Roy Beerens Sums Up His Reading Career So Far
When the Dutch winger arrived in the summer, he arrived with a reputation as having a tremendous amount of skill and talent that had never been quite fulfilled during his professional career. Sure enough, his early performances were a joy to watch, with Plymouth in the EFL Cup standing out as a prime example of a man who was clearly a step above the rest technically. Sadly as the weeks wore on, Roy's shine wore off and his resting/injury for the Wigan game was seen as a good thing to recharge his batteries.
John Swift's injury saw the Dutchman back in the team but in an unfamiliar central role behind Garath McCleary and Dominic Samuel. The results so far have been mixed but one thing's for sure, you won't see many better finishes than his goal on Saturday....
So far so good, and in the first half Roy was doing the business, with three shots, two take ons, a 94% passing ratio and one chance created. Yet the second half wasn't so pretty and he was a big part of the reason City established dominance.
Here's his passing map from the second 45.
His passing success rate dropped down to just 43%, while managing just 1 shot, no chances created and failing to win a tackle. Admittedly his primary role is to attack and not defend but with no Yann Kermorgant he needed to be doing more to help out George Evans and Danny Williams, who between them did a much, much better job at keeping the ball with a combined 97% success ratio. His goal played a big part in the win but Stam will surely be demanding much more composure in future games.
A Captain's Performance
Paul McShane isn't the type of defender you'd immediately associate with a free flowing, passing side but on Saturday he showed exactly why he's the Club Captain, with a gutsy defensive performance that kept Reading in the game.
The Skipper made around 40% of Reading's interceptions, making five compared to one each from Tyler Blackett and Liam Moore. He also kept his composure with a 90% passing success rate and put in three blocks, one of them massive in the closing stages.
Credit also must go to Liam Moore, Tyler Blackett and Chris Gunter who all put their bodies on the line to preserve the lead. While being under so much pressure was far from ideal, it's encouraging to see the defence pass the test.
Again, with Jaap Stam's side you don't tend to worry too much about the long ball but the inability of the attacking line to win much in the air could cause problems down the line.
Last week I highlighted Dom Samuel's problems in winning aerial duels and this week was even more problematic for the Academy Graduate who won just two of 13 headers he went up for.
It's not a big problem when we're retaining possession and dictating the play but when teams like Bristol City close down the defence and force us to go long, it's a problem when the ball ends up coming straight back because we can't win it in the air. Yann Kermorgant on the other hand has won 59% of his duels in the air, again showing why Stam has kept faith with the forward despite some lacklustre efforts in front of the opposition goal.
It's unfair to pick on Samuel too much for this issue, especially when his two games have yielded a goal and an assist but the overall impact on the team of being so weak in the air can't be ignored and it might go some way to explain why so many managers have been reluctant to give the forward games at this level. Fingers crossed it's something he can work on and improve over the coming weeks.
That Winning Habit
But let's end on the massive positive that is our fifth win in a row in the Championship. The last Reading team to achieve that feat was Brian McDermott's title winners in 2012, who put together strings of eight and six wins in a row on their way to an unexpected title triumph. Like Stam's side now, that team wasn't blowing many sides away but they were finding ways to win and working hard as a unit.
For years the club has seemed to be stuck in a cycle of negativity but this group seems to have shaken off those issues and the infusion of proven winners like Liam Moore, some young hungry players from the Academy and abroad, plus a manager with a brilliant reputation and aura seems to have done the trick so far.
You can't underestimate how much that winning habit means to a team and the confidence it can bring even when results aren't going their way. Long may that continue because with 18 games gone, we're still yet to see many if any side in this division that is categorically better than us. If we get some luck with injuries and a shrewd move or two in January, this team might just go on to do something special.