Arsène Wenger played a near full-strength team at Bradford City in last Tuesday's Capital One Cup quarter-final because he was blessed with an usually kind recovery stretch before the Premier League trip to Reading on Monday night. The plan was to build on the home win over West Bromwich Albion on the Saturday before last and generate momentum ahead of a sequence of fixtures against struggling clubs. Four of Arsenal's next five games are against teams that currently inhabit the bottom six.
The best-laid plans, though, have been laid to waste and one aspect of the backlash to the Bradford defeat has been that the recovery time has become a period to stew. Frustration and negativity has coloured the atmosphere and Wenger has been unable to conceal his feeling that everyone is out to get Arsenal.
The manager wants a response at Reading and it is possible to imagine the players as chomping at the bit to make amends. Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny return to contention after injuries. Wenger, though, wants controlled passion and he has reminded his players how, until Bradford, their away form has been generally solid. Before Valley Parade, Wenger's team had endured only one unacceptable away result – the 1-0 league defeat at Norwich City.
"Our results are quite consistent and good away from home," Wenger said. "We had a good game against West Brom and it's important to confirm that in our next away game at Reading. If you look at our season at the moment, we have not produced our performances at home. We've had more draws, especially at home and that is where we have lost the points.
"There has been disappointment and frustration [this week], but that is normal when you go out in a competition like that. However, having said that, we can only look at ourselves, get on with it and look to the future."
Wenger simply wishes to blot out Bradford, even if the scar runs deep; he has argued that any English team can suffer a cup upset on a bone hard pitch in December. Arsenal have only ever tasted victory in their 10 away games against Reading over the years, most recently the freakish 7-5 Capital One Cup win in October, in which Walcott scored a hat-trick. With Brian McDermott's team at the foot of the league table, Wenger knows that the trend needs to continue.