Reading Preview vs West Brom (A)

Well, well, well, we’re back to square minus one. Reading produced a truly unfathomable performance against QPR on Tuesday night, which really amps up the pressure on Paul Clement.

Looking ahead to West Brom on Saturday afternoon at the Hawthorns, a unique solution arises. In truth, whilst Clement and many players are under intense scrutiny, the pressure for points will be off. It will also mean another game that suits Reading’s squad at the minute.

Reading’s players have proved very much inadequate at controlling games under Clement. It’s a squad completely devoid of confidence, composure, and grit. Particularly in the midfield area, there’s no one capable of taking the bull by the horns, and dictating tempo.

The strong showings in the previous two games seemed a million miles away. And that’s what made Tuesday night’s showing all the more infuriating. Yakou Meite came closest, hitting the post and narrowly heading a cross from the right wide of the post. But in truth, at no point did Reading look like winning the game. Once QPR had scored their goal, a defensive Rocky Horror Show, they were only too happy to sit all 11 behind the ball, and soak up the tame, sporadic ventures towards Joe Lumley’s goal.

I was very much expecting the Reading squad to be much more confident than most of this season, but in reality I witnessed a lethargic, tempo-less, almost complacent performance. It wasn’t until very late in the game, much too late until Reading upped the intensity, and played more direct.

Much has been said about the 11 that started the game, with Clement himself admitting he got it wrong. As usual, Sone Aluko and Chris Gunter’s inclusion weren’t popular, though Gunter proved to be one of the more positive performers. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s late withdrawal from the starting eleven proved unsettling, with Yakou Meite competing well in aerial duels, but largely ineffective at holding the ball up and bringing others into the game.

But the biggest issue was the midfield three. Liam Kelly was a surprise and unwelcome inclusion from the start, given John Swift’s upturn in form, but he was one of the worst performers, poor in possession, and positional play more than questionable. Saeid Ezatolahi didn’t perform to the standards that he set himself in his first two appearances, and Leandro Bacuna had very little impact either with or without the ball. Out wide, Aluko and Barrow provided very little. Sims, Swift and McNulty were also very ineffectual after coming on as subs.

Clement said in his post-match interview with BBC Radio Berkshire that changes are likely at the Hawthorns. It’s not obvious at the point of writing whether any injured players will return to the squad. It’s unclear how long Bodvarsson will be out for, though if fit he’s a shoe in to start.

Whilst the pressure for a result is off, the bare minimum from Saturday’s game is a positive performance – one to be proud of. With last night’s performance, injuries and Clement’s comments in mind, here is my predicted line-up for Saturday’s fixture.

GK: Sam Walker

RB: Andy Yiadom

CB: Liam Moore ©

CB: Tiago Ilori

LB: Tyler Blackett

RM: Josh Sims

CM: John Swift

CM: Leandro Bacuna

CM: Andy Rinomhota

LM: Mo Barrow

ST: Yakou Meite

I’m afraid that I can’t see anything but a defeat, but some sort of resilience, so I’ll go for 2-1 defeat.

Picture Credit: Reading FC

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