Ipswich Next. We Have to Win That, It’s an Absolute Must - Notes for Reading
Friday, 9th Nov 2018 11:00 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at the Madejski Stadium by delving into their forums.
“This feels like a winter that never ends”, “We’re in poor form. We have yet to win two consecutive games this season so it’s only natural that our wins don’t look convincing. We will start to look more confident if we now can start to string a few results together, starting with Ipswich on Saturday.”
“We really are a shambles.” Reading head into Saturday’s game just two places and five points above Town, with fans accepting that they are firmly in a relegation battle this year. They have mixed poor defeats with some edgy wins, including last Saturday’s nervous 3-2 triumph at home to Bristol City.
“We won the relegation battle last year, but we are in real danger of going down”, “We are in a relegation fight. There’s no point in pretending otherwise”, “We are approaching the point where every game is a cup final as teams pick up points around us. On current form we won’t survive.”
“I hate to say it but I don’t believe in this team or the club’s ability to change it”, “One big concern is that a lot of us have stopped caring. Fair play to those that travel away, but home crowds are falling all the time. Some folks are sensibly making the decision to stop coming. Who can blame them?”
“The Ipswich game is absolutely huge. It could make or break Clement”, “If we don’t beat Ipswich, he deserves to be sacked on the spot”, “You can usually rely on a manager not getting sacked until at least a month after fans actively call for him to go. I don’t think Clement has reached this point yet.”
“His signings have been abysmal. He’s a coach, not a manager and anyone with a pair of eyes can see it”, The 46-year-old former Swansea and Derby manager replaced Jaap Stam last March. The “coach, not a manager” point has been a repeated criticism. “It’s obvious the team is not playing for him.”
“It seems as if we have got to the point where Clement has run out of ideas”, “He doesn’t motivate, he’s tactically inept and at times seems a beaten man”, “The most baffling thing is that he doesn’t learn anything from one match to another”, “I can’t see where any improvement will come from.”
“The problems at this club run far deeper than the manager.” Some want him to have some more time. “We are not looking for a manager. He has not long started the job so give him a chance”, “He needs time, patience and support. Be realistic, changing managers so often is a recipe for disaster.”
A Lack of Confidence and Quality
“It’s so frustrating. Where is the urgency when we fall behind in games?”, “It’s the battling qualities that we are missing in most games. That is down to players being too soft and the manager failing to get them to fight”, “They often work hard for 45 minutes but then don’t turn up for the second half.”
“To be fair, we’re not fighting”, “As soon as a Reading player had the ball, there were two Swansea players on him straight away, giving him no time to settle. When the roles were reversed Reading players would run over only to back away, allowing the Swansea players time to pick their pass.”
“Our recruitment has been awful in the last few seasons”, “This team is unbalanced and the signings haven’t fixed it”, “The transfer policy has been poor for years. We are reaping what we have sown. You can’t keep signing injury-prone players or ones with poor attitudes that other clubs don’t want.”
“What is going on with David Meyler? There must be a reason why he isn’t playing.” The club’s poor recruitment in recent windows has been criticised. Paul McShane, Callum Harriott, Sone Aluko and Meyler have all been seen as huge disappointments. “Our squad is below Championship standard.”
A Lack of Personality
“Not for the first time, I am watching us thinking ‘what are we trying to achieve?’. We seem to play like a group of players who vaguely know each other. They are all doing their thing, there is no shape or direction to our play”, “At no point do I ever think that we are simply going to rip a team apart.”
“What is our game plan? Search me.” Royals have regularly criticised a lack of personality, identity and leadership in the side. A habit of making errors has also crept into their play. “The players keep on making stupid mistakes that cost us through their own laziness and their lack of concentration.”
“We definitely look like scoring goals, but don’t look in the slightest like keeping a clean sheet.” The starting XI (above) for last Saturday’s Bristol City was set out with a back four and midfield three he has preferred to use lately. Fans see it very much as a 4-3-3 emphasising width with a lone striker.
