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Brentford 3-1 Reading

The last time Reading made the play-offs, blowout losses were part of the package. Whether we reach the same heights, a similar trend is developing this season. Reading had got results under control, aided by their opponents' indiscipline, but came up against a much better side in Brentford.

Veljko changed back to the 4-4-2 diamond, or you could pretty legitimately describe it as a 4-3-3, that was seen at Blackburn. Laurent sat deep, with Rino and Semedo on either side. Then Olise played behind a front two of Ejaria and Baldock. Due to the way the game went, we only saw that for 25 minutes before we switched back to the normal 4-2-3-1. Initially Ejaria was up top and Baldock wide left, though they swapped after the third goal - I think that may have been due to Baldock's desire to press putting him out of position on more than one occasion. I should point out that The Tilehurst End has an excellent article looking at the tactics in the opening half hour.

Conceding soft goals at level terms is an absolute killer. Doing it when at a deficit, or when leading makes it much easier to sweep under the rug, but Rafael has to be looked at again. Palming Jensen's shot through his own legs and in. It may have taken a deflection from Morrison, but it's still evidently saveable. Part of the reason goalkeepers are taught to get their body behind the ball is to stop it wriggling past them, which Rafael managed to do, but his hands were in completely the wrong position.

Laurent, being the sole defensive midfielder, needed to spot Jensen's run earlier.

Not that his was the only mistake. Holmes, Rinomhota, and Baldock are all putting pressure on the ball carrier. Holmes and Rino doubling up while Baldock stops an easy ball back to the Henry. But Laurent, at the base of the diamond, needs to spot the danger and cover Jensen's run. It lacks some context, because Laurent was actually taking part in play on the left before the ball was switched across, but he actively chose to stay central.

Brentford's second was pure quality. Dasilva pinged a ball across to Mbuemo, who cut onto his left and found the far corner. Rinomhota was a touch slow to Josh Dasilva, giving him the time to pick out the winger, and maybe Esteves could have done more to cover off the inside run but it's probably being harsh. There's a reason Mbuemo is so highly rated, and you really need to double up if possible.

Moore gets himself in an awful position to stop Mbeumo cutting into the space

Which is what Reading did for the third goal, but were still caught out. This time Rino was caught ball watching a second too long. He lets Toney drift into space, and the striker plays a simple pass into Mbuemo. Moore gets all out of position, seemingly trying to cover the turn or expecting a first time shot, and allows Mbuemo the space to, again, pick his spot. Again firing across the keeper, this time into the opposite corner.

Morrison's weight of pass puts Holmes in a bad position from the press. Brentford were tighter on the right, presumably to force Reading to play out through Morro.

Reading had put themselves in trouble by attempting to play out from the back under heavy pressure from Brentford. It may have worked, but Morrison's underhit pass put Holmes in an awful position, with Jensen's press forcing the right-back to play the ball out of play. A quicker pass into Holmes would have seen him able to open up his body and ping a pass down the line.

From that point on the game was dead. Brentford didn't need to play at the same intensity, and while Reading had decent moments, they didn't have many clear cut chances. Even the goal feels pretty uninteresting in the scheme of things. Ejaria was the main positive, not for the first time. 

Ejaria's run in behind is exactly what Reading need

The left winger drew three, and slid the ball into Laurent for a shot from the corner of the box which was saved by Raya. He had a decent shot of his own saved after Baldock was set away by Semedo's quick throw. The main takeaway being how quickly he arrived on the scene, after having a habit of dawdling with the run earlier in the season. On a couple of occasions in the second half he made runs in behind that could have led to more.

Ejaria pulling Brentford wide allows Esteves his favoured run through the middle. An example of why having a legitimate winger would benefit the young full-back.

And his link up with Esteves was promising, even if it isn't a partnership that is likely to develop past Richards' injury. Even Tim Dellor managed to point out the issue with none of the left side having a left foot, but they managed to work decent positions. It's clear that Esteves benefits from having a ball player in front of him, which is always going to be an issue on the right side when Meite plays. 

The best example of what they were missing came courtesy of Michael Olise's assist. The two on the left were still important - Esteves playing a 1-2 with Ejaria to open up space, but Brentford blocked his cross. The ball was recycled to Olise in an acre of space, and picked out Aluko for a free header. Largely a goal down to Brentford slightly slacking off.

Toward the end of the game Brentford decided to show they had plenty left in the tank. Reading were well beaten, but in such a way that the management can talk up how well they played for an hour after the game was already gone. Obviously, losing to Brentford is hardly embarrassing, and as long as we continue to win games against the rest we'll be okay.


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