Dave Edwards’ red card
When Dave Edwards received his second yellow card in the 30th minute, everyone knew that Reading were going to be in for an even longer night than they first thought. Edwards made a completely unnecessary challenge on Birkir Bjarnason on the halfway line just 13 minutes after his challenge on Jack Grealish had earned the Welshman his first yellow card and unfortunately gave the referee no other option but to send Edwards off.
It was always going to be difficult for Reading facing a promotion-chasing Villa laden with high-quality players even with their full compliment of players but with a man down it became near-impossible. Edwards very nearly cost Reading the win in their previous game against QPR when he gave away a late penalty which was fortunately saved by Vito Mannone and now he has let himself and the team down again by getting the first red card of his career in the most pointless circumstances. The last thing Reading need is to make things harder for themselves than they already are by making silly mistakes like Edwards has done.
More red cards than shots on target
Edwards’ sending off also marked the second consecutive game in which the Royals have been down to ten men following Yann Kermorgant’s red card against QPR. Kermorgant’s was also completely needless and made up of two yellows for lazy challenges but luckily did not cost Reading that match. Paul Clement noted after the Aston Villa game that in his previous two stints as a manager at Derby and Swansea he had never seen one of his players sent off but in his first two games at Reading he has seen it happen in both of them. Hopefully this trend does not continue for the rest of the season!
Another worrying statistic is that Reading now have more red cards than shots on target in Clement’s first two games with the solitary shot on target being Sone Aluko’s winner last week against QPR. Obviously spending an hour against Villa with ten men was never going to reap many chances for Reading, it certainly seems as though goals and clear-cut chances are not something that Royals fans are going to see a lot of in these last six fixtures.
As Swansea and Derby fans alike informed Reading fans when it was announced that Paul Clement had been appointed as Jaap Stam’s successor, he favours a very defensive passing game. This would be very similar to the style of play that Stam had tried to instil at the club during his time, highlighting the club’s continued commitment to “playing football the right way” and Clement’s first two games have showed that this is exactly what Reading fans will be getting from his team.
Now while this defensive style can certainly be effective in games such as the QPR fixture to allow Reading to nab a goal and then keep out the opposition, it becomes ineffective when they need to chase a game and find a goal from somewhere and it will be interesting to see how they go about things when they are put in that position and whether Clement has a plan B or not.
Lack of wingers and pace
One thing which is obvious is that with this defensive approach, Reading need to be quick on the counter attack to maximise their potential going forward and currently pace, and wingers in particular as a source of pace, is something that they are severely lacking in. None of the four senior team strikers are particularly quick and the only two wingers that are available to play currently are Modou Barrow and Sone Aluko.
Midway through the season it seemed as though Reading had an abundance of wingers but Roy Beerens was sold, Adrian Popa sent on loan and Garath McCleary and Callum Harriott are not expected to feature for the rest of the season due to injury and so that number has severely dwindled.
Barrow has been a very good signing for Reading and his explosive pace has been a potent weapon this season but, on the other hand, Aluko has shown a huge tendency to go missing and has been a nullified threat for most of the season. The lack of other options to play on the wing explains why he continues to get picked but Reading need someone to help them move quickly from defence to attack under the way Paul Clement plays and of the attacking options Reading have it seems that only Modou Barrow fits that criteria which is extremely worrying.
Need to pick up points against Preston
Reading are just five points above the relegation zone with only six games left to play and half of those fixtures involve teams in the top ten – Preston, Fulham and Cardiff – meaning it will be a very difficult run in for the Royals. Preston is their next game and out of all the play-off chasing teams Reading have to face they are the ones it seems most likely for Reading to be able to get a result against.
If they can do that then their other three games against Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich are certainly winnable and points from those games you would think would be enough to keep Reading up. That said, you never know what the results will be for teams around the Royals and so they need to do their utmost to keep their future in their own hands.