Arsenal started to heal the wounds inflicted by the Capital One Cup humiliation at League Two Bradford City with an impressive win at Reading.
Lukas Podolski gave Arsenal an early lead and the Gunners were four up on the hour mark after Santi Cazorla became only the third Spaniard to score a Premier League hat-trick after Fernando Torres and Jordi Gomez.
"He terrorised Reading's defence, a defence which did not take much terrorising, with sheer speed. But he also demonstrated composure to score Arsenal's fifth and ease a few frayed nerves which had even Wenger admitting: 'At 4-2 I saw your headlines coming'."
Reading, utterly outclassed, raised the prospect of the most unlikely comeback as Adam Le Fondre and Jimmy Kebe scored twice in the space of five minutes.
But Theo Walcott, impressive in the central striker's role he sees as crucial to his Arsenal future, snuffed out any Reading optimism with a composed finish that sends Arsene Wenger's side up to fifth place in the table.
As an exercise in recovery after the misery of Bradford, this will have done Arsenal's confidence and morale a power of good - and supports Wenger's claim that his side still have plenty to offer this season.
It was a victory, however, that needs to be seen in the context of the limp opposition offered by Reading, who are now in serious danger of being cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League, where they remain six points from safety.
Arsenal have won all of their 11 competitive matches against Reading.
Royals manager Brian McDermott has overseen progress that has taken Reading a long way in a short time - but there were spells on Monday when what is required in the Premier League looked a long way beyond them.
Arsenal dominated with embarrassing ease for long periods against a home side who, for the first hour at least, gave the ominous impression of a side simply passing through on their way back into the Championship.
The presence of Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave Arsenal a pace and movement Reading simply could not handle - with plenty of others, Cazorla chief among them, willing to join in to add extra attacking options.
Oxlade-Chamberlain delivered a taste of things to come in a harrowing opening half for Reading when he forced a fine save from keeper Adam Federici inside two minutes.
Reading had a couple of moments of encouragement when the powerful Pavel Pogrebnyak almost stole in behind Arsenal's defence, and again when Noel Hunt glanced a header just over.
But the visitors made good on their early threat after 14 minutes. Kieran Gibbs was the provider with a cross from the right, allowing Podolski to arrive in space and take a perfect first touch before firing past Federici.
Podolski then shot narrowly wide before Walcott's speed took him into open space behind Reading's hopeless defence only for Federici to block with his legs.
Federici was distinguishing himself amid the carnage around him and saved well from Jack Wilshere before Cazorla added an inevitable second just after the half-hour as he headed in Podolski's cross.
Reading were falling apart and Cazorla added the third soon after, again taking advantage of dreadful marking to swivel and beat Federici from close range.
Arsenal's Royal connection
Reading boss Brian McDermott started his playing career at Arsenal, making 72 appearances between 1977 and 1984.
The plight of the home side was cruelly illustrated when their own fans broke into ironic cheers to mark a short spell of possession, an act hardly designed to offer encouragement.
The Royals survived the first 15 minutes of the second half before Arsenal made it four, Cazorla completing his hat-trick after Wilshere found Podolski, who unselfishly set up the Spaniard for a simple finish.
As the Madejski sat back and waited for Arsenal to add more goals, Reading suddenly came to life and two quick goals briefly gave this one-sided game a competitive edge.
Le Fondre rounded Wojciech Szczesny to pull one back after 66 minutes and Kebe squeezed between two Arsenal defenders to at least give Reading some encouragement.
In October when these teams last met, Arsenal recovered from 4-0 down to win an extraordinary Capital One Cup tie 7-5 in extra time, and perhaps home fans fleetingly spied revenge.
But Walcott deserved a goal for his endeavours and it duly arrived with a stylish finish to end Reading hopes.
Arsenal's fans appreciated his efforts and constantly urged Wenger to sort out the England attacker's contract impasse. When he departed late on, it was to a standing ovation.
Reading boss Brian McDermott: "I was very pleased with the response in the second half. Now we'll stick together and move on.
"We've got to fight, no doubt about that - that's the only choice we have.
"We had to do that last year, the year before that and the year before that when we were in a similar position in the Championship.
"I think people have forgotten where we have come from over a short period of time. But the fans got behind us, they saw in the second half we tried to have a go and get the goals back."
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: "At 4-0 we had a little wobbling period, and at 4-2 of course with what happened last week we became a bit uncertain before the 5-2 killed the game.
"But overall it was important to go out and play and give the right answer on the football pitch."
