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Four Things We've Learned About Reading FC's Jaap Stam As A Manager

Bucks looks into the stats behind how Reading have shaped up under Jaap Stam.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Reading - EFL Cup Third Round Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

We keep the ball very well, but using it well is another matter entirely

This won't come as much of a surprise to you, but Reading rank at the very top of the Championship for possession stats. The Royals average 59.5% possession (1st), and have an average pass success rate of 82.4% (2nd). We're certainly seeing the team adapt well to Jaap Stam's playing style.

Going by the above possession stats, you'd think that Reading's passes are predominantly short, simple ones - like you'd see at other possession-based sides like Barcelona or Swansea.

However, a more detailed look at the stats shows a different picture. Although we are second in the division for the average number of short passes per game (434), we're also first in crosses (23) and long balls per game (95).

Clearly, Reading players aren't afraid to hoof the ball long or whip in a cross should they see fit. For me, that's a good sign. Rather than dogmatically sticking to short passes along the ground, Jaap Stam's side is confident enough to mix things up.

However, this hasn't been enough to solve the biggest problem on the field at the moment...

Creativity from open play is poor

Reading's build-up is very disappointing at the moment, with it amounting to just four goals from open play so far this season - the joint worst in the league. That isn't too surprising when you look at how many shots Reading are making, and where they're coming from.

This time last year, a hallmark of Steve Clarke's Reading was the 'shoot on sight' mentality. In particular, Danny Williams, Oliver Norwood and Nick Blackman peppered the opposition's goal with efforts, typically from range.

In 2015/16, Reading came tenth for total number of goals from open play, with 39. So far under Jaap Stam, the Royals are 21st.

Fast-forward to this season, and it's another story. Under Jaap Stam so far, Reading are 14th in the division for average shots per game (12.7), and 16th for average shots on target per game (3.6). Quite simply, we're not threatening the goal enough.

For me, you can judge how good a team's build-up play is by how many simple, straight-forward chances it makes. In other words, if the creativity is good enough, the man on the end of a move just has to tuck the ball home.

Reading certainly aren't doing that. Of all the shots Jaap Stam's side has had in the league this season, only 1% of them have been from inside the six yard box. For context, that's the same number as Derby County, who have scored a paltry six goals this season. The league average is around 6%, with the highest proportion 11%.

Roy Beerens is the second most dispossessed player in the Championship, with that happening 3.2 times per game.

The Royals are a dirty side

That sounds like a brash statement, but the 21 fouls we're making on average each game puts us top of the league. Added to that, with 28 cards shown to Royals (two of them reds), we're the fifth most punished side in the Championship.

Is all of that a bad thing? Not necessarily - Reading do seem to have regained a physical edge that's been lacking somewhat in recent years. As long as that's used intelligently, rather than being uncontrolled, I can't really see a downside.

Yann Kermorgant makes 1.9 fouls per game, the 7th highest in the division.

We're tightening up at the back (sort of)

The stats for Reading's defence are a mixed bag. Although the Royals are 7th best for shots conceded per game (an average of 11.9), we drop to 16th for goals conceded overall. Why is that?

One potential reason is that, on the face of things, we're not doing something pretty basic: getting blocks in. Perhaps worryingly, the Royals are rock bottom of the table for the average number of blocked shots and crosses per game.

For me, that suggests we're not assertive enough at the back, probably due to the lack of experience. Liam Moore (23) and Jordan Obita (22) are still in the early stage of their career, and let's not forget that this is Jaap Stam's first job as manager. Despite being a legendary centre half himself, he hasn't before had to organise a defence from the dugout.

Joey Van den Berg is the 7th most proficient tackler in the Championship, making an average of 3.1 tackles per match.

All stats in this article are taken from WhoScored.