When Jordon Mutch arrived in January, fans had mixed feelings. On the one hand, this was a solid performer who'd player Premier League football and had once cost £6m. On the other side, you had those worried about just why he couldn't get into a poorly performing Palace side and why he was arriving at Reading when the midfield department was pretty well stocked.
Nine appearances later and on the surface you'd probably have to side with the half-empty class.
Yet is that totally fair? Has Jordon really been a poor performer or has he just been at the wrong place at the wrong time?
Here's our overall record with and without Mutch since he arrived at the club on deadline day.
|With Mutch||Without Mutch|
It's a very small sample size but the overall record of the midfielder isn't much to write home about (I'm not going to use the MUTCH pun a lot in this OK, sorry). Reading have won just three of the nine games he's featured in and one of those wins came against Leeds when Mutch was out of the starting lineup.
Two wins from eight starts is bad enough but the fact that we're unbeaten, with wins over Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday, during the time he's been out of the side, makes it look even worse.
Defensively it's been a horror show with the Palace loanee in the side, especially in away games, where with Mutch featuring we've conceded 16 goals in just five games. Of course, we can't possibly blame that entirely on Jordon, the whole team have been pretty shocking away from home even before his arrival, yet he's not improved the situation at all.
How Has He Compared To The Rest
But has Jordon played badly as an individual or have the team let him down? Here's how he's rated on a game-by-game basis according to WhoScored, who base ratings purely on stats rather than any human judgement.
(Substitute appearances are in italics best performer in bold)
|Mutch||Kelly||Swift||Williams||Evans||van den Berg|
|Ipswich (A)||(D) 2-2||7.6||6.3||5.9||6.1|
|Barnsley (H)||(D) 0-0||6.3||7.2||7.6|
|Brentford (H)||(W) 3-2||6.5||7.3||7.4||6.5|
|Huddersfield (A)||(L) 0-1||7.0||6.8||6.3||6.8|
|Brighton (A)||(L) 0-3||6.0||6.1||5.9||6.2||6.2|
|Wolves (H)||(W) 2-1||7.3||6.7||6.2||6.3|
|Newcastle (H)||(D) 0-0||6.4||6.1||6.5||7.3|
|Preston (A)||(L) 0-3||6.5||6.7||6.7||6.9|
|Sheff Weds (A)||(W) 2-0||7.5||6.8||8.0|
|Leeds (H)||(W) 1-0||6.4||7.0||7.3||6.9|
|Blackburn (H)||(W) 3-1||7.4||6.9||7.8||6.3|
|Norwich (A)||(L) 1-7||5.4||5.8||6.0|
So at least by the numbers, Mutch hasn't actually been that bad. The Palace loanee has earned a higher average rating than both Liam Kelly and George Evans, although Evans has only made two starts in that period.
The problem here isn't so much that Jordon has been particularly horrible, it's that in very few games has he particularly stood out. The only two performances that really catch the eye are in the 2-2 draw at Ipswich when he scored on his debut, and in a 3-1 win over a very poor Blackburn team.
He's gone past the 6.5 rating only once against a top-half team and that was a 7.0 rating in the 1-0 defeat at Huddersfield. Danny Williams has done that six times, Swift and Joey have on three occasions while Kelly managed it twice.
We're Still Not Sure What He's Good At
The overriding issue with Mutch is one that was flagged up by Palace fans when we signed him. Here's what Sam from The Eagle's Beak told us back in January, when we asked what his main strengths were.
'I think his lack of a main strength is actually what holds him back. He doesn't have a key attribute that you can pin to him and discussions about him never include 'Mutch adds X to the side'.
It's probably important that your fans judge him based on his time at Cardiff where his goalscoring ability was his major threat, but as a Palace fan I really can't vouch for that. In fact, he ends his Palace career with a grand total of zero goals and zero assists in 40 competitive appearances. He has played in a number of different positions for us and it's difficult to decipher which is his best — largely down to his lack of a defining attribute.'
Sounds pretty spot on to me. Fittingly, even WhoScored themselves have nothing to put in the strengths column of their scouting report. It's just left blank.
Jordon seems to me to be the type of player that you can slot in to a midfield that's got a couple of others in well defined roles. If you have a Joey or Williams in there to destroy and Kelly or Swift in there to attack, Jordon can be that decent utility player to help out with both roles. The problem comes when he's been asked to either be a holding man, or an attacking threat because, based on what we've seen so far, he can't do either brilliantly well.
I still don't think he's been an awful signing but his performance at Norwich looked like one of a frustrated man who is really struggling to make his mark on this squad. He's got some talent and some nice attributes but it's hard to sit there and argue why we NEED him in the team.
So what have you made of Jordon's time in the blue and white hoops of Reading so far? Let us know in the comments below.