Skip to main content

Cardiff 1-1 Reading

I'm bored of playing Cardiff. I'm bored of drawing games. And I'm slightly bored of our defensive shape.

Bowen returned to the 5-3-2 (5-1-2-2) that Gomes pioneered earlier in the season. In Bowen's first few games he tweaked the system so Swift and the wingbacks sat deeper, while Ejaria was the main attacking outlet. On Friday night we had reverted to how Gomes set the team up. Ejaria and Swift in front of Pelé, and the wing-backs pushing higher when in possession to create a 3-1-4-2.

Reading's low block. Men behind the ball, Pelé ensures teams can't play through the lines, which forces teams to cross from deep.

There always seemed to be a huge gap between Baldock and Meite up top and the rest of the team. When Pelé won the ball he often would look for the ball in behind for Baldock to run on to. Which rarely worked, and meant that the ball often came straight back. The low block has caused us to be far better defensively. Under Gomes, we conceded 17 goals in 11 games (2 clean sheets), that's down to 17 goals in 19 games (6 clean sheets). The issue is that when we turn it over, we really have no option to go forward. Or at least the option of playing forward quickly is the wrong one, as we have two forwards who are making runs away from the (potential) supporting players, and are unlikely to be able to hold the ball up.

From a Cardiff Throw, but in a passage of play where they never have more than four men in the box. Pelé looks for a quick counter-attack, but Cardiff cut the pass out, recycle the ball under no pressure, and win a free-kick. The ball in behind is clearly a tactic we looked to utilise. (Which at least suits Baldock more)

It worked when Joao was up top because he was never really trying to run in behind, he held the ball up well and was able to link the midfield. Without that, I really think the low block is doomed. And you can see that by the fact that we've not scored more than once in a game since our big target man picked up an injury. I'd like to see us try one or two things.

  1. Play out from the back. I know that that's five words that strike fear into the heart of many a Reading fan. At the very least we should be using the midfield more in transition. I think there are a few reasons why. Our team, other than Morrison, and Gunter, are very good on the ball. They should be technically good enough to do it. Whether they have the composure remains to be seen, but even in the dark days of Gomes' playing out we actually rarely conceded from it. It also means that the striker's main job becomes putting away chances. Something that all our strikers - bar one notable exception - are quite good at.
  2. Press higher up the pitch. It means that when we win the ball back our players are naturally in more threatening positions, and the strikers aren't as isolated. We may concede more goals, but if our defensive prowess is at the complete expense of any attacking output then we have problems.
Reading's goal actually came from getting the midfield on the ball. Meite did well initially; Gunter's block inside his own 18-yard-area spewing up to the forward, and his persistence eventually came away with the ball. Ejaria's through ball from inside the centre circle was well-weighted for Baldock, who held the ball up and found an onrushing Swift - on a very similar run to Blackett on the undercut. The midfielder crossed to the edge of the six-yard box where Meite was waiting to head home.

Moore offers an option after Reading drag the Cardiff defence left

The main issue with having Ejaria and Swift in the middle of the park is the fact that both are so easily attracted to the ball. To be fair, Ejaria seems to prefer to stay left, but Swift drifts all over the place. In previous games, we haven't really utilised the space that overloading the left creates (if you want to put a positive spin on it), whereas with five at the back we seem to have decided that one of the CBs can actually step into the attack more freely. On a couple of occasions when the ball was on the left Moore, as the right-sided centre back, offered himself for the pass, and would run with the ball if given the opportunity.

Moore also offered an underlap when there was a clear opportunity to do so

If there's one strike duo that should be permanently shelved it's Meite and Puscas. Both want to play the exact same role, to the extent that they get in each others' way. And considering the form that Meite has shown over the last few games (even if that's solely against Cardiff) it will be hard to justify playing Puscas, especially given his own form.

Hull have just sold arguably their two best attacking talents, in Kamil Grosicki and Jarrod Bowen, and come into the game on a run of five consecutive defeats. They haven't scored more than once in a game this decade, and we're unlikely to need 3 CBs against their 4-2-3-1, so I wouldn't be surprised to see another change in formation. The season is petering out, but it's crucial to try to figure out what our best formation is, and where we need to strengthen over summer so we can hit the ground running for 2020/21.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Reading FC Season Review | 2020/2021

When your season starts with your manager having to watch your opening match from the hotel because he's not been hired in time to beat the quarantine, anything above getting relegated should probably be classed as a success. And Reading exceeded surely even the most optimistic of pre-season predictions. Veljko Paunovic Veljko Paunovic almost exclusively utilised a core group of players in a 4-2-3-1, only changing things when enforced. One of the consequences of that is that Reading had more players play over 3,000 minutes than any other side (roughly three-quarters of the season). That consistency is often seen as a good thing, but in a condensed season, it surely contributed to the injury woes. It can't have helped that the manager also used the second-fewest number of players over the course of the season. His substitutions were often categorised as late (Reading's subs played just 16 minutes on average, only Norwich's played fewer) or non-existent (Reading were 19t

The Big Man Cometh

In the grand scheme of things, I consider myself a bit of an Andy Carroll sceptic. Reading have a penchant for signing players that spend the majority of their time in the physio room, and Carroll aligns with that transfer policy to a tee. It must be said that given the lack of other options, and a short term deal that has no real risk for the club, there isn't any big downside in gambling on the Geordie. With that being said, even I was calling out for the introduction for The Big Man at half-time on Saturday. Reading had a heap of possession just outside the box in the opening forty-five but couldn't translate that into chances. Drinkwater had a tame shot saved after good work from Yiadom, but the best chance of the half fell to Puscas after a fortuitous deflection off a Forest player. The flag went up for offside but it didn't matter as the striker couldn't convert anyway. Both managers had done a fairly good job at negating the other side's strengths. Forest'

Reading 2-2 Huddersfield Town

It is frankly unbelievable that Reading managed to lose a match where they were so in control. Huddersfield didn't have a shot for the best part of forty-five minutes, and it's no real surprise that they only came back into the game after Paunovic's substitutions. It's likely that they're still managing Swift's minutes, there's no point injuring him in a game like this, and Olise was clearly struggling but to replace them with Tetek and Moore shows a depressingly defensive outlook. Sone or Camara was right there, Veljko. Reading's midfield quartet ended up too deep, and too narrow. It moved Reading to a 5-4-1, but with a quartet solely made up of central players who were clearly not completely comfortable in the role they were being asked to perform. Huddersfield had far too much time and space inside the Reading half, with all four midfielders largely looking to camp out in front of the defence. Rinomhota hands across the Huddersfield player, but that l