News and Views

Reading 1-2 Aston Villa: Talking Points

19 October 2016
By Alex Bower

Reading's unbeaten run at home this season came to an end as they were beaten 2-1 by Aston Villa. The result also meant that Villa fans did not have to wait any longer for an away win.

Here are some of the things that came out of Tuesday's game.

Lack Of Substitutions

The major talking point from this game was the lack of substitutes introduced by Jaap Stam. Much was said about the strength of Villa's squad and the options that were available to Steve Bruce before the game and that was shown by the substitutes he brought on. Bruce started the game with the likes of Jonathan Kodjia, Rudy Gestede, Leandro Bacuna and Albert Adomah. The manager then had Ross McCormack and Jordan Ayew available to him from the bench. These substitutes were made with less than fifteen minutes of the game to go, when the scores were level and with Villa increasingly pressing higher up the pitch.

It was obvious that Villa were looking to grab a winner and while Reading looked like they were struggling as the game came to a close, Stam made no changes. In the post-game interviews the manager has said that he did not feel that his side looked tired- A statement that many fans would disagree with. Even if they were not tired, the team on the pitch did not look like they were able to create sufficient chances to win the game. As a result, it would seem that despite all Stam says about looking to win games he was happy to draw this one.

The worst part of the whole situation was when Reading went behind. With only a couple of minutes of the game remaining he thought that their best chance of grabbing a goal was by bringing on the defensive Danzell Gravenberch and throwing him on up front. It was a pointless substitution and one that came far too late. It is a concerning situation for the likes of Dominic Samuel who is clearly missing something in the manager's eyes.

Opponents Have Cottoned On

Pretty much every football fan will now know about the appointment of Jaap Stam and the introduction of Dutch style football at Reading. The Royals play a specific way every game and in the early stages of the season it seems to have worked.

The issue is that the managers and coaching staff of opposition clubs have cottoned on and are playing the same way when they come to the Madejski. The Reading plan is to pass the ball around the back in order to coax the opposition out of their own half and create some space. As Villa showed, however, they are happy to sit back and defend deep until they are able to counter.

Even when Reading concede, the plan never really changes and as a result they are becoming somewhat predictable. The Royals are not helped by the lack of quality when it comes to deliveries into the box and the generally slow tempo of their buildup play.

While it is frustrating to watch oppositions sit back for large spells of the game, it is effective and Reading need to work out a way to break them down.

The Stress Of Passing Around The Back

One major part of the current Reading tactic is passing the ball back and forth around the back five. You know it is going to happen countless numbers of times throughout the game and it is not the most entertaining thing to watch.

Now, during the first half it was somewhat bearable when Villa were not overly keen on pushing up anywhere near the Reading defence. The second half, however, was when it got stressful. Early in the half Ali Al-Habsi almost handed Leandro Bacuna a golden opportunity to score when his short pass to George Evans very nearly did not make it. Watching Villa players chasing down the ball as it was played amongst the Reading defence with the fear that Al-Habsi would try another of his Cruyff turns and mess it up was not an enjoyable experience.

The concerning thing about the whole concept of passing around the back is that the Reading defence did not seem to be overly comfortable doing it either. When the pressure on them was increasing in the second half, players such as Al-Habsi and Liam Moore were shouting at each other when it went wrong. It is not an exciting tactic to watch on a good day but it is downright stressful on a bad one.

Competition At Full-Back

When you have options in a squad for a single position there is always going to be discussion amongst fans as to who they feel the best person to play there is. The best examples of this in the Reading squad at the moment just happen to be in both full-back positions.

Tyler Blackett and Chris Gunter were favoured at left-back and right-back against Villa and one glance at Twitter would suggest that fans were not happy about it. Gunter in particular came in for plenty of stick due to poor quality crossing, defensive positioning and his inability to block crosses.

Personally I feel that while Blackett did show signs of improvement in the second half, Jordan Obita is by far the better option at left-back. As for Gunter, while he is the scapegoat for what was largely a disappointing performance by the team, I would also like to see Tennai Watson play more often. Gunter has the experience, but Watson already looks like he can handle life in the Championship from what we have seen during his brief appearances in the first team.

Classy Memorial For Jamie Golding

While the result was not one to remember for the home fans, the touching round of applause for Jamie Golding during the game was a highlight. The Reading season ticket holder passed away earlier this month from bowel cancer at just 28 and fans wanted to commemorate him at the game. As a result, in the 28th minute of the game fans from all sides of the ground stood to applaud him as his picture came up on the big screen.

It was a classy moment, particularly from the Villa fans, and a reminder of how football can bring people together.

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