“Frailties at the back are costing us points”, “We always seem to be making stupid mistakes at the back.” Andy Yiadom is a positive attacking right-back but tiredness has been an issue lately. Fans feel that Chris Gunter is too defensive while Tyler Blackett gives them a heart attack when on the ball.
Sam Walker (the only fit keeper) is seen as poor on crosses. Liam Moore is the best centre-back but lacks an aerial presence while veteran John O’Shea is a good leader who adds physicality to the backline but lacks pace. Tiago Ilori is quick and good on the ball but is criticised for being too casual.
The midfield of Liam Kelly, John Swift and Leandro Bacuna “always looks a little flimsy”. “Our lack of defensive ability in midfield is where we are letting ourselves down”, “Managers here have followed the philosophy time and time again that you don’t need tacklers in midfield, you just need passers.”
The loss of Iran international and holding midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi, who is out until December with a thigh injury, has hurt the balance of midfield. “We don’t get the ball forward quickly enough”, “We badly need a bit of physicality in midfield”, “Opposition players seem to have more time on the ball.”
Modou Barrow is the team’s most incisive winger but he was dropped for three games recently for breaching club discipline. The return of Garath McCleary is hugely welcome news. He broke his ankle against Sheffield United in February and fans badly want him to return to his form of two years ago.
With Jon Dadi Bodvarsson out after “breaking a bone in his back”, Sam Baldock will lead the line. Many fans think he should swap with the more athletic Yakou Meite given Baldock’s unselfish tracking back and the ability of Meite to give a defensive line trouble and act as a more effective focal point.
Reading 3 – 2 Bristol City
“Well, it’s fair to say that was fun”, “Our best games in ages. It was so tense, so God knows what my blood pressure is right now”, “A great game and great fun, with two pretty rubbish teams producing a great entertaining game. There were lots of mistakes but this was all outweighed by the result.”
Meite pounced on a loose ball in the box to fire Reading into an eighth-minute lead, but City levelled on 23 when Marlon Pack guided Jack Hunt’s pass into the bottom corner. Kelly’s superb strike in first half stoppage time restored Reading’s lead before Josh Brownhill headed in City's second equaliser.
The Royals secured a win with Bacuna's strike on 66 minutes and saw the game out. “Fingers crossed that the result will see us push on but I fear Bristol City really flattered us. “Three massive points. We showed fight and persistence, keeping our heads after the break”, “If you didn’t enjoy that, give up.”
Swansea 2 – 0 Reading
“Bah, game over. Swansea should have had a hatful”, “We were utter pants and it was men against boys. After an even first 10 minutes we were woeful and Swansea could have won by more. Three or four would have been fair”, “I went expecting the worst and it wasn’t as big a thrashing as I feared.”
Oli McBurnie’s brace won this game for a Swansea side who dominated the whole game. His first came from the penalty spot on 38 after left winger Daniel James was fouled by Yiadom. He added a second with five minutes to play, turning in James’s low cross after a quick Swans counter-attack.
“Swansea are a good side in possession, but once they went ahead, they were content to let us have the ball knowing they had pace to pick off a breakaway goal. We were placid all game”, “This club is in turmoil. Faceless owners, a woeful manager and spineless players. Other than that, all is okay.”
“Baldock is playing as a striker with Meite out on the flank. It should be the other way around.” Their line-up (above) saw keeper Anssi Jaakkola in goal and McCleary make a second start since returning from injury. “It’s getting to be a bit like last spring when you went to games just expecting defeat.”
Birmingham 2 – 1 Reading
“That was garbage. It was so slow and painful and the players didn’t look interested”, “We really should have done better against that bunch but it was the usual problem. We couldn’t keep a clean sheet”, “We played well but made too many mistakes. That display was too confident and casual.”
After a scoreless first half, Reading gifted the hosts a corner on 49 via Kelly's wild 40-yard back pass and it was converted by Gary Gardner. City took control of the game as Che Adams muscled off Ilori on 70 and crossed for Lukas Jutkiewicz to steer home. Meite looped home a late consolation goal.
