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The Banter Era

This is a piece I wrote before the start of the season, when I wasn't expecting quite the start we've had. I was reminiscing about the good moments we've had - in amongst the years of not so great performance.I saw a discussion on twitter recently about the start of Reading’s banter era. By now I put us roughly six years and four months in - with the start being Reading fans infamously storming the pitch believing the team to have made the play-offs when, in fact, Brighton’s ninety-second minute winner at Nottingham Forest had pipped us to the post. Some could argue it started earlier; The Russian multi-millionaire that had no money, drawing to an eight-man Yeovil side, Royston Drenthe. 2013/14 was particularly rife with moments that any masochist could enjoy.Since then only one manager has lasted a year in the job, Yakubu has donned the blue and white hoops in an FA Cup Semi Final, we’ve been asset stripped by one set of owners who also released the World’s greatest footb…

Blackburn 2-4 Reading

IT'S NEVER GOING TO END. THIS WAS MEANT TO BE A REAL TEST. WE PASSED IT WITH FLYING COLOURS.Reading set-up as they finished the previous game - in a 4-3-3 mirroring Blackburn (or, probably more accurately, a 4-4-2 diamond). Whether that was to match up Blackburn, or because we looked more comfortable after switching on Saturday, who knows? When Blackburn had the ball at the back Olise pushed forward to form a front three, with the midfield trio picking up their counterparts. Which made it hard for the home team to progress the ball, and forced them to play wide.Which, to be fair, is where Blackburn scored two almost identical goals from. Crosses from their right-hand side were steered past Rafael by Adam Armstrong. The former-Newcastle player hanging deep before making a run in front of Morrison on both occasions. It feels harsh, but at this point you expect Laurent to be in the right place - and he was a step off both times. Reading are hardly the first team to be undone by Armst…

Reading 3-0 Rotherham

For the second match running Reading made hard work of a newly promoted side, but ultimately deserved the three points.Paunovic's decision to give Semedo his full debut in the attacking midfield slot ended up looking like a mistake. Nothing would stick to the loanee, and his passing was astonishingly poor - almost scuppering the move leading to the opening goal by passing straight to Rotherham, before Ovie managed to win the ball back.That lead to a change in formation, to a 4-1-4-1. Rinomhota partnered Semedo, and left Laurent to sit between the lines. The issue is that fundamentally changed how well the screen in front of the defence works. With Rinomhota and Laurent they're able to cover wider because they're not expected to be perfectly central. That allowed Rotherham the ability to exploit the advanced positioning of the full-backs.There were further tweaks in the second half. Instead, lining up in a fairly fluid 4-3-3. On a couple of occasions, they were dragged acro…

Reading 1-0 Wycombe

There are a couple of ways to read the match. Reading registered fewer shots than at any other point so far this season - and there were already concerns about the frequency of our attempts. On the flip side, we were again clinical, Lucas Joao coming to the rescue to take the only chance we needed.And what some podcast hosts may be missing is that there is clear room for improvement. One of our main playmakers is out injured, and Tom Holmes has been filling in at right-back. Tomás Esteves and Alfa Semedo have both looked promising in their cameos, and the Ovie Ejaria express appears to be kicking into life.The Royals also got themselves into good positions but didn't always capitalise to the fullest extent. Yakou Meite should have scored from a rather exquisite Ejaria cross at the end of the first half, and Liam Moore ballooned a free header wide from a worked set-piece. Then there are those that didn't even register a shot - touches from Meite and Semedo squandered good posit…

Middlesbrough 0-0 Reading

Reading once again kept the opposition at bay, but this time they couldn't find a way through at the other end.Morrison and Moore dominated in the air, neutralising most of Middlesbrough's more dangerous positions. Unsurprisingly, they were mainly under pressure courtesy of set pieces (and Jonny Howson). Rafael tipped over a deflected Howson shot (set up from a throw-in, it counts), and pulled off the same save from the resulting corner after Morro diverted it toward his own goal.As the ball is delivered, one #Boro player drops, and the deeper players move up to form a solid ring of pitch control. This effectively ensures that they have the best chance to win the second ball, they recycle possession and get another FK by the flag (from which they 'score') pic.twitter.com/aWTDGWCRtG— Another Football Analyst (@Analytics1871) October 18, 2020The second half brought two free-kicks. As noted in @Analytics1871's tweet above, Boro proved adept at recycling possession and…

Reading 1-0 Watford

Okay, I did say that if we managed to get a result from this match I'd start to get excited. And here we are, 3 points later.Watford had the better of the early going, playing dangerous balls in from their left-hand side. Switches in play caught Tom Holmes narrow, or Meite failed to track the run of the second player. If I were an opposition manager I'd be looking to switch the play almost every time - either with a player undercutting Richards (who goes wide early to attempt to close down that ball), or overlapping Holmes (who stays narrow).Reading's right side of defence was fairly dysfunctional getting the ball forward. Holmes and Morrison don't trust themselves to play forwards, and deferred to others. That is, of course, other than Holmes' assist for the goal. It was noticeable that it was his only pass from the middle of the pitch - tending to stick to wider areas. Much like Araruna before him, he often didn't have a simple pass forward, and his inability…

