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Reading FC Position Previews: Central Midfield

In our latest look at each position, @WilliamOwain reviews the strengths and weaknesses in the Royals' central midfield.

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Ins:

Stephen Quinn (Hull City)

Outs:

Nathaniel Chalobah (end of loan); Jem Karacan (Galatasaray)

Already in squad:

Hope Akpan, Liam Kelly, Aaron Kuhl, Oliver Norwood, Aaron Tshibola, Danny Williams

Quick Analysis:

Central midfield is on paper one of the strongest areas of Reading's squad. There is a nice balance of promising youngsters, talented international players and, with the addition of Stephen Quinn, the experience that was maybe missing last season. If Williams is continued to be played in a high role then Clarke might be tempted to add another central midfielder to the squad. Michael Hector and Hal Robson-Kanu both played games in central midfield last season.

The Contenders:

Hope Akpan: It may sound unfair but you can't escape the feeling that Akpan is only still at the club because his contract didn't expire this summer. Always an honest performer who seems to suffer from a lack of confidence. He must be doing something right to keep getting called up by Nigeria. Will likely once again be a squad player and may have a fight on his hands to stop Tshibola overtaking him.

Liam Kelly: Very promising young player who has largely gone under the radar so far. The one thing that may count against him is his size. Looked the equal of Kuhl in the U18s FA Youth Cup run in 2013/2014 but seemed to have a quiet season last year. May head out on loan if a club is willing to take a chance on him.

Aaron Kuhl: Seems to be heading to RCD Mallorca. Would be a great move for him. Might be tempted to stay and fight for his place at Reading.

Oliver Norwood: Possibly Reading's best player in the first half of the season under Nigel Adkins. His performance at Cardiff in the FA Cup was one of his best all season but that bizarrely seemed to signal a downturn in his fortunes. It would be a great shame if Steve Clarke cannot find a way to fit the Northern Irishman into his team. Like too many players at the Madejski Stadium, he has the technique to play in the Premier League but his performances are what keeps him in the Championship.

Stephen Quinn: I haven't felt as pleased about a Reading signing since Chris Armstrong. Like Armstrong he comes with real pedigree and looks a good singing on and off the pitch. He may be the player the Royals have been missing in the centre of park. A battler who is a bit more subtle than Danny Williams on the ball. It could be his job to unlock defences this season.

Aaron Tshibola: He seems to have been around and highly rated for a while now without making an impact at first team level. Got rave reviews from his loan spell at Hartlepool United. This will hopefully be the season when we see him become a regular member of the first team squad.

Danny Williams: Only Garath McCleary from the existing senior squad members can match Williams for how highly he is rated by the fans. Oddly this seems to make him immune to criticism. On his day he looks like a Premier League player dominating a Championship match but there are almost as many days when it is hard to notice what he's contributed. For an American international and former Bundesliga regular I can't help but think we should expect more from Williams. Maybe we should be grateful though. A good season will probably see him leave on a bosman next summer.

The Verdict:

So far this season Reading have lined up with three recognised central midfielders with Williams an unorthodox high central midfielder. If this continues then you would expect Norwood and Quinn to be the two deeper central midfielders which, if Kuhl's temporary Spanish move does happen, would leave Akpan and Tshibola as back up.

Given that Clarke has seemed unsure about Norwood I imagine he is hoping that he might be able to resign Nathaniel Chalobah on loan. A midfield trio, or even two from, Norwood, Quinn and Williams has the potential to be one of the most effective in the Championship, but as Royals fans know potential is rarely fulfilled.

Are you happy with the options in central midfield? Or do you feel Reading are missing a final piece in the jigsaw? Let us know your thoughts.