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The January 2020 Transfer Window Team Report

The window's open; every club in the country's looking to strengthen, but is there anywhere in particular that needs the attention of Kia Joorabchian Mark Bowen?

Player (Age | Contract Expiry)

Goalkeeper


Rafael (29 | 2022) // Sam Walker (28 | 2021) // (Vito Mannone (31 | 2020))

Hopefully we won't need any cover in goal, Rafael solidified himself as the clear first choice - and his performances earned him a player of the month nomination for December. There are some question marks over Sam Walker, but there seems to be no indication that he'll move this month. He was highly rated at Colchester, and now we're less focused on playing out from the back (Rafael's distribution is hardly flawless) hopefully he'll be able to focus on shot stopping. Virginia may have left, but Vito Mannone is back from his loan at Minnesota. It's still almost certain we've seen the last of him - even if he doesn't move on this window, he's out of contract in summer.

So there's no real need to strengthen, we don't need another number one goalkeeper to come in just to sit on the bench - especially as that could end up being disruptive to the changing room.

Defence


Right


Chris Gunter (30 | 2020) // Andy Yiadom (28 | 2022) // Teddy Howe (21 | 2021)

Yiadom was the clear first choice since his arrival in Summer 2018, but Chris Gunter has had a resurgence since our switch to 4-1-4-1. Recently we've focused our attacks down the left hand side, and the defensive capability of the Welsh international on the right has been a crucial aspect of the team. He's also shown an ability to cross from deep that has been missing from his skillset for a while. Many people are just waiting for a dip in form and Yiadom to come back in, but I'm not sure there's much between them in this system. Teddy Howe is also waiting in the wings; ready to step up to back-up when Gunter (probably) leaves in summer.

If anything happens at RB it will be getting some money for CG while we still can. More likely than not there'll be no movement.

Centre


Liam Moore (26 | 2023) // Michael Morrison (31 | 2021) // Matt Miazga (24 | 2020) // Tom McIntyre (21 | 2021) // (Andre Burley (20 | ?) // Gabriel Osho (22 | 2020))

Reading already strengthened the centre of defence over summer, and it was a position that already included the club captain. Miazga is head and shoulders above most at this level, and Morrison is another that has benefited from the change in style away from possession football. I expect that in the next season or two McIntyre will replace Morrison, and we'll see another academy prospect ready to make the step up. It seems unlikely that it will be either Burley or Osho, but they're currently in pole position.

Clearly no need for anybody else.

Left


Tyler Blackett (25 | 2020) // Jordan Obita (26 | 2020) // Omar Richards (21 | 2021)

Arguably our most stacked position. Blackett has the ability to play centrally, and both Obita and Richards have played further forward in their career. Sounds like we've offered a new contract to Blackett, rather than Obita - as you would assume that only one will be kept this summer. Obita's into his late-20s and would hope to be starting games, but his situation is slightly undermined by being injured for a significant period. We should also be able to keep hold of Richards until the end of his contract next season as he's only 21, but even then he looks ready to step up and may want to be first choice. 

It seems completely unnecessary to have three players of this calibre, if one doesn't move this window I can't see us keeping all three in summer. Probably best to cash in on Blackett or Obita if contract negotiations don't go to plan and there's an offer on the table.

Midfield


Defensive


Pelé (28 | 2020) // Andy Rinomhota (22 | 2022)

Two fairly different players, but both very capable. Pele with a beautiful range of passing, and a killer set piece, while Rinomhota seems more comfortable beating a player and carrying the ball forward. I think this is somewhere we'll have to look at come summer. There's the potential of losing both - if Leeds do come in with an offer for Rino, and Pelé's loan spell isn't made permanent. It feels wrong to hope for a Leeds promotion, but that feels like the most surefire way to keep 'our' 'academy grad'.

The club have to try to delay any outgoing until summer. Ideally look to bring Pelé in permanently at that point, and see if there's an offer on the table for Rinomhota.

Left


Ovie Ejaria (22 | 2020) // Lucas Boyé (23 | 2020) // McCleary (32 | 2020)

One of the problems with selling all your wingers is that you really don't have anyone that could be traditionally described as a wide midfielder. In our current system we have Ovie sitting wide in defence, and then pushing up to play almost as an inside forward in possession - and the same with Meite on the other side. Another position where you hope not to need backup, as Ejaria is one of the first names on the teamsheet. Boyé may be in reserve, but he's miles off being a useful addition to the team. His loan only has six months to run, and I would have been looking to send him back this month if possible, before we sold our only other real option in Josh Barrett. I only really include McCleary for somewhere to note that he'll be gone in summer.

I think realistically there's no point looking to improve here until summer, unless Bowen wants to have legitimate wide options off the bench.

