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Showing posts from July, 2020

Scouting: Josh Laurent

Reading's pursuit of Josh Laurent seems like it may finally be coming to an end, with a medical expected to take place today. His headline figures (2g, 2a this season) aren't necessarily much to write home about, but given that The Shrews were the second-lowest scorers in League One maybe there's little to be read into them.

Laurent looks most comfortable when mainly focussing on going forward. He has a burst of pace that can be useful in transition, and likes to run into open space. He often looks especially potent on the counter with players able to fill in behind him. That said he can play the deeper role too and has a decent range of passing that feels more functional than defence-splitting on the whole.
Defensively Shrewsbury often leave him without the responsibility required of others but he's decent positionally, and can track runners but likes to stay in shape rather than rushing out to meet threats - which should see him fit in well.
Laurent doesn't see as m…

Reading 1-4 Swansea City

Hallelujah! The season is over! And all I have to do before I can start writing blogs about things other than Bowen's insane tactical switches is get through this one last home defeat!
And there were some surprises with the line-up. Rather than their Bowen's seemingly preferred two banks of four instead there were five defenders, a midfield trio, and Meite again partnering Puscas in a front two.
It's unclear why Bowen decided to go back to the system that he inherited from Gomes. My best guess is that the 4-4-2 has been shown to be deficient, leaving too much space between the lines and having Morrison disrupt the shape pushing out to meet threats. The usual solution to that this season has been to put the injured Pelé there to mop up anything that manages to evade the midfield, but Liam Moore at DM places too much of a burden on the other CMs in possession. The back-five means that one can push out, as Morrison was doing, while still having enough cover.

In the first half, t…

Blackburn Rovers 4-3 Reading

Reading got nothing from a game they deserved nothing from. 
The change to 4-4-2 was a disaster. Blackburn, quite literally, wandering through the Reading defence. Morrison, appearing to be the designated aggressor, pushed out to danger between the lines - often leaving large pockets of space behind, or dragging Gunter narrower. Unsurprisingly very similar to the match against Wigan, last time we tried 4-4-2. All three of McIntyre, Morrison, and Moore will have felt they could have done better on goals.

Within three minutes it was obvious that Omar Richard's role of tracking Lewis Holtby would cause Reading issues. The academy graduate, playing on the left-wing, was dragged inside, meaning Blackett was forced to disrupt the shape pushing out to Nyambe. The ball is fired into Brereton and Richards twice makes good recovery tackles, only for the second to fall straight back to Holtby, who flicks in to Brereton first time. Maybe Swift could have been more alive to the danger, maybe Bla…

Reading 1-2 Middlesbrough

The discourse after the Charlton game largely centred around whether results were enough to justify the atrocious football Bowen has the team playing, and the problem is that when those results disappear, so does the goodwill accrued in some sections. This may well only be a momentary blip, but the manager won't want to go into the (albeit shortened) summer break worrying about needing to hit the ground running.

Again, it must be said that Reading were not good at creating chances. In fact, the only chances of note both fell to Liam Moore from corners. One well blocked, the other too close for the Middlesbrough defence to do anything about it. I'd all but given up on Reading ever scoring from a set-piece, so it's nice to see that pessimism rewarded. And maybe it gave a hint of what we were trying to do in the Huddersfield match - winning a near-post flick on and hoping it falls just right. In that game the balls in were a little too high, and the keeper much happier to come…

Charlton Athletic 0-1 Reading

A win is a win, right? Winning ugly is the sign of a good team.
There are ugly wins, and then this. Reading's last shot came in the 28th minute. In fact, it was six minutes earlier that we actually had one on target. We saw this against Huddersfield too. In the second half, Reading went from the 58th minute to the last kick of the match without a shot and almost an hour without a shot on target. Against Brentford - one shot on target in 90 minutes. Against Stoke, Reading failed to work the keeper after the 27th minute. 
While we managed to hold on against Charlton, we failed to against The Potters, and The Bees put us to the sword. Better teams will not be phased about being allowed the ball, and it's clearly unsustainable to have four shots in a match and expect to win. It's been worse since the restart, but there were signs beforehand. And that's not to say I don't appreciate a solid defence - I would say we deserved counter-attacking wins at Preston and Fulham,, b…

Reading 0-0 Huddersfield Town

Back down to Earth with a bump. It's one thing to draw a match, it's another to feel like you don't necessarily deserve to. Thankfully, Huddersfield didn't really do enough to win so I guess it evens itself out.

