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Gunners boss wary of Royals threat

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo credit: Adam Davy/EMPICS Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo credit: Adam Davy/EMPICS

Sunday, December 16, 2012
8:00 AM

Arsene Wenger fully expects a tough battle when he takes his beleaguered Arsenal squad travel to Premier League strugglers Reading on Monday night.

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The Gunners’ season lurched to another crisis with their midweek Capital One Cup defeat to Bradford, where the League Two club won a penalty shoot-out at Valley Parade.

The Royals may be struggling in the relegation zone following five straight defeats, but having given leaders Manchester United a run for their money in a 4-3 defeat in October, Wenger knows there will be no easy ride at the Madejski Stadium.

“They are a team who deserve a lot of credit because they came up last year, for me surprisingly,” he said.

“Reading make it difficult for every team in every game, so we expect a battle.

“Our results are quite consistent and good away from home. We had a good game against West Brom [and] it’s important to confirm that in our next away game.”

Arsenal have already played at Reading once this season, when they trailed 4-0 in the Capital One Cup before producing an amazing comeback to win 7-5 in extra-time.

Wenger feels Arsenal’s away form has been positive compared to the inconsistencies at Emirates Stadium, where they finally produced a winning performance against West Brom last weekend having been booed off again after Swansea ran out 2-0 winners a fortnight ago.

Despite their run of poor form, Arsenal remain within striking distance of the top four.

Wenger, though, knows his team cannot afford to take anything other than maximum points on Monday night.

“If you look at our season at the moment, we have not produced our performances at home, away our results are in the same bracket as the two top teams,” he said.

“Where we have lost the points is we made too many draws at home.

“Manchester United are top of the league, six points ahead. They have lost three games, we have lost four.

“We had more draws, especially at home, that is where we have lost the points.”

Striker Olivier Giroud should return from a back problem to face Reading, having not been included for the midweek cup tie at Bradford.

Defender Laurent Koscielny has returned to training after his thigh injury, but it remains to be seen whether England forward Theo Walcott - who netted a hat-trick against the Royals in their October Capital One Cup tie - will have shaken off a calf problem which has sidelined him since December 1.

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