Here's Le Fondre's league record since joining the club.
|Games||Starts||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Mins Per Goal|
So Alfie is scoring at better than a goal every other game, certainly something that can't be said for our other strikers over that time period.
|Mins||Goals||Mins per Goal|
Hands up who was surprised to see Simon Church second on that list? Yup, our soon to be gone Welsh striker managed to score a goal every three games at Championship level last season, before largely being cast off as soon as Jason Roberts arrived.
So the statistics suggest we should be pretty worried. Le Fondre's goal tally of 22 is just 6 less than the other four on our list put together and that's not even including the likes of Nick Blackman who's been employed in a forward role as well.
One of the biggest gripes from Mr Le Fondre has been that he's not been starting regularly and if you're the club's top goalscorer, you can perhaps understand that complaint. However, the stats when Alfie starts don't do a lot to support his case.
|2012/13||11||4 (2x Pens)|
So when starting, Alfie's goals per game drops quite drastically to around a goal every four games, a stat that doesn't scream play me! especially when two of those goals have come from the penalty spot.
Still, lets not forget that goals count whenever you score them and you cannot possibly deny how important Alfie's goals have been to Reading this season, and last. His winners against Watford, Millwall, Leeds and Southampton were crucial in the run-in to the Championship and this year's goals against Everton, Newcastle and Chelsea were vital in helping us secure what few points we have got. He was also deservedly rewarded with January's Premier League Player of the Month, after scoring a remarkable five goals in just 85 minutes, all from the bench.
Sadly, he hasn't found the net since that January run and has now gone just under seven hours without a goal as Reading have slumped towards the Premier League's trap door.
His runs in and out of form have also drawn comparisons with another former Reading striker, Leroy Lita. Both men were prone to going on goal streaks but then going little else. Both had remarkable runs of Premier League goalscoring in the winter (Leroy had six in seven, Alfie five in seven) but neither could sustain it throughout the season. Ultimately, Lita had the consistency to make it at the very top level, although some will blame that on his off the pitch lifestyle, something you can't level at Le Fondre who's been terrific off it throughout his career.
While scoring goals is the biggest part of a striker's game, it's not all that should be considered and another criticism of Le Fondre is that he struggles to create chances for others. Lets look at the strikers again and see the assists per minute since the start of last season.
|Player||Minutes||Assists||Mins Per Assist|
Le Fondre is creating a goal every 809 minutes, that's roughly an assist every nine games compared to one every four for Roberts and one every six for Hunt.
However, that figure is still better than Church and Pog who haven't managed to set up a single goal between them in well over 56 hours of football... share the love eh guys?
This gets us down the crux of the Le Fondre issue, which is does the striker have a role beyond that of a goalscorer and if not does that goalscoring element alone make him the right fit for Nigel Adkins side?
Let's compare Le Fondre to four of Southampton's main forward players since the start of the 2011/12 season.
|A Le Fondre||3237||22||4||147||809|
(Stats for Southampton & Reading only)
Again, the goalscoring powers of Le Fondre stand up well to Southampton's main men over the past couple of seasons, with the Reading striker outscoring Lambert, Rodriguez and Connolly, with only Billy Sharp finding the net more often per minute.
However Le Fondre is a clear and distant last in the minutes per assist stakes, with Lambert, Rodriguez andConnolly all setting a goal up every five games, compared to one every nine for Alfie.
Billy Sharp is the most interesting one for me because it's clear that Adkins brought him in for the Championship run-in and little else. Sharp's goals helped get Southampton up but he was soon discarded and sent packing to Forest as Southampton brought in Rodriguez and played 4-4-2 less often.
With Reading heading back to the Championship could Adkins see Le Fondre as his Billy Sharp? Playing the former Rotherham man up top alongside a more all round creative player in the Lambert mould?
I still remain sceptical.
I think that Adkins would love to have Le Fondre as a player in his squad to start around 50% of games, especially at home but I don't think our new boss would see Le Fondre as a 90 minute man week in week out. Alfie just hasn't shown that he can influence a game from the start on a consistant basis and while I'm not saying he couldn't prove that in time, I don't think Le Fondre is going to be happy to once again sit around and prove himself to a new manager, especially back in the Championship.
Sources have also told The Tilehurst End that Le Fondre is quite keen to move back further North, so again a move would seem more likely than not at this stage.
So if he does go, where can we expect to see him go and for what price?
The good news for Reading is that Le Fondre still has two years to go on his deal after signing a three-year contract back in October. Whether there's a set price relegation clause in that deal we don't know, but even if there is I can't see it being cheap.
Reading's previous Premier League top goalscorers have all gone for hefty fees. Kevin Doyle and Dave Kitson both went for over £6m and at 26, he's around the same age as both of those players when they made their big money moves to Wolves and Stoke. Reading also managed to get around the same money for Shane Long, though Long was a little younger, he did have less time left on his contract.
I don't think Alfie has quite the same track record or quality of those two but consider fees for other well performing yo-yo players such as Michael Chopra (£5m), Kenwyne Jones (£6m), Danny Graham (£3.5m), Leon Best (£3m), Jordan Rhodes (£7m) and it's fair to say that Reading can at least expect £3m for the forward with anything up to £4-5m possible if there's sufficient interest.
Right now there's paper chatter about Cardiff being interested and it would seem a logical move for a team whose main forwards at the moment are 35 year-old Heidar Helguson, soon to be 34-year-old Craig Bellamy and the inconsistent Frazier Campbell, making a move for Le Fondre would certainly seem logical. Of course the other name being whispered is Brian McDermott's Leeds but it remains to be seen if they have the finances needed to convince Reading to part with him
I don't want to see Le Fondre go but I can see this from both sides. I personally don't think Alfie has the all-round game to play week in, week out from the start. I think he's certainly someone you want to start at home but away I'm just not sure he's got the strength and guile to hold his own every week. I think he could become that player but at this moment in time I don't think he's going to get the chance to do that at Reading and under Nigel Adkins.
He's one of few Reading players to come out of this season with his reputation enhanced and given the financial crunch of relegation, it makes sense for Reading to try and get a decent fee for somebody who is under contract for the next two seasons.
So if Alfie goes I'll be disappointed but understanding. Much like Jamie Cureton I think he's someone that in a free flowing chance creating team can be great but if a team is up against it, he just lacks the extra bit of power to his game that saw the likes of Shane Long, Kevin Doyle and Jason Roberts bring something extra, even when they weren't scoring.
Right now nothing is set in stone but this is one of the main transfer stories to watch over the summer. What would you do with Alfie? Shop him around, only sell if we're blown out of the water or do our very best to keep him? Let us know below.