Obviously, Bowen made a curious team selection - which is amazing when only changing one player. Playing Jordan Obita completely changes the dynamic of the left-hand side. He hugs wide to the touchline and looks to cross. Of the five he attempted, he completed just one. Meite may be a good aerial threat on the right, against smaller full-backs, but centre backs tend to have a couple of inches on him. Ejaria, meanwhile, came inside and allowed Blackett to give the width. There were a few times when Blackett just didn't know whether to make the outside or inside run and ended up doing nothing.
So, if Obita was the wrong choice who was the correct one? Well, potentially Michael Olise. Although he does seem more comfortable coming inside onto his stronger foot fr…

Luton Town 0-5 Reading

I'm going to stop hyping up Luton. They've let me down twice this year, and this loss has to have a significant impact on their chances of staying up. From a blue point of view, it was all too easy.
The open game suited Reading down to the ground. We love to invite teams on to us and look to counter into space, and that's exactly what we were allowed to do. That's made even easier when Luton's defence seem hesitant to actually tackle anyone. It didn't take much for Swift or Ejaria to shift the ball one way and create enough separation to cause issues for the home side.

Yakou Meite was clinical. It's not every day a Reading player, or any player, scores four goals. This match actually showcased both sides of Meite. It seems ludicrous to say it, but he was relatively quiet. His 24 touches were the fewest of any starter, and he won fewer aerial duels than normal - only 2. Where he excelled, however, was his finishing. It's common knowledge that Yakou is exce…

Scout Report: Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield have tried everything to get out of the mire. Jan Siewert only lasted two weeks into the season, to be replaced by The Cowley Brothers. The turnaround (if you can call it that) was slow, with the team not winning until October. Much has been made of Town's long injury list, and up to this point they've used more players than anybody else in the league.

They have, however, been fairly consistent with the 4-2-3-1. And, maybe counter-intuitively given their position, it does seem a system designed to play to their strengths. They have physical target men, with a tireless midfield - many of whom want to work it inside onto their stronger foot to shoot. In Hogg and Chalobah you have natural holding midfielders. Though they have struggled at fullback, sometimes resorting to playing Hadergjonaj on his weaker side, or having to opt for youth just to make up numbers.


Christopher Schindler, however, is one of only twelve players to play every minute of the season so far. Both…

Scout Report: Luton Town

Luton have struggled in their first season back in the Championship. Last season the club won back-to-back promotions, masterminded by Nathan Jones. Jones left, controversially, halfway through the year to see out a disastrous ten-month spell with Stoke. Club legend Mick Harford took over on an interim basis and finished the job of winning the league by basically doing exactly what Jones had done, but he was never planning on taking over on a permanent basis. So in the summer, Luton fell back on their tried-and-tested method of appointing an untried-and-untested Jones, this time in the form of Graeme.
Over the course of the season, he made some interesting decisions - like playing twenty goal-a-season striker James Collins in a deeper role - and it was unsurprising that he was shown the door during lockdown with the OG Jones available again, especially considering he can save Luton from relegation before he ever has to face fans. Both Graeme and Nathan have combined to create a six-mat…

Reading 0-3 Brentford

The nice thing about watching matches back is that you remove the emotion you felt on the initial viewing, with absolute clarity with what is about to happen. And in some ways, you notice that Reading weren't as far off as you first thought. Had Puscas sorted his feet out for that chance, or Gunter measured a pass slightly better, or Olise noticed a run maybe we would have made a fist of things. But we didn't, and we collapsed in such a way to allow criticism of almost every aspect of the squad. You also notice that we were overrun at virtually every opportunity. Swings and roundabouts.
Watch how wrong Reading get their pressing, 2m into the game. Meite wants to watch Pinnock. An easy ball from Raya to Henry takes him out. Rino was pushed onto Dasilva so Benrahma can take space centrally. Gunter has to close down Henry; Watkins pulls out into channel. #readingfcpic.twitter.com/9RaNvu26BM— Matthew Williamson (@Photomattic) July 1, 2020 It only took a couple of minutes for the wor…