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Reading's Number 9 47

When you look at George Puscas, there is no doubt that Reading overspent when it came to bringing the Romanian striker to RG2. Particularly when you look at the type of striker that suits the system that successive managers have tried to build, but it's not something that should be held against the player himself. The lack of any addition in his area over the summer means we've ended up in a position where The Rifleman is our only fit senior centre forward. The question is, how do you get the best out of him? 

Reading are a team that love to play the ball to feet. Puscas, however, clearly doesn't excel in that area. He's not as technically proficient as most of the squad, and that leads to him getting crowded out in tight spaces. Teams that double up on him will largely negate his influence deeper and in that sense, he almost couldn't be further from Lucas Joao. To make matters worse he's often too passive when waiting for the ball to come to him, especially when trying to hold off a defender, and his first touch is poor.

Bristow never spots the run which would have seen him clean through

But his continuous runs in behind open up a new avenue for The Royals. They won't have a player looking to stretch play vertically from the right for the foreseeable future with Meite and Azeez on the sidelines, instead, it'll be from central. First and foremost Reading need to be ready to play the ball for him. On more than one occasion there's been a delay in passing that has lost promising positions. One of the traits that may still hold him back is his lack of pace, against Coventry he managed to get himself between the centre backs but couldn't run away from them. His willingness to continue making runs though, even when not being found, is admirable.

Puscas run opens space between the lines but nobody takes advantage

Those runs also open space between the lines in a way that a more static Joao doesn't. Meite breaking from the right can go beyond the defence, whereas runs from a centre forward push the centre backs deeper. Currently, the team isn't really set up to capitalise on that, but add Ovie or Halilovic into the mix and their tendency to drift central could exploit those pockets. Or Swift staying higher could achieve the same result but would remove what has been, up until now, necessary ball progression from deep. Hypothetically, there are members of the incoming transfer class that may be able to take some of the strain in that department.

More attacking threats would also help Puscas isolate individual defenders, a position where he's much more likely to hurt opposition defences. So far this season there haven't been many such opportunities, but he won a foul against the touchline late on at Coventry and had the hockey assist on one of McIntyre's shots from a similar, albeit more advanced, position. That may sound like grasping at straws, and admittedly his dribbling figures aren't anything to write home about, but I think there's more to come.

The run is behind the Coventry defender, who clears easily. He was also caught by surprise by the quick cross.

Ultimately the Romanian will be judged on output. Up to now it's hard to fully lay the blame for lack of goals at his door; no service tends to mean no opportunities (unless your name happens to be Lucas Joao). One of the areas under his control is his movement when the ball is wide. Puscas' default run seems to be toward the middle of the goal, instead, he needs to start looking to go toward the near post in front of the goalkeeper. It's exactly the run he made for his second goal in that Cardiff match. We're not a side blessed with excellent crossers of the ball, so take the opposition out of it by being the first one able to make contact.

His physicality should be a real asset, and we're starting to see that more and more. Against Swansea, in what was his first real match of the season, he was bullied far too easily. The fact he was playing with academy kids and lacked any real support clearly didn't help but there was also times where he should have held up the ball better. In recent matches, he's started to find a little bit of fight, even if that occasionally leads to free-kicks going against him. I think ultimately that's going to be a side effect of a fully firing player.

He tries to step around the defender coming back, and then gets squeezed out

What would also be nice, and will hopefully come with some confidence, is getting a shot off a bit quicker. A couple of opportunities at whateverTheRicohisnowcalled were either on his wrong foot or just didn't come down for him, but an in form striker might have just found a way. Even in that game, an ambitious Coventry shot from a similar position ended up striking the post.

Large parts of the fanbase have already made their mind up, and this will surely be his last chance with the rest. Puski clearly still needs to improve, but there are signs of that happening game-on-game currently. A run of games should benefit him, but just as important is that Reading as a team need to get used to a completely different striker to Joao. Hopefully with a clear plan for the next few months until the Portuguese is fit, that can play out. 

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