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Is Reading’s Loan-Heavy Transfer Strategy A Wise Choice?

Olly assesses the pros and cons of the loan system, which Reading have used to full effect this month.

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Barring a surprise new signing in the final few days of the window, Reading’s transfer business this month appears to have concluded, with the arrivals of Ovie Ejaria, Lewis Baker, Nelson Oliveira, Emiliