theo walcott(1)

Reading v. Arsenal: Walcott and Giroud, key pair

I will not be using any of the following trite sports phrases in my Reading v. Arsenal match preview today:
Play hard.
Give 100%.
Show a good response from the Bradford game.
Reading looking to get healthy.
Two banks of four.
Set piece threat.
or.. MUST WIN.

I will be using the following phrases in my Reading v. Arsenal match preview today:
Jesus High Fructose Cornsyrup Christ.
and… Beer.

It’s the darkest, coldest, and wettest month of the year in the UK and rather than holing up inside a Hobbit hole and staying warm with a cup of cocoa Arsenal have made the 36 mile trip from London to Reading to play a little Monday Night Football under the cold lights of the Madejski stadium.

Arsenal’s season so far has been, tumultuous. We never know which Arsenal team will show up for any particular match. Will it be the team that beats Spurs 5-2 or the team that let Manchester United just boss the game without much fight? The team that held Man City to a 1-1 draw and prompted their manager to call Arsenal “the toughest team in the League to play against” or the team who loses to fourth division Bradford and prompts their manager to write “WEAK TEAM!” on the team sheet? Arsenal fans have come to expect the unexpected with this team as it struggles to find an identity and maintain their challenge for the fourth place cup.

Arsenal weren’t helped when they sold the best striker in the Premier League to Manchester United and bought two replacements this summer, both of whom have struggled to show a good streak of form. The German, Lukas Podolski, in particular started the year strong and looked to be Arsenal’s most clinical finisher but has yet to finish an entire match as he struggles to adapt to the physical demands of playing in a 4-4-1-1 and defending like a winger against the more demanding players of the Premier League. The Frenchman, Olivier Giroud, couldn’t crack the starting lineup at the start of the season but has now established himself as the point of Arsenal’s three-man front line – providing an outlet for Arsenal’s long passes and the barrage of crosses that are fed in from the fullbacks.

Giroud is seen by many as the best striker on this Arsenal team but he hasn’t scored since Arsenal’s win over Tottenham which concluded a run of three games (Schalke, Fulham, Tottenham) in which he scored four goals. More critically, he took 15 shots in those three games and in the five game run since has only managed 8. Giroud needs a lot of shots to score goals and he needs someone else to create those shots for him.

That’s why it’s no coincidence that Giroud’s dry run of form coincided with the loss of Theo Walcott to injury as the two were starting to develop quite the little partnership up front. In Giroud’ purple patch against Schalke, Fulham, and Spurs, Walcott scored two goals and chipped in with three assists. And when these two teams last met, with Arsenal winning 7-5, it was Walcott with a hattrick and Giroud who were the key pair.

In many ways, that 7-5 win should be thrown out. It was such a wild result and such a tactically undisciplined game from both teams that pointing to that game for too much insight can be dangerous. But what we did see, as Reading took a 4-0 lead in the first half, was a team that will look to create from set pieces and hit Arsenal down the left.

Nicky Shorey (left back) and Jobi McAnuff (left mid) operate down the left for Reading and have 4 assists each this season. If Arsenal start Theo Walcott on the right, he will be nominally tasked with marking Nicky Shorey while Bacary Sagna will look to keep McAnuff in his pocket. This presents a problem but also an opportunity. The problem is that Walcott is not a good defender, the opportunity is that Walcott is great on counter attacks.

Since Shorey takes all of Reading’s set plays, he will be called upon to get forward and put the ball onto the head of Reading forward (Dread Pirate) Roberts or one of their center backs. If Arsenal can defend those set plays it should mean that Theo Walcott will be available for counter attacks. If Reading play the percentages game, which I suspect they will, then Arsenal have to respond with slick counter attacking football and Theo Walcott will be key to that.

Walcott and Giroud could also do a little bit of the big-man, little-man game that characterizes a 4-4-2. Reading’s center back Gorkss is going too give Giroud a good game today but if the big Frechman can drop deeper into midfield and get some flick-ons, the speedy Walcott could make Reading pay for playing with one of the oldest teams in the League.

Despite my rather hopeful outlook of a fast paced countering team with a bit of 4-4-2 to it, Arsenal fans should be prepared for long stretches of the game to be played in the Reading half. Arsenal’s midfield trio of Wilshere, Cazorla, and Arteta will recycle the ball around the edge of the box as Reading defend deep. Cazorla’s propensity for a long range shot can cause chaos here and I expect him to continue shooting. He’s taken 21 shots in the 6 games and none of them have found the net. Jesus High Fructose Corn Syrup Christ he is due for a goal.

If Giroud and Walcott struggle, then Arsenal’s midfield will probably need to take this game by the scruff of the neck and force the issue. You could see an unusual Arteta to Podolski or Podolski to Cazorla combination in that case. Something to open up this Reading side.

