a dramatic comeback evaporated when Theo Walcott, granted his wish to play as a center forward, finished low past Federici from Cazorla’s pass.
Walcott, who is yet to sign a new contract with the club, said the squad had pulled together in the wake of their cup exit. “We don’t take notice of the outside world. We know it hasn’t been good enough in recent weeks but hopefully we showed people the real Arsenal tonight.”
On his contract, which expires at the end of the season, Walcott added: “Talks are ongoing and its going to be a slow progress, it takes a long time. I’m sure something will happen soon.”
For Reading it marked their sixth consecutive Premier League defeat and they remain bottom of the table, six points from safety and facing an immediate return to the second tier.
Reading manager Brian McDermott tried to take the positives from an improved second half display. He said: “First half they played well and we couldn’t get close to them and in the second half it was a good response from the players.
“Arsenal were at the top of their game tonight. That won’t shape our season that game tonight.”