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Reading 1-2 Norwich City

A loss against Norwich wasn't wholly unexpected, but to do it with two Reading mistakes is - like every week - immensely frustrating.

Reading's defensive shape at times looked like a 4-2-4-0

The decision to play Alfa Semedo as the side's false nine - according to Paunovic at least - was a strange one. Not that he really played as a false nine at all. In defence, he dropped in alongside Olise to pack the middle, but even then Reading were often too easy to play through. Had Reading dropped even further, and kept space between the lines to a minimum they could have completely suffocated Norwich, though that may be a bit Bowen. Going forward he played much the same role as Joao in leading the attack, but the play breaks down far too often at his feet.

And Norwich slowly learnt that they could expose Reading in wider areas too. The switch to Max Aarons, with the cut inside, had started to show signs of life toward the end of the first half. In the second it would be Reading's undoing. Cantwell's perfect ball allowing Aarons to come inside with his first touch, and attack the box with his second. As Moore flew in, he gave Aarons the opportunity to go down, and he took it. Whether or not he made contact is almost irrelevant. Gibson completely misjudged the initial ball, and Moore's challenge was wild.

Moore pushed out, but Gibson never got into the correct position. Had he been a touch deeper, or understood where Pukki was, he'd have stopped the chance

Norwich's best chances came down their right-hand side, culminating in that penalty. Twice crosses were turned goalwards by Teemu Pukki, and twice Rafael tipped the ball over. Arguably, Lewis Gibson could have done better with both. There's clearly a reason why Max Aarons is so highly valued, and he easily got around Gibson the first time before crossing. The next opportunity came when Stiepermann ran into space created by Aarons coming inside. Moore tracked the midfielder out to the wing, but Gibson never got his bearings and didn't cover off the cross as well as he could have done. It's hard to be too critical of Gibson on his second start of the season, out of his favoured position, and attempting to defend against the best right-back in the league.

Maybe the defensive shape would have worked better had they had an out ball. In many ways, Reading were their own worst enemy. Consistently losing possession in their own half. Rino will come under scrutiny for his poor pass setting up Buendia's opener, but he was hardly the only one at fault. In fact, in the move before the goal, Pukki tested Rafael after Laurent was robbed of possession. 

Reading win the ball from Hanley after a ball over the top from Morrison

Norwich's defenders never wanted the ball tight to the touchline facing toward their own goal. It should have been the perfect situation to deploy a similar tactic to that against QPR, playing the ball over the top or into the channels for Baldock to chase. It would have thankfully also bypassed the treachery of keeping hold of the ball deep when it wasn't prudent, but by the time they did try that the game was already done. Aarons advanced position, in particular, offered a lot of space down the left that was never really exploited.

Gibson needs to make the run into space wide, instead initially goes between Aluko and Ejaria

And Reading had a few problems down the left offensively, in part because they lacked a true left-back. I have no doubt Gibson will go on to be a pretty decent centre-back, but much like Holmes on the other side, it's taking him time to learn where he should be as a full-back. Too often, particularly in the second half, he was far too narrow in attack. His passing range is excellent but is slightly fruitless in a team that rarely looks to switch the play.

Even the equaliser was fortuitous. Holmes played the ball wide to Aluko and continued his run inside. As Aluko cut onto his stronger left foot, Holmes marker doubled up on Reading's right-winger, but his dangled foot only deflected the shot into the path of Ejaria. Whose effort also ricocheted, this time off Olise, and into the back of the net. Not exactly training ground, not exactly repeatable. I think you'd struggle to think of many other Reading chances - and their seven shots are slightly padded by the fact that three of them occurred in that goal.

While Baldock was an understandable sub after that things seemed a little more scattergun. Giving Esteves the RW could make sense, but he was quickly moved to RB - admittedly after setting up a decent Norwich chance giving the ball away in his initial position. McIntyre's introduction coincided with Laurent starting to get forward more, but Reading's shape by that point was a little all over the place.

Any points picked up vs Norwich and Brentford, with the number of injuries currently, was always going to be a bonus, but it also shows just how far this Reading side have to go to properly compete with the big boys.


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