A quick glance through some stats from the opening game versus Derby and it’s pretty clear that Paul Clement has successfully made a break from the tactics employed by Jaap Stam that so many fans lamented over. 40% possession, 12 successful dribbles - the fifth highest on the opening weekend – and an absence of the Royals in the weekend’s top six teams on passes completed and passes attempted.
Along with that, the below graph from EFL stats shows something scarcely believable for the most pessimistic fans last year: Reading doing well in attack and badly in terms of passing. Shocking really.
All these snippets of information point towards a more direct approach, which was clearly visible on Friday night, along with a bit more pace and urgency which has been sorely missed in past seasons. Though whether the same approach can work this time against Nottingham Forest on Saturday remains to be seen.
However, one stat that’s been papered over and left unacknowledged from the Derby game is that it was the first time an away team has come from behind to win a game at the Madejski Stadium since the 2015/16 season - that came against Hull City in April 2016. 27 league matches have occurred since in which the Royals have scored first and claimed at least a point at home.
When you think about it that’s a pretty impressive record and it would be interesting to know how many other clubs in England have one that matches ours or stretches that far back. Records do have to topple though, and inevitably it will happen at some stage, yet for it to happen on the first home game of the season could be seen as slightly worrying. For the last two seasons fans have been confident when taking the lead at the Madejski and it will be important for this re-jigged squad of players to not dwell on this for future home matches.
What about Saturday?
However, enough about home matches, as we’re away at the City Ground on Saturday, so ‘how do Reading typically fair on their first away match of the season?’ you ask, with curious optimism. Not well. In fact, we’ve only done it four times since 1991/1992, the last season of the old Football League system before the arrival of the Premier League bulldozed history out the way.
I had a little dig and do you want to know a really good stat to tell your mates at the pub tonight? Those four times we won our first away game of the season are the last four times we’ve won promotion.
That’s right, in August 1993 we beat Huddersfield at Leeds Road 3-0 – and won promotion. In August 2001 we beat Blackpool 2-0 – and won promotion. In August 2005 we won 2-0 at Brighton’s old Withdean “stadium” and won promotion and in 2011 we won 2-0 at the King Power and, you guessed it, won promotion.
‘So, what you’re telling me is that if we beat Forest on Saturday we’ll definitely win promotion?’
That’s how these sorts of things work, isn’t it?
‘So, we stand a good chance of beating Forest, right? Right..?’
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but we’ve never won a game or actually scored a goal at the City Ground in August and have only ever won there five times since our first meeting up there in 1903. So, it doesn’t really bode well, does it?
Although, to coin a well-meaning, over used catchphrase, statistics like that are made to be broken.