Arsenal maintained their push for a top-four finish with a comfortable victory that sent Reading bottom of the Premier League on goal difference.

Gervinho opened the scoring with a close-range finish from Santi Cazorla's cross-come-shot as Arsenal dominated.

"Reading were taken apart by an Arsenal side who are running into form. Their defeat could have been heavier and new manager Nigel Adkins will have to work hard before his side take on his former club Southampton. For Arsenal, it was a comfortable victory."

Cazorla curled in after half-time before Olivier Giroud drilled a third.

Reading reduced the deficit through Hal Robson-Kanu's header, but Mikel Arteta secured the points with a penalty after a foul on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Arsenal had many more chances to increase their advantage, but the result was never in doubt.

They stay fifth in the table but are now just two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who were beaten at Southampton, and four behind third-placed Tottenham, over whom the resurgent Gunners have a game in hand.

Arsene Wenger's side have won five of their last six Premier League games and their confidence was apparent against a Reading side who would have done little to impress their new manager Nigel Adkins.

Wenger praises 'serious' Arsenal

The Royals host Adkins' former club Southampton next Saturday, with their chances of avoiding relegation looking increasingly slim given they are seven points from safety with seven games remaining.

Reading have conceded 61 goals this season, more than any other top-flight team, and are owners of the division's worst away record with just one win, two draws and 13 defeats.

They have now lost three times to Arsenal in all competitions this season, conceding 16 goals along the way - and on this occasion the goals against tally could have been more significantly added to.

Gervinho was their tormentor-in-chief with a goal and two assists, although he might have scored at least a hat-trick with better finishing.

Merry March for Arsenal

Arsenal have only lost one Premier League home game in March under Arsene Wenger - their overall record is W 23 D 4 L 1

The Ivorian was first to breach Reading's defence when he escaped two defenders to intercept Cazorla's drive with a neat finish.

The hosts felt they deserved a penalty when former Arsenal keeper Stuart Taylor clattered Giroud after being lobbed by the Frenchman, but referee Chris Foy dismissed their appeals.

Gervinho and Cazorla both went close to adding a second prior to the break and the pair combined again just after the restart to double Arsenal's lead.

A sweeping move saw Cazorla feed Gervinho on the right and he cut inside before teeing up the Spaniard to bend a superb effort past Taylor from just outside the area.

The goal finally sparked Reading into life and Pavel Pogrebnyak was denied by Laurent Koscielny's last-ditch challenge, while Alex Pearce headed straight at Lukasz Fabianski.

We must learn lessons - Adkins

But just as the Royals looked capable of forcing their way back into the match, they conceded possession from a corner and Gervinho fed Giroud and the Frenchman drilled a low strike across Taylor.

Reading pulled one back as Robson-Kanu nodded home Jobi McAnuff's cross at the back post, yet that only heightened their sense of frustration at the lapse in concentration moments earlier.

Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Gervinho with 15 minutes remaining and made an immediate impact, running at Adrian Mariappa and drawing a trip from the defender just inside the box.

Arteta wrong-footed Taylor from the penalty spot to cap a good day for Arsenal and another miserable afternoon for Reading.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:

"We played with good collective spirit, technical quality and went always forward. We created many chances, that's the most pleasant thing. We were quite serious. We defended well, had good discipline and didn't become easy when the game became easy.

"He [Gervinho] was always lively and created many dangerous situations. I'm sorry because in the game he had an assist, he scored but he had more chances. He lacked a bit of confidence in front of goal.

"We are in a position where we have only one target and that is to win our games, that's what we try to do. If you look around, you could lose games. We have to focus and, after, we see where we stand.

"We have a new team and know now it's a very serious time for us to get the points. The team has found a better balance maybe between attack and defence."

Reading manager Nigel Adkins:

"I thought Arsenal were very good, they've come here and passed the ball very well. Unfortunately, we've made our own downfall on a couple of goals. We wanted to adapt a couple of changes, but any team who came here would have found it difficult today.

"We'll learn the lessons. We've only had a few days together as a group. We'll have a full week of training now. We'll analyse the game, there's a lot we want to change but we can't do it all in one game.

"We'll have a good debrief on Monday and Tuesday and get ready for the next game. There's only one way we can go and that's up.

"The lads have come a long way. We need to work hard in training, be as efficient as we can and give ourselves an opportunity in the next one."

Lineup, Bookings (1) & Substitutions (6)

Arsenal

  • 21 Fabianski
  • 03 Sagna
  • 04 Mertesacker
  • 06 Koscielny
  • 17 Monreal (Gibbs - 71' )
  • 07 Rosicky
  • 08 Arteta
  • 16 Ramsey
  • 19 Cazorla
  • 12 Giroud (Podolski - 75' )
  • 27 Gervinho (Oxlade-Chamberlain - 75' )

Substitutes

  • 01 Szczesny
  • 05 Vermaelen
  • 25 Jenkinson
  • 28 Gibbs
  • 15 Oxlade-Chamberlain
  • 22 Coquelin
  • 09 Podolski

Reading

  • 41 Taylor
  • 03 Shorey
  • 05 Pearce
  • 06 Mariappa
  • 27 Kelly
  • 04 Karacan (Akpan - 76' )
  • 08 Leigertwood
  • 11 McAnuff
  • 19 Robson-Kanu (McCleary - 80' )
  • 20 Guthrie Booked
  • 07 Pogrebnyak (Hunt - 61' )

Substitutes

  • 21 McCarthy
  • 02 Gunter
  • 15 Morrison
  • 28 Akpan
  • 09 Le Fondre
  • 10 Hunt
  • 12 McCleary
Ref: Foy
Att: 60,082

Match Stats

Shots

23 4

On target

14 2

Corners

11 3

Fouls

9 14

Live Text Commentary

93:06 Full time

Full Time The referee ends the match.

90:00 +1:13

The assistant referee flags for offside against Kieran Gibbs. Stuart Taylor takes the indirect free kick.

89:50

Short corner worked by Tomas Rosicky.

89:10

Santi Cazorla decides to take the corner short.

87:46

Jobi McAnuff concedes a free kick for a foul on Bacary Sagna. Lukasz Fabianski takes the free kick.

86:22

Free kick awarded for a foul by Jobi McAnuff on Bacary Sagna. Mikel Arteta takes the direct free kick.

83:09

Hope Akpan fouled by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Danny Guthrie.

81:41

Shot on goal by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from just inside the area goes over the target.

81:18

Aaron Ramsey takes a shot. Save made by Stuart Taylor.

80:20

Tomas Rosicky fouled by Mikele Leigertwood, the ref awards a free kick. Tomas Rosicky takes the free kick.

79:44 Substitution

Substitution Garath McCleary comes on in place of Hal Robson-Kanu.

78:59

The offside flag is raised against Mikel Arteta. Stuart Taylor restarts play with the free kick.

76:49

The assist for the goal came from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

76:49 Goal scored

Goal! - Mikel Arteta - Arsenal 4 - 1 Reading Penalty taken right-footed by Mikel Arteta and scored. Arsenal 4-1 Reading.

76:12

Penalty awarded for a foul by Adrian Mariappa on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

75:26 Substitution

Substitution Hope Akpan replaces Jem Karacan.

73:57

Lukasz Fabianski takes the direct free kick.

73:57 Substitution

Substitution Olivier Giroud goes off and Lukas Podolski comes on.

73:57 Substitution

Substitution Yao Gervinho goes off and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain comes on.

73:57

Jobi McAnuff challenges Per Mertesacker unfairly and gives away a free kick.

72:08

Corner taken right-footed by Santi Cazorla from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by Noel Hunt.

71:33

Outswinging corner taken by Santi Cazorla from the right by-line played to the near post, Noel Hunt manages to make a clearance.

70:43

Lukasz Fabianski takes the free kick.

70:43 Substitution

Substitution Kieran Gibbs replaces Nacho Monreal.

70:43

Unfair challenge on Bacary Sagna by Jobi McAnuff results in a free kick.

67:50

Jobi McAnuff provided the assist for the goal.

67:50 Goal scored

Goal! - Hal Robson-Kanu - Arsenal 3 - 1 Reading Hal Robson-Kanu finds the net with a headed goal from close in. Arsenal 3-1 Reading.

66:02

The assist for the goal came from Yao Gervinho.

66:02 Goal scored

Goal! - Olivier Giroud - Arsenal 3 - 0 Reading Goal scored by Olivier Giroud from just inside the area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Arsenal 3-0 Reading.

65:29

Danny Guthrie decides to take the corner short.

63:45

Corner taken by Santi Cazorla, Jem Karacan makes a clearance.

62:27

Tomas Rosicky concedes a free kick for a foul on Mikele Leigertwood. Adrian Mariappa takes the direct free kick.

61:49

Yao Gervinho has a headed effort at goal from close in which goes wide of the left-hand upright.

60:03 Substitution

Substitution Pavel Pogrebnyak leaves the field to be replaced by Noel Hunt.

59:50

Bacary Sagna takes a shot. Adrian Mariappa gets a block in.

58:58

Alex Pearce takes a shot from 6 yards. Lukasz Fabianski makes a save.

58:27

Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Jobi McAnuff.

57:46

Mikel Arteta challenges Danny Guthrie unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stuart Taylor takes the direct free kick.

49:38

Olivier Giroud produces a header from close range which goes wide of the left-hand post.

49:11

Santi Cazorla takes the outswinging corner, clearance by Pavel Pogrebnyak.

49:02

Aaron Ramsey takes a shot. Blocked by Mikele Leigertwood.

47:09

Assist on the goal came from Yao Gervinho.

47:09 Goal scored

Goal! - Santi Cazorla - Arsenal 2 - 0 Reading Santi Cazorla finds the net with a goal from the edge of the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Arsenal 2-0 Reading.

45:01

The second half begins.

45:00 +1:15 Half time

Half Time The players leave the pitch at half time.

45:00 +0:50

Pavel Pogrebnyak takes a shot. Save by Lukasz Fabianski.

45:00 +0:23

Adrian Mariappa fouled by Olivier Giroud, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Nicky Shorey.

42:53

Nacho Monreal has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box missing to the wide right of the goal.

41:58

Effort on goal by Yao Gervinho from inside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.

40:07

Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Santi Cazorla from the left by-line to the near post, Stuart Taylor makes a save.

39:55

Santi Cazorla takes a shot. Adrian Mariappa gets a block in.

38:01

Santi Cazorla has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the goal.

36:16

Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Santi Cazorla from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Mikele Leigertwood.

36:05

Aaron Ramsey takes a shot. Adrian Mariappa gets a block in.

35:32

Yao Gervinho is penalised for handball and concedes a free kick. Adrian Mariappa takes the direct free kick.

34:34

Mikele Leigertwood concedes a free kick for a foul on Aaron Ramsey. Mikel Arteta takes the free kick.

32:36

Free kick awarded for a foul by Jobi McAnuff on Yao Gervinho. Free kick crossed by Mikel Arteta, clearance by Pavel Pogrebnyak.

32:23

Yao Gervinho takes a shot. Blocked by Adrian Mariappa.

31:28

The free kick is delivered right-footed by Santi Cazorla from right channel, Pavel Pogrebnyak manages to make a clearance.

31:28 Booking

Booking Danny Guthrie is cautioned.

31:20

Danny Guthrie challenges Tomas Rosicky unfairly and gives away a free kick.

26:36

Santi Cazorla takes a shot. Blocked by Alex Pearce.

24:33

Per Mertesacker takes a shot. Blocked by Adrian Mariappa.

23:50

Santi Cazorla takes the inswinging corner, Pavel Pogrebnyak manages to make a clearance.

22:56

Bacary Sagna challenges Jobi McAnuff unfairly and gives away a free kick. Danny Guthrie restarts play with the free kick.

22:03

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Pavel Pogrebnyak by Mikel Arteta. Direct free kick taken by Adrian Mariappa.

21:07

Shot from just outside the box by Yao Gervinho misses to the left of the goal.

20:48

Olivier Giroud takes a shot. Adrian Mariappa gets a block in.

20:26

The referee blows for offside. Stuart Taylor restarts play with the free kick.

19:29

Outswinging corner taken by Santi Cazorla from the right by-line played to the near post, Pavel Pogrebnyak makes a clearance. Outswinging corner taken by Santi Cazorla.

17:23

Olivier Giroud takes a shot.

16:50

Hal Robson-Kanu gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Nacho Monreal. Nacho Monreal takes the free kick.

15:42

Free kick awarded for a foul by Nacho Monreal on Hal Robson-Kanu. Nicky Shorey crosses the ball in from the free kick, save by Lukasz Fabianski.

15:07

Header by Yao Gervinho from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.

14:25

Hal Robson-Kanu gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Mikel Arteta. Free kick taken by Mikel Arteta.

13:14

Santi Cazorla takes a shot. Blocked by Adrian Mariappa.

12:03

Foul by Per Mertesacker on Pavel Pogrebnyak, free kick awarded. Nicky Shorey takes the direct free kick.

10:17

Assist by Santi Cazorla.

10:17 Goal scored

Goal! - Yao Gervinho - Arsenal 1 - 0 Reading Yao Gervinho grabs a goal from close in high into the middle of the goal. Arsenal 1-0 Reading.

9:37

Foul by Hal Robson-Kanu on Nacho Monreal, free kick awarded. Laurent Koscielny takes the free kick.

8:56

Mikele Leigertwood gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Santi Cazorla. Santi Cazorla takes the free kick.

7:31

Pavel Pogrebnyak is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Lukasz Fabianski.

5:26

Foul by Mikel Arteta on Danny Guthrie, free kick awarded. Jobi McAnuff crosses the ball in from the free kick, Olivier Giroud makes a clearance.

4:22

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Santi Cazorla by Danny Guthrie. Free kick taken by Mikel Arteta.

3:51

Olivier Giroud takes a shot. Save by Stuart Taylor.

0:26

Jobi McAnuff takes the outswinging corner, Header from close in by Adrian Mariappa misses to the left of the target.

0:00

The game gets underway.

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