In the first part we outlined how Brian McDermott must choose to stick with youth or experience in goal, while the possibility of signing another remains, and that the defence is exposed across the board as it often seems to be.
The middle of the park suffers the opposite problem of the defence.
Garath McCleary’s inclusion could once make or break an RFC performance. Now he’s just one of many options, maybe even too many?! Given we could afford to play Stephen Quinn out of position. On their day; McCleary, Oliver Norwood, Lucas Piazon, Quinn and Danny Williams would make most Championship squads. It’s not so much we’re lacking anything, more haven’t yet found the best midfield formula.
What’s evident is our crop of midfielders could score a lot of goals given a chance, something Williams single-handedly demonstrates. This potential needs exploiting, especially if the goal drought within the strikers continues.
Steve Clarke’s biggest flaw was tinkering, which didn’t allow for an efficient regular unit to evolve. McDermott needs to set a style and be patient. Keep competition rife and the best setup will eventually reveal itself.
The lack of goals over recent campaigns made you wonder if RFC possessed any real strikers. However I think we’d all agree following the summer, this department improved greatly. But having sold top scorer Nick Blackman, that conundrum’s probably returned. Personally Reading have lacked a "top scoring danger man" since Shane Long’s departure during McDermott’s previous reign.
On paper Matej Vydra befits that role, with 36 Championship goals over two seasons at Watford for testament. Vydra’s capable of making our season but having only netted three despite ample game time, he’s out of form. The finances surrounding his loan probably mean dumping him isn’t an option and signing someone else this window with a similar track record is unlikely. Detractors aside the young Czech is working and creating chances that not many past Royals would’ve attempted. It feels as though the more he plays, the quicker he’ll rediscover scoring form. Thankfully Brian seemingly shares this hypothesis.
Also needing of an ego boost is Orlando Sa, who hasn’t netted since THAT game at Fulham back in October. Following his summer arrival, the Portuguese frontman seemed to grow in both confidence and influence each game. But since his mid-September sending off against Derby, he’s looked a different player. Why? I can only guess dressing room reaction prompted his wings to be clipped. Brian must establish what (if anything) is restraining the target man, because when Sa looked dangerous, so did Reading.
Where does current number nine Hal Robson-Kanu best fit? Deployed as; striker, forward, attacking-midfielder or winger he’s a jack of all trades and mastered none! Not consistently since his breakout 2012/13 season, anyway. Injury, form, competition et cetera haven’t aided the Welshmen, but neither has Hal helped himself. HRK has fallen foul of football’s synonymous club vs. country syndrome; otherwise why would Gareth Bale’s international sparring partner appear so infrequently?! Stating this hurts, but I feel Euro 2016 will see Robson-Kanu charming summer suitors having long waited to rebuff RFC. If he comes good beforehand, great. But if McDermott’s plans involve others then a murky contract situation needs to be resolved and a tempting offer in January may lead to taking the cash.
Summer may see Simon Cox depart once more, having been unsuccessfully loaned out following Clarke’s cold shoulder treatment. Between now and May, it’s make or break for our boy. Surprising, considering alongside Glenn Murray, Coxy was Reading’s top scorer last season! Granted that’s more telling of how bad last season was. Also being honest, Simon’s unlikely to pip his colleagues to star striker, but if McDermott wants/needs a workhorse currently at the club, who better? Whether Cox is desperate to play doesn’t mean he should, but we’d all possibly agree RFC lack someone upfront looking desperate to win games recently. Like HRK, Coxy will want to impress for a chance of going to the Euros. Reintroducing him might ignite striker competition.
Dominic Samuel’s had an impressive year, albeit loaned out. Despite injury he’s bagged ten goals for high-lfying Gilligham. Few doubt his potential and stylistically his pace sets him apart in our striking contingent. Samuel’s 2012 debut at Sunderland now feels long ago, but expecting him to rescue our season seems desperate. Likewise for once non-leaguer Rowan Liburd. Tellingly however, Dom’s loan is set for review later this month. Unless a new striker arrives, regular outings for Reading may await.
In summary the initial point returns; the need to replace Nick Blackman or more rather, his goals. Without which Reading’s season would be up a proverbial creek. Blackman going naturally provides someone space to bloom into scoring form. But aforementioned, nobody is and time’s very much of the essence, especially if promotion is RFC’s target. As more games pass without goals, the greater Brian’s need to sign someone will become.
If Reading can’t score goals, this season rests on the strength of our resolve. An active transfer window might only heighten promotion chances. But inaction towards the current issues facing RFC’s squad may prompt greater damaging reactions next season, something that Brian and his successors have all suffered from.