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Arsenal 4-1 Reading - Hopelessly outgunned

If Nigel Adkins was under had any doubts about the size of the task facing him at Reading, today's demolition at Arsenal will have banished them. Reading were systematically taken apart by a good but not great Arsenal side and while you perhaps expected the visitors to get beat, the comprehensive nature of today's defeat was disappointing.

Jamie McDonald

Adkins largely kept faith with Eamonn Dolan's team from the Manchester United game, with just two changes that saw the suspension free Pavel Pogrebnyak replace Noel Hunt and Danny Guthrie come in for Garath McCleary in a 4-5-1.

Going into the game, Reading fans had been encouraged by news that Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby were all missing with injury, but the fact that the likes of Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were left on the bench showed the quality that Arsene Wenger was still able to name in the starting XI.

Reading actually started quite sprightly and won a corner within the first few minutes, from which Adrian Mariappa nodded wide. Suddenly you began to think that maybe Reading might be the next Swansea, Bradford or Blackburn and pull off a shock win over the Gunners but such hopes were rapidly dashed by wave after wave of Arsenal attack that meant it was a case of when, rather than if the home side scored.

That goal came after eleven minutes when Gervinho got on the end of Cazorla's ball/shot across the box to slam home from a couple of yards out. From where I was sat it looked as if Cazorla handled it and others watching have said Gervinho was also offiside but whatever the case, bad refereeing wasn't the reason we ultimately lost this one. In fact, such luck was arguably balanced out before the half was done when Stuart Taylor took out Olivier Giroud with no punishment given.

Reading were as bad as Arsenal were good, continuing to gift Arsenal chance after chance. Mikele Leigertwood had a particularly miserable time on the ball, giving it away constantly despite some decent work breaking up the play. Only great blocks from Kelly, Mariappa and Pearce kept the scoreline at 1-0 and at half-time Arsenal must have wondered how they weren't further ahead against a Reading team who hadn't managed a single effort beyond Mariappa's early header.

Still, with the score at 1-0 you always felt Reading had a chance to nick it, so Arsenal's goal just after the break was a pretty crushing blow to Adkins side. Cazorla was again key in the move, this time finishing a great move off just outside the box with a curling effort past Stuart Taylor. Arsenal's movement was just too good for a deep defending Reading team, who just couldn't get close enough to Spanish international.

Arsenal took their foot off the pedal at 2-0 up and while you could hardly blame them, it did give Reading the chance to get out of their own half a bit more and win a couple of corners, one of which fell to Alex Pearce whose well struck effort was sadly straight at Arsenal's underworked 'keeper Fabianski.

From the second of those corners, Arsenal got their third. Danny Guthrie and Nicky Shorey messed around with a quick corner routine and after interchanging a couple of passes, gave the ball away cheaply to set up a sweeping move that saw Giroud drill past Taylor, who won't have been too happy being beaten so close to his body.

Game over but Hal Robson-Kanu did give the couple of thousand Reading fans something to cheer about when he scored his fifth Premier League goal of the season after nodding in Jobi McAnuff's cross. Of those five goals, three have now come when we're 3-0 down, so there's one for you in-play gamblers out there.

Reading didn't even have the pleasure of finishing the better side as another cheap giveaway on the left ended up with Mariappa tripping Oxlade-Chamberlain inside the box for a penalty. Arteta slotted home and that was that really.

I don't want to labour on this one too much because it doesn't tell us anything we didn't know and nor does it tell us too much about what Adkins is about. The only noticable change from the McDermott era was that Taylor and the back four were clearly told to try and pass the ball a bit more but with Arsenal closing them down well and Leigertwood's inability to distribute effectively, such a plan was often abandoned for a long ball anyway.

Player ratings can be found here so for a more in depth breakdown head there.

This wasn't as good an Arsenal side as the one who took apart a much better Reading side 4-0 in 2006, but they were still a side packed full of quality and in good form, so it would be unfair to blame this defeat entirely on Reading's lack of quality. Arteta, Cazorla and Ramsey dominated Guthrie, Leigertwood and Karacan, with the later barely able to touch the ball and faced with such overwhelming quality I can't say I'm surprised in the slightest that we were beaten today.

Chris Foy was inconsistant and I'm tired of pointing out the flaws of what's been a pretty poor year for those officiating Reading games. Again I won't blame our struggles on the officials but they haven't helped put it that way.

The atmosphere inside the stadium was muted, though it is a really, really nice stadium. Reading fans were in good voice but were stifled somewhat by the stewards who were very quick to deal with anyone standing. Oh and the Arsenal mascot Gunnersaurus is amazing, what a giant green dragon has to do with Arsenal I've got no idea but still.

Wigan's win over Norwich means that our survival prospects look bleak and realistically you'd have to think Reading need at least 15 or 16 points from these remaining seven games to have any hopes of retaining their Premier League status.

If you're after a positive this evening then the best I can give you is that it won't get any more difficult than the side we faced today and while City have an arguably better squad, it remains to be seen if they'll have the same desire with their season all but over by the time they play us in the penultimate game of the season.

If you still have hope, you shouldn't lose any on the basis of today but if you're searching for hope then likewise I don't think today is going to make you believe that Adkins is going to work a miracle. If we stay up it's going to be a scrappy, gutsy game-by-game affair but looking at the remaining fixtures I do genuinely believe that in isolation every single one is a game we can get a result from so if performances are good and we get a bit of luck, well who knows?

Do I expect that to happen, honestly no but I believe it could and that hope is all you can ask for.

Reading: Taylor; Shorey, Mariappa, Pearce, Kelly; McAnuff, Karacan (Akpan), Leigertwood, Guthrie, Robson-Kanu (McCleary); Pogrebnyak (Hunt)