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Summer 2020 Team Report

Following on from the report in January, here's what we think of the makeup of the team going into the new season.

Player (Age | Contract Expiry)

Goalkeeper

Rafael (30 | 2022) // Sam Walker (28 | 2021) // Luke Southwood (22 | 2021)

Rafael first choice. Southwood potentially moving up to second. Walker still around, or Boye-Clarke if he goes. Stacked.

Defence

Right

Andy Yiadom (28 | 2022) // Tennai Watson (23 | 2021)

Yiadom is unquestionably the starter, and an instrumental part of Reading going both ways. His injury record this season meaning he missed 21 matches has to be a worry. Hopefully, the extended rest period gives him more time to get back to full fitness for next season, but without him there's not a lot of depth. Tennai Watson, who's already 23 and only had two fairly uninspiring loan spells in League One, is our sole back-up. Watson only has 2,100 league minutes in his career so far, and is unlikely to add many this season if Yids stays fit. I did think he looked good in one of his only Reading appearances, away at Brighton in the Carabao Cup - a performance that saw him included in the team of the round. So there's no need to strengthen this year, which should give us another season to scout the perfect young-Yiadom.

Centre

Liam Moore (27 | 2023) // Michael Morrison (32 | 2021) // Tom McIntyre (21 | 2021) // Tom Holmes (20 | 2022)

Reading should be relatively comfortable with their centre-backs. Moore's poor form hopefully resets over the break, and Osho's departure won't be noticed too much with Holmes back from Roeselare. Assuming that the three CBs is unlikely to make a return that should be more than enough cover. Losing Liam Moore could leave us light, but equally frees up a fair amount in wages to bring in a cheaper option.

Left

Omar Richards (22 | 2021)

The position nobody needed to worry about in 2019/20 all of a sudden becomes a lot more stretched with just Richards in the senior squad. Even the first choice left-back of the U23, Remarni Medford-Smith, was released. Reading's best results came with Blackett playing, and Richards losing his place in the team toward the end of the season, to a player who was always going to leave, does show question marks over his ability. That said, his status as an academy grad-come-good should help him, and he's still yet to have a full season as first choice. Potentially an area that we could add experience on a short-term contract as back-up, although we really don't want to be going into 2021/2022 without any LBs so a new contract for Omar has to be on the agenda early.

Midfield

Defensive

Felipe Araruna (24 | 2022)

I had Andy Rinomhota in this spot in January, but for various reasons I've complained about on twitter, I don't think he's really a defensive midfielder. Felipe Araruna was sold as a hard-tackling ball-winner, but he's not been often seen in blue and white since his transfer. Ryan East, U21 captain, does play there for the youth team, but with almost no senior experience it's difficult to know whether he'll make the step up. Bowen's central midfield does often need someone in the deeper role, so I'd be surprised if we don't add to the squad.

Left

With no specialised left-midfielder (and about as many left-backs) in the squad Michael Olise would probably find himself on that side if required. I, and others, have often theorised about whether 4-4-2 is the way our formation has been tending, and if that's the case we obviously need new recruits. Thierry Nevers in the U23s looks promising down that side too.

Central

John Swift (25 | 2022) // Michael Olise (18 | 2022) // Andy Rinomhota (23 | 2022) || Josh Laurent (25 || 2022)

A lot is still up in the air when it comes to central midfield. Will John Swift be here in September? Will we see Ovie Ejaria in hoops again? Given the holes in the squad elsewhere, it's almost certain that we'll be forced to play at least three from this group. Bowen preaches a side "full of running, full of energy". The assumption is that Rinomhota and Laurent will be crucial in that - both box-to-box type midfielders that can contribute at both ends of the pitch (the latter more so offensively). Swift has been used as a deep-lying midfielder at times, which seems to be the obvious option following on, but potentially leaves Olise out of the line-up completely. Alternatively, Rinomhota and Laurent sit deeper - which I don't think is their strength - and one of Olise or Swift plays in front. If the Directors' Player of the Season does leave, then that seems to be the obvious default.

Right

Yakou Meite (24 | 2023) // Sone Aluko (31 | 2021)

Look, I'm not expecting Sone Aluko to play for the club again, but he is still at the club. Yakou Meite, on the other hand, may be good enough to mandate us playing with that right inside forward, rather than a more traditional winger. Again, as with the left, you'd expect a slightly more traditional winger to come in whatever happens. Garath McCleary was the only player in the squad able to fulfil that role and did get minutes off the bench after the restart.

Forwards

Lucas Joao (26 | 2023) // George Puscas (24 | 2024) // Sam Baldock (31 | 2021) // Marc McNulty (27 | 2022) // (Sam Smith (22 | 2021))

If anything there are too many strikers at the club. Lucas Joao is the unquestionable first-choice, but the battle to back him up is still open. In some ways, the most interesting story may be that of Sam Smith - a player I've always written off as no more than League Two level. That said, he ticks all the boxes that Bowen is asking for - young, energetic, and hungry. He has a better first touch than Puscas, better heading ability, more agile, and can bring others into play. It's still unlikely he'll play much with the four more experienced guys in front of him in the pecking order, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him leave on loan or permanently before the start of the season. Having both Baldock and McNulty feels a bit redundant, and I also wouldn't be at all surprised to see one (or both) moved on.
 


There's still a clear need to bring in cover in numerous positions. The worry would be us over-recruiting for stacked areas of the pitch. We do not need another striker given our finances and the resources we already have at our disposal, unless we manage to shift some of those at the club first. I'd be trying to cut down to three senior strikers - not including Meite, potentially with youth in and around the squad if needed. 

The left needs reinforcements, if we go with a narrower formation then obviously there's no need to bring in out-and-out wingers, but I think many would be unhappy to see us go down that route. If we're using this season to rebuild (again) then we need to sort out expiring contracts early on. You would expect that Southwood, McIntyre, Richards, and Morrison should all be offered new deals.

Thankfully the core of the team is actually fairly strong, at the time of writing, and should be enough to build on.

Can't wait for a salary cap to completely ruin our chances.

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