Merry Christmas to one and all, what glad tidings I wish I could bestow on thee...however, all I can do report is on the latest seasonal shower of shoddiness by the defence. One that has proven to be the last in Nigel Adkins tenure of Reading. Before the game, I half-hoped that I would be reviewing another away renaissance after the (vaguely) confidence boosting away win at Norwich and a scrappiest of points against Bolton - foolish, foolish Bobbins. What transpired barely transfers into anything of any real value in statistics, but this is my lot and I shall do as I'm jolly well told.
Step Into Christmas...
Nothing in these stats really makes any sense to be brutally honest. They simply do not bear out the actual facts of the game. Would you believe that Reading were the better in the following departments?
- Chances Created
- Take Ons
- Aerial Duels
- and, somewhat unbelievably, Saves!
Fairytale of Sod All
Assuming these stats haven't been cruelly doctored, then we surpassed Birmingham in all of these facets. What they don't relay is the overall damning statistic which we are all aware of. What we can take from these numbers is this: teams in this division simply do not fear us. It's pretty much as simple as that.
The opposition have worked us out, in all honesty. And in truth there's very little to work out. What are our threats? As much as we have all taken Olly Norwood to our hearts, is he really penetrating enough? This graphic indicates Oliver's key passes, successful ones, in the game. Just three. Two of these seem to be rather adventurous balls too.
If the opposition can snuffle out Oliver Norwood when higher up the field, then all the possession of the ball we have is just moot. His passing rate was a majestic 90%, but when all but three of his passes hold any potential, it is easy to see why teams are set up to let us have the ball and sit deep.
Similarly for McCleary, only one of his seven crosses found a target. As much as I loathe to criticise him as he is coming back to fitness, there's got to be a better return than this. Jordan Obita fares no better; same result and one more cross. Believe me, you don't even want to know what the full-backs offered, it doesn't even dignify a response.
I'll wrap up crossing with this unholy stat. We completed just one other cross in the entire 90+ minutes...and that came in the very first minute of the game via Obita. Oh, there were 30 failed crosses also. You do the math.
To end the attacking stint of the piece, I give you the heatmap of Simon Cox, and I hope and pray that that rather large red blob is not where we restarted play after shipping in six goals! Otherwise, it would appear that Cox, whilst admirably appearing all over the pitch, is simply hunting for the ball. No doubt he is trying to feed off Norwood, but is there really a need for him to wander so much? Is he actually pulling the opposition defence out of position? Would he better served staying closer to Murray and feeding off the scraps?
As Handbags alluded to in his review, we offer as much threat going forward as a bunch of reindeer having a kickabout. The message, whatever that may be, offensively is lost. Whatever belief in the 'system' we had has been eroded over the season. Once when we had vague hopes of some mid-table mediocrity has been replaced by abject hope and set pieces.
Decks the halls with balls of folly...
Defensively, well, there's no winter warmer here to mask what horrors I have to relay. The ghosts of St Andrew's will haunt us for many Christmases to come (or at least until we're out of this fugue of club anonymity.) It barely needs revealing further, but we really are gutless in defence. As this graphic sadly portrays, look at the amount of successful blocks we had during the game.
Red blocks = Passes.
Green blocks = Shots.
Yellow blocks = Crosses.
Stephen Kelly comes off the best here; he was responsible for almost all the blocks down the right side, and included for one of the shots blocked. Would it come as a surprise that Chris Gunter is not involved in any of these blocks at all? Sadly, no. He didn't achieve a single one. Whilst we did limit Birmingham to many fewer crosses, they didn't go down as many blind alleys as Reading do, consistently, every week, without fail. Rinse and repeat. This, for me, is where Adkins' strategy failed too many times. Just because we could cross 50 times a game, this does not guarantee any sort of success.
Silent Night, Hole-y Night.
What is further damning is that a lot of the successful blocks are only in the wide areas. Not a single block is achieved centrally. This has to be very, very alarming for those that should study the stats are lot more than we do here at the Tilehurst End. As much as have wanted a midfield pairing of Norwood and Williams, can they and are they providing enough cover for a young central defence partnership? In fact, what are they producing at all, currently? Not much offensively, and even less defensively. Sadly, this is a Yuletide Donut, not a solid log!
Goalkeeper Adam Federici will have no doubt suffered a miserable afternoon with so little protection in front of him. With the horrow show from the Royals offering scant defence, if he ever need to be in search for the ball, he could have been easily told. "It's behind you!!"
And hot off the press, that was to be Nigel's final game as manager of Reading FC as yesterday the board have dispensed with his services and those of the backroom staff. His record as the Royals manager read...
And that's that. In words of the man himself. "We move on."
Statistics courtesy of Squawka and Soccerbase.