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Reading FC 0-3 Nottingham Forest: Stats Insight

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Yet again the Royals succumb in spectacular fashion, and yet again Bobbins is on hand to pore over the rotting foetid corpse of another home defeat.

Martin Willetts/Getty Images

Now this loss hurt, it really cut to the core. Not only did I think a win here would set up our important week ahead handily, with two long trips north and a rare showing on the tellybox for some Mickey Mouse Cup or something...but also because I took my Forest mate to the game....and then returned his ever so happy self home. Merde.

But enough about me, let's delve into the facts and figures. Today, we'll go through the round window (for you old "Play School" viewers! Google it!)

Flunking Donuts

It's safe to say that for the most part, it was pretty even in general play. Very similar amount of shots (11 v 12), with Forest being slightly more accurate with five on target to our three. No surprises there.

And the old family favourite, "possession" proves to be 90% of the flaw. We supposedly 'won' that battle 59% - 41%, but as we all know by now you can have all the ball in the world but it means squat if you don't get it in the vital areas. So where are the problem areas? For me, there are two glaring problems. Where the front two reside and the shape of our midfield. I'll get to the latter later.

No Picnic

Simon Cox alluded earlier in the week that it has been hard going in forming a partnership with the Big Russian, and there's one glaring reason for why this is the case. The reason being that, in essence, they act in exactly in the same way. Both come deep for the ball, both gravitate to it like a magnet. Neither have the pace to play off the shoulder of the defender either or, more importantly, create any space to pull the defenders out of position.

If we look at the positions of where Cox and Pavel Pogrebnyak are, you can throw a John Lewis picnic blanket over them. As you can see, on average, they pretty much occupied the same area overall. Look how deep they are, Pogrebnyak is practically nearer the centre circle than the D of the penalty box. Garath McCleary is almost the furthest player forward!

Four To The Flaw

The more you look at this image, the worse it unfolds. There's a number of flaws here.

Williams (23) and Chalobah (14) are also too close overall. Given that Forest played with a 4-1-4-1 formation (with the excellent Michael Mancienne bossing the game in front of their back four) we were hopelessly exposed and overrun.

So, who from Danny and Nate was the more defensive midfielder? Chalobah? Hard to justify that when Williams did more of the closing down. Both full backs, Jordan Obita and Chris Gunter, played in very advanced positions too, so it's pretty obvious to see how just one or two losses of possession would lead to cavernous gaps and the net result is a couple of worldy's coming from central midfield (and not for the first time either.)

You Don't Know What You're Doing

Whilst it's applauded that the full backs are bombing on, joining up with the winger (I can't justify labelling HRK as a winger, to be honest) it does leave us wide open in central areas. This is where Forest had us completely in their collective cosy velvet pockets.

With Cox and Pavel coming deep, Mancienne (4) could mop up the dirty work from the central defenders, or vica versa. It was simple but very effective. This also provided Forest with a further three midfielders (10, 21, 38) to outgun our central pairing. Forest played compact and sensibly, knowing that we have little joy in keeping possession.  In attack Fryatt worked his socks off, picking up scraps, whilst former Royal Michail Antonio was also used cleverly by switching wings in the second half (and therefore explaining his average central position in the graphic above), no doubt to attempt to nullify the marauding runs of Gunter.

North South Choke

So, in short, if it weren't patently obvious, we're too easy to play against. Choke up our possession points, crowd the areas where we would be outnumbered in midfield, restrict us to longer balls. No doubt that this is down to the horrible truth that we just don't have the players to make the midfield function.

Now that we've seen Chalobah for a fair number of games, I'm not sure what his role truly is. It's not a defensive midfielder, or box to box, or attacking. The average position will bear this out. Given that Danny Williams will, to his credit, always chase possession, Chalobah has to be more disciplined and sit. Also, the four wider players are attempting to be so advanced and not tucking in to help out when Williams is on a mission. Heaven knows, what HRK is doing. I can't work it out for all the grass on the pitch. There's just not enough intelligence to cover each other when a loss of possession is forthcoming...which is pretty often.

Yours is the Earth...

Now IF, we had a central midfield three, one could sit, like Mancienne, one could be playmaker, and Williams can run around ad infinitum, or you rotate those roles. But with a two, you can't legislate for such space to be given.

We have looked so much better when Oliver Norwood is generally hovering around the halfway line or deeper and dictating play. Chalobah performed none of these functions well and yet Danny Guthrie appeared late into the second half! Guthrie who is likely to be released at the end of the season...ah, go figure.

Hip To Be Square

I'll leave you with this damning indictment of our attacking intent vs Forest...and how those gaps in midfield makes a close game look like miles and miles apart.

Given that we are playing at home, our forward line is no further forward than Forest's counter-attacking style of attack. Also, our darkest area of the heatmap is ironically where we are least effective, no pretty triangles here, just a lot of fumbling around like a nervous teen.

Your Number One Fan...

This is where I believe Steve Clarke will be losing sleep at night. Our 'talent' is in the flanks, but the forwards play too deep to supplement the embattled midfield (hence why nobody was there to finish off Gunter's excellent ball across the six yard box). We don't have enough presence to control the game or able to counter-attack with any menace at home. With the personnel we have currently, we're neither one thing or the other; a fact that the manager will desperately want to address once this dreadfully frustrating league season is put out of its misery.

And I never even mentioned crosses, probably for the best really. Peace.

Statistics and Graphics courtesy of Whoscored.com