Are we going to beat Reading in the semi-final?

By Tony Attwood


“When we beat Arsenal, we have to wait four weeks after our last league game to play the Cup final.”


Steve Clarke, the Reading manager, in his last pre-match press conference.

We are the cup holders and in the semi-final again, so it is not surprising to see the statistics starting to appear on various gambling related websites that tell us we have won most of the last ten FA Cup matches.  And as we know from previous articles, Arsenal score against Reading.

And the fact that we have scored at least four goals in each of the last three matches against Reading in all competitions is not bad either – although that tends not to tell the whole story.   The details of that one are here – scroll down to get the complete set of results between ourselves and Reading.

The last FA Cup match we lost was 16 February 2013, Arsenal 0 Blackburn 1.  We then won five of the next six in the league, and lost just one of the remaining 12 league matches to the end of the season.

In fact in last year’s cup run and this year’s cup run there was only one match in which we didn’t score two or more, and that was the 1-1 draw with Wigan which we won on penalties.  That game should be the warning to us not to think this is a walkover.

On the other hand that means we have scored at least two goals in nine of the last 10 FA Cup games.  But then again we have one hell of a forward line, and we are the cup holders.

We scored four against Coventry and four against Everton last year, so maybe it is time for another four, or more, this weekend.

Incidentally, just going back to the Coventry game, you will remember that at the time Coventry did not have a stadium of their own, because of the activities of the hedge fund that owned them.  So they played in Northampton.  We supported their supporters in protesting about that during the game.  And now they have their own stadium back.  Not that our support was in any way responsible, but it was good to show awareness I thought.

But back to Reading.  In the league they have on Tuesday this week lost to Bournemouth and are now five games without a win since they won their quarter final round replay.  Which could be good news for them as they are fully focussed on the semi-final, or bad news because they are losing the feel of how to play as a team and win.

The two previous articles about Reading and Arsenal v Reading suggest that the answer must be a resounding yes.  Whatever the question is.

But as we all know, the FA Cup is different.  Bradford beat Chelsea, Sunderland and Millwall before being knocked out by Reading.  Man City lost at home to Middlesbrough.

And this is the fourth time we are appearing at Wembley in 12 months.  Semi-final, Final, Community Shield, Semi-Final.

You’ll know all there is to know about our current form, because Untold mentions it from time to time (and even the papers have picked up on it a bit), but what about semi-finals historically?

Arsenal have only lost a semi-final once to a lower league team.  Here is our list of being knocked out at the semi-final stage…

  1. 1906: Newcastle 2 Woolwich Arsenal 1
  2. 1907 The Wednesday 3 Woolwich Arsenal 1
  3. 1928: Blackburn 1 Arsenal 0
  4. 1973: Sunderland 2 Arsenal 1  (Sunderland 6th in second division)
  5. 1983: Man U 2 Arsenal 1
  6. 1991: Tottenham 3 Arsenal 1
  7. 1999: Manchester Utd 2 Arsenal 1, after 0-0 draw
  8. 2004 Manchester U 1 Arsenal 0
  9. 2009 Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1

So just Sunderland then, which is a good sign.

But what about Reading last night?  Did they really show they were full of fight and vim and vigour and all that stuff that seems to be associated with the FA Cup?

It was Reading 0 Bournemouth 1 on Tuesday, and Steve Clarke played his regular first teamers making only one change from the team that played Blackburn at the weekend.

What Bournemouth did was to make a full on non-stop attack from the off, and scored in just four minutes.  Reading then did come back into the game, and there were a couple of close saves from the Bournemouth keeper but that was it.

So now their table looks like this.

# Team Pl W D L F A GD Pts
1 Bournemouth 43 24 11 8 90 43 47 83
2 Norwich City 43 24 10 9 83 44 39 82
3 Middlesbrough 43 24 9 10 64 33 31 81
4 Watford 42 24 7 11 84 48 36 79
5 Derby County 43 21 12 10 78 46 32 75
6 Ipswich Town 43 21 11 11 67 49 18 74
7 Brentford 43 21 8 14 71 57 14 71
8 Wolverhampton Wanderers 43 20 11 12 64 53 11 71
9 Blackburn Rovers 42 15 14 13 56 52 4 59
10 Nottingham Forest 42 15 13 14 65 59 6 58
11 Sheffield Wednesday 43 14 16 13 39 44 -5 58
12 Charlton Athletic 43 13 18 12 52 55 -3 57
13 Cardiff City 43 14 13 16 52 58 -6 55
14 Birmingham City 42 13 15 14 51 63 -12 54
15 Leeds United 43 14 10 19 47 58 -11 52
16 Huddersfield Town 43 13 13 17 52 69 -17 52
17 Bolton Wanderers 43 13 11 19 52 61 -9 50
18 Reading 42 12 11 19 44 64 -20 47
19 Brighton and Hove Albion 43 10 16 17 43 50 -7 46
20 Fulham 42 12 9 21 54 75 -21 45
21 Rotherham United 42 10 13 19 42 64 -22 43
22 Millwall 42 9 12 21 37 67 -30 39
23 Wigan Athletic 43 8 12 23 37 59 -22 36
24 Blackpool 43 4 13 26 34 87 -53 25

Going back to the opening lines of this piece, the Reading manager was slightly more realistic thereafter when he said,

“It’s a long break! If we get to the final, what are we going to do from May 2 to May 30? What do we do? Everyone else has played, so we won’t be playing games. It’d be a great puzzle to have though!”

