READING - Santi Cazorla scored a hat-trick to lift Arsenal's spirits as the Gunners bounced back from their League Cup humiliation with an emphatic 5-2 victory at Reading yesterday in the English Premier League.
Spanish midfielder Cazorla struck twice in the first half after Lukas Podolski's opener and completed his treble after the break to shatter Reading's hopes of inflicting more misery on Arsene Wenger's spluttering side.
Adam Le Fondre and Jimmy Kebe reduced the deficit for Reading, but Theo Walcott's late strike confirmed Arsenal's rise to fifth place, two points behind Chelsea and Tottenham, and left the hosts bottom of the table and six points adrift of safety.
It also gave Wenger and his players some much-needed breathing space after heavy criticism following last week's League Cup quarter-final loss to League Two minnows Bradford.
"It was important to stay strong and play football," Wenger said. "Success comes with playing (good) football. And it was a very convincing win tonight."
Gunners' midfielder Jack Wilshere hailed Cazorla's contribution, saying: "His all-round play is great. It's tough for anyone to come from Spain into the Premier League, but he makes it look so easy."
Inevitably, Wenger made changes from the side that had flopped so badly against Bradford.
Ivory Coast forward Gervinho was dropped to the bench as Wenger opted for an attacking formation featuring Walcott — returning from a calf injury — Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski. Reading's Noel Hunt headed over from a corner but Arsenal's reply was a 14th-minute opener from Podolski, who took Kieran Gibbs' cross and rammed the ball past Federici with his next.
Arsenal doubled their lead when Podolski's cross from the left was nodded in by the smallest man on the pitch, Cazorla, in the 32nd minute.