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2018/19 Positional Preview: Wingers

Will the wide men be able to supply the strikers and help out the full backs?

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship
Aluko must impress this season.
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images,

Players available in this position

There appears to be quite a clear hierarchy when it comes to wingers in The Royals squad. The first choice pairing are expensive disappointment Sone Aluko and crazy quick Modou Barrow. The competitors for that spot are perma-crock pairing Garath McCleary and Callum Harriott, with the player that nobody can quite decide on, Adrian Popa, quite possibly getting another chance because of the aforementioned injury prone duo.

Oh, and there’s a youngster called Tyler Frost who could come in from the cold to feature in the first team if things get desperate, or he gets in a hot streak.

And obviously, John O’Shea is the king of versatile players and can be called upon if required.

AFC Wimbledon v Reading - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

How did they perform last season?

On the positive side of things, Barrow managed to score 10 goals and lay on 5 assists in 42 Championship appearances, which is pretty good going for a team that got dragged into what the pundits call a relegation ‘scrap’.

And then... It gets difficult. Aluko arrived from Fulham with a bunch of fanfare and optimism, but only managed 2 goals and 5 assists, and was, to be honest, pretty pants. McCleary and Harriott were too injured to either play or do anything of note, and Popa fell out of favour so drastically he was catapulted to far away lands.

Tyler Frost was left out in the cold (no, YOU stop making cold jokes) last season, making 8 appearances in the EFL Trophy but otherwise not getting a sniff.

O’Shea got relegated with Sunderland. Probably because he wasn’t given a chance on the wing.

What needs improvement?

What doesn’t? The first choice duo need to find some consistency. Barrow was exciting, and contributed a fair amount, but he went missing in games and reminded supporters of vintage Bambi-style Jimmy Kebe at times.

Aluko needs to really buck up his ideas, else he’ll see the Reading faithful turn on him very quickly. He arrived as a player who would make the team tick, get them playing ye olde tiki taka... And he didn’t. So he needs to find some form, and quick.

The crocked couple just need to recover from injury and get regular minutes on the pitch. We’ve seen what they can both do, but we haven’t seen it for far too long and you have to wonder if this is their final season with The Royals if injury problems persist.

Frost needs to make the most of the opportunities he’s given (if he’s not loaned out), because there’s a reasonable chance he can get into the team this season with limited options.

John O’Shea just needs to be given a chance, really. I’m certain he’d blow us all away.

FC Zurich v FC Steaua Bucuresti - UEFA Europa League Photo by Valeriano Di Domenico/Getty Images

What are my expectations ahead of the season?

Much the same as last season, to be honest. There’s not been any change out wide, other than losing Beerens and seeing Pelle Clement become more of a central player, and the arrival of Paul Clement. It all comes down to how the manager deploys his wide men, whether he uses them as more defensive supporting wingers, or gung-ho attacking wide men.

Supposing we see no new arrivals, expect the following:

  • Modou Barrow to pick up where he left off last season, running very fast and terrifying defenders before either scoring or falling over.
  • Sone Aluko to play well, but be tarnished by his first season at the club and have supporters scapegoat him for any poor display.
  • Garath McCleary and Callum Harriott to feature a little bit, but not reach their full fitness.
  • Adrian Popa to come from behind the curtain and declare, “Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be the Romanian Messi” and absolute tear it up. Or, sit on the bench and run around at the end of games for most of the season.
  • Tyler Frost to be frozen out. (Still funny.)
  • John O’Shea to revolutionise how we see wingers play the game. Ballon d’Or certified.

How are Reading looking out wide? Is there enough there for The Royals to push up the table and escape relegation?

Let us know.