We’ve already looked at the goalkeepers, full-backs and centre-backs in our player review mini-series, so now here’s what we make of the midfielders. Reading have plenty of them on the books at the moment, but some have done much better than others. As before, we’ve only graded those to have made at least two appearances for the first team, so injury-hit players and those on the fringes don’t qualify.
Tell us what we’ve got right or wrong in the comments and on social media, or give your own grade right here.
TTE average rating: 5.2
For me, Bacuna has been Reading’s best - or at least more reliable - central midfielder this season. Besides occasionally lining up as a holding midfielder, it’s in the box-to-box role where he’s come into his own. It’s great to see him start to secure a specific job in the team to which he is accustomed, in contrast to last season when he was constantly switched between midfield, left-back and right-back.
He’s shown a Danny Williams-esque mixture of energy, strength and dynamism, even chipping in with three goals and three assists in the Championship. As things stand, only Yakou Meite and Liam Moore have racked up more league minutes than him this season, so he’ll almost certainly continue as a regular starter.
TTE average rating: 4.6
The Irishman was brought in to add experience and steel to a midfield that lacked both last season. However, he’s had a rough time of it so far, not playing at all since the 2-1 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday when he was hauled off after 60 minutes.
Worryingly for Meyler, Clement has kept him out of the squad completely of late, preferring the likes of Andy Rinomhota and Liam Kelly both as starters and substitutes. The former Hull City man is well out of the first-team picture at the moment and may need some luck to get back into it.
TTE average rating: 5.3
A mostly underwhelming season so far for Kelly, although he’s improved in the last few weeks. For the most part though, he’s struggled to impose himself on matches and dictate the play as a technical midfielder like him should.
To be fair, that’s not been helped by the move from a possession style under Jaap Stam to a more pragmatic approach under Clement, but Kelly still needs to adapt. The recent return for him to a ‘quarterback’ role, sitting just in front of the back four, may be his best chance of a return to form.
TTE average rating: 5.7
Swift has been in and out of the team this season but, when he’s played in a role that suited him, he’s looked promising. The deployment of Ezatolahi and Bacuna (before the Iranian’s injury) seemed to get the best out of Swift who enjoyed having more freedom to push on. However, he needs to become more effective - and more reliable - when that partnership isn’t there.
TTE average rating: 6.0
The lanky Iranian was a breath of fresh air when he came into Reading’s midfield in September. His ability to read the game well, break up play and distribute the ball effectively not only helped the team defensively, but also allowed Bacuna and Swift to push on higher up the pitch. However, injury cut his run in the team short, and the side has suffered as a result. Getting him back to fitness will be vital for Reading.
TTE average rating: 6.0
Rinomhota became the first academy graduate (and only, at time of writing) to be given a league debut by Paul Clement. After that sub appearance at Preston North End, he would eventually be handed starts against Bristol City and Ipswich Town, looking particularly impressive in the former. He’s not looked out of his depth in the first team, so should have a realistic chance of staying where he is for the foreseeable future.
Who else is there?
Pelle Clement has been on the outer fringe of the outermost fringe of Reading’s squad this season despite what looked like a promising pre-season. He’s picked up just one sub appearance (in the 2-0 League Cup win over Birmingham City), and will likely be moved on at the earlier opportunity. Dave Edwards would have been in Clement’s plans (Paul Clement’s, that is), only for injury to rule him out of proceedings so far.
Creative spark Josh Barrett was on fire for the under-23s before joining Aldershot Town on loan recently, and will be hoping to catch the manager’s eye by impressing at senior level there. Darren Sidoel, Ryan East and Jordan Holsgrove are other youngsters who may break through in the future, but Joey van den Berg is seeing out his loan exile at NEC in the Netherlands.