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Reading FC Ups and Downs: Games 20-25

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A look at the trends in player performances from the start of December, through to the opening games of January.

Michael Steele/Getty Images

PLAYER GAMES GOALS NOTES TREND
GOALKEEPERS
Adam Federici
25 0

Another strong month for Federici. He seemed a bit slow in reacting to some of the goals at Birmingham, but a number of fine saves preserved our 2-1 lead at Brighton and ensured we were still in the lead until the 90th minute. Feds also made a good stop against Norwich, and was outstanding against Middlesborough, with one world class save to tip Patrick Bamford's thunderous strike onto the bar, and a handful of other last ditch blocks from close range. Feds deservedly won our December player of the month competition. 

UP
Mikkel Andersen
2 0

Came into the side for the FA cup game at Huddersfield and barely had anything to do. Good to see him get an appearance under his belt though, and he looks a very decent understudy for Federici.

LEVEL
DEFENDERS



Jake Cooper
12 2

December was a tricky month for young Jake Cooper. He was turned inside out, slow and massively out of his depth against Birmingham in the 6-1 thrashing, with at least two of the goals down to his naïvety, and he rightfully lost his place. However, he has previously looked fairly solid when he's played and this is probably just a temporary blip on the promising defender's record.

DOWN
Stephen Kelly 7 0 Removed from the team by Steve Clarke and made a brief substitute appearance at Brighton. DOWN
Shaun Cummings
7 1

Was chucked into the mixer at Brighton when we were under the cosh, and didn't really make an impact. He did, however, take up some good positions on the rare occasion that we had the ball and attacked in the second half, and would have been in 1 on 1 fairly late on if Nick Blackman hadn't selfishly tried to beat two men instead. Hasn't been given a fair look in this season, and its a shame we've lost him in the transfer window.

LEVEL
Shane Griffin
0
0

Yet to make an appearance.

LEVEL
Chris Gunter
29 0

Since being swapped back to play on his favoured right hand side under Steve Clarke, and particularly in games where Garath McCleary has featured, Chris Gunter looks a much better player. He is making overlapping runs down the wing and providing an option in attack. If his final ball was better, he would be one of the best right backs in the league.

LEVEL
Sean Long
1
0

Hasn’t played since his only appearance in the League Cup game at Scunthorpe.

LEVEL
Michael Hector
26 2

Although he doesn't ever seem totally reliable, Hector has improved throughout December. It's safe to say he had a shocker at Birmingham, but he looks calmer alongside the leadership of Alex Pearce and is slowly cutting out his haphazard runs forward. He does still mistime the odd header and frequently hoofs the ball forward aimlessly, but an improvement in his positioning and the number of aerial challenges he has won make it an ok month for Hector. 

DOWN
Alex Pearce 27 0

At long last Alex Pearce has been given the captain's armband and unlike Chris Gunter, his appearances don't seem to have been hindered by it. Pearce has remained consistent in defence, and does the basics very, very efficiently to clear his lines. He is commanding and certainly our best defender at the moment. 

UP
Anton Ferdinand
2 0 Hasn't played for over a month.

LEVEL

Jordan Obita
28 0

On the whole this was a very poor month for Obita. He has looked off the pace and lost. He hasn't been providing meaningful runs down the left wing, instead tapping the ball in and around his feet in the hope he will beat his man. He is so incredibly one dimensional when he has the ball. Everything goes left. And on the odd occasion he has beaten the defender his left footed crosses, which were so devastating last season, have been atrocious - fans who were at the Brighton game will all remember the cross that was so bad the ref and lino thought it must surely have come off a Brighton defender and gave us a corner! With that said, Obita was better against Norwich, but still seems to be struggling, as he often turned back away from goal or was caught in possession against Middlesbrough. A period out of the team to reflect - perhaps allowing Shaun Cummings to play left back - may bring Obita back to the heights he reached last season.

DOWN
MIDFIELDERS
Hope Akpan 14 0

Out with a long-term injury.

LEVEL
Ryan Edwards
10 0

Where has he gone?

LEVEL
Danny Guthrie
8 0

Back after what he describes as the most difficult spell of his career, being consistently ruled out with injury. Seems a bit overweight, but great to see him back in the squad. After coming on against Middlesbrough, he flew into a number of challenges with a bit of fight and won back the ball, which was good for the fans to see.

LEVEL
Oliver Norwood
23 0

Still pinging the ball around to springboard attacks, and has an exquisite first touch. It's just a shame the rest of the team can't make more intelligent runs or move into pockets for Norwood to knock the ball to.

LEVEL
Jack Stacey
1 0

Didn’t play this month.