Cardiff City 0-2 Reading

Three wins out of three. You literally cannot ask for more in terms of results.Early on it was clear that Reading were looking to play through the full-backs again. They start high and are the first choice for Rafael or the centre backs. That works down the left side, where Richards is unbelievably good at wriggling between players and is backed up by Ejaria and Olise, but on the right things tend to be more difficult. Meite is more disconnected from the FB to begin with, and Araruna can't beat a player in the same way.As a whole Reading did struggle to play out from the back, as against Barnsley. Six goals so far this season - four from set-pieces, one from a long ball over the defensive line, and one catching the opposition in midfield. So far the fabled Paunoball hasn't yet materialised. Yes, Joao's pulled off a flick for the first goal of the year, and there was a bit of nice interplay on the most recent, but they've hardly scored after a flowing back-to-front move…

Reading 2-0 Barnsley

Reading nicked a win, but Barnsley caused real problems last year with their high press.The Tykes packed the centre to make it to force Reading's play wide. The press started almost immediately when Rafael distributed the ball, but was most noticeable when the ball went wide. It either won them the ball - Ejaria was dispossessed eight times - or forced a backwards pass. On more than one occasion the aggression shown resulted in Reading free-kicks.Like the Luton match, the double pivot didn't attempt to drop into space, as we saw them do on opening day, and found themselves out of the game. Barnsley's three across the front made it impossible to play into them which meant they were largely passengers.To try to counteract the press Olise moved into central midfield around the hour mark, and Meite headed to the right-wing. The youngster's role was a lot freer than Laurent's; he dropped deep to pick up the ball and then got forward to join attacks, leaving Rinomhota as…

Reading 0-1 Luton

When you rotate the entire squad, you can't expect to win games, and I doubt Paunović will be too disappointed about going out of the cup early. 
The youth players were a mixed bag. The centre backs showed that we need not look for incomings to be happy with our defensive depth, but Bristow on the left seems to need more time to develop. Tetek was composed on the ball and probably did enough to earn a spot on the bench at points this season, but Watson, played out of position, failed to capitalise on his chance.

In fact, we should put Tom Holmes in the spotlight, because he played fantastically. He won all nine duels he was involved in (five ground, four aerial), didn't commit a foul, made 92% of passes including 10/12 long balls, and even put Danny Hylton on his backside with his first touch. McIntyre is rightfully considered a real prospect, but to bring someone in above Holmes would be unconscionable.
Meanwhile the experienced players, yet again, failed to trouble the manager&…

Reading 3-1 Aston Villa

Reading put last weekend's hammering at the hands of Arsenal behind them with a win against newly promoted Aston Villa.Reading kept the 4-3-3 that they adopted in the second half against The Gunners (although it could be described as a 4-3-1-2 if you were being particularly pedantic). Fara Williams conducted play from the base of midfield, while Fishlock and James played just advanced of her. After a difficult match last out for Fishlock, she looked much more assured with what she was asked to do on Sunday. She made more successful pressures than anybody on the pitch, despite being Reading's only substitution after 73 minutes, and consistently moved the ball forward after winning it back.Carter was again bright. Good with the ball at her feet, her main issue is occasional tunnel vision. It was her skill that won Reading the penalty for their third. Eikeland seems tireless, and can carry the ball into space well but seems to have an issue playing with her back to goal. She look…

Derby 0-2 Reading

I'd almost entirely forgotten what winning feels like, but the gift from God that is Veljko Paunovic has bestowed it upon us once again. Although, to be serious, beating a Derby side that only mustered one shot on target against Barrow could certainly prove to be a false dawn.Paunovic's first team selection brought no shocks and calmed some fears about last weekend's Colchester XI. Like Bowen he decided on a double pivot of Laurent and Rinomhota, with Swift flanked by Ejaria on the left and Olise on the right in front of them. Yiadom made a welcome return to the team after six months, alongside Joao who missed all but forty minutes of the restart. After a lot of talk around who would take the captain's armband, Moore may have been saved by the change of manager. You're already seeing Twitter change their take on the old-and-now-new Captain - he's been much better in these matches he's hardly been troubled in. (To be fair, the problem was the backlash to his…

If He Stays Fit

Lucas Joao has been a crucial part of this side for the better part of a year now. His stock seemingly rises every match, whether he plays or not. Every Joao related take is notably prefaced with "If he stays fit". The problem is, judging by history, that's a completely unrealistic expectation. He's never completed 2,000 league minutes in a season in his professional career - which itself would be under half the number of minutes in a Championship campaign.

So then there is the natural desire to sign a Joao replacement, particularly after the issues last season without him in the side. Pedro Mendes has been touted as the missing piece, and one Serbian account even suggested Ivan Saponjic, a player in Paunović's U20 Serbian side, as someone with a similar style. In Mendes' case, are we really going to spend £5m on a player who won't be the first choice? 
If we do end up signing a replacement, what happens to George Puscas? He did enough last season to be co…