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Further Reading: Reading FC 0-0 Barnsley FC

Is George Evans another overrated deep-lying playmaker? Can a nil-nil be entertaining? And are Reading FC competing against The Oracle?

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George Evans

Towards the end of last season I watched a game in the French third tier. I came away really impressed by both sides' deep-lying playmakers and was sure they were both players to keep an eye on. I was disappointed when I later searched for them online and found that they were in their late twenties with fairly unremarkable careers to date.

Why do I mention this? Well after that game I started to realise how often deep-lying playmakers seem to impress during matches. In modern football they are the players who frequently have the most touches of the ball and their whole team's game goes through them.

We often think they've played better than they have simply because we saw them on the ball more than their teammates. This happens even more in games when the opposition sit back and they can go through the whole game without much pressure.

Danny Guthrie, Aaron Kuhl and Oliver Norwood were all lauded at times by Reading fans when only later on did we realise that maybe they weren't as effective as we first thought.

George Evans on Saturday was another classic example of this. Only Roy Beerens had a higher passing accuracy than him against Barnsley. Yet, as the graphic below shows, in 90 minutes Evans managed just six forward passes in the opposition half.

Some of that is down to him playing centre back in the second half. However, when you see the passes that his centre back partners, Tyler Blackett and Liam Moore, made in the same 45 minutes you realise that Evans had a very cautious game.

In the first half Reading were too often guilty of taking an extra pass or touch. Evans often dropped deep splitting the centre backs, but this often meant that it then took Reading two passes rather than one to get from one flank to the other.

Evans is a decent player and has on more than one occasion this season showed he has the passing ability to create goals. Reading's patient approach has worked this season, but sometimes Evans and Reading could do with upping the pace and taking more risks.

Statistics come from Squawka and WhoScored.

Boring Nil-Nil?

Whenever I try to explain to a non-football fan why I've spent so much energy, time and money on watching Reading I always mention emotion. It can be hard to explain the highs and lows that you get from watching your team play.

A game like Saturday was never likely to create any memorable highs and lows, but even a narrow win or loss gives you that little fix of emotion. In a scoring draw you might eventually leave the ground neither happy nor angry, but for at least two times in the game you did get that winning or losing feeling that comes from goals.

In a nil-nil you don't get those moments, which can leave a feeling of being cheated. If football is about emotion then it's hard not to feel that a nil-nil was boring. The first half against Barnsley was certainly a bit drab, but the second half wasn't. Both teams should have scored and could have won the game.

I've seen much worse games with goals in them, but it doesn't matter how much drama occurs in a nil-nil, ultimately the lack of any highs or lows leaves you a bit disappointed.

Family Day Out

When I book my seats online I always try to get seats close to the halfway line, but there are never any available. However, come matchday and there are plenty of available.

Maybe it's a sign of me getting old and mythicizing the past, but I don't remember that being the case when I used to be a season ticket holder. I am not going to start preaching on how to be a supporter, but I do wonder if it's another example of how attitudes and atmosphere in football have changed.

I'm coming across more and more season ticket holders who miss up to a third of home games in a season. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does show how football today is viewed as a form of entertainment rather than culture or identity.

No one would expect you to watch every TV programme just because you pay for satellite television. Similarly just because you have BT Sport or Sky Sports does not mean that you find yourself watching Dutch or Portuguese football every week.

So it's not surprising that more season ticket holders miss games than they used to. Football's gentrification has almost seen the game advertised as a family day out. The problem with that means that a club like Reading aren't just competing with Sky Sports and Premier League clubs, they are also up against The Oracle, soft play and other family days out.

Football, and especially watching your team live, used to be an unique experience. However, when you try to advertise it as a fun day out then a game like Saturday is always going to be a hard sell.

For nearly three decades English football clubs have treated supporters as customers. By doing so they have turned us into consumers who demand entertainment and an experience. Just like other forms of entertainment, football fans are increasingly choosing when to watch.