Gary Neville says Arsenal's front three showed pace and inventiveness during 5-2 win at Reading
Gary Neville told MNF that Arsenal may have found the perfect front three to fire them up the table.
Last Updated: 27/12/12 9:35am
Theo Walcott - who has yet to commit his long-term future to the Gunners - started as the central striker against Reading on Monday night and was flanked by fellow Englishman Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and German star Lukas Podolski on the left.
Arsene Wenger's selection paid off as his side dispatched the Royals 5-2 at the Madejski Stadium to move up to fifth in the Premier League table and just two points off a Champions League berth.
And, speaking on Monday Night Football, Neville said he was impressed by how swift and inventive Arsenal's attacking forays were as a Santi Cazorla hat-trick and a strike apiece from Podolski and Walcott saw the Londoners record a second straight top-flight victory.
"There was always someone filling the space, like the Arsenal teams of old, and although Reading were poor at times, they punished them with pace and intelligence," said Neville.
"I would rather play against a more static centre-forward like Olivier Giroud than a player, like Walcott, who is on your shoulder and can run in behind; that is a defender's worst nightmare.
"I'm not going to judge Walcott on tonight because there was so much space for him and the real test will be in bigger games against top-half side sides - but there was a level of quality and speed to Arsenal's attacking play that I have not seen a lot of this season."
Wenger has come under fire over the last few days following the Gunners' inconsistent Premier League form and shock defeat to Bradford in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals.
But Neville says the Frenchman, who took charge of Arsenal in 1996, remains the "right man" to take the club forward.
"It's not always going to be a bed of roses if you have 16 years at a football club and he Wenger been down over the last two weeks, but he has experience and is the right man to see it through," said the former Manchester United and England defender.
"We are always looking for a final statement but this is just a moment in time (that Arsenal are not at their best); they have had difficulties before in their 120 years and will again, but the club is in a good position, something sensible people will realise.
"People were using the word crisis but now Arsenal are two points off Chelsea, who have spent a lot more money than them, and Tottenham, and it wouldn't surprise you if Arsenal were in the Champions League places come the end of the season."
Reading, meanwhile, remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table on nine points -and six from safety, having accrued just a solitary victory all season, at home to Everton in November.
But Neville believes the way Brian McDermott's side lined-up in the second half against Arsenal - in which they scored twice and put plenty of pressure on their visitors - shows how they need to tackle the better teams in the division.
"You know Arsenal's three in midfield - Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta - can play football, and you knew they had pace up front with Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski, so you had to make it difficult for them and I don't think Reading did in the first half," he added.
"I couldn't believe they were playing two in midfield against Arsenal - very rarely did we play with a two at Man United - but then Reading put three in midfield and had players who could get close to people.
"That meant the spare Arsenal player was Per Mertesacker or Thomas Vermaelen, not Cazorla, Wilshere or Arteta, who you don't want spare because they can go forward.
"Reading made it more difficult and were then able to press the deepest midfield player of Arsenal and that's what got them their first goal. They then gained confidence and got runners going forward."
Hit the video at the top of the screen to see what Neville makes of Reading's survival chances.