I Think We Are Going Down This Year - Reading Pre-Season Report
Tuesday, 31st Jul 2018 12:30 by HarryFromBath
In the 18th of a series of pre-season reports, HarryFromBath assesses the mood around the Championship clubs by delving into their forums, looking here at how things have progressed at the Madejski Stadium this summer. All of the teams in the division will be covered between now and the start of the season.
“The last game of pre-season, the supposed showpiece. Time to show what’s been done and to see new shoots of hope. Instead it was pathetic and inexcusable, the same terribly depressing rubbish we got last season. Eight goals shipped and none scored in the last two games at the Madejski.”
“To top it all Liam Moore, our only really saleable asset will be gone next week”, “We were atrocious in the second half of last season. We made some modest signings but we are about to lose our best player. Put this on the back of six winless friendlies and it is not surprising people are pessimistic.”
“Fans are right to be concerned.” Forums can often be theatres of melodrama where contributors exaggerate a club’s problems but there is none of this to be found right now among Royals. Instead there is a sifting of hard evidence all pointing to a looming campaign which most will want to forget.
Royals hoped a corner was turned after survival was achieved on the final day of the season courtesy of a 0-0 draw at Cardiff, but a transfer window which has failed to overhaul their squad and a winless pre-season which culminated in Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to Crystal Palace has rocked their confidence.
“We're lacking today what we were lacking at the end, and indeed the beginning, of last season. We have no creativity in the middle, our frontline can't be relied upon to finish what few chances we do create, and a week before our first game our figurehead centre-back has put in a transfer request.”
“Folks are looking at our form over last 10 games of last season, where we have finished in three of the last four seasons, our current injuries, our poor transfer window, our best player about to leave, a poor pre-season and the shocking display at the last home game of last season against Ipswich.”
“The optimist in me was hoping Clement would have a summer to sort out his team and tactics and move from the dirge survival mode football to something where he could impose his playing style and build something more entertaining. From that perspective the pre-season has been a disaster.”
The 46-year-old former Derby and Swansea manager replaced Jaap Stam at the Madejski in March. Royals have seen little progress after his first summer in charge. “I'm judging Clement on all of his games. This team has got absolutely nothing, no goals, no defence, no spirit and no character.”
“This summer had to be about him working out what he had and what he needed, to consolidate us to a team that can comfortably stay in the division and then to build us into a force to challenge for mid-table or promotion places. On the evidence of what I have seen so far, I would give him 3/10.”
“We already look dejected and beaten before the season starts. If he has tried any new formations or tactics they haven't worked. We look as bad if not worse than we did at the end of last season”, “We were a desperately poor last season under him and we come into this season even weaker.”
Six players have arrived at the Madejski this summer at the time of writing. Veteran defender John O’Shea, 37, has signed from Sunderland and 29-year-old midfielder David Meyler from Hull. Full-back Andy Yiadom, 26 (from Barnsley), and 25-year-old keeper Sam Walker (from Colchester) have also joined.
Defender Darren Sidoel, 20, has been brought in from Ajax’s U21s, while two strikers have also been acquired, 25-year-old Marc McNulty from Coventry and most recently Sam Baldock, the 29-year-old’s addition from Brighton having been confirmed by the club last night.
The Royals agreed to terminate the contract of veteran striker Yann Kermorgant by mutual consent and keeper Jonathan Bond, who was on loan last season at Peterborough, has moved to West Brom. The club have also allowed midfielder Joey van den Berg to join NEC Nijmegen on a season-long loan.
Several foreign players have moved to the continent. Striker Joseph Mendes has joined Ajaccio while midfielder Sandro Wieser is now with FC Vaduz. Two other fringe players to depart abroad on loan are striker Dennis Rakels (to FC Riga) and defender Danzell Gravenberch (to Fortuna Sittard).
Two younger players also being loaned to lower-league clubs are Tennai Watson (to AFC Wimbledon) and keeper Lewis Ward (to Northampton).
“George Evans was an important part of our successful 2016/17 season. He is probably one of our better midfielders even if he isn't exceptional.” Royals have been unnerved by recent reports linking Evans with Derby, but the loss of 25-year-old defender Liam Moore is of greatest concern.
Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa) v George Evans
“Moore has handed in a transfer request, probably due to a lack of ambition this summer. You can't really blame him. He clearly knows what's going happen this season. It will be interesting to know what's driven him to this point though as he always gave a lot even when things were going wrong.”
From Bad to Worse in Pre-Season
Reading’s pre-season got off to a poor start with defeats at Eastleigh (1-2) and AFC Wimbledon (2-4). Successive draws against Fulham (0-0), Besiktas (2-2) and Rubin Kazan (0-0) preceded Saturday’s poor 4-0 defeat at home to Palace. “I left the ground feeling the same way I did last season.”
The starting XI against the Eagles (above) contained seven of the side that were beaten by Town in the final game of last season. Some of the same problems were highlighted, including their lightweight midfield, their insipid defending and winger Sone Aluko’s habit of failing to support his full-back.
“Are we having a meltdown over a friendly now?”, “I'm happy with about 60 per cent of the line-up which pretty much reflects where we are, 60 per cent of a good team”, “We continued to play Kelly and Swift together in central midfield. It didn’t work last season. They are powder puff together”, “
“I’ve really had enough of Aluko constantly being out of position. Palace realised they could just overload the right-back position and we were screwed from that point onwards. He does just stand and watch. The first goal was awful he could clearly see they were 2-v-1 but he sauntered slowly back.”
Fearing the Worst
“Maybe I am being harsh but I am very pessimistic about the new season. Something drastic needs to be done between now and the close of the window. We should have signed more players by now so they could have had more time to integrate into the squad. It feels like depressing times ahead.”
“This is all because we are starting at such a low starting point on the back of the second half of last season. I wasn’t too worried about the friendlies but today was when our likely starting XI for first game against Derby was named. I have seen the goals and by God do we look slow and laboured.”
“I have really got that sinking feeling with Reading now”, “After the Palace shambles and losing our best player in Moore, this is a crucial week behind the scenes”, “It's laughable to not be slightly concerned by our situation. It looks like impending doom to me but I’m happy to be proven wrong.”
The busiest Royals’ forum is the polite Hob Nob Anyone?.
Photo: Action Images
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