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Barnsley 1-1 Reading

 A fairly low quality game, where Laurent's late goal saved Reading's season as much as a point.

The one tweak to the shape Ince seems to have made is to push the wingers higher and wider. Reading, however, don't switch play quickly enough to take advantage, and when they do get the ball out wide there are no good crossers of the ball. Tom Ince and Ovie both have to check onto their strong foot, while Yiadom and McIntyre aren't particularly good at putting balls into the box full stop. That can be seen by the fact that they combined for one (or two, depending on who you trust) successful crosses all match, both relatively lucky passes by Ovie somehow finding players around the penalty spot. All exacerbated by the fact that Lucas Joao and John Swift aren't prolific from these situations either.

It's also difficult for Reading to fully utilise the width that they set up to exploit. Holmes, Drinkwater, and Swift have the ability to switch play, but often the side were too slow to move the ball across the pitch. Reading's five most common pass combinations were all among the back five and DD. Ten percent of Reading's passes were between the trio of Nyland, Morro, and Holmes. For the talk of a more direct style, it's not necessarily shown on pitch yet.

And it isn't just the passing that's causing issues, but the movement from those in the middle. On multiple occasions Reading moved the ball around the back from left to right, but only the four 'right sided' players - Morro, Yids, Drinkwater, Ince - were involved in play. That let Barnsley outnumber the away team and win the ball back with relative ease, particularly because Morrison isn't comfortable on the ball and isn't always a legitimate option.

Ince gives the ball away down the line, but Reading are already in a good shape defensively

Some of the movement issues seem to be about keeping the shape for when the team lose the ball and it effectively means that Swift and Joao, as the two players truly in the middle of the park, have to do a lot of work moving side to side. Currently they can be caught on the wrong side of the field when play moves across. One of the solutions is just to play more vertically - something that Holmes and Morrison did attempt toward the end of the first half. Morrison even set up a chance for Swift playing over the top.

Substitutions were again left late and, again, pushed us toward a 4-4-2. There seems to have been some lessons learnt from previous attempts, with Swift pushed out to left wing and TDB - who does have the ability to cover more ground - in the double pivot. Thank goodness we got a goal quickly and Morrison was able to drop back into central defence properly.

Laurent moving further forward also made it much harder for Barnsley to play out from the back. A one man pressing machine in the last ten minutes. We've so often seen those long runs chasing down defenders but leaving a giant hole in central midfield. Solution: just don't put him at CM. Genius. Doubt it'll be the last time we see it.

Ball Recoveries

Danny Drinkwater 22
Tom Holmes 21
Liam Kitching 20
Mads Andersen 19
Josh Laurent 19

Successful Tackles

Danny Drinkwater 9
Callum Brittain 5
Josh Laurent 5
Callum Styles 4
Remy Vita 4

And it must be said that Danny Drinkwater was impressive throughout. His tenacity was crucial in keeping the ball in the attacking third late on - making more tackles and recovering possession more often than any other player. His passing, while still largely conservative, was improved from some of his displays this season. His one successful crossfield pass created a gilt edged opportunity for Tom Ince from Ovie's subsequent cross. The type of ball that Reading fans have been dying to see from a man who came with such a reputation.

There is a rather large caveat to the result - it's against Barnsley. In terms of points won this season they're second worst in the league, eleven points off the next nearest side (Reading). There are still questions over Ince, but that may be a moot point if he keeps us up and departs.


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