Paul Clement inherited a pretty poor Reading squad from Jaap Stam, but he’s got a great opportunity to rejuvenate it over the coming months. The summer transfer window in England this year is now open and will run until August 9, a lot earlier than usual due to the Premier League voting to shunt the window forwards so that it wouldn’t overlap with the opening weeks of the 2018/19 season.
That early opening means Clement, who’s only been at the club since March 23, can dive into signings pretty quickly, but what exactly should he be doing in the transfer window?
The overall strategy
The gaffer has already said he’s going to try to address the unbalanced nature of the squad, telling the official site:
“I want to balance the squad slightly, for me it’s about reducing the size slightly and improving quality, that means there are going to be some exits - but that’s normal, it’s part of football.”
Which is probably about right for where Reading are at the moment. Some positions are over-crowded and others less so, which certainly didn’t held Jaap Stam and Clement in 2017/18.
The overall transfer budget is hard to predict - Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li handed Stam a massive wad of cash last year, but it wasn’t invested well enough. Will that deter the owners from allowing Clement to splash out now? We won’t know for a few weeks at least.
Reading are very well stocked here, so an incoming signing is only likely as a replacement for anyone that leaves. Vito Mannone will likely remain number one next season, with Anssi Jaakkola providing experienced cover after his contract was renewed on Friday. Further down, George Legg, Luke Southwood and Lewis Ward provide plenty of depth, and at least two will go out on loan for game time.
Chris Gunter and Jordan Obita (if he’s fit) should have the full-back slots nailed down next season, whilst academy graduates Omar Richards and Tennai Watson give cover. Tyler Blackett, who we’ll count as a left back, could very well be one that Clement looks to move on to make room for new signings. Assuming the players we already have here stay fit, Reading shouldn’t need another full-back, but the manager may want to add some experience.
The big question here is obviously over the future of Liam Moore, who’ll certainly attract suitors from bigger clubs. That said, the former Leicester City man seems happy at the club, and is contracted for another three years, so the Royals are in a strong position to at the very least demand a huge fee.
Elsewhere, Paul McShane and Tiago Ilori will likely stay in the hope of developing under Clement - the same going for youngsters Tom Holmes and Axel Andresson who made their debuts last season. Reading may want an experienced leader at centre half (Tommy Elphick anyone?) particularly if Moore does depart for pastures new.
There’s a huge number of central midfielders on the books at the moment, with the list currently at:
Liam Kelly, John Swift, Leandro Bacuna, Joey van den Berg, Dave Edwards, Pelle Clement, George Evans, Andy Rinomhota, Danzell Gravenberch, Sandro Wieser and Josh Barrett.
Realistically, at least three or four of them could be shipped out as Clement opts for quality over quantity. A convincing holding midfielder to break up the play would be a huge boost for this team, and I wouldn’t say no to another box-to-box or creative spark - as long as they improve the first team rather than giving us more depth that we don’t need.
Another position where Reading have plenty of quantity but little quality. Modou Barrow is undoubtedly the best player here, but the experienced Garath McCleary and Sone Aluko disappointed last season due to injury and not being very good at football (respectively). The lesser-spotted Callum Harriott (24) and Yakou Meite (22) could kick on in their development, whilst Adrian Popa didn’t do himself any favours by being spotted smoking in a nightclub (allegedly).
Again, Reading are likely to ship out a few of them as Clement opts tor quality over quantity. A consistent performer or two who can create opportunities from out wide should arrive over the coming months.
Reading will look to continue their annual tradition of panickedly looking for a decent goalscorer in the summer transfer window, with their failure to find one 12 months ago a big factor in the club’s collapse. That’s easier said than done, and could rely heavily on how big the transfer budget is, so Clement may have to be inventive here. However, a quality addition is vital if we’re to push on in 2018/19.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (who’s off to the World Cup with Iceland) will expect to feature regularly after a consistent campaign that saw him finish as joint-top goal-scorer. Yann Kermorgant, who postponed retirement with a new deal last season, is the club’s only other experienced forward. Meanwhile, youngsters Sam Smith, Andrija Novakovich and Danny Loader have clearer runs towards first-team football now that we know Joseph Mendes and Deniss Rakels are off. Hopefully, one or two of them can be incorporated into the first team set-up over the course of the upcoming season.
What do you think Reading need to do in the summer transfer window? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.