Wenger: Arsenal answered their critics
Manager Arsene Wenger felt Arsenal answered their critics by sweeping past Barclays Premier League strugglers Reading 5-2 with a hat-trick from Santi Cazorla at the Madejski Stadium on Monday night.
The Gunners were in need of a response following last week's shock Capital One Cup penalty shoot-out defeat at Bradford. And so it proved to be thanks to Cazorla's goals backed up by strikes from Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott - this despite a late two-goal rally from Reading.
Wenger said: "There could only be one answer and that was on the football pitch. Success came with the quality of our game. We focused on the quality of our game and played. Our ambition is to finish as high as we can and win our next game, that is all we can do. We have to focus on the quality of our football."
There were no signs of any hangovers from the disappointments of Valley Parade as Arsenal surged into a 3-0 half-time lead following Podolski's well-taken goal and a brace from Cazorla.
The Spaniard completed his treble on the hour, and although the Royals replied with goals from substitute Adam Le Fondre and Jimmy Kebe, Arsenal made sure there would be no late drama when contract rebel Theo Walcott slotted in a fifth with 10 minutes left as the Gunners moved up to within two points of fourth-placed Tottenham.
Wenger added: "We have games based on movement and technical quality and that demands freedom of initiative and when you are in a crisis that suffers sometimes, but we have to go beyond that and focus on the way we play football."
Walcott, meanwhile, admits his contract negotiations are "going to be a slow process" as the England forward looks to sort his future past the end of the season one way or another.
Wenger deployed Walcott in the player's preferred central attacking role on Monday night, and said: "It is not my decision, it is Theo's decision as well - if it is [only] my decision, it is quickly done. I hope that when he considers his future he will think this is the best place for him and sign for us."
For Reading boss Brian McDermott, there was little festive cheer in the Royals final home match before Christmas. QPR's win on Saturday left the Berkshire club rooted to the foot of the table and facing an uphill battle to fight their way clear of danger.
He said: "We came up against a side who were at the top their game, but we changed the shape in the second half and I thought we were better. We got ourselves a couple of goals and I think if we had got a third something could have happened. I thought there was a little bit of an edge that crept into their game, but obviously the fifth goal meant it was done and dusted."