It was to be expected that both teams were to make numerous changes from their respective Premier League and Championship games. Saying that, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who hadn't heard of the majority of Arsenal's starting XI and Olivier Giroud was the only familiar name on the bench. I need to get my top flight football knowledge up to scratch.
The fact that they're Arsenal players regardless of their age must mean they're reasonably handy at football, but the unknown set up should have been a boost to the equally young Royals squad fielded by Jaap Stam. However, all the excitement building up to the game seemed to fizzle out pretty quickly. We certainly didn't disgrace ourselves, but we didn't trouble Arsenal and they barely even got out of first gear for the entire game.
The players just didn't seem up for it; there was a lot of giving the ball away in silly places. We make those mistakes on a weekly basis but we can get away with it (most of the time) because the quality of the opposition just isn't as good in the Championship. When you're playing teams like Arsenal, you just can't afford to be lacking confidence passing from the back as there's always going to be a player who's straight on your back. This is exactly what our first goal came from. Joey Van Den Berg was caught in possession deep in our half and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain went on to score his first goal of the evening.
Mistakes were made granted, but there are definitely still positives that can be taken from the game. Players like Tennai Watson and Dominic Samuel showed that they are definitely growing into players that will be pressing into the first-team come the end of the season. I was particularly impressed with the way that Liam Kelly came back from the disappointment of his appearance at Rotherham. He looked at home and can only learn and improve from the experience at the Emirates.
Much like many other performances he's had in a Reading shirt, Ali Al-Habsi pulled off some fine saves to keep the scoreline as low as it was. Two of the saves he made in the second half were outstanding, most notably the one which denied Olivier Giroud before Liam Moore headed the second attempt off the line.
Reading fans really annoy me. Not all of them and not all of the time, just some of them some of the time. I'm sure it happens with other teams as well, but what is with this obsessive need to compete with each other regarding how many games you've been to? Is there some kind of secret quest set to see who can be the number one fan of the club? If you go to every game, that's great, good for you. Some people just can't or don't want to, and that's completely their choice.
Think about it logically; when Arsenal are selling tickets at £10 a go during the school holidays, it's a much more attractive prospect than a long old trek up to places like Huddersfield and Wigan. If you live locally to Reading, it's also an easy one to get to after work (when there are no rail or road issues) rather than taking up a whole day and messing around with annual leave etc.
I completely agree that it'd be nice to have some bigger attendances away from home, I've sat in a 300 strong away crowd on a cold Tuesday night in Rotherham and something similar in Scunthorpe. Trust me, it's really lonely even when I'm with my Mum but we're some of the fortunate ones who have reasonably flexible work and social lives. Some people want to make that commitment on a weekly basis but can't for a million and one different reasons. Others just don't want to spend time and money every weekend following football. That's completely cool, sometimes I wonder if I could be a bit more like them and switch off from football from time to time. However, I'm just completely and utterly addicted and that probably isn't going to change any time soon.
I know a team like Reading can never go to Arsenal and expect to win. Its just not a realistic mindset to have but it's annoying to lose regardless of who its against. I'd still be pissed off if we lost to Barcelona or another team on that level. I do however believe we missed out on a real opportunity to cause an upset at the Emirates and I'm disappointed we didn't seem to throw the kitchen sink at them. But alas, that's the end of the EFL cup for Reading for another year, here's to hoping for another FA cup run.