Santi Cazorla hit a hat-trick as Arsenal recovered from their League Cup loss at Bradford by completing a 5-2 win at Reading's Madejski Stadium.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger cut a content figure only six days after his team lost on penalties to the League Two side in the last eight of the cup competition with Cazorla (32, 34, 60), Lukas Podolski (14) and Theo Walcott (80) proving too much for Reading in a match that illustrated why Brian McDermott's side are bottom of the table.
Reading rallied briefly in the second half with Adam Le Fondre (66) and Jimmy Kebe (71) reducing the scoreline to 4-2, but their inability to defend properly suggests the home side are already heading for a rapid return to the Championship.
They have now lost six straight matches in the Premier League.
It is the longest losing streak of any Premier League club this season. Only one Premier League club has had a longer losing streak in 2012 – Wolves lost seven in a row from March to April.
Cazorla became the third Spanish player to score a Premier League hat-trick after Fernando Torres and Jordi Gomez, and his general play was equally outstanding.
With Walcott playing through the middle and Cazorla and Podolski thriving on a mild December night, the visiting side looked like they could score at will.
Arsenal moved ahead when Podolski benefited from some awful home defending to thump a volley into the net from a Kieran Gibbs cross.
Podolski then turned provided to throw over a cross that saw Cazorla drift into the home area unmarked to head beyond the overworked Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici.
It was more or less game over when Gibbs headed a Podolski cross back across goal for Cazorla to finish with Reading again marking fresh air.
The League Cup meeting between these sides in October saw Arsenal come from 4-0 down to win 7-5 after extra-time, but Reading were facing a similar situation when Jack Wilshere fed Podolski who crossed for Cazorla to slip the ball into the net from close range.
Arsenal still managed to leave a smiling Wenger slightly anxious when a loose pass by Gibbs enabled Jay Tabb to pick out Le Fondre who rounded Wojciech Szczesny before tucking the ball into the net.
Substitute Hal Robson-Kanu picked out Kebe to make it 4-2 with a fine finish, but Arsenal ensured there would be no dramatic collapse when Cazorla found Walcott and he slipped a composed finish into the corner of the net with Federici given no chance.
Arsenal could easily have won the match by a greater margin as Federici made notable saves to deny Walcott, Wilshere, Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain while Adrian Mariappa somehow knocked a Cazorla effort off his line on 52 minutes when he looked likelier to score.
Arsenal take three points out of the evening that leaves them two points behind fourth-placed London rivals Tottenham in the standings.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Santi Cazorla - Arsenal: Superb all-round performance by the Spanish player. Scored a treble and had far too much class for the home side.
Reading: Federici 8, Cummings 5, Shorey 5, Gorkss 5, Mariappa 5, Leigertwood 5, Tabb 5, Kebe 6, McAnuff 6, Hunt 5, Pogrebnyak 5. Subs: Le Fondre 6, McCleary 6, Robson-Kanu 5
Arsenal: Szczesny 6, Sagna 6, Mertesacker 6, Vermaelen 6, Gibbs 7, Arteta 7, Wilshere 7, Cazorla 9, Podolski 8, Chamberlain 6, Walcott 8. Subs: Giroud 6, Ramsey 6, Coquelin 6
- Sports & Recreation
- Santi Cazorla
- Lukas Podolski
- Premier League
- Theo Walcott