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Reading 0-3 Wigan

Where do you start after an absolute drubbing?

Probably at the root problem, and that was Mark Bowen's tactics. Now, I have no particular issues with 4-4-2 as a system, but I think it's a horrible formation for our collection of players. The 4-1-4-1 works because the two unconvential wide men push up and in toward the striker to form an offensive three (in some way). In a 4-4-2 they have to act as more legitimate wingers, because the two up front are operating in the advanced space. So the decision to play Ejaria - not a particularly quick or direct player - on one wing, with Araruna - someone who has never been in position - is just terrible decision making. It, yet again, screams of Bowen's basic decision process. More attacking = no DM, more strikers.

Please don't get me started on the comment that everyone should know how to play it. You still have to pick the right players.

Swift gets turned, Pelé has to come across, Araruna lets Roberts run (not even sure what he's doing so far infield anyway). In the 4-1-4-1 there would obviously be an extra CM to deal with these situations.

Not only that, but Wigan were able to play through the lines too easily. With Morsy, Williams, and Roberts 'overloading' the central area, there were never enough men to cover all the options. Combine the two issues and it means you have very little attacking output, while being far too open defensively. Something that may lead to, for example, being outshot 8-0.

Then there's the substitutions, and lack of. We had got to the point after the first half where I actually understood Charlie Adam coming on. He often is able to manipulate the press with one touch passes, although he's obviously susceptible to getting caught out. Unfortunately for Bowen, he just didn't reach the heady heights of an acceptable performance. Putting Puscas on the bench is mindboggling. This is a man who has come out in the past and said he didn't want to put first team players on the bench for FA Cup matches because they need to be fit enough to play the whole game if called on in the first ten minutes. You do have to assume that there's something else at play here. Whether that's just not wanting to use players who won't be here at the beginning of next season (but then what is the reasoning for Pelé being in the team?) If it really was chance creation we were missing, what was the reasoning behind not using Masika or Rinomhota?

That would be Rinomhota who was the catalyst for better performances at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds. Who provides the energy, the impetus, that we were crying out for in so many situations. But I guess Charlie Adam works too.

To then come out after the game, and completely throw your players under the bus is unacceptable management when you've set the team up to fail. And he knew he had - because he made two subs at halftime, and we changed back to the 4-1-4-1. The disagreement with Baldock at Leeds, and the potential of a tiff with Rinomhota just days later is worrying; and the players don't look to be in the best of spirits as a group either. What I would say, is that I saw almost nothing to suggest a lack of effort until the final minute of the game. There was always a workrate, but not the quality.

This is not to say that the players were blameless. Swift tried hard to create, but was caught out on numerous occasions defensively in the first half. He went on to give away the free-kick for, and didn't react quickly enough to the second goal. Charlie Adam misplaced a third of his passes, and lacked the composure you hope an experienced head brings. And I have no idea what Moore and Richards were doing for the final goal, but it just topped off an awful night.

Only two players really come out unscathed. Rafael could do nothing to stop any of the goals, and made a couple of decent saves, and Michael Olise. The latter does get away with a couple of misses because of his age, but at least he was shooting.

Baldock finds space, but a poor touch allows Balogun an opportunity to recover

There does, unfortunately, have to be a special mention to Baldock. His game will be best remembered for a remarkable double miss from inside the six yard box, but there was litany of bad touchesm, offside runs, and squandered opportunities. At the end, he missed a volley that was all too easy to compare with Puscas' similarly poor effort in the game against West Brom. He wasn't helped by playing up front by himself for the majority of the second half - how's he meant to win long balls?

Has the space to cross, but a poor touch (there's a theme) loses the chance

Ejaria, too, didn't seem to have the same energy as normal. He's not a winger, admittedly, but it's not like he's never received the ball in a wide area. At risk of sounding a bit Radio Berkshire, with men waiting in the box you really do just have to try crossing the ball. Especially when we have no other options. He's another that will feel as though he could have prevented a goal. In the early stages he was being consistently beaten by their right back, and that's the source for Kieffer Moore's flick to open the scoring.

I appreciate that a lot of ire has been directed toward Morrison. I'm still not convinced that that's entirely fair. He seemed to be constantly having to ask for movement in front of him. It may not have always been fast, exciting play, but we normally managed to play out eventually. And I'm not sure our centre backs should be penalised for a safety first approach - although his clearances should have obviously been targeted toward Meite rather than into no man's land. As an aside, I've no idea why Morrison is the one coming out after the game to speak to the OS, rather than Moore.

I'm not sure how to take the idea that there's a fear factor of playing at The Madejski. It wasn't long ago that there was a real 'feel good factor'. If there is one it's been brought about by a frustration with turgid football on display. But it's too easy to put down poor tactics as basically anything else.

So we can't beat Hull's mid block, and we can't beat Wigan's press. It's a worrying time with the bottom three still picking up points. It's still unlikely that we'd go down, but the Barnsley game does have a ton of added importance. It's a game that you just can't see Reading winning against an in form team, who bossed the reverse fixture. Just please, for the love of God, stop playing 4-4-2. Please.


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