Game is at 11:45 am PST here in the States and is being shown live on ESPN2. Perfect time to drink beer and watch a game.


26 thoughts on “Reading v. Arsenal: Walcott and Giroud, key pair

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +11niltothearsenal

    Here’s hoping are as good as the preview notes above.
    Here’s hoping somebody (anybody) brought their shooting boots as we have abysmal in the final third.
    Here’ hoping for cold beer at reasonable prices regardless of the outcome.

  2. -2 Vote -1 Vote +1khaesar

    however good or bad the game is the hands of a team coach. Wenger could not compete with the modern football and it affects a few bad games this year, which resulted in empty title. however arsenal is not a small team which is sad as the other team is always striving to avoid relegation, the arsenal is a great team that has a name in the world, with huge assets, many fans around the world, and the arsenal also did little to pay transfer in recent years. much more competitive squad arsenal Wenger unfortunately only poor in giving tactics, also less able to increase mentality of players, and also did not want to risk buying a sloppy player, but players like that are typical of the mentality of steel players. Wenger obtaining and maintaining the ability of good players but often injured, it’s very harmful. despite it all arsenal boards are also guilty of not understanding the football, and how could not love arsenal,and let arsenal with such deplorable conditions. thanks for his memory was invincible and all of Wenger, but I have to say .. Wenger’s time away from the arsenal. do or do nothing .. in order to achieve success we have to go through the misery. so enough misery and we have to recruit a new coach next season, and hopefully not pep, because it will make the game very boring. somehow also a football team without a title is not a football team ..

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori


      We spent 55m two seasons ago and 39m last summer.

      Over the long haul (and I hate to repeat what Gary Neville pointed out recently but he is right), we have had a lot more success and consistency with Wenger granted current poor spell.

      The club is in a good position to buy but Wenger has to be extremely careful who he buys. If you take on just anyone for the sake of filling a shortfall, you run the risk of signing a further dud which will be again difficult to offload and have consequent effect on who you can bring in down the line due to the wage structure.

      Wenger needs to be extremely careful and bring in only top quality players now. he has been trying to do so last summer but the list is very very short (particularly in January) so don’t hold your breath.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

        Your persistent lying about Arsenal’s transfer dealings reminds of the Bush administration and the insistence that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. Any time you can work it into one of your hundreds of comments you like to trot out some mythical Arsenal spend over some set transfer period.

        According to you, Arsenal have spend £94m in transfers over the last two seasons. But let’s just look at that number a little closer.

        Season 12/13

        (Minus) Lukas Podolski £11m, Olivier Giroud £13m, Santi Cazorla £20m (-£44m)

        (Plus) Oğuzhan Özyaku £500,000, Carlos Vela £4,2m, Robin Van Persie £22m, Kyle Bartley £1m, Alex Song £15m, Henri Lansbury £1m (+£43.7m)

        Season 11/12

        (Minus) Gervinho £10.6m, Ox £12m, Campbell £.95m, Park £3m, Santos £6.2m, Arteta £10m, Mertesacker £10m, Eisfeld £.4m (-£53.150m)

        (Plus) Clichy £7m, JET £1.5m, Cesc £35m, Eboue £4m, Nasri £22m, Traore £1.2m (+£70.7m)

        Total spend over the last two seasons (-£17.55m).

        Saying that Arsenal spent £94m over the last two seasons as proof that Arsenal are spending (and using it to call “bullshit”) is as disingenuous as me only saying that Arsenal earned £114.4m over the last two years.

        Unless you have evidence that you’d like Colin Powell to present to the United Nations that Arsene Wenger is burying hundred pound notes in the Syrian desert to the tune of £94m, you should probably just stop.

        In fact, just stop, full stop.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1skyranger

    Thank you Tim for calling a spade a spade , ie 4th division. Finally got pace up front. Walcott has to stay. Just the threat of his movement is worth playing him down the middle. For me its very important he stays

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Only in certain instances.

      Where teams are more discipline (not Reading), he will have a more difficult time.

      In fact, I thought it more instructive for us to put Podolski in the middle (he scored a goal too if you remember) as he is quicker to set up for a shot and he can really belt them (plus he has better physical presence in a crowd)

      Don’t get carried away.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

        Chamberlain too brought strong impetus to the game driving us forward out wide and had a couple of good opportunities including a header arriving late into the box.

        Reading were very poor minding the space just in front of the defense with our players running in.

        That said, we were industrious and the understanding with the middle 3 is having a telling effect (if we recall Jack, Arteta, Santi playing keepy up against WBA). Therein lies the difference.