- 01 Federici
- 03 Shorey
- 06 Mariappa
- 17 Gorkss
- 24 Cummings
- 08 Leigertwood
- 11 McAnuff Booked
- 14 Kebe (McCleary - 72' )
- 16 Tabb
- 07 Pogrebnyak (Le Fondre - 62' )
- 10 Hunt (Robson-Kanu - 61' )
- 41 Taylor
- 02 Gunter
- 05 Pearce
- 23 Harte
- 19 Robson-Kanu
- 09 Le Fondre
- 12 McCleary
- 01 Szczesny
- 03 Sagna
- 04 Mertesacker
- 05 Vermaelen
- 28 Gibbs
- 08 Arteta
- 10 Wilshere Booked
- 14 Walcott (Giroud - 85' )
- 15 Oxlade-Chamberlain (Ramsey - 74' )
- 19 Cazorla (Coquelin - 82' )
- 09 Podolski
- 24 Mannone
- 06 Koscielny
- 07 Rosicky
- 16 Ramsey
- 22 Coquelin
- 12 Giroud
- 27 Gervinho
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee blows his whistle to end the game.90:00 +2:50
Olivier Giroud takes a shot. Save made by Adam Federici.90:00 +2:02
Adam Le Fondre takes a shot. Save by Wojciech Szczesny.90:00 +1:50
The ball is swung over by Jobi McAnuff, Thomas Vermaelen makes a clearance.90:00 +1:29
Olivier Giroud produces a left-footed shot from inside the area that goes over the bar.90:00 +0:36
The assistant referee signals for offside against Francis Coquelin. Adrian Mariappa restarts play with the free kick.89:51
Jobi McAnuff concedes a free kick for a foul on Jack Wilshere. Mikel Arteta restarts play with the free kick.86:38
The ball is delivered by Lukas Podolski, Garath McCleary makes a clearance.85:29
Jobi McAnuff crosses the ball, Bacary Sagna manages to make a clearance.84:32 Substitution
Substitution Olivier Giroud is brought on as a substitute for Theo Walcott.82:54
Kieran Gibbs produces a cross, blocked by Mikele Leigertwood.81:42 Substitution
Substitution Santi Cazorla goes off and Francis Coquelin comes on.81:18
Shot by Lukas Podolski from deep inside the penalty area misses wide to the left of the target.80:37
Free kick awarded for a foul by Lukas Podolski on Mikele Leigertwood. Mikele Leigertwood takes the free kick.79:20
The assist for the goal came from Santi Cazorla.79:20 Goal scored
Goal! - Theo Walcott - Reading 2 - 5 Arsenal Theo Walcott fires in a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Reading 2-5 Arsenal.75:51
Unfair challenge on Jack Wilshere by Jay Tabb results in a free kick. Wojciech Szczesny restarts play with the free kick.73:36 Substitution
Substitution Aaron Ramsey on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.72:52
Santi Cazorla takes a shot. Brilliant save by Adam Federici.71:42
Nicky Shorey takes the direct free kick.
Substitution Garath McCleary is brought on as a substitute for Jimmy Kebe.71:42 Booking
Booking The referee cautions Jack Wilshere for unsporting behaviour.71:26
Foul by Jack Wilshere on Kaspars Gorkss, free kick awarded.70:19
Assist by Hal Robson-Kanu.70:19 Goal scored
Goal! - Jimmy Kebe - Reading 2 - 4 Arsenal Jimmy Kebe grabs a goal from inside the area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Reading 2-4 Arsenal.68:52
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Mikel Arteta by Jay Tabb. Direct free kick taken by Bacary Sagna.67:50
Jobi McAnuff challenges Santi Cazorla unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Mikel Arteta.66:36
Adam Le Fondre concedes a free kick for a foul on Per Mertesacker. Per Mertesacker takes the direct free kick.65:25
Assist by Jay Tabb.65:25 Goal scored
Goal! - Adam Le Fondre - Reading 1 - 4 Arsenal Goal scored by Adam Le Fondre from close range to the bottom right corner of the goal. Reading 1-4 Arsenal.64:52
The ball is crossed by Hal Robson-Kanu.63:11
Theo Walcott has an effort at goal from 18 yards. Save by Adam Federici.61:28
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Blocked by Adrian Mariappa.61:02 Substitution
Substitution Adam Le Fondre on for Pavel Pogrebnyak.60:27 Substitution
Substitution (Reading) makes a substitution, with Hal Robson-Kanu coming on for Noel Hunt.59:24
Lukas Podolski provided the assist for the goal.59:24 Goal scored
Goal! - Santi Cazorla - Reading 0 - 4 Arsenal Goal scored by Santi Cazorla from inside the six-yard box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Reading 0-4 Arsenal.58:42
Theo Walcott takes a short corner.58:09
Corner taken right-footed by Theo Walcott, Per Mertesacker takes a shot. Blocked by Kaspars Gorkss.57:53
The ball is swung over by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, blocked by Kaspars Gorkss.55:55
Theo Walcott produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the target.54:36
Pavel Pogrebnyak is caught offside. Wojciech Szczesny restarts play with the free kick.51:38
The ball is sent over by Jobi McAnuff, Wojciech Szczesny makes a comfortable save.50:48
The ball is sent over by Theo Walcott.47:55
Jimmy Kebe produces a cross.46:29
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jimmy Kebe by Kieran Gibbs. Direct free kick taken by Adrian Mariappa.45:45
