So we've had time to digest the full match report and ratings from Reading's 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday but what else did we learn from this weekend's action? Graphics and stats are taken from Squawka & WhoScored.
Having lots of the ball is fundamental to the way Jaap Stam wants to play football. He wants Reading to wear down the opposition and be patient in the build up, so the heat map from Saturday shouldn't surprise many.
What the map does show is that Reading (here on the left) are still struggling to impose themselves in the opposition half. Look at how few touches took place around the Sheffield Wednesday goal, compared to how many Wednesday had around our box in the image on the right.
That diagram also goes a long way to explain why Sheffield Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal should have a good hard think about his tactics in this one because his side simply didn't do what Fulham and Bristol City had done so well, press Reading high up the field. Again, here's the heatmap from Fulham (flipped for an easier comparison), with Reading on the left, and look at how that red line in front of our own penalty box is forced back inside the area.
The Moore Factor
Liam Moore was widely praised for his performance on Saturday, with Max in our player ratings and Get Reading's Charles Watts both heaping praise on the defender on his return from suspension. Yet if you dig deeper into what he did on the day, it was actually a rather ordinary performance by his high standards. The centre-back won less than half of his duels in the air, made just one interception and didn't make a successful tackle all afternoon. You could also argue that Moore should have done better when Joao wriggled through only to miss a fairly simple chance which at 0-0 had a big impact on the game.
Yet the very fact he was back in the team helped the rest of the defence improve and the four blocks he made were also the type of gutsy action that we've come to love from him since Moore switched the King Power for the Mad Stad.
According to Squawka, the only two players who've been 'better' than Moore for Reading this season have been Ali Al-Habsi and Paul McShane, both of whom have clocked up more appearances. For me, Moore is a fine example of a player who individually might not always sparkle but his mere appearance in the team seems to boost those around him.
Whether it's Steve Coppell, Brian McDermott, Nigel Adkins, Steve Clarke or Jaap Stam, all of them have talked about the importance of a good home record and so far Reading have done just that.
Stam's side are currently the second best team in the division at home, with 24 points out of a possible 33, a total only bettered by Brighton's 26. We're currently on track for 51 points at home, which would be four more than we earned during our last title winning success in 2011/12.
Here's a look at our best home tallies in the second tier.
|Season||Home Points||Final Position|
Continue our current form and we're in some very, very good company, yet as the tally fourth on that list shows, we can't get by on our home form alone. The 2004/05 season saw Reading earn just six wins away from home and just miss out on the play-off places. Right now we've got four away wins, so we're well on track to beat that mark but with the tricky away schedule I pointed out last week, even getting those two wins won't be easy.
Are We A Lucky Side?
This is a point that deserves its own article so I won't delve into it in too great a detail but the answer for me is no, but so far we've left little margin for error.
WhoScored puts us level for 7th in the Championship based on performance score, with Fulham, Aston Villa, Derby, Barnsley, Newcastle and Brighton the teams ahead of us. Most of those teams I can understand but Barnsley and maybe Fulham seem a little odd to me.
Ultimately we've done more than 21 other Championship teams this season, that's why we're third but as mentioned it's not been a convincing ride to the top. Perhaps that's because so many wins have been close while almost all of our defeats have been hammerings, so here's a table of games won and lost by at least two goals, using current league positions.
|Team||Won By 2+ Goals||Lost By 2+ Goals|
The above goes to show just why Newcastle and Brighton have started to pull away, with the pair combining for 16 wins of more than two goals while only being involved in three defeats by more than a single goal.
Reading meanwhile have picked up just three wins by more than a clear goal, all coming back-to-back with wins over Nottingham Forest, Wigan & Burton. Again, as mentioned last week, Ali Al-Habsi has made more saves than any other keeper this season and that coupled with the inability to finish teams off is a recipe for regression.
The counter argument is that goes to show Reading have stood up and made things count in key moments, whether offensively or defensively, something which is the hallmark of any good side.
It's like a trip to the casino. Even though the odds are stacked against you, you can still walk out having given the house a hammering. Yet the longer you gamble the more chance the casino has of catching you up. Reading are on one of those hot-streaks right now but they're going to need a few more tricks to improve their odds as the season goes on.