  4. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bull

    A fantastic result! We were due that. Carlorla brought his shooting boots, Walcott failed with a 1v1 then redeemed himself and Podolski looked like the player I thought we bought. 2 points off the 4th place trophy and once again all hope is not lost.

  5. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bull

    1 point to add which may provoke some debate is that the pub I watched tonight’s match was where Ramsey spent Wednesday night last week following the Bradford debacle after Arsene gave him 2 days off. Did he need a drink as much as I did? Probably!

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1JV Mauer

      Love this guy! Don’t ask me why, but I always feel better when I spot him in the away support. The players notice, too. I remember one, RvP or Theo, I forget which, throwing their jersey to him after a particularly good game.

  6. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    How’s this for a cost savings: pay walcott what he wants, play him in the middle and don’t buy a new striker.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1dano328

      I’d like to see him be productive up front against a top side before canceling plans to sign another striker. But give him the 95-100 grand a week regardless. Play him at striker allot for right now. I want Giroud out there too as his confidence may fade if he is benched too often. He needs the fans singing that song. Too bad the manager won’t switch formations for two strikers.

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

    Theo’s goal was quite something. For all of the clamor about his rotten touch and terrible football brain… that was a smart touch and an instinctive goal. I’m going to hate watching him do that for another team. I doubt he’s worth the money that he’ll be offered from Chelsea, City, or United, since smart defenses can silence him. But he’s a dangerous player I’d love to keep at Arsenal just to see if he might become even more. And what he is now is pretty damn good, too.

    Oh well. At least we still have Jack. For now.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Walcott worked through the middle because the opposition afforded plenty of room.

      It may not be the preferred tactic to have him top through the middle in most games where a more physical presence need suffice.

      Jack has been getting better bearing in mind he has only recently returned from a very long long lay off and has had to learn Spanish.

      The Arteta-Jack-Santi axis is key. any one out of position and the engine room suffers (albeit Rosicky should provide added option)

      In fact our engine room in midfield has started to improve in the prior WBA match where Tim decided instead to go on a rant about the board or something-else.

      that said, like everyone-else, I’m not convinced till we put together a good run just yet but there are very palpable signs of better movement and understanding in the middle which has improved our game over the last two league match.

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    hmmm….Wenger not getting sacked tonite then…

    Good game to put the wheels back on track…Santi was totally free to do what so ever he pleased…Vermaelen was strong in the defence…Gibbs was at his attacking best..

    Theo needs to finish off those 1 on 1s if he can truly claim to be the central striker…his corners are pretty much awful, should be working on them more..since he does cross well… What Theo should realise is that in no other system would his slackness be pardoned and still he will be fed those chances to stake his claim…

    the 5-2 is becoming Arsenal’s favourite score…should be replacing the 1-0 soon.. Somebody will have to change their handle ;-)

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Slack passing by Gibbs though for their first.

      That said, whilst we have the propensity to switch off, we have a 15 goal difference which would suggest (given some recent barren spells in front of goal) that our defensive game isn’t quite as poor as it is often made out by the mugs in the media.

  9. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Stat Alert :-
    10 years ago, in the season of 2002-03 Arsenal had 4 different hat-trick scorers in premier league…Freddie, Pires, Titi….Jermaine Pennat..!! This is just one of the two ocassions when a team had 4 different hattrick scorers in a season..

    Looking forward to that in 2012-2013…

  10. Vote -1 Vote +1Steve

    Re-Theo he is not a striker and he is not a winger he is to me an old fashioned inside right. Playing that position just on the edge of the penalty box so he can get in between the fullback and center back. The problem with this position is in the modern game is getting him there in a formation that help other players as well.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +11NilToTheArsenal

    I’m sure there are many of us with at least a small voice in our heads saying, “well, it was only Reading”. Don’t listen to that voice. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is the kind of season at our club where every win is to be savoured.

    It is a season of constantly being on the edge. It felt so dire after Bradford. But one game and one win later and yes, we are out of one competition but still in the thick of things in the other three. What are our realistic chances in the Champions League? I for one, just refuse to go there. Regardless of the next game or the last outcome, we really are down to “one game at a time”.

  12. Vote -1 Vote +1Greg

    Tim, hope you enjoyed yesterday’s game.

    For the sake of clarifying the imaginary relationship that we don’t have, regarding why I wrote that comment on that thread that one time: I know you don’t write for the hits. That’s why I said it would be a shame to lose you. The hit-merchants exploit us by feeding the angry, self-righteous, self-pitying asshole that lurks inside us all. I get depressed by this (and anything that smells like it) because, for me, supporting Arsenal is supposed to be a life-affirming thing.

    Anyway, I think most of my comments on Arsenal blogs, including yours, have been about the blogging and not about the football. I’m clearly missing the point and not having any fun, so I’m going to GBCW until whenever. Cheers

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