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has shot on goal from just outside the penalty box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.45:01
The second half kicks off.45:00 +1:08 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to signal half-time.43:35
The ball is swung over by Bacary Sagna, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain takes a shot. Save by Adam Federici.42:04
Kieran Gibbs crosses the ball, Mikele Leigertwood makes a clearance.41:00
Shot by Lukas Podolski. Shaun Cummings gets a block in.39:59
Corner taken by Theo Walcott, clearance made by Mikele Leigertwood.39:45
A cross is delivered by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, blocked by Nicky Shorey.38:21
Free kick taken by Mikel Arteta.38:21 Booking
Booking Jobi McAnuff booked for unsporting behaviour.37:52
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jack Wilshere by Jobi McAnuff.37:14
The referee blows for offside. Free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.36:43
Free kick awarded for a foul by Mikel Arteta on Pavel Pogrebnyak. Adrian Mariappa takes the free kick.35:52
The assistant referee flags for offside against Theo Walcott. Adam Federici restarts play with the free kick.33:58
The assist for the goal came from Kieran Gibbs.33:58 Goal scored
Goal! - Santi Cazorla - Reading 0 - 3 Arsenal Santi Cazorla gets on the score sheet with a goal from inside the area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Reading 0-3 Arsenal.32:38
The ball is crossed by Jobi McAnuff, clearance made by Thomas Vermaelen.31:17
Lukas Podolski provided the assist for the goal.31:17 Goal scored
Goal! - Santi Cazorla - Reading 0 - 2 Arsenal Santi Cazorla finds the back of the net with a headed goal from close range. Reading 0-2 Arsenal.31:15
A cross is delivered by Lukas Podolski,28:35
The ball is delivered by Jobi McAnuff.28:21
Jobi McAnuff takes a inswinging corner.28:06
Jimmy Kebe takes a shot. Per Mertesacker gets a block in.27:49
Centre by Jobi McAnuff.26:22
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Theo Walcott played to the near post, Noel Hunt manages to make a clearance.25:59
Shot by Jack Wilshere. Adam Federici makes a save.25:46
Lukas Podolski crosses the ball, clearance made by Kaspars Gorkss.25:39
Kieran Gibbs takes a shot. Blocked by Kaspars Gorkss.24:53
Outswinging corner taken by Theo Walcott from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance by Noel Hunt.24:36
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain crosses the ball, Kaspars Gorkss gets a block in.22:03
Inswinging corner taken by Nicky Shorey, Wojciech Szczesny makes a fantastic save.21:06
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Theo Walcott.20:49
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Adam Federici makes a save.20:07
Lukas Podolski produces a left-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the goal.19:46
Kieran Gibbs takes a shot. Shaun Cummings gets a block in.18:37
The assistant referee flags for offside against Jobi McAnuff. Free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.18:15
Jay Tabb takes a shot. Per Mertesacker gets a block in.17:38
Shot from long distance by Santi Cazorla misses to the right of the target.13:29
Assist on the goal came from Kieran Gibbs.13:29 Goal scored
Goal! - Lukas Podolski - Reading 0 - 1 Arsenal Lukas Podolski finds the net with a goal from inside the area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Reading 0-1 Arsenal.13:26
Kieran Gibbs delivers the ball,11:53
The referee blows for offside against Jimmy Kebe. Kieran Gibbs takes the free kick.10:24
Inswinging corner taken by Nicky Shorey, Noel Hunt has a headed effort at goal from close range which goes wide of the left-hand upright.10:10
A cross is delivered by Pavel Pogrebnyak, blocked by Per Mertesacker.8:00
Lukas Podolski takes a shot. Shaun Cummings gets a block in.7:42
Shot by Jobi McAnuff from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the goal.5:26
Mikele Leigertwood concedes a free kick for a foul on Jack Wilshere. Theo Walcott fires a strike on goal direct from the free kick.4:53
Corner from left by-line taken by Theo Walcott.4:37
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain delivers the ball, Shaun Cummings makes a clearance.1:44
Foul by Noel Hunt on Mikel Arteta, free kick awarded. Jack Wilshere takes the free kick.1:30
The official flags Lukas Podolski offside. Free kick taken by Adam Federici.1:06
Effort on goal by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from 20 yards. Adam Federici makes a fantastic save.0:51
A cross is delivered by Jimmy Kebe, clearance made by Mikel Arteta.0:00
The ref blows the whistle to start the match.
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