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Showing posts from January, 2021

Alfa Semedo (and what his use says about Veljko Paunovic)

Alfa Semedo joined Reading as a defensive midfielder. Since arriving on loan he's played roughly 50% of minutes in the league, and yet has barely featured in his favoured position. Instead, he's been played predominantly behind the striker but also has featured off the right, or even up front. Firstly, it's important to understand Semedo's role in the team before we get to Paunovic's reasoning. First and foremost, he's a target in midfield. That gives more options when wanting to play long. It's particularly helpful when Reading look to stretch play vertically from goal kicks. The general pattern is that Semedo wins the header in midfield, and flicks on to Joao to hold up. Voila, Reading are now in possession in the opposition third. Easy as that. When Baldock plays... let's just ignore when Baldock plays. That height is useful in crossing situations too. We've seen on more than one occasion his late runs into the box can create good chances, but he&

Preston North End 0-0 Reading

A match that seemed destined for 0-0 early on ended up being so, but the penalty miss stings. Joao's spot kick missing the target was obviously the crucial moment, and there's no real excuse. He's now missed his last two, but it was the change in penalties that was most interesting. He's gone back to how he scored his first two penalties of the year, looking to hit the left side netting. Gone is the stutter-step he trialled against Nottingham and Birmingham, and, while he does keep his eye on the keeper initially, it's much more about hitting his own target than attempting to outwit the man between the sticks. Clearly, the Birmingham miss hurt, but it just needs the next one to go in to get him back on track.  Anyway, away from the sad bit - Preston were direct, and with Riis up front it's no surprise. Even if The Lilywhites didn't retain possession, they often had bodies forward to attempt to win the second ball or pressure the Reading defence. Laurent larg

Reading 3-0 Coventry

A break of 17 days was no issue for a Reading side that cruised past Coventry to get  revenge month off to a good start. Reading did, however, have to ride a rocky opening fifteen minutes, with Tom Holmes having a particularly tough time. Initially, the makeshift right-back played a poor pass across the 18-yard box that was easily intercepted by Callum O'Hare. Thankfully Rafael got down well to the attacker's first-time shot, and Tom McIntyre got a foot in to clear. Ostigard gets across the front of Holmes, but Morrison (circled) has also pushed too high. Had he held a more legitimate line he may have been in the perfect position to head clear. Then Holmes failed to track Leo Ostigard's run as the defender put a header just wide from a corner. Coventry took the set-piece short, and Reading's defence didn't properly organise as they stepped up. Morrison probably tried to push them a step too high, and Ostigard got between Morrison and Holmes with a good run. Just lik

Reading 1-1 Arsenal

Reading gave a much better performance, even if they relied on Arsenal not converting as they tired in defence. Arsenal's CB has nowhere to go, and they end up penned in the corner where Reading force a poor pass. The main improvement was the quality of the press. Reading changed their entire left-hand side. Mitchell shifted across to her usual left back role, Rachel Rowe replaced Fara Williams, and Bruton came in up front. The pairing of Rowe and Bruton were a handful for large parts of the afternoon. Rowe makes 19.2 pressures per game, whereas Williams only registers 12.5 (only kept off bottom by the centre-backs), though they are relatively similar in successful pressures.  The home side's defensive shape largely started as man-to-man marking, which makes it easy to initiate the press regardless of where the ball goes. This is further aided by Eikeland and Rowe applying back pressure and dispossessing Arsenal players in midfield before they've had a chance to scan. A sim

Luton Town 1-0 Reading

 Another cup game against Luton, another 1-0 loss via a cross to the back post. I should start out by correcting a wrong. On the EPR podcast, I said that Semedo played badly. I think that was probably just my confirmation bias coming through. While he may not have been outstanding, he did his job well enough. I am sorry, Alfa. All of Luton's outfield players are in this photo, Luton have Bree over on the right. That's the benefit of having an extra man in midfield. The goal itself came about as a consequence both of mistakes on the field, and a mismatch in the systems. Luton's 4-4-2 diamond meant that when the full-backs pushed up during possession, Reading were outnumbered in midfield 6-5, meaning there was always a man over. That man tended to be Bree hugging the touchline. When the ball goes wide Reading's full-backs are supposed to be able to pack the box, with the winger pressuring the player on the ball, but Onen was frequently too narrow. The youngster could have

Reading 0-5 Chelsea

The curse of the former player is not usually so potent. Fran Kirby caused Reading problems all afternoon as she notched four goals, in a match that proved Reading are falling behind the clubs in the top four. Kirby's off the ball runs were almost never tracked, with the former Royal able to run in behind at will. No matter what part of the defence she looked to exploit, she found almost no resistance. Reading only managed to disrupt her flow on a couple of occasions when Jess Fishlock tracked back from midfield and actually managed to put a tackle in. Carter loses a header, with nobody to cover. Kirby runs in behind and scores, but Mitchell should get back quicker. For her first two goals, the opposite side centre-back didn't seem interested in trying to stop her run after beating their partner. First off, Cooper missed a header in the middle of the pitch and left Kirby bearing down on Moloney. Mitchell didn't seem to break a sweat until she realised there may be a chance

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

Brighton 1-3 Reading

Reading scored more than once for the first time since September to end a run of six winless games away at Brighton. Reading's press forced the turnover for Fishlock to capitalise on The difference-maker was evidently Jess Fishlock, who was involved in all three goals. At times in possession, Angharad James seemed to play as the lone anchor, meaning Fishlock could push forward. Both her goals were slightly fortuitous but brought about by Reading's press. Brighton's Felicity Gibbons played an errant pass under pressure into the middle of the park, straight to Fishlock. Rebekah Stott slipped as she went to close down the midfielder, giving Fishlock the time to pick her spot from 18 yards. Next, it was the turn of the right-back, Maya Le Tissier (I checked, no relation), to be robbed of possession. Maybe there's something up with the pitch in Crawley because Le Tissier also slipped, allowing Lily Woodham to attack the box. Victoria Williams got her head on the cross, but c

Huddersfield 1-2 Reading

Reading took seven points from nine as they continue to sidestep potential banana skins. Laurent tries to steal the ball in midfield. He fails and leaves a hole for Bacuna to drive into, which itself opens space for Mbenza on the right. Before the game had even settled the home side had put themselves 1-0 up. Josh Laurent tried to nick the ball in midfield but failed. Ejaria chased back to try to fill the space, Rinomhota came across, and Richards narrowed for the same reason. Normally Ovie would have tracked the run wide, but it's an unusual way for Laurent to be caught out and he went toward the immediate danger. All that meant Bacuna could shift the ball to Mbenza on the wing, who had plenty of time to put in the cross. Holmes has shown himself to be good in the air, as shown by a header at the end of the half that the goalkeeper somehow saved, but has been caught underneath the ball on occasion. Campbell got the jump on him this time and headed the ball home. Tactically Reading