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2017/18 Reading FC Positional Previews: Wingers

How will McCleary, Beerens, Popa, Harriott and Clement fare this season?

Reading v Fulham - Sky Bet Championship Play Off: Second Leg Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

It’s where Reading have made their most recent addition, to how are the wings looking ahead of the first game?

Players available in the position

Reading are fairly well-stocked out wide, and can count on six senior options: Garath McCleary, Roy Beerens, Callum Harriott, Adrian Popa and new signings Modou Barrow and Pelle Clement. Meanwhile, promising forward Yakou Meite departed the club on loan to Sochaux this summer.

McCleary and Beerens are certainly the first team players here, but the presence of Barrow, Popa (who enjoyed a promising pre-season) and youngsters Harriott and Clement gives them some good competition.

That gives Jaap Stam a good blend of experience and youth in this position - should the bulk of them stay fit, they’ll be an important source of creativity and goals in the upcoming campaign.

How did they perform last season?

We’re looking at a very mixed bag. Garath McCleary certainly did better than any of his peers, contributing nine goals and nine assists in his 43 appearances. However, despite a fine first half of the season (during which he was the club’s top scorer), he found the net just once in 2017.

Roy Beerens’ six league goals in 40 games may seem less impressive on the face of it, but he had a knack for scoring when it mattered. If you subtract the Dutchman’s strikes from the five games in which he scored, four matches would have been draws (rather than wins), and one victory would become a loss.

Elsewhere, Adrian Popa enjoyed an underwhelming first four months at Reading as he adapted to English football, although his only goal made sure of a huge 0-2 win at Hillsborough. Callum Harriott only managed 16 appearances in all competitions due to an injury picked up in December in the fog-abandoned Fulham game, but scored three times. As for Barrow, he floundered at Leeds on loan and needs to kickstart his career.

What needs improvement?

Consistency - although, to be fair, that’s a little hard to achieve when Reading don’t always play with wingers. When Jaap Stam opts for a 3-5-2 rather than a 4-3-3, it means making the wingers into either wing backs, central midfielders or out-and-out strikers. That happened a few times last season, and limited the wingers’ effectiveness.

On the assumption that Messrs McCleary, Beerens, Popa, Harriott and Clement all regularly play out wide in a 4-3-3, they need to make sure they’re not only creating chances, but also finding the net themselves. Reading can’t afford to rely on their central striker for goals like they did last season, when Yann Kermorgant’s 19 league strikes far outstripped the contributions from McCleary (9) and Beerens (6).

What are my expectations ahead of the season?

Jaap Stam will likely use some of the funds he has left to bring in another forward, which could very well be Swansea City’s Modou Barrow. Should he come in, that would shove one of the above-mentioned wingers out of the first team.

Besides any potential arrivals, expect the following:

  • Garath McCleary to do very well for some of the season, but struggle for fitness.
  • Roy Beerens to be a first team regular despite not contributing a large amount of goals or assists.
  • Adrian Popa to adapt well to the English game, and chip in with a decent number of goals and assists.
  • Callum Harriott to recover from injury and show some promise, without nailing down a regular spot in the first team.
  • Pelle Clement to typically be used off the bench, rather than getting a lot of starts.

Is the squad well stocked enough for the new season? Comment below.