As has been the case for much of 2013 this is a critical, MUST win game for Arsenal if they’re to maintain their pursuit of Champions League football. The Gunners currently sit four points shy of Tottenham in fifth with a game in hand must make every point count if they’re to overtake their North London rivals. A repeat of last season’s late surge is well within their capabilities especially with Spurs currently enduring a minor blip. That being said Arsene Wenger seen a number of key players beset by injuries with Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott now residing in the treatment room. But with an abundance of international quality to call upon Wenger should be confident his players can continue their strong Premier League form, which has seen them lose just once in seven matches. They certainly have the edge on Reading having won each of their last 11 meetings.
The Royals begin a new era under Nigel Adkins, who will undoubtedly hope his second visit to the Emirates Stadium this term doesn’t mimic his first. Adkins saw his former Southampton team thumped 6-1 by Arsenal in September and knows defeat will push his new side closer to the relegation trap door. The 48-year-old is still optimistic that he can lead the Berkshire club to safety despite being seven points and two places shy of Aston Villa in 17th. Much will rest on whether he can galvanise a squad that hasn’t won a league fixture since the start of February.
Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Theo Walcott (hip/thigh) are missing for Arsenal who lost Abou Diaby for the next nine months after he damaged the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Lukas Podolski (ankle) and right-back Bacary Sagna (knee) should return while Kieron Gibbs (virus) will be assessed before kick off.
Pavel Pogrebnyak is available to new Reading boss Nigel Adkins after serving a three match ban. Jimmy Kebe is struggling with a hip problem while former Gunners keeper Stuart Taylor will continue to deputise for Adam Federici.
What the managers said…
“Making 100 appearances is a huge credit to him, something absolutely fantastic and shows he has a great future. What is happening to him at the moment is just a normal process of any career. We had Jens Lehmann, David Seaman, they had their blips and their periods where they were less good, even when they were more experienced than Wojciech.” Arsene Wenger offers a vote of confidence to under-fire goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (The Sun)
“My mum said to me the other day, ‘I have heard something about that, but you seem to be making history at whichever club you have been at. So maybe this is the next one to do it at’. You can see the camaraderie and spirit. There is an inner belief. We have to galvanise ourselves for what will be an eight-game season now. We have implemented a few things but you can’t changes things straight away.” Nigel Adkins reveals his mum has faith in his ability to guide Reading to safety (Express)
Pre-Match Statistic: The 16 goals Reading have conceded against Arsenal is more than they’ve let in against any other opponent
Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Reading