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Reading FC 0-1 Watford: Stats Insight

It was another narrow defeat for Reading on Saturday. @jonnyscott862 has had a look at the stats and managed to find some positives for the Royals.

Michael Steele/Getty Images

Stage Fright

We have seen it so many times this season, Reading boss the game in terms of possession and shots, but somehow still end up losing the game. When we compare the result against Watford with statistics from previous games, a striking pattern emerges of how poor Reading are at converting domination into points.

Looking back, I don't think we could class our performances against Derby County or Blackburn Rovers ‘dominant,' but the problem here is that we are looking at statistics. Sure, in those games that we threw away we may seem to be statistically dominant, but there is no surefire metric for classifying ‘real' or ‘good' chances, the chances that people remember from games. Whatever the explanation for statistical dominance, the fact remains that Reading cannot deal with the pressure of controlling a game.

Let's look, on the other hand, at some games where we didn't dominate:


Reading Possession

Shots For

Shots Against


Middlesborough (A)




0 - 1 win

Millwall (H)




3 - 2 win

Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)




3 - 3 draw

Norwich City (A)




1 - 2 win

Reading have, for the most part, been a ‘smash and grab' team this season. Of course there are examples where this did not work (Bournemouth controlled the game and walked away with a 3-0 win), and there are examples where dominance did pay off (although results against Blackpool and early-season Fulham were hardly indicative of Reading's quality), but in general it seems that Reading have been more comfortable this season playing on the counter.

With Watford down to 10 men, the pressure was on Reading. This time, like many times before, they could not deliver. Hopefully Steve Clarke picks this up quickly, and somehow drills a clinical nature into our forward play. Otherwise, teams will figure us out, sit back, and watch us self-destruct time after time.

Not that it's all bad. With the quality of chances that were created, if Reading keep doing what they are doing, then the luck is bound to turn their way eventually. Perhaps we should have some faith that this team has it in them to turn dominance into victory.

Let's turn to look at some individual performances.

The Return of the King

Crikey it's good to have Garath McCleary back. It is clear that he offered the most creativity, directness, and threat of any of our forward players against Watford, but let's try and evaluate that with the stats.

McCleary made three successful dribbles on Saturday, which put into context is quite impressive considering that the whole Reading team managed four against Norwich, Bolton's team only managed three against us a few weeks ago, and Reading only made three as well when they played Blackburn. McCleary's dribbling, therefore, is a welcome asset.

He also played nine crosses, three of which were accurate, and all of which were from open play. Oliver Norwood, on the other hand, played 10 crosses, seven of which were corners, and none of them reached their intended target. McCleary provided the team, therefore, with a good creative outlet from open play.

If beating your man and putting in a dangerous ball are the two crucial roles for a winger, then McCleary is doing a fine job of that so far, and seems to be improving each game as his fitness returns. Hopefully it won't be long before we see him back to his defence-destroying best, and the stats give us a good deal of hope on that.

Norwood Can't Do It By Himself

Defend, that is. Take a look at this from before the goal on Saturday.

Watford Goal

Chris Gunter has to track back to fill Michael Hector's position as he moves out to put pressure on Ikechi Anya, leaving Norwood (circled) to deal with two arriving midfielders by himself. He has two choices, stick with his current runner or move more centrally to try and neutralise the on-running Almen Abdi.

After checking over his shoulder, he sticks with his current runner, which leaves Abdi open for the pull back, which he duly dispatches. Perhaps he should change his marking, but I don't think Norwood should be in this position to begin with. He has a central midfield partner to help him out, and Danny Williams is nowhere to be seen. It was McCleary and Williams' mistake that set up the chance to begin with, and it is the latter's absence in the defence that left Abdi open for the shot.

Norwood cannot be omnipresent across central midfield, and Williams will have to come back and help him out more often if we are to stop any more goals like this from going in. Congratulations to Watford, though, for efficiently exploiting Reading's out-of-position players in their counter attack.

We've still got some challenges to overcome, it seems, whenever it comes to converting dominant positions into winning positions, but with McCleary's return, and perhaps a little more defensive nous from central midfield, there is no reason why Reading can't bounce back convincingly.