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Attacking The Issue: Are These Reading FC Players Wingers Or Strikers?

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Reading FC are currently suffering from something of a striker shortage, which happens to coincide with some players experiencing something of an identity crisis. Can solving one, solve the other? ThatMarcMayo plays judge, jury, and executioner to find out if certain Reading players are naturally wingers, or strikers.

Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Specimen One: Hal Robson-Kanu. Age: 25. Nationality: Welsh.

The case of 'HRK' is the obvious place to start, and remains curious to this day. An out-and-out winger since his signing for Reading in 2007, it was once the case that an eager 22-year-old would play anywhere to get on the pitch. Then, as a cynical- and relegated- 24-year-old the demands to play up top emerged.

Since then, the Welshman has moved back and forth between a winger and striker, notching just five goals in 29(19) Championship games- compared to seven in 13(12) Premier League games, all of which were from the wing. The change in management can't have too much of an effect, as HRK's best game for the club, the 4-2 win at Fulham, was under Nigel Adkins. The fact that the Birkenhead-born manager listened to, and accepted, one of his most promising player's demands to start in an arguably-more-important position made much sense at the time.

However, as the stats show, it was not a success. The fact that just under 40% of his appearances in the last 18 months have been from the bench show how the potential of Robson-Kanu has not been fulfilled. But, does that mean it's all over for HRK as a striker?

According to WhoScored.com, Robson-Kanu's weaknesses are passing, finishing, and holding on to the ball. AKA, three of the most important characteristics of the target man striker that he thinks he can be... But, for a man blessed with pace, dribbling, and crossing abilities, I think that sums up why he is, in fact, a winger.

Verdict: Winger

****

Specimen Two: Nick Blackman. Age: 25. Nationality: English

Arguing for the release of Nick Blackman from HM Reading FC has been a favoured past-time of many a Royal fan since his seven-figure arrival in 2013. Almost two years at the club and the 'attacker' has a disappointing yield of just seven goals from 24(39) league appearances. Indeed, like HRK, Blackman has rarely given enough to demand his managers pick him...

His dream of being a striker was never quite fulfilled by Adkins, despite him seemingly set up to do so. So what now for Blackman? In terms of tracking back and covering ground off the ball, he's not the best. In terms of running from deep at defenders, he's quite good. Steve Clarke says he's a good finisher, GetReading's Charles Watts says he's too selfish- both are right.

However, the fact is with NB is that he hasn't been given a consistent run at being a striker in his time at the Madejski. A short flurry of games over last new year was well received, and for me it's time to put Blackman up top. So long as he stops diving, though...

Verdict: Striker

****

Specimen Three: Jamie Mackie. Age: 29. Nationality: Scottish.

Us Reading fans have been restricted to seeing the on-loan attacker Mackie as a wide-option so far in his Royals spell, but that could be about to change. In days gone by, the Scot has seen himself as a striker for both club and country.

8(7) games into his Reading career, and with a decent record of a goal and three assists has made Mackie a wanted man while injured in recent weeks. But, now back to full health, he could be the man to lead the Reading line. Full of pace and running, a good footballing brain, and experienced in the upper echelons of English football, there is a strong case for Jamie Mackie: Striker.

However, for me, Mackie lacks the aerial presence, first touch, and finishing abilities of a striker- and compares unfavourably to genuine striker Simon Cox. Furthermore, his scoring record is poor at a time when Reading have lost a natural finisher in Glenn Murray; Mackie notched only four goals in 38(7) appearances for Forest last season.

Verdict: Winger

****

Surprise Witness: Simon Cox. Age: 27. Nationality: Irish.

At this moment, Steve Clarke's side are in need of a new striker. But, is Simon Cox the man to fill those boots? Before his goal against Norwich, Cox's reintroduction to the team after being dropped by Nigel Adkins resulted in just two goals in six, both against Rotheram. Not terrible form, but could his more industrious talents be better suited to the wing?

If Reading move to a 4-3-3 to utilise Jem Karacan's return, Cox could play as a hard-working wide-man to a new striker's more target man-based approach. This would certainly suit such a formation, with Cox's ability to be a lone front-man doubted. However, given the current shortage, I would shelve any plans to shift Cox away from his natural striking role.

Verdict: Striker

****

Dismissed Evidence

I don't really think there's much scope for moving Garath McCleary to a striking position. While he has a future as a central attacking midfielder- where he starred in the 2-2 draw with Burnley last May- the Jamaican lacks the physicality that any striker needs to deal with bulky centre-halves. Speaking of which, I have no desire to see Jake Cooper and Alex Pearce make Christopher Samba-esque moves to serving as a target man, unless we're losing and it's injury time.

Do you agree with Marc's decisions? What other players are up for this debate? Comment below.