I managed to squeeze my way in to the ground yesterday for the League Cup game against Reading, but only after I’d queued to get a paper ticket printed (the one minute it took to print the ticket set me back a cool additional ‘admin’ charge – I’d love to earn that kind of money per minute), queued to get a purple wristband attached to my bag, then took to my seat 15 minutes in to the game.

I thought it was quite a captivating one actually. The Reading manager Stam made a few changes and rotated a little bit, as did Arsène, but it didn’t stop us from fashioning all of the early chances and both the return Jenko and The Ox had a couple of decent efforts. I don’t know if it was my unfamiliar seat, or the unfamiliar people in the crowd though, but the atmosphere just felt a little weird to me. I’ll ignore the fact that some people around me were complaining that there we’re too many people standing up, but it just felt a strange environment. 

The game itself was the ideal football match you want to see as a fan. We pretty much dominated throughout. In fact, the only ‘real’ save that Martinez had to make was to palm away a free kick in injury time. The rest of his ‘saves’ all looked a little too much for the cameras for my liking. You can’t blame him I suppose, because he probably spent half the night being a bit bored, so when the ball did fall for him it was a welcome bit of attention. 

In reality, our back line had the Reading attack well martialled all evening. Gabriel did ok, Gibbs was decent enough (save for one lapse of concentration in the second half for which he recovered) and Jenkinson had a good return too. That return pleased me a lot, because before his arrival back in the team we clearly had no cover. Debuchy might as well not exist from an Arsenal perspective now, so to have Jenkinson pushing Bellerin can only be a good thing. 

Rob Holding was the stand out defender for me though. He stepped forward in to the ball well, he won aerial duels, he even had a quick foray in to the opposition half in the second. And it led to The Ox’s second goal. So all-in-all he has to be happy with his performance. And so is Arsène I’d expect. £2.5million for that lad looks like daylight robbery right now.

In midfield it was probably good to give Elneny minutes. He’s now played in each of the last three matches and I fancy he’ll be better prepared for Sunderland as a result. I’m sure it’ll be Coquelin and him who will at least start, so that he put on a good, solid display is pleasing. The only challenge I foresee with that pairing for Saturday’s game, however, is that there isn’t the vision that a Cazorla or Xhaka provide. Whether that matters too much when you should have enough creativity in our normal front four, I don’t know, but it’s just something that has been playing on my mind since the Boro game last weekend.

Coquelin’s replacement for the evening yesterday was Maitland-Niles, who my iPhone predictive text is still having a real issue with. It seems hell-bent on calling him ‘Maryland-Ankles’, but unlike his predictive text name, I thought Maitland-Niles did well as a holding midfielder, completely avoiding the ankles of most of the opponents last night. 

What I did find interesting was that on at least four occasions, I saw that he was one of the most forward players on the pitch, in a position that we have seen is not too unfamiliar to seeing Le Coq in. So this is clearly a tactical decision by the manager and his team to drive one of the deeper-lying midfielders in to a higher press, perhaps reflective of Coquelin/Maitland-Niles’ engine and ability to get back quickly if the opposition pass through the press.

He had a good game, as did Lucas I thought. The Spaniard wasn’t exactly gifted loads of chances, but you can’t fault his work rate and closing down, with two or three instances that I can think of where he won the ball high up the pitch and allowed us to quickly counter Reading before they were set.

The Ox got his two goals and hopefully that will give him enough confidence to stake more of a claim in the team. He still misplaced plenty of passes and you can see that his head can drop quickly, but for someone supposedly so out of form, he’s scored five goals this season and at this stage of the season that’s a good return. He’s the ultimately confidence player and when his head is up we’ve got a player with trickery and someone who will score goals. But the trick is to keep his head up. 

Whether he gets the chance to play ahead of Iwobi at the weekend I’m not so sure though. He could do; Iwobi has played a lot of minutes so far this season and whilst we all love his potential and his running with the ball, he still needs to work on his end product I think. He also played the full 90 last night and I wonder if that will play a part in Arsène’s thinking at the Stadium of Light at lunchtime on Saturday? 

So we’re in the hat for the quarter finals, we’ve been able to rotate the team and as a result, hopefully we won’t get a jaded performance from the players at the weekend. The run of good form continues and we have an opportunity to extend that against the Mackems at lunchtime in three days time. 

Up the Arsenal!