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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

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

Reading 3-2 Brighton & Hove Albion

The final home game brings about the first win in eight matches. The 4-1-4-1 seen last week seems to have morphed into a 4-4-1-1, with Rowe given a freer role behind Harries and the Williams/James duo positioned alongside each other. The only real surprise was seeing Beth Roberts moved across to the left - presumably down to injuries given that Reading failed to name another LB on their short bench. Kristine Leine overlapping leads to the first goal, with plenty of bodies in the box to aim the cross for Things looked a lot rosier than recent weeks after two first-half goals saw Reading in control. The first, a slightly dubious penalty won by Emma Harries. A cross from Leine saw the youngster bundled over and, not for the first time in her career, Williams coolly sent the woman between the sticks the wrong way. The soon-to-be-retiree had played her part in the build-up, but instead of James or herself taking a ridiculous long shot, the team opened up the right hand side and reaped the b

Norwich City 4-1 Reading

The last team that you want to play when your season has all but ended, is a side that have the opportunity to clinch something. Least of all the best team in the league that can win the title. With Moore and Rino injured there were surprise starts for Lewis Gibson and Dejan Tetek. Up front we saw the rare quartet of Ovie, Swift, EFL Young Player of the Season Michael Olise, and Joao. Gibson and Tetek had differing games. The Everton loanee struggled at the back, gifting numerous opportunities to The Canaries. Within the first two-and-a-half minutes, he'd played a poor pass that was easily intercepted by Buendía but he did manage to cut out the Argentinian's pass. In fact, none of his mistakes cost The Royals on a day where he made more than a few. His centre back partner, on the other hand, had a relatively good match outside of two horrendous mistakes that were punished. Holmes passing was crucial in playing out from the back again but, alas, it was two passes back to Rafael

Reading 2-2 Swansea City

Reading consigned themselves to another series in the Championship after failing to beat a lacklustre Swansea team. Little pressure on the ball and packing the midfield may work for Reading's opponents sans-Swift, but he can pick passes with ease Swansea's lone striker meant that the home side's defence had plenty of time on the ball. Much was made of Moore's attempted long balls out from the back. I think that him taking responsibility for attempting to progress the ball is positive, even if he didn't get it right on this occasion. It must be said that he's normally got a better success rate. In fact, it was only one of two occasions this season where he's failed to make a single long ball. The other way to progress the ball is through the midfield, and with John Swift back in the side, that was a much more realistic option. Rino and Laurent often looked to make runs forward to open space for Swift deeper. His range of passing and vision is superior to anyo

Birmingham City 1-1 Reading

 Reading's season is effectively done, but there are some interesting stories still to delve into; mainly around the churn in the squad. Rachel Rowe and Brooke Chaplen have recently signed contract extensions, but there doesn't seem to be anyone to take the deeper role at present.  With Fishlock having left, Williams seems to be tasked more with dropping deeper and progressing the ball. She completed 1,500 yards of passes - which is almost twice as much as any previous match. Likewise, the 600 progressive yards bettered her previous best of 350. It did admittedly help that Reading dominated possession, but Reading had a similar level against Bristol City earlier in the season, and Williams didn't hit those same numbers. On the whole, they used the same 4-1-4-1 system as during the FA Cup. James was the deepest midfielder again, but with the aforementioned Williams also looking to pick up the ball deeper. James' positioning allowed the full backs to push forward, particu

Reading 2-3 (aet) Tottenham

Reading and Tottenham had played out two draws in the league, so it's no surprise that it took an extra half hour to find a winner. Without Fishlock, who returned to America after the West Ham match (not out of shame, it was always supposed to be that way), The Royals altered formation. James started alone between the lines in a 4-1-4-1 with Emma Harries up front. Bethan Roberts came in at right back to allow Harding to play further forward on that right-hand side. The youngsters had a fairly tough outing. Harries has a tendency to run toward the ball, rather than making more intelligent runs. It means she often ends up in other players' way and culminated with her running clearly  offside when she had the opportunity to effectively be played clean through. Before half-time, she also had the opportunity to beat the last player and pull across to Williams. The Tottenham player made a good block, but she shouldn't have been afforded the opportunity.  Roberts gets dragged insi

Reading 0-5 West Ham

 Reading won many plaudits after the game away at Manchester City, but realistically could have been on the end of a similar scoreline had it not been for some wayward finishing by The Sky Blues.  West Ham cut off options, Fishlock is forced to try a difficult pass out to Woodham on the left (out of shot) and turns the ball over The Royals have attempted to play out from goal kicks pretty much all year, and Moloney tapping to Fishlock has been used on many an occasion. It's worked before - the team scored against Bristol after a similar move - but it does come with risk associated. There didn't seem to be many options out from the box, and the midfielder's pass was cut out. The ball ended up at the feet of Kenza Dali, with Deanna Cooper standing off her rather than engaging. Still, The Hammers benefitted from a healthy slice of luck as her cross (as it patently was) ended up lobbing Moloney and sneaking in at the back post. Reading have seven players over, and two by the fr

Luton Town 0-0 Reading

Without trying to put too fine a point on things, Reading were abysmal. When emotions are involved, things can seem much worse than they are, but 'at this stage of the season' results are more important than performances, and to barely trouble Sluga is not good enough. Olise didn't look his normal self, nor did Meite. Puscas didn't really find his rhythm either. Pressing from the front almost rewarded the away side As with Cardiff, I think the lack of effort is overstated (mostly). The clearest example of this is Reading's press paying dividends a couple of times in the opening forty-five. In fact, one of The Royals' biggest chances came with Puscas and Ejaria working to dispossess the home side in their own box, but Ovie's poke toward his forward partner ended up being difficult to control and saw Puscas handle before shooting wide anyway. (I think the ref gave it as handball, but the data sites have included it; even if they've included it now, it woul

Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

The fact that this is a little late should tell you all you need to know about where my head is at with the the team right now. Rino stops a more dangerous pass into the middle of the pitch, instead Tom Holmes ends up passing long to Yiadom (which does almost come off, but is a much more difficult ball.) Reading have often struggled to play out from the back against more than one striker, and that's where Laurent and Rinomhota need to improve. Either, they need to be able to turn on the ball - which is admittedly tough with pressure - or remove themselves from the passing lanes. All that ever happens is that they bounce the ball back to one of the CBs. It's impossible for the defence to pass through the lines. Reading in the second half - higher starting position, wider forwards, a little more direct. Early in the second half, Reading just decided to bypass the midfield completely and instead go long into Joao. Unfortunately, his injury put paid to that tactic. It was especiall

Watford 2-0 Reading

 An expected defeat, but one that leaves The Royals in a precipitous position in the play-off race. Size of event = xG. Sarr's goals totalled 0.11xG according to infogol. When the other team has an asset worth £40m then it's unsurprising that they provide moments of real quality. Ismaila Sarr was involved in all of Watford's best moves, including the two goals. Reading's defence has been predicated on forcing shots from bad angles - and you could argue they did that even despite their mistakes, but they didn't account for the Watford winger's finishing. Gibson needs to take out the passing lane to Sarr as he goes across, and at least force the pass down the line. Ovie needed to track back, and Laurent failing to track Sarr is a serious failing. Goal one is a great example. The left side breaks down defensively - Ovie fails to track Zinckernagel down the right, which creates a knock-on effect with Gibson coming across (but in effect taking himself out of play by