Arsene Wenger has paid tribute to Arsenal’s awesome away fans who stuck with the team through the hard, frustrating and hair-pullingly annoying times last night and we rewarded with probably the most incredible comeback in the club’s history.
4-1 down at half-time, the travelling fans stuck behind their team and there’s no doubt it had some effect on the players who looked so turgid and off the pace in the first half.
“I just felt sorry for our fans,” said Wenger, “because at 2-0, they stayed behind the team. At 3-0, they stayed behind the team. At 4-0, they stayed behind the team. I would like to give them credit tonight.
“The big part of the fans stayed behind the team and I’m happy we paid them back in the second half. ”
The boss said a rather unique 4-1-5 formation was behind the turnaround in the 2nd period which, he admitted, couldn’t get much worse than the first, and suggested Reading fell victim to nerves.
“In the second half we played 4-2-4, basically 4-1-5 because Eisfeld is an offensive midfielder. We created many chances and from then on, I always had hope we could come back. We had some free-kicks around the box [but] we couldn’t score. With 15 minutes to go, I thought that’s the moment to score the 4-3. We didn’t.
“Seven minutes to go, we had a great chance [to score]. We didn’t [take it] so I thought it will be short now. It’s strange to explain. At 4-0, you think you have won the game. At 4-1 you still think you have won the game. At 4-2, you suddenly realise that it’s not over – and then the panic kicks in and no matter how good a player you are, that goes through the team.”
And although Reading finally sucumbed to the Arsenal, Wenger said they should take heart from their performance.
“I know what it is to be pulled back when you’re 4-0 up. It happened to me as well. They should take credit from that performance and not be too disappointed.”
Managed by former Gunner Brian McDermott, the Royals showed their class with a post-game Tweet from their official account:
It’s hard to imagine certain other clubs doing that in such circumstances. One in particular would probably have accused the referee of being a child abusing, racist 9/11 conspirator, so fair play to Reading.
The cold light of day won’t make this any easier but they’ve been involved in one of the most extraordinary games anyone has ever seen.
Cup football and this Arsenal team, eh?