Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a brace as Arsenal eased past Reading in the fourth round of the EFL Cup.
The Arsenal winger scored one on each side of half-time to ensure the Gunners progressed to the fifth round, in what was otherwise a dull affair. Carl Jenkinson also made a return to the side, after two loan spells and a serious knee-injury. Olivier Giroud also made a comeback, and nearly scored a goal minutes after coming on, but his header was saved by a quickly-reacting Ali Al-Habsi.
Oxlade-Chamberlain and Perez both saw early second-half efforts deflected behind as Arsenal looked to double their lead, with Martinez making a smart stop from Reading substitute Yann Kermorgant’s header just after the hour.
The match saw Arsene Wenger make nine changes to the side that drew with Middlesbrough, with academy players Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Damian Martinez all starting. Chris Willock would also come off the bench late in the game, replacing the injured Lucas Perez.
The victory also means that Arsenal have extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 13 games, and we take a look at the main talking points from this game.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain needs to improve mental side of his game
Oxlade-Chamberlain is a frustrating player to watch. He undoubtedly deserves praise for scoring a brace last night, but there were signs that he still has to improve a lot if he is to displace any of the current first-teamers. Wenger has pointed out many times in the past that the midfielder has shaky confidence, and this has led to some pretty inconsistent performances over the years.
It is not just his confidence that he needs to work on. Too often the winger makes the wrong decision when in possession of the ball, either ending a move with a poor choice of pass, or giving the ball away altogether. He also tends to do the obvious thing too often.
As long as he works on being more cerebral in possession, there is no doubt he has the other ingredients to succeed. That said, he was markedly improved last night, taking responsibility in a young side and was also in charge of all the set plays. Then, there’s this:
5 – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has scored five times for Arsenal in 2016/17, his best tally in a season for the Gunners. Firing.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 25, 2016
Carl Jenkinson is the perfect back-up to Hector Bellerin
Jenkinson made a long-awaited comeback to the side, after two loan spells at West Ham and a knee injury meant he had to be patient for his return. The right back was lively, and didn’t show signs of running out of energy, which is commendable for a player who hasn’t played a competitive game in so long. The Englishman nearly had the dream return after combining with Alex Iwobi and forcing Ali Al-Habsi into a good save.
Jenkinson is clearly a player with a good engine, who likes to get forward and get involved in attacking play. He is the perfect back-up should Hector Bellerin miss games through suspension or injury. He simply needs to work on the defensive side of his game, and if he can sort out some concentration issues he definitely has a future at a club that he has loved since childhood.
Arsene Wenger confirms in his programme notes that Carl Jenkinson will play tonight. Gooner. pic.twitter.com/PVNgNhggsy
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) October 25, 2016
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has a long way to go
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was given a start in a position that Wenger earlier in the week said was his strongest – central midfield. Maitland-Niles has been used as an utility player of sorts in the youth team, featuring at right back, in central defense and in midfield. If tonight’s showing was anything to go by, he has a lot of work to do before he is ready to make the step up.
The youngster wasn’t the most assured in posession, but did show glimpses of why Wenger sees him in midifeld, with some good interceptions and was positionally quite sound a lot of the time. He was guilty of trying to over-elaborate on several occasions though, and gave the ball away on too many occasions. He needs to iron out simple errors like this in his game if he wants to feature more regularly.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide definitely has a future at Arsenal
Jeff Reine-Adelaide, on the other hand, put in a solid shift last night. He combined well with Alex Iwobi – someone whose rise to the first team he will be hoping to emulate – and showed glimpses of the technical ability Wenger spoke about earlier in the week.
The youngster is still easily muscled off the ball though, and will need to get more used to the physical side of the game before he can truly make the transition into the first team. He did look silky smooth in possession, and is not daunted by the occasional rough challenge. The future is definitely bright for this one.
Some glimpses of brilliance from Reine-Adelaide. Hope Willock gets a chance in second half.
— Jeorge Bird (@jeorgebird) October 25, 2016
Olivier Giroud is the perfect plan B for Arsenal
Olivier Giroud made his first appearance since the 3-0 victory over Chelsea last month after coming on in the 66th minute. Minutes later, the Frenchman nearly opened his tally for the season from a set piece, but was denied by Ali Al-Habsi’s quick reactions. It was easy to see why Arsenal fans were lamenting that they didn’t have him on the bench against Middlesbrough, because the striker instantly showed that he can make a difference to the game.
Giroud is always a threat in the box when it comes to headers, and also nearly provided an assist to Alex Iwobi after a quick exchange with the youngster. His link-up play and physical presence are a completely different quality to what Alexis Sanchez offers, and he is a perfect option off the bench in games that Arsenal are finding it hard to score in.