Anyway, I was having a look at which claims to be able to tell us Reading’s style and it seems they are strong on creating long shot opportunities and protecting the lead.  They are weak at

  • Finishing scoring chances
  • Avoiding offside
  • Defending against skillful players

The style that is reported for Reading is that they…

  • Attempt crosses often
  • Attack down the right
  • Play with width
  • Rotate their first eleven (except they didn’t in the last game)

Obviously we’ll do a match preview from Arsenal’s point of view before the game, but for now here’s a possible line up for us…


Debuchy, Mert, Kos, Monreal

Coquelin the Constable,      Santi Cazorla-a-drifting forwards

Ramsey on the left, Ozil-a-wandering, Sanchez-cutting-in



From the Anniversary Files – Arsenal on this day


16 April 1977: Freddie Ljungberg born. He  made his debut for Halmstads on 23 October 1994 and was signed by Arsenal in 1998 for £3m.  It is said that Arsène Wenger had never seen him play when he signed him – but just saw him on TV but that seems unlikely.

16 April 2000: Before the game Arsène Wenger and the players then presented bouquets of flowers to their counterparts to honour the Leeds fans murdered in Istanbul.  Arsenal beat Leeds 4-0 away as Henry scored his 20th of the season to go above Leeds having been 10 points behind.

21 Replies to “Are we going to beat Reading in the semi-final?”

  1. Congrats to Ian Bryne, that is indeed an excellent link.

    I am not sure we should look too much in the past Tony, current form and the collective approach going into the match seem more relevant. However, from the above link it does seem likely that Reading will pose a big threat if we allow them to?

    Following on from the link, and references to the Monaco game, I think if Debuchy starts then Walcott may get a game in front of him, and Gibbs to apply the width on the other side? I hope Gabriel is on the bench to come on and help Coquelin in the later stages if needed. Wembley if a big pitch and both sides will tire.
    But we have to play well to win, that is for sure.

  2. Historically, this is just the sort of game that Arsenal will lose.
    Reading will play out of their skins, we will make uncharacteristic mistakes and so will the referee.
    Remember the League Cup Final a few years back versus Birmingham City and the horrendous mix-up in our defense near the end?
    All the above is merely a reminder of what can happen and indeed has happened over the years. So be told (as they say oop North).
    On paper, as they say, there should be no problem. We have struck a new vein of form and associated confidence. Our wounded are slowly returning.
    Diaby is fit again. Reading are languishing way down in a different world. All is well.
    Should I be invited into our (usual?) dressing room before the game to give a talk to the lads, it would go something like this.
    “Other than the Ems, you’ve played on this pitch more than any other, so treat it as playing at home. Keep your shape and concentration. Respect the opposition. Gibbs, don’t forget you have a right boot.”
    Then I would help Arsene to zip up his track-side jacket and quietly retire.

  3. Think only complacency, and/or the dodgiest of refs can do us in this game, but patience may be needed , as Nicky has often told us, supporting Arsenal is not for the feint hearted. We do tend to do things the hard way!

  4. Underestimating the opposition / complacency is the only reason possible for us not to win this game by 2+ clear goals. Even a crap ref shouldn’t be enough. But will we be complacent??? We’ll see.

  5. Good morning Sir, MR. Tony Attwood. It’s been a long time I have not made any comment on any of your topic subjects as I can no longer access your website to make a comment. I don’t know if you have blocked me on my Nokia C-300 handset which I find comfortable to browse with it than this my Android that consumes more mobile data and not easy for me to type on it. Please unblock me if you have blocked me. For Benik Afobe’s sake, I will love to see Wovels qualify for the playoffs and gain promotion to the Premier League. Every game has it’s own complesion and a Key to open it. The complesion of this Wembley FA Cup game between The Royals of Reading FC and the Gunners of Arsenal FC, is being revealed and known as UPSET CAUSING ROYALS STARTS. Which Steve Clarke has programmed as his: UPSET CAUSING APP DATA GAME PLAN. Which he will unlease on the Gunners at Wembley on Saturday evening. To counter this Steve Clarke’s game plan, the boss has to as a matter of game plan foiling strategy, MUST put together as a Key, an UPSET CAUSING FOILING GUNNERS STARTS to infiltrate into the Steve Clarke’s game plan and wreck it. At the end of this duel between the Royals and the Gunners, I can see the Gunners dis-royaling 4 Royals of the Reading FC. And no charges pressed thereafter. Final scores at full time plus added time is, AFC 4-0 RFC. And let me add, the should not anticipate any upset outcome from this game and thus decided to start all his top current inform Gunners for this game instead of resting them to conserve energy to exorcise the devil strangle hold on the him by Jose Mourinho’s Blues outfit(s). The boss should rotate-starts 8 fringe Gunners and start only 3 of his current top Gunners starters. My starts: Szcesny…Rhino’De-AbreuGibbs. FlaminiArteta. RamseyWilshereSanchez. Welbeck. All other current top Gunners should be on the bench resting and start from there.

