News and Views
QPR Defeat - Post Match Talking Points
13 January 2017
By Alex Bower
Reading's impressive home run in the Championship came to an end on Thursday evening courtesy of a 1-0 defeat to QPR. Rangers were seventeenth in the league prior to kick-off but ex-Royal Jamie Mackie scored the only goal of the game to seal their third league win in a row.
Here are some of the talking points from the game:
Ilori Transfer An Increasing Necessity
Among the many concerns that arose from the defeat, the defence was probably the worst of the lot. The usually reliable combination of Ali Al-Habsi, Paul McShane and Liam Moore has been split up in recent games due to the injury sustained by McShane.
While he recovers, Stam has resorted to playing Joey van den Berg in the centre of defence. This is where a lot of the problems have surfaced, with the Dutchman's temperament and brash style of play getting him and the team in a fair amount of trouble (to say the least).
The recent return of Rob Dickie and the continuous inclusion of Jake Cooper on the bench shows that Reading do have natural options when it comes to the centre-back position. Dickie, however, has not had any real experience at Championship level and Cooper has fallen out of favour since Stam's arrival.
McShane's absence has demonstrated how important it is to have experience in the centre of defence and it is for this reason that the Tiago Ilori transfer needs to go through. Ilori is still young at 23, but he attracted the attention of Liverpool and has represented Portugal from U18 to U23 level.
While he has less experience at Premier League level than McShane and Moore, Ilori should offer a welcome option in defence. His arrival would also provide the option of returning to a seemingly successful formation of having three centre-backs and two full-backs. Most importantly, it would also prevent the likes of van den Berg from playing there.
Troubling Takeover Talk
The QPR defeat will have been a worry following the FA Cup exit against Manchester United, but one of the major concerns will be the talk surrounding the takeover. You need only cast your mind back a few years to remind yourself of the saga surrounding Anton Zingarevich but it is a period that many would like to forget. In September 2014, a Thai consortium purchased 100% of Reading FC from Sir John Madejski. Since then they have helped to finance a number of signings including the likes of John Swift and Liam Moore (to name only a couple) who have already become fan favourites.
With their speeches to the fans from the pitch, the Reading FC themed song that we sadly cannot forget, pitch-side pyros and trips to sit with fans during matches, the Thais at one time seemed to be fully immersed in Reading FC and its fan-base. Now it appears to have all been a facade with the Thais only concern being the redevelopment of land around the stadium.
Ahead of the January transfer window, the Thais are aiming to sell the stadium, the club and the training ground to Chinese brother and sister Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li. The duo famously tried to buy Hull earlier this year but failed the FA's fit and proper person test. Subsequently, with the plausibility of Reading achieving promotion at the end of this season, there is some concern surrounding this potential purchase.
In a season where Jaap Stam is performing above expectation, the last thing he or the team needs is unwarranted uncertainty and distraction regarding the ownership. Stam felt he had the full backing of the Thais when they came on board but it turns out that was not the case. The January transfer window is upon us and in an ideal world I am sure Stam will want to build upon his pre-existing squad in order to continue pushing for promotion.
The drama surrounding the ownership is not only potentially derailing any transfer plans but it is also risking Stam's future at the club. Stam has shown that he has the ability to succeed in a managerial capacity and is working wonders with a club that has under-performed in recent years. While I do not believe it is enough to force Stam out the door at the current time, it is an unwelcome distraction that needs to be quashed as soon as possible.
Toothless In Attack
Much has been said about Reading's possession based style of play and subsequently teams come to the Madejski Stadium with a willingness to sit back and defend deep. It is a tactic that fans will see time and time again this season, with the occasional opponent willing to press Reading slightly higher up the pitch.
The concern is that in some games, such as against QPR, Reading are unable to break down stubborn defences that sit deep. When opponents regain possession and push players forward, the Royals don't counter with speed either. Yann Kermorgant has managed to get a fair few goals this season which is impressive bearing in mind his sole striker status. Against QPR he had two particularly good headed opportunities but failed to get them on target.
With Reading struggling to get a goal, many will have looked to young Dominic Samuel to try something different up front. The issue is that with such limited space available to the Royals, the striker who relies on getting in behind defences would have struggled.
Stam also clearly has a number of different tactics up his sleeve and several formations in his canon. Against QPR he adopted a plan that saw Danny Williams take up the strange positioning at times as a right full-back. For whatever reason, players looked confused as to where they were supposed to be and did not know who they were meant to be marking.
The QPR game showed that if Reading go behind at home, they struggle to break down an increasingly defensive and compact style of play. Stam still does not really have a plan B and in games like this such a plan is important to perfect.
Crisis Of Confidence Following FA Cup Exit?
An FA Cup tie at Old Trafford is not something you experience every day as a professional footballer. There would have undoubtedly been nerves prior to the tie both amongst the players and Stam upon his return to his old club. Unfortunately the nerves showed and Reading gave their opponents too much respect.
Ultimately the score could have been greater than 4-0 but with a quality squad like Manchester United's at his disposal, Jose Mourinho was always the favourite to get the win. The concern for Reading fans will have been whether the team could immediately get that out of their system and re-focus on what had been a good spell in the Championship. The immediate instinct was yes, especially with QPR at home first up. In reality no one seemed up to their usual standards and they struggled to make an impact on Thursday evening. No professional likes to lose and could be suggested that their minds may still be on what happened at Old Trafford rather than back on the job at hand. That or there was simply fatigue amongst players who had been outplayed only a few days prior.
With over a week now to go until the next game, it is even more important to put in a good performance against Derby.
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