After watching Reading v Nottingham Forest on Saturday I came away from the Madejski stadium relatively happy with the performance and happy that, bar from one unfortunate incident, Reading might have been able to snatch all 3 points. However by the time I got home it appeared that not all Reading fans were as optimistic as I was, some saying that McDermott’s 4-2-3-1 system was to negative and that with Rasiak leaving the club they lacked a ‘different option’ up front as the remaining main strikers (Long, Church & Hunt) were to similar.
I don’t think the 4-2-3-1 system is to negative at all, with the 3 players behind the strikers McAnuff, Kebe & Sigurðsson posing an incredibly strong attacking threat. However the main worry is the lone striker, Simon Church previously struggled when he was played on his own and the current first choice, Shane Long, also seems to be struggling. Long does have excellent work rate and chase’s the ball down however all too often he ends up floating out wide and leaves a gap in the middle of the pitch which means if ever a cross comes in there isn’t anyone in the box to aim for. Noel Hunt seems to be able to do this well, he has excellent positional sense, however he is returning off from a near 1 year injury lay off and isn’t an option at the moment.
Long is also a confidence player, he needs to be scoring goals to keep scoring goals and when he goes on a baron spell you can see he struggles. Whilst he started 2010 with a bang, winning the penalty to bring Reading level with Liverpool before scoring the winner in extra time, he then went on to score the winning goal against Barnsley as well as 2 more against Aston Villa in the F.A Cup quarter final, however in the previous round against W.B.A he was shown a red card, his second of the season which disrupted his season. All in all he made 22 league starts and 9 sub appearance but only managed to score 6 goals – not the record of a player that you want to be your main scoring threat. Long has failed to produce the goods for quite a few seasons and needs to start hitting the back of the net more often otherwise he won’t be able to justify his place as the lone striker.
Another major problem is the lack of depth in the centre back position, whilst Matt Mills is looking like a top Championship defender Alex Pearce still worries me somewhat, his lack of pace is targeted by opposition strikers and he is frequently caught out on the turn. His heading is pretty good, at set piece’s he seems to be the one winning the balls in to the box but his tackling could improve as he sometimes seems to not have the best reading of the game, but at 21 he can still improve. However the lack of another centre back pushing him to improve his game and fight for his place is a problem, the backup to him and Mills seems to be Gunnarsson who, at 34, seems to have very little pace and isn’t really thought of as a centre back, more a player that can fill in there when needed, and Reading must bring in a centre back even if it is just on loan to provide back up and depth in this area because I don’t think Mills and Pearce will be able to last the season without a suspension or injury.
It’s not all doom and gloom, Reading do have many strong points and the main one is the magical Gylfi Sigurðsson who, on his day, is too good for this league. Last season he was Reading’s top scorer with 16 goals in 32 starts from midfield and his footwork is sometimes amazing, he’s able to beat a man with just skill instead of putting his head down and running like a lot of players do. He’s very aware of the people around him but being young he sometimes tries to do the flashy thing instead of playing a simple pass or looking for a team mate in space. However he is a quality player and hopefully Reading will be able to hold on to him at least till the end of this season if not longer. However if he keeps playing in the role behind the striker he needs to make sure he doesn’t drop to deep and leave the striker isolated on his own up front.
Jimmy Kebe & Jobi McAnuff are two of the best wingers in this league as well, Kebe can be frustrating on some days, amazing on others. When he first came to Reading he had a lot of pace but no end product, his crosses would either be intercepted by the first man or go way over and beyond the far post however from the 2nd half of last season and so far this season he has got a lot better, whilst his final ball isn’t perfect it’s a lot better than it was. McAnuff has been around the leagues a few years and already know what’s required and he has the ability to beat his man with either pace or trickery but sadly he seems to have a problem staying in games and can float in and out of them, I think if him and Kebe switched wings during games it would make a difference.
Despite his howler on Saturday Adam Federici is a solid Championship goal keeper as proven by his fantastic saves, including an incredible diving save from Paul Anderson’s powerful header, and is the first in a long line of good keepers the club seem to be collecting. Ben Hamer is a young goal keeper who has come through the Reading youth ranks and spent the last few seasons on loan at Brentford helping them win the league last season as well as picking up the Golden Gloves award for most clean sheets in the season. Alex McCarthy is also highly thought of, he’s been called up to the England U-21’s side a few times and has 1 cap to his name and recently went out on loan to Brentford for 1 month. The last of 4 good goalkeepers is Mikkel Anderson, a giant of a keeper (6ft 5in) who has played for Denmark at U-19, U-20 & U-21 level. He spent last season on loan at Bristol Rovers playing 39 games and wining the clubs young player of the year award as well as coming 3rd in the overall player of the year awards.
I still find it incredible that some fans think the playoff’s is a minimum requirement for the season because with the lack of depth in key area’s mid table should be a sufficient target this season, when you consider the financial restraints the club has as well getting promoted just doesn’t seem very likely. Yes a miracle season could happen (like Blackpool last season) however it doesn’t look likely and if fans want to complain about the way the club is run then they should support a team like Portsmouth because that’s not how Reading will be run and whilst people claim Sir John Madejski should put more of his own money in to the club if it wasn’t for him Reading wouldn’t be where they are today and people should respect the fact that he doesn’t want to keep pouring money in to the club. With people like Rasiak and Cisse leaving the club it means the club is in a more stable position financially and right now that is the most important thing.
People expecting any last minute signings need to realise this probably won’t happen and whilst playoffs would be nice Reading fans should be ready to accept a mid table place would be a good season and a nice cup run to bring some funds in to the coffers would be a nice bonus.