LEVEL
Aaron Tshibola
1 0

Sent out on loan to Hartlepool.

LEVEL
Jake Taylor 23 3

Mostly a substitute throughout December and early January, but started on the wing against Brighton. Although he didn't do much, he didn't do anything wrong, testing David Stockdale in the Brighton goal with a good looping header in the first half.

LEVEL
Danny Williams 12 0 Has been a little disappointing in December and early January and seems to have lost his mojo. Those last ditch tackles and surges forward with the ball have been hard to come by, and it doesn't seem like Williams is being utilised properly. It may be because Ollie Norwood is a fairly deep-lying play maker, so Williams doesn't have the license to either sit deep in his own space or roam forward as it breaks the balance of the team. Norwood seems to be treading on toes of Williams slightly, and not giving him the room he needs to snatch the ball and play a quick one-two. Williams looked a bit more alive when Guthrie came on against Middlesbrough, with the two taking it in turns to sit and go. DOWN
Aaron Tshibola
1 0

Sent out on loan to Hartlepool.

LEVEL
Aaron Kuhl
8 0

Back on the bench against Brighton after a spell out but hard to see how he'll get back in the team - particularly with Danny Guthrie's return.

LEVEL
Jem Karacan
1 0

Finally made a league appearance after 16 months out.

UP
Garath McCleary 6 0 The return of the Mac. December head a fine month for McCleary. He won man of the match against Watford, where the buzz he provided down the right hand side kept the Watford defence guessing every time and gave our attack a bit of cutting edge. Injury kept him out of the Brighton game, but McCleary came back with all guns blazing against Norwich, and he provided excitement every time he got on the ball, with a feeling that something good was going to happen. His link up play with Chris Gunter also provides something different for defences to deal with, and when McCleary went off injured against Norwich we noticeably lost our spark on the counter attack and got bogged down in defence. We have missed him in the games against Huddersfield and Middelsbrough. UP
Hal Robson-Kanu
15 1

Still looks lack-lustre and like he isn't trying, but he managed to score his penalty against Norwich.  

LEVEL
FORWARDS



Nick Blackman 26 5

Hasn't really been in the team, and when he has, he's either been foolish or anonymous and basically very average. Had a chance to secure a win at Brighton when Shaun Cummings stood to his right, completely unmarked on the edge of the penalty area. Instead Blackman tried to beat two defenders and the chance went begging. In a game of fine margins in such a tight league, those decisions make the difference, and Blackman hasn't done himself any favours. He didn't do a lot against Watford, and came on late against Norwich where he barely touched the ball. The only slight positive for Blackman, is that Steve Clarke seems to like the idea of playing him as a striker instead of a winger, so his height, decent physique and relatively good feet may bring him more luck here - as seen at Huddersfield where fine interplay and movement presented him with a difficult chance to grab us the lead - which to many fans amazement, he did, by swooping the ball into the corner of the net.

DOWN
Simon Cox
28 8

Took his goal against Norwich superbly, with a fine touch to kill the ball dead and a volley too powerful for John Ruddy to keep out, but apart from that it doesn't seem like we've seen a lot of Simon Cox. With the loss of Murray, Cox is now the man we pin most of our attacking hope on, so he will have to learn to make runs as a loan striker to force space and chances.

DOWN
Jamie Mackie
19 1

Came on for the last 20 minutes against Norwich in tough circumstances. Didn't get on the ball too much, but put in a couple of crosses towards Glenn Murray which gave the keeper something to deal with. Has featured ever since this game with the injury to Garath McCleary but hasn't done much.

LEVEL
Pavel Pogrebnyak
13
1

Played for the first time in 2 months against Middlesbrough and battled well in very small periods. He still looks quite immobile though, and the vast majority of fans lack faith that Pog is the man who can fire us up the league table.

LEVEL
Craig Tanner
5 1

Has been on the bench in places but hasn't played.

LEVEL
Glenn Murray
17 8

Took both of his chances against Brighton and continually held the ball up well up front. However, Murray has returned to Crystal Palace at the end of his loan where new manager Alan Pardew seems keen on him so it is unlikely we will see Glenn Murray again.

UP

SUMMARY:

UP: Federici, Pearce, McCleary, Karacan, Murray

LEVEL: Andersen, Cummings, Griffin, Gunter, Long, Ferdinand, Akpan, Edwards, Guthrie, Kuhl, Norwood, Stacey, Taylor, Tshibola, Robson-Kanu, Mackie, Pogrebnyak, Tanner

DOWN: Cooper, Kelly, Hector, Obita, Williams, Blackman, Cox