Reading’s injury problems this season would suggest the squad isn’t big enough, but the opposite is apparently the case. In surprisingly candid comments, Paul Clement has admitted that some players at the club are getting annoyed they’re not playing as often as they’d like.
Having signed eight senior players in the summer, letting go of George Evans and Yann Kermorgant, and loaning out another dozen squad members, the Royals now have 33 players on the books who have appeared for the first team, although only 25 of those have done so in 2018/19. Although some of them are happy with their game time, others aren’t, as Clement told Football.London:
“Clearly there are a lot of players who are not happy they are not in the 11 or in the matchday 18. But what am I supposed to do? I can only pick 11 and put seven on the bench.
”Some players understand that situation and are getting on with it and trying their best to force their way in. All you can do is when you’re not involved in the 11 or the 18 is try and change the ideas of the manager.”
Treating his comments - “a lot of players” - at face value, the problem is pretty widespread, although it’s affecting some more than others - “some players understand that situation”. So who could he be talking about?
The most obvious two are Josh Sims and Modou Barrow. On paper at least, they’re two of Reading’s most exciting attacking players, and it’s been surprising to not see them start that often this season. Sims has been named in the XI just once since signing on loan from Southampton, whilst Barrow has started six of 12 league games, coming off the bench another four times.
Otherwise, Vito Mannone, Tyler Blackett and Marc McNulty probably have expectations of first-team football, but haven’t had that in 2018/19. Mannone was displaced by Sam Walker a few weeks ago due to injury and hasn’t got his spot back, with a similar thing happening to Blackett. McNulty, a summer signing from Coventry City, started a league game for the first time against West Brom and is yet to open his Royals account.
All of those players are, for me, good enough to play in the first team and could very well be rewarded with a run of starts if they take a chance when it comes up. However, others are in a trickier situation.
David Meyler, Pelle Clement, Danny Loader, Anssi Jaakkola and Andy Rinomhota have all already made their first-team debuts but will find it difficult to break back into Paul Clement’s plans unless the club’s injury problems get a lot worse. The same thing can be said for youngsters like Josh Barrett, Tom Holmes, Darren Sidoel and Luke Southwood (although the last two haven’t made their debut).
Short of keeping the players happy with man-management and rotation, Reading will likely need to purge their squad in January. After all, as Paul Clement noted, there are only so many places in the first team to go around.
Do you think the club needs a squad purge in January? If so, who? Let us know in the comments below.
You can read the original piece from Football.London in full right here.