In many ways, an enigmatic victory on the weekend. A game we dominated, and won, yet one in which we still managed to look distinctly uneasy.
The first half summed up much of this season's frustrations, as we once again dominated without scoring. Hleb, who had a good first half, was often the player who provided the initial impetus for our best play, whether it was a delightful through ball for Baptista to set up the Fabregas miss, or a surging counter-attacking run which led to Freddie's poor miss when clean-through on goal.
Fabregas's miss encapsulated our season. We were dominant in possession, actually found not one, but two killer passes, yet lacked a clinical, cutting edge, even when presented with the most straightforward of chances. It could be called a 'freak' miss, and in many ways it is, but with Rosicky missing a similar chance earlier in the season, one has to wonder whether a basis lack of killer instinct when it comes to shooting has cost us points and games this season.
Freddie's ability to shoot has certainly gone, and his miss in an otherwise thrilling break was all too typical of his indifferent form. He certainly had a good game on Saturday, even beating a man for pace at one point, but his deficiencies still clearly outweigh his worth to the squad.
Just when it seemed it could be one of those days, we finally scored. Clichy, who has improved at an almost game-by-game rate, flew into the box before being clumsily brought down. Gilberto then managed to send the ball just past Hahnemann's finger-tips, and a sense of relief broke out in the crowd.
A lot of the tension that had been built from three losses in three competitions seemed to dissipate from the team, and moments later Walcott should have scored from a sensational through ball from Cesc.
And then up-stepped the Beast. After the game Hahnemann stated that the Reading players were bowled over by Baptista's physical presence and strength. Whilst his first touch often leaves a lot to be desired, his goal was a true power-house effort that no-one else in our squad would have scored. His tenacity, strength, and composure earned him and the team a goal from which we should have gone forward.
Instead, we let Reading back in the game with some pretty sloppy defending. Jens was even more incandescent than usual, barracking Hleb to the extent he was substituted - especially after a poor second period - and almost causing Gallas to square up to him.
Say what you will about Jens, but the team needed the rollicking to prevent lethargy denying us three points. Can you imagine Almunia doing that? Can you imagine Almunia pulling off a, frankly, stunning save from Sidwell to guarantee us the points? I can't and I hope Arsene
doesn't think so either.
So, in the end, it was a game which we desperately needed to win, but one in which we ended up playing rather desperately. And we'll have to play far better than that to turn over PSV on Wednesday, with or without a certain Frenchman.