On a torrid afternoon for his team Jaap Stam has lessons to learn about the depth (or lack thereof) of his squad and the tactical battles he will face as a manager.
Even before the suspension of Liam Moore, Jaap Stam was faced with tough tactical decisions going up against Fulham. In Ryan Fredericks and Scott Malone Fulham have two of the most attacking full-backs in the league and with wingers Suno Aluko and Floyd Ayité happy playing central this often leads to five in attack.
Now one of the benefits we have seen from our recent switch to 3-4-1-2 is the ability to outnumber opposition both in attack and defence, but with Fulham's front five tying up our back five it would be a big ask for George Evans and Danny Williams to boss Fulham's midfield trio.
Moore's suspension may have forced his hand, but Stam made the decision to move away from a back three and match up Fulham with a 4-3-3. Typically when two teams play the same formation and style the result often comes down to who can win their individual battles and in this match the answer was a Fulham player time and time again.
I wont dwell much on the second half, because with 10 men against a team with Fulham's passing ability and threat upfront, they should (and did) turn the screw and make the scoreline painful. Instead I want to look at the areas in which I feel we lost the game, particularly in that first half.
Jordan Obita was given the runaround by a combination of the excellent Aluko and Fredericks and it was the latter's cross that was ultimately nodded home in comedic fashion by Chris Gunter (just in time for his TV debut).
Fulham's wingers and fullbacks double teaming Obita and Gunter was a constant theme of the first half and Reading's wingers didn’t know whether to stick or twist. If they tracked the full back they ended up so deep that they offered nothing going forward and if they stayed higher up then Fulham could attack at will.
Add to that the fact that Garath McCleary and the particularly poor Roy Beerens rarely beat their man made it a very poor day at office for Reading's wide men.
In the Centre
One of the hallmarks of this season has been our midfield dominating the ball win, lose or draw, but the trio of Evans, JVB and Williams was so imbalanced that they were practically spectators. Unable to retain any meaningful possession or prevent Fulham's impressive trio from passing their way through us with ease they offered absolutely nothing.
Ever since the pre-season loss to Wimbledon I have been convinced that there is only one position that Joey can play in this team and that’s sat in front of the defence in the deepest lying midfield role. Further forward he doesn't have the agility or technical ability to have any impact and spent most of the game losing the ball and throwing himself into late tackles. George Evans has rightfully cemented that place for himself in the last few weeks, but for me they are simply too similar to play together.
I must confess that I am not Danny Williams' number one fan. I think his first touch is horrendous and he runs down blind alleys like no one I've ever seen, but his performances this season have been a real step up and he has impressed me.
Whether he stays or not in January is another matter, but for now he is a key cog in the team. Having said that we know he is hot-headed and the straight red today was disappointing. I've seen his posts on instagram after the game, but for me regardless of whether he was stamped on I think he let his teammates down.
We all know that a striker is a priority in January, but the midfield worries me as well. With Danny now suspended we could see the highly rated Liam Kelly come in for a spell, but that midfield is looking threadbare and with no clear comeback in sight for Stephen Quinn I would like to see us strengthen here as well.
Seeing as we have spoken about the shortcomings in defence and midfield we may as well complete the set and talk about Dom Samuel.
I felt sorry for Dom today, he was left completely isolated and as a result contributed very little. One decent chance in the second half in which he failed to either get a strike in on goal or square it to the waiting Kelly make you wonder whether he is clinical enough at this level.
Unfortunately his inability to win the ball in the air or hold the ball up is creating real issues for us particularly from goal kicks. Throughout the game we would set up as normal for a short goal kick, but Fulham were able to press us so high, due in part to the extra man but also, safe in the knowledge that a long kick up front was food and drink for their two centre backs.
Reading were second best to the loose ball all game which left us with no real platform to build attacks either being patient with the ball or more direct.
Any time a team loses 5-0 the manager has to take some blame, but honestly I'm not sure what Stam would have done differently if he had the chance to replay the game.
Harriot in for Beerens? Easy in hindsight. Move Joey to centre and go three at the back? Would it have helped?
With no Yann Kermorgant, John Swift or Moore for this game there was very limited options and we have already seen that Stam is committed to his football philosophy so we were never go to "stick to 4-4-2 and lump it forward" as I heard one fan comment at the game.
At the end of day these things happen and it is now down the manager and the players to make sure this season's loss to Fulham does not have the same effect as last year's. Also, seeing as I've now seen Reading concede 13 goals in my three away games this seasons I might give them a break for while...