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Three wins in the last fourteen games would suggest that Reading aren't playing at their best, and Steve Clarke paid the price after a lacklustre 1-0 defeat to Queen's Park Rangers. Brian McDermott came in, and has had a less than perfect start. A Danny Williams screamer beat Blackburn, and scraping past Bristol City bookended defeats to Wolves and Brentford.

This, somehow, comes from a team that has a rather respectable record against the top 6:

P 6 W 3 D 1 L 2 F 11 A 6 GD +5

Bearing in mind that both defeats saw The Royals finish with fewer men than they started the matches with. That is quite remarkable, and it backs up my belief that this team should be easily good enough to finish within the play-off positions, if not better. However, at the moment, the team is clearly not living up to its potential. Why?

Michael Hector

Our Chelsea loanee has the worst footballing brain I've ever had the displeasure of seeing in a footballer. Constantly losing his head and attempting to make up for his mistakes, but often making situations far worse. If he was played as defensive midfielder then those behind him could cover, but as he a centre back he's a liability. Frankly, he isn't a centre back. All this culminated in getting himself embarrassingly sent off for a dive against Brentford. Hector genuinely has the potential to play a role at Chelsea, but he'll need to be far better than he's shown this season.

Nick Blackman

A right winger without a right foot. Not necessarily a problem when he's in vicious form, cutting in and finding the net time after time. However, all too often he's been marked out of the game. Finding himself too far on the right to ever work the angle for a shot. The Bristol City match was crying out for McCleary to get in behind the defense and put balls into the box. Although the goal may not have come from a cross, his introduction was the catalyst for the win - along with, lo and behold, Blackman moving up front. Nicholas Blackman IS NOT A RIGHT WINGER.

If you look at the team as a whole, we score two goals per game in a 4-3-3, and only 0.9 in a 4-2-3-1. Among other reasons this is because it pushes Blackman wider, and doesn't allow him to cut into the box as easily, however in light of his potential sale I should also point out that he also makes his own problems. He's often too selfish, and teams have learnt to not let him cut onto his left foot - which, coming back to him playing on the right wing, renders him useless.

Danny Williams 

Reading have the highest percentage of shots from outside the box in the entire Championship. It's true that we also have eight goals - the second highest in the division - from further than eighteen yards, but all too frequently when the ball drops to Danny Williams the ball flies over the bar. Just two of his fifty-five shots outside the box have found the net. One a routine chance against Bolton, and another - admittedly - an absolute corker against Blackburn that was simply no more than the law of averages.

He's near the top of the team's fouls conceded - but unlike his Northern Irish midfield partner, his defensive contribution is poor. He's in our top three for poor touches, sixth for the number of times he's dispossessed during the match, but all while making fewer key passes than even Hal Robson-Kanu. He loses his head too often and, increasingly, has taken to falling over to try and win fouls. Overall, he's not been very good. 

He can be a key member of this squad. Memories of changing the game against Watford in that infamous 3-3 draw, of scoring away at Wolves to secure the win, of providing the catalyst in multiple games with his determination have all but evaporated. Maybe his national team call up - along with a wonder goal against Brazil, no less, have gone to his head, but I need to see more.

Matej Vydra

Vydra had an excellent record while at Watford, but he's yet to find his shooting boots at the Madejski. He's missed gilt-edged chances in each of the last three matches, and while it's clear that he has the natural ability, he's costing the team points - converting only one shot in eight and considering how good some of those chances have been, it should be higher. Despite the problems with his end product he has actually created more chances than anyone bar Ollie Norwood (who is way, way out in front). If his full game could come together he'll be lethal leading the front line - or playing just off HRK/Sá at any rate.

I'm not going to pretend I have every answer; but in my opinion these four members of the squad have to step up - if they're all still around for the rest of the season. There'll be another blog post quite soon if Blackman really does end up leaving.


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