  6. As far as i can see, Arsenal has moved on since those dreadful performances that came out of the blue. If we allow such a performance against Reading, then….. it will be our fault.
    Anyway, we are going to win, even if a hard game, but i suspect that we will control it and win. Our players have come far and learnt a lot, no going back now.
    Just hope we do not get any injuries at all, as Reading will press and make bad tackles, so we have to frustrate them and control the game.

  7. Wembley can be a difficult pitch at the best of times. The grass does not always get cut small enough. It is a pitch that saps stamina. Alexis must be a little less hurried & keep some for later. Arsenal are a class above most teams so winning is not an issue. What is an issue is how well is the game going to be officiated. If it is officiated honestly then football will win.

    Arsenal is football at its most beautiful.

  8. @Samuel Akinsola Adebosin
    We have to play our best team, as we have a full week to recover. Obviously if any are showing signs of tiredness, AW may not start them. We cannot concentrate on PL for now as this next game is just as important.
    I get that we want to whip Chelsea, and for sure Mou is worried at our form, but we (the players) have to be confident we will and then leave that out of their minds for now.

  9. Re Klopp
    I somewhat don’t feel like I want him at Arsenal after his recent act.
    A decent man (read: Wenger) would have guided the team through rough waters regardless of form and save his clamour for departure until the end season.
    What he has done is undermine the team and the supporters trust in him.
    There will be bad seeds (read: aaa) but if he was a big man, he would have risen above it.
    I am not sure who or how this was leaked but even so, he should have tendered his resignation at the end of the season. I don’t really care what his reasons were.
    Doing it now would further demoralise the team.
    He signed up until the end of 2017 (if I got the dates right) and should have the decency to captain the ship until then.

  10. its easy to get a team to the top. Its tough to stay there for a prolonged period. Klopp coudnt do it in Germany, where there is literally one team. Just one.

    In Klopp, one more beating stick used to beat Mr Wenger is broken….

  11. This weekend will be strange.
    I shall be watching both games, one on each monitor.
    Really do not want Manu to win, a draw is what i wish them, but to take 3 points from Chel$ would be the best result. Only thing is we then HAVE to beat Chel$ to overtake Manu again. We have to finish before them this season too.

    Really hope the Chelsea v Manu game is grueling and tough for both teams, and maybe a few injuries too, hey, i can wish them bad luck, the sort we used to have all the time. And that our game runs to our plans. (Beware of any silly tackles, tackles that were not needed that could lose us a man depending on the ref we have). Who is the ref anyway?

    So all in all, much to consider, all we can do as AW says, is win our games.

    As i said an interesting weekend to come.

  12. Fairplay

    The telegraph has a ramble about fairplay today, and brings up 3 sets of tables: respect of PGMO staff by players, behavior of team officials, and the fairplay score. My initial reaction, is if we get bookings for doing nothing, and other teams can foul until the universe goes into heat death and not get a card, how useful or accurate are these scores?

    In any event, I looked at the first table (respect of PGMO staff by players). Arsenal is near the bottom (3rd bottom), which surprised me. The median score in this table is 172. The median absolute deviation is 4, and the standard deviation is almost 6. There is only a single score (that of Chelsea) this is outside of 2 standard deviations from the median, and they are only outside by a tiny amount.

    In other words, there is likely to be no statistical difference between any of those scores, they are all likely indicating that all teams treat the PGMO officials the same.

    This is just more of the same in terms of statistics. The difference between 1st and 4th is often just statistical noise, but because this is a sport with a finite season length, the differences are treated as significant, and hence one team is declared the “winner”.

    At the end of the season, these fairplay statistics will be given a final tally, and I suspect that statistically they will all be the same. But, one team will be declared the fairplay winner based on how the noise in their score worked out better than the noise in all the other scores.

    If these scores do not take into account how easy or difficult it is to be booked (or just how bad a foul has to be, in order for the PGMO official to stop play and award a free kick), that could be a good source for much of the noise in this set of numbers. And another reason to get rid of Mike Riley 😈 and his influence on the assignment of officials to games.

  13. Thanks Goonermikey, does that mean we avoid Atkinson for the Chelsea game? Hopefully even the pgmol will not give this ref twice in a row? Really do not want him against Chelsea.

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