Skip to main content

Reading Women Round Up

It's been a couple of months since I caught up with Reading Women, and in that time they've had a bit of an erratic run.

They started well, beating West Ham with the only goal of the game in the league before despatching Charlton 4-0 in the Conti Cup. Defeat at home to Birmingham gave the visitors their first win of the year before a draw with Manchester City corrected course. A two-and-a-half-week break finished with another match away at West Ham, this time in the cup. The home side scored thrice without reply to take all three points in the group stage.

Reading have continued to play the 4-3-3 (or 4-4-2 diamond). After Fara Williams was injured in the first ten minutes in the first West Ham game Jess Fishlock has dropped to play as the deepest CM, with James to her right and a rotating cast taking the final spot. Up front it's been Bruton and Carter with Eikeland sitting just behind.

Mitchell is caught upfield, but nobody tracks the run into the RW channel - as Fishlock probably should.

The major problem has been teams getting in behind Mitchell, as was seen in the opening match against Arsenal. Reading's full-backs press on early and often, and that can lead to them being caught out. West Ham looked to exploit it in both games, and Birmingham's goal came down that side.

Admittedly Brum's goal was largely down to the centre-backs getting into trouble. Cooper's poor touch lost the ball, and Bartrip failed to track Walker in the box. It was a combination of both aspects that saw West Ham open the scoring midweek. Cooper switched off from Martha Thomas' run initially, with Harding too slow to keep pace with Alisha Lehmann. The pair just had to roll it around the goalkeeper and the finish was simple.

That's not to say that Reading haven't had signs of being defensively resolute. They've only conceded three in the league since being battered on opening day. Moloney has been in great form, keeping the team in matches against West Ham and City. She was named on the team sheet for West Ham 2 but was replaced last minute by Nayler. The incoming keeper looked a little more shakey - finding herself caught out by a couple of set pieces. She too could do little about the goals, though.

Ultimately it's at the other end that Reading have struggled. Only scoring more than once against second division Charlton, and WSL newbies Aston Villa. 21 shots against Birmingham only required four saves. Both of Reading's shots on target against City came in the opening three minutes before they looked to hold their lead. To hammer home the point, they were awarded two penalties midweek and scored neither.

Fishlock shoots from 35 yards (and draws a good save)

But it's also crucial to know where those shots are coming from. In that Birmingham game, Reading's total xG was 1.2. They're not creating good quality chances. The midfield had 10 shots, the full-backs four, and the three forwards only seven. Eikeland, who played almost an hour, had none. Only six were from inside the eighteen-yard box. There's some logic to it - keepers in the WSL are not as big, they can't get across as easily. Reading, in Fishlock, Williams, and James, have great strikers of the ball. You just wish they'd be a bit more patient at times; when they are there are often chances to be had.

The flip side of getting the FBs forward - Mitchell wins her first penalty by finding space, and being fouled by the WH player attempting to recover

They get some joy down the flanks, Cooper and Bartrip are adept at playing lovely crossfield balls to the wings to open space, but the pay-off is the defensive issues. It was Mitchell who was fouled for both penalties in Dagenham, and the left-back has the most shot-creating actions so far this season. 

Centrally Carter is excellent at holding the ball up, but it's too easy to negate one player's influence at this level. The former-Arsenal striker occasionally puts on her blinkers when others are in better positions. Her only league goal of the year so far came in tackling the Arsenal goalkeeper for a consolation.

What doesn't help is that none of Reading's striking options have ever been prolific goalscorers. Fara Williams has been leading goalscorer the last two seasons, but that was from a more advanced position. She's also 37 this season, and Reading desperately need to find a solution both to their immediate problems, but also the long term viability of a strategy that relies on either Williams or the on-loan Fishlock. 

It's still early doors, and they play a Spurs side with a solitary point from five fixtures. It's got to be time to kick on.


Popular posts from this blog

Bowen's Brand New Box

The first game of pre-season is done, and wasn't it an interesting one? Mark Bowen previewed a brand new 3-6-1, with more central midfielders than anybody could have dreamt of.  As theorized  we played a back-three and wing-backs. The midfield, however, had that unexpected additional body, meaning that Joao played as a lone striker. The 3-6-1. Swift and Laurent are allowed to go forward but are usually content with being behind the play. Consistency is a much sought after commodity in football, so I suppose it can be classed as a positive that there's only a single new recruit in the squad. Laurent's role as one of the deeper midfielders was slightly surprising, because everything from his stint at Shrewsbury implied that he's a similar, but more offensive player than Rinomhota. Swift takes the majority of the ball, so he's not expected to be the main playmaker, but he was comfortable in possession and picks the right pass when needed. Plus his pressing, and positio

A Potted History of Veljko Paunović

Veljko Paunović is Reading manager. The Serbian is a relative unknown here, but after leading his home nation to the U20 World Cup he put his name on the proverbial map. That lead to taking over at MLS side Chicago Fire in 2015, where he stayed for four years before being fired with one of the worst ever MLS records. For the past year, he's been unemployed. Serbia's victory at the U20 World Cup in New Zealand was a surprise. 2015 remains the only tournament that Serbia has qualified for since the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The tournament opened with a loss to Uruguay, a game in which they played a 3-6-1. For the subsequent group games they switched to a 4-2-3-1 or alternated to a 4-1-4-1; both Mali and Mexico were dispatched 2-0. They kept the same set-up for the knock-out phase, but were never as convincing, needing extra time in every round. An injury-time equaliser against Hungary combined with an own goal in the round of 16, penalties were required to see off The USA in the

Replacing Omar Richards

In the summer team report I wrote: "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". And yet, that seems to be exactly what's happening with Richards set to depart for pastures new. Whether he goes to Bayern Munich or not, bigger clubs are circling. There's a couple of options internally, and the club are also looking elsewhere. Ethan Bristow The youngster has been the go-to left-back for cup matches and tends to start for the U23s. He's been brought onto the bench since Richards' injury, but has found himself behind Gibson and McIntyre in the pecking order. Bristow's little run inside drags the right-back narrow, and gives Aluko space to attack He has good vision to spot a pass, and often plays them first time to not allow the defence to put him under pressure. That's normally followed by an intelligent run, and not always to get the ball - sometimes he simply pulls a defe