Central


John Swift (24 | 2022) // Charlie Adam (34 | 2020) // Michael Olise (18 | 2022)

John Swift is the best player in the league, and Charlie Adam has been integral to our turnaround this season. If either of those get injured then we could move Ejaria into the middle - although given the lack of cover on the left that creates other problems. I think that we have more options in Swift's position (Ejaria/Olise) than Adam's. His progressive passing isn't something that anybody else in the squad can match. Swift may be able to do a job there, but again it requires a major rejig.

It's true that when Swift was out we looked a poorer team, but I don't know if there's going to be anyone that we can bring in for the money that we'll be offering. It's worth bearing in mind that in many metrics Swift is the best player in the division - it's almost impossible to replace someone like that however much you spend. I'd be looking to give Olise as much game time as possible anyway.

So, I would be telling our scouting team to look for the next Charlie Adam. Find someone under 25, with a similar skillset to learn from the master. It also takes a bit of pressure off the man himself, who can't be expected to play twice a week consistently.

Right


Yakou Meite (23 | 2023) // Sone Aluko (30 | 2021)

Another position that I would look to strengthen in time. Meite was crucial last season, with his goals keeping us up, but he's too often let down by his final product when he has time to think about it. This season we've seen what he's capable of - I'm not sure you're even allowed to score the goal of the season in a 4-1 home defeat, but he managed it. Shoehorning Aluko in here solely because he doesn't fit anywhere else in the team. Too much of an out-and-out #10 to work in Swift's role, but could potentially do a job cutting in from the right. In my rose tinted dreams a 4-2-3-1 with Ejaria, Swift, and Aluko behind the striker works a treat. Back in reality he's shown no real reason for my optimism.

The only reason to hold off on buying in this window is that both men have significant time to run on their deals. If Aluko goes, then by all means bring in a replacement, but I'm not sure we can justify having another signing on decent wages taking up space on the bench.

Forwards


Lucas Joao (26 | 2023) // George Puscas (23 | 2024) // Sam Baldock (30 | 2021) // (Danny Loader (19 | 2020))

Our strike force saw significant investment in August, but the scattergun approach sees us with three main strikers who offer very different options. Joao is almost the perfect forward in this system, but if he were to be out for any period then Puscas and Baldock are likely to need a change to the way we play. Presumably we'd play through midfield a little more, and Adam would have to rein in the long balls.

As I say, though, we've already spent significant money this season. Puscas has missed some absolutely unbelievable chances, but you still have to hope that he's going to come good. Is there any point bringing in someone else and ending up with four strikers all fighting for one place in the team? - more when loanees McNulty and Smith come back. We've been linked with Glenn Murray on loan, but to me any loan would just stop us developing our own players, and Murray especially isn't even someone that it would then be worth looking to bring in permanently at 36.

So, nobody in in January. Focus on Joao, and if needs be persist with Puscas. I think we're all assuming that Loader will be on his way at some point soon.

On Loan


There's also players out on loan that will either need to be moved on, or integrated into the squad come the end of the season. Adrian Popa (31 | 2020) is finally out of contract this summer, and there's absolutely no chance of him being offered anything other than the door.

Mo Barrow (27 | 2021) is someone that seems to have consistently had interest, and someone we can presumably move on fairly easily. With us playing much deeper he doesn't really fit into the side, and I can't see him being happy to be an option from the bench.

Likewise Marc McNulty (27 | 2022) seems to have suitors back in League One that would be willing to take him. Whether he would be willing to drop a division, and presumably take a pay cut, is another issue. I was disappointed that he didn't get more of a look in first time around, but he - like Baldock - suits a second striker role that we're not currently using. Our other striker, Sam Smith (21 | 2021), scored five times in five games back in September but has only scored twice in his other twenty appearances. I've said before I thought lower League Two was his level, and there's nothing to convince me otherwise.

There's two other prospects out abroad. Jordan Holsgrove (20 | 2022) seems to be having a good time in Spain, where his club are second and he's been playing regularly. From my very limited knowledge it seems as though he could be a decent back-up for Swift, but he'd be competing with Olise and that's an incredibly high bar. Tom Holmes (19 | 2022) looks like another CB for the future, and a reason not to panic about our defence's long term prospects.



Overall I think the squad is in a decent position - as we all thought at the end of August. Bowen's tactical changes have solidified us defensively to the point where even Gunter and Blackett are getting praise. There's only one real position to strengthen - and that's on the right of midfield, but it may not even be worth doing that until Aluko's situation has been resolved. So the only real requirement in this window is to find someone who can follow in Charlie Adam's footsteps.

It's worth pointing out how young the majority of the key players in this squad still are. It's an incredibly exciting time to be a Reading fan.

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