Pre-season is almost over, with just one more friendly to go before we return to regular league action. Reading entertain Premier League Crystal Palace next Saturday at the Madejski Stadium, hoping to get their first friendly win of the summer break. But what have we learned so far from pre-season?
Eastleigh 2-1 Reading (Leandro Bacuna)
AFC Wimbledon 4-2 Reading
Fulham 0-0 Reading
Reading 2-2 Besiktas (Sam Smith, Marc McNulty)
Reading 0-0 Rubin Kazan
Reading still aren’t very good at winning games... or scoring goals
If this were the regular league season, you’d be worried not only about Reading’s inability to get three points, but also our inability to score goals. Paul Clement’s side started off with back-to-back away defeats before drawing three times in a row - scoring only five goals in all those five matches combined. It strongly suggests that, given the squad is largely the same as it was last season, low confidence is still a big issue and there’s been no obvious boost to morale - unsurprising given the lack of any particularly exciting signings.
Then again, we’ve discovered a bit of resilience
Winning games and scoring goals aside, the last three games have actually been pretty good for Reading. We’ve claimed respectable draws against recently-promoted Fulham (albeit without Aleksandar Mitrovic), former Champions League side Besiktas and former Russian champions Rubin Kazan, getting two clean sheets in the progress. Considering both how bad last season was, and the ongoing inability to bring in an established striker, that’s not to be overlooked.
The new striker could end up being... Yakou Meite
I talked about this in more detail here, but it’s worth a quick recap anyway. It’s interesting that, given Reading’s abundance of wingers (six senior options when fit) and lack of strikers (three when fit - I’m not counting Loader, Meite has been shifted from playing out wide to leading the line. It may just be a pre-season experiment but, even if we were to bring in a first-team quality striker we’ll still need options - and that could open up an opportunity for Meite.
Evolution, not revolution
Bad news for anyone who loves hoofball - it ain’t coming back anytime soon. In fact, if you weren’t a fan of Reading passing around the back under Jaap Stam, there won’t be a huge amount of difference under Paul Clement going forwards. Judging by what we’ve seen in pre-season so far, the Royals will still try to control possession by playing out from the back, albeit with noticeably more urgency and less risk.
Youth may have to wait
As Olly highlighted in his look at the squad that Reading would be taking on their pre-season trip to Austria, Clement seems to be more cautious about involving youth than his predecessor was. Stam took nine youngsters to the Netherlands who, at that point, had not been given their first-team debut. In contrast, Clement has taken just one - Lewis Ward who also comes under Stam’s nine.
Given that some of the other players Stam took would still qualify this time around (eg Ryan East and Tyler Frost) it’s perhaps a little disappointing that Clement opted to leave them (and others) out.