“Once we conceded the first goal we needed to play differently, but we kept passing it sideways and made it easy for Birmingham to sit there and let us do nothing with it”, “We were a threat when we lifted the tempo but it was all a bit insipid and slack”, “A glorious chance for three points wasted.”
The starting line-up (above) saw Josh Sims given a rare start out wide in Barrow’s absence while Ilori also started in place of O’Shea in defence. Fans criticised the team’s lapse in concentration after the interval and their “going through the motions” after falling behind. “There was no desire on show.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Sam Walker makes some good saves but he doesn’t utilise his height from crosses.” The 27-year-old July arrival from Colchester, who grew up a Town fan, “makes decent saves but is flat-footed. He’s more of a physical presence than a keeper”, “He is bullied at every set piece, is slow to come out and he can’t pass a long ball.”
“Sam is the smallest 6ft 6in keeper I have ever seen”, He has no command of his six-yard box”, “He makes good saves but seems glued to his line”, “He looks very shaky on crosses and lost in no-man’s land”, “I have doubts about his distribution and several people have posted about his aerial ability.”
“Andy Yiadom has improved our full-back options.” The 26-year-old ex-Barnsley right-back “defends and gets forward well and has the makings of a good understanding with McCleary ahead of him”, “He gives everything and is great going forward but he has defensive flaws when dealing with pace.”
“Yiadom needs a break. He has gone off the boil in the last couple of games after a decent start. He has looked weary”, “He’s a mixed bag of good runs forward and iffy crosses”, “He always looks to get forward making great runs up the wing, but he’s wasted at left-back as he has a very weak left foot.”
“Tyler Blackett isn’t very good defensively but he has been our best attacking outlet, putting in great balls and creating chances.” The 24-year-old ex-Manchester United left-back “looks too comfortable on the ball at times and he’s slow to react and can lose his man when the ball comes into the box”.
“Against Bristol City Tyler had his usual bright 10 minutes followed by a single error which drained his confidence away”, “He’s positionally poor when defending and has heart-in-the-mouth moments, but he’s good going forward. He takes a bad touch at times instead of pinging into a first time cross.”
“Poor old Chris Gunter. I’m a big fan of his but I think the key word is ‘old’. He looks off the pace and half the man he was.” The 29-year-old ex-Forest right-back and Wales international “needs to take some responsibility when it matters. He always wants to pass the ball backwards as his first choice.”
“Gunter adds steel when he comes on”, “He has been more solid of late but he does nothing that is positive”, “When managers see him on the teamsheet they most certainly say ‘run at him’”, “He can make useful contributions but he has an attraction towards our keeper whenever he has the ball.”
“Tiago Ilori has come on in leaps and bounds from last year but he still makes loose passes.” The 25-year-old one-time Sporting Lisbon man “is a quality player with great acceleration and he can put in a peach of a cross”, “He makes cracking last-ditch challenges but regularly makes careless passes.”
“Ilori can head a ball, tackle, find a pass and bring the ball out. He has speed to spare”, “He’s a good option at defensive midfield”, “He gives sloppy passes away”, “His lethargic passing style is lovely to watch but he will get us in trouble one day”, “He has a great burst of speed to put in superb tackles.”
“I’m pleasantly surprised by John O’Shea, He’s decent in the air and very composed. Unfortunately, he has no pace and is a constant risk of getting sent off.” The 37-year old June buy from Sunderland “is a dominant centre-half who can lead and organise a defence, but his lack of pace is a real issue.”
“I fear for O’Shea when opponents have pace up front. He can’t cope with it”, “He can do a job for us even if we need a fast defender beside him to mop up what goes in behind him”, “His age has caught up with him but he holds the defence together really well and has always been very good in the air.”
“Moore loves blocking the ball, doesn’t he?” The 25-year-old ex-Leicester centre-half “is so cultured and comfortable on the ball rather than being a big physical bruiser”, “He struggled against Millwall’s physical bombardment and was far from convincing at times, failing to dominate his penalty area.”
Tom Lawrence v Liam Moore
“Moore is too small to be an aerial threat”, “He’s probably our best centre-back but is on the small side and struggles in the air”, “He doesn’t help with his positioning at times but he gets great tackles in. He can be slow bringing the ball out of defence but he doesn’t mess about when we are exposed.”
“Andy Rinomhota was a shock selection against Bristol City but he had a solid debut.” The 19-year-old one-time AFC Portchester man “shielded the ball well and kept possession in tight spots”, “He put in a few good tackles and took a yellow card to break up an attack. It was an immense debut.”
“Andy was ace apart from a couple of loose passes or touches against Bristol City. He was our best midfielder”, “He won’t create much but that’s not his job, He kept the ball moving and didn’t give it away”, “He can wait for the pressure, shield the ball and turn his man rather than wait for support.”
“Most of our good things in midfield come from John Swift.” The 23-year-old ex-Chelsea man and one-time Town trialist spent the 2015/16 season on loan at Brentford. “He’s a bright spark who is creative and strong on the ball. He shows positive intent and has good passing ability and a decent shot, but he’s physically weak.”
John Swift (Chelsea)
“Swift gets into decent positions but has looked insipid lately”, “He’s prepared to vary the pace and bring the ball forward”, “He keeps trying to make things happen and is often the only positive thing on the pitch”, “He looks a class player when not pressed but he looked really lethargic in the Millwall win.”
“Leandro Bacuna drives us forward when he plays but has been used as a water carrier lately.” The 27-year-old ex-Aston Villa man “has great set-piece delivery and fantastic movement off the ball, but he is not at his best at the base of a midfield three, often allowing opponents to just waltz through.”
“Bacuna was like a ball-carrying centre-back at times against Bristol City”, “He drives us forward like Danny Williams buts he puts us under pressure by giving the ball away frequently”, “He can blow hot and cold and lack consistency”, “The addition of Ezatolahi gave him real licence to run with the ball.”
“Kelly scored an absolute beauty against Bristol City and was otherwise very tidy.” The 22-year-old youth product “didn’t stop hustling and he kept the ball moving. He dictated the rhythm and momentum”, “Teams target him knowing he can be knocked off the ball and he cannot make a consistent impact.”
“Kelly makes incisive forward passes and he also makes some effort in tackling and taking long range shots. Then again, he can play with no energy with every pass going backwards for no reason. When this occurs, we lose momentum, can’t cross the halfway line and come under unnecessary pressure.”
Wingers and Wide Midfielders
“I refuse to think about Sone Aluko until he’s on someone else’s payroll.” The 29-year-old ex-Fulham winger is a peripheral figure. “I don’t see him tracking back or protecting his full-back”, “He loses the ball, thinks he has been fouled, throws his hands in the air and stands there moaning. No thanks.”
Cheick Keita (Birmingham City) v Sone Aluko (Fulham)
“Aluko provided all the entertainment against Norwich earlier in the season. He was hit in the face by a team-mate’s shot, then he stood on the ball and fell over before finally hitting the post with an open goal when the game had been stopped. He’s laughably poor and has no brain or any ability.”
“Josh Sims has had his chances to prove he’s better than Aluko lately but he has almost been worse than him instead.” The 22-year-old loan signing from Southampton “saw little of the ball and didn’t seem to get involved at Birmingham. He kept coming infield when he had to stretch the defence.”
“Sims works his socks off and was direct and positive when he first appeared”, “He’s fast becoming a good impact substitute”, “He has good movement, good defensive work and shows lots of passion”, “He buzzes around, harassing like Jay Tabb and winning lots of loose balls with good anticipation.”
“Garath McCleary’s crossing ability is much better than our other players.” The 31-year-old former Forest winger has looked decent and given us a good threat down the right”, “We have missed him a lot, and he seems to be in decent shape. He bulked up last season and it cost him some of his pace.”
Steven Taylor v Garath McCleary
“Compared to our other widemen McCleary is so much more intelligent. He doesn’t dive in or give away stupid fouls and he knows when to make his runs”, “He has looked pretty sharp when he has come on”, “He has faded in games, he doesn’t feel the need to cut inside every time he has the ball.”
“Barrow did so much last season to keep us in this division.” The 26-year-old ex-Swansea winger “is the obvious player for the out ball if we play on the counter with his flair and pace up top”, “He adds a dynamic no other player in the team can offer and us hugely influential in our wider build-up play.”
Adam Webster v Modou Barrow
“I get the impression that Mo thinks he’s better than the team, when he is distinctly average and not as good as he thinks he is”, “He has been an ineffective luxury at times and been completely marked out of games”, “He’s overrated and inconsistent, ruining counter-attacks and never tracking back.”
“Danny Loader has trained with the first team all week, it looks like we might get a first start for him this Saturday.” The 18-year-old youth product “scored two great goals against Villa’s U23s. He looks real quality and is a different type of player to Meite. He will do the hard-working job Baldock does.”
Marc McNulty (Portsmouth)
“McNulty has had a few touches but they were among the worst of the night”, “A low-risk gamble on a lower league player”, “The lack of chemistry between him and Meite is incredible”, “He makes clever runs but has not been involved. He’s not a Championship player. Did we need to sign him?”
“Yakou Meite is a bit of a lump but he goes for it fighting defences.” The 22-year-old former Paris-St Germain man “scores and looks dangerous throughout games. When he’s off his game his touch is poor, but he works hard and has been unlucky not to score more”, “A better striker than a winger.”
“Meite is wasted if balls are played to his feet as they bounce off them if fizzed into him”, “He can win any header but he often can’t place them to save his life”, “He should be leading the line if we are putting crosses in. It’s not just for his goals, but he has done some really good hold-up play.”
“Baldock works hard but doesn’t offer a lot in an attacking sense.” The 29-year-old July arrival from Brighton “struggles a bit when leading the line but he works the defenders hard”, “He’s a leader on the pitch and his play off the ball is unselfish. He really helps the defence when playing out wide.”
“Baldock battles manfully and his movement is impressive but he’s more effective running in wide channels rather than directly up against centre-backs”, “His movement is impressive even when he doesn’t see enough of the ball although he’s a less instinctive finisher than Bodvarsson in the box.”
Royals’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Ipswich are the perennial mid-table Championship team that may occasionally flirt at the top end or the bottom end during the course of a season but they generally are always out of anything in either direction. This time something horrible has happened and they are sitting adrift at the bottom.”
“This isn’t going to be easy. Remember April when a similarly dire Ipswich team rolled into town and Reading decided to turn their ineptitude up to political party leader level. One can only hope Paul Clement will use that fiasco to somehow instil some sort of revenge feeling amongst the players.”
“This is a key six-pointer.” Royals are under no illusions as to the importance of Saturday’s game. In prediction leagues, most expect a routine home win with a minority forecasting a draw. “The Ipswich game is taking on the same importance as last season already and we all know how that ended up.”
“Beat Ipswich and we will have taken nine points from 15 in this run of games even though it has included three pretty easy home games in that. On the other hand, lose to Ipswich and we will be in the bottom three with a very tough month of games to follow.”
“Now let’s do Ipswich and start moving upwards”, “I take heart from the fact Ipswich couldn't beat Preston at home on Saturday with Preston's striker in goal for them for 25 minutes. I think we will be more than okay this Saturday. Score an early goal and I can then see us getting three or four.”
“I can’t see us going down when there is dross like Ipswich knocking about”, “Ipswich are awful, but could that be because of their now departed manager? They will be up for this for sure”, “They will pack the midfield against us so I'd like us to have someone not afraid to put himself about in there.”
“The biggest thing we could gain from this match is momentum which we haven't had this season. A second win on the spin and the confidence will rise”, “I can't picture a clearer fixture that will end in a loss than this one. It literally has everything going for us, apart from not having a fully fit first XI.”
The busiest Royals forum is the very friendly and knowledgeable Hob Nob Anyone?. Reading highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues.
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