August 11, 2011
Shane Long's departure to West Brom for an estimated £6-7.5m has been finalised, and as a result Reading fans have let panic kick in. It's happened every summer for the past few years, and will probably continue to happen for the foreseeable future. We will continue selling our best players for amazing profits and will continue replacing them with young, hungry, ambitious players.
How can McDermott and Reading fans cope with the loss of star striker Long and continue challenging for promotion from the Championship? After the jump, I'll run through a few choices McDermott will have on his mind.
1 - Change Formation
McDermott could change formation back to the highly successful 4-2-3-1 formation that we used during Sigurdsson's time here. Obviously, with Sigurdsson and Long gone it would take some time for the players to adapt and fit in, but in Howard and Hunt we have two players who are perfectly capable of filling the gaps; if not to the same level, then to a level high enough to have us continue pushing towards the top of the table.
Of course, we could play any of Hunt, Manset or Church as the lone striker. Another option is to play McAnuff in the hole behind the striker, with Robson-Kanu or Obita on the left wing. Robson-Kanu has played in the whole at times and I'm sure Jay Tabb could do the job too.
What I'm getting at is that in a 4-2-3-1 formation we have the players that could fit into that formation, allowing Karacan and Leigertwood to continue their defensive work whilst also still having 4 attacking players.
2 - Hope that Church and/or Manset step up
This time last year fans were worried about the lack of goalscorers in the team, with Sigurdsson leaving we had lost the long shots, the free kicks, the penalties and the corners that Sigurdsson provided. In steps Long to take the majority of the goalscoring burden and in comes Ian Harte on the cheap to take up the set plays duties.
With Long's departure we've lost penalties and goalscoring. Ian Harte will happily take up penalty duties but the goalscoring duties will be left to Noel Hunt, Michail Manset and Simon Church. This season I'm backing Simon Church to step in and shine. This may be controversial to the majority of fans but I've been a big fan of his since his debut on the right wing under Steve Coppell. Gaining a full Wales international cap before even appearing for Reading is a clear sign of the potential he has and the rumours that Liverpool were looking to sign him up a few years ago is another great example. As much as his goalscoring record hasn't been great, his fitness has held him back slightly and Shane Long's presence in the team has restricted him to substitute appearances. This could well be his season.
Equally as likely to step up is Ivory Coast international THE BEAST. His cameo against Millwall showed everyone exactly what he is about with his huge presence and goalscoring seems to come naturally to him. His only problem is his fitness, which McDermott has continually mentioned in press conferences and to the official site. If his fitness improves and Manset can continually complete a full 90 minutes, I feel we can have a real quality striker on our hands.
Further down the list of possibilities is Robson-Kanu's conversion to a striker. McDermott has played him up front regularly during pre-season (most likely as an opportunity to see how he fares should Long leave) and he could be a temporary striking replacement should any of our first-choice strikers get injured.
3 - Sign someone to replace him
The option most fans would pick but not one Madejski would prefer to choose, signing a new striker to replace Long. It wouldn't be an easy task and the new signing would take time to settle in, but if we can sign someone relatively cheap and who has the potential to score the same number of goals that Long scored, then it's a no-lose situation. I saw on Twitter the other day that 'businesses never grow unless they take a risk', but I fear that taking a risk to replace such an important member of the squad could be one that backfires.
So, what do you think McDermott could do to help ease the pain of losing Long? Which striker could we sign? Can Church or Manset make the step up? Leave your comments below.