The date is September 28th, 2014. The Sky cameras are in town. As are Wolves, Reading’s opponents in an early season play-off rivals’ encounter. With the hosts one up and cruising at half-time, their plucky young manager makes a substitution, replacing Hope Akpan with Danny Guthrie, in an attempt to control the game. 45 minutes later, the hosts have barely scraped a 3-3 draw.
The theory was sound. With Guthrie and Oli Norwood the midfield pairing in a home game against a decent but not overly impressive opposition, Reading could keep possession with ease and see out the win. However, that’s not how it always works at Championship level. The value of midfield destroyers and physicality cannot be underestimated in the face of bright lights and pretty boy football.
Reading in 2017 are facing the same conundrum as Nigel Adkins did three years ago: do they pack the midfield with ball players, or find a bit of something different?
Enter Lewis Baker, a much discussed but ultimately futile rumour as the young English midfielder is heading to Middlesbrough for a two-year loan, Garry Monk’s side having beaten the Royals to his signature. But, Baker was never the man to ‘fix’ Reading.
In John Swift and Liam Kelly, Jaap Stam has two high quality ball playing midfielders to start week in, week out. That can be supplemented by George Evans doing a tidy job as an alternative, or even to complete the midfield three. As a trio, they are just that. Tidy. If anything, they still lack the muscle power that Baker would certainly not have provided.
Stephen Quinn and Joey van den Berg are the natural options for such a role, but the former has barely played in the past 12 months and the latter is a better centre-back in a 3-5-2 than he is an anchor man in a 4-3-3. Therefore, if Reading are to prioritise any signing in the coming weeks, it’s in this department.
Time will tell if Leandro Bacuna, Aston Villa’s busy but wayward Dutchman, can fill that role, but it’s perhaps a better shout than Baker. While he seems to be an able and quality goal getter from central midfield, Reading should focus on developing what they’ve already got in that area and focus their cash reserves on filling the far bigger, more important gaps left in the squad.
Are you unhappy Reading missed out on Lewis Baker?
This poll is closed
Yes, Reading need all the signings they can get.
Yes, he’s a perfect fit.
No, he’s not good enough.
No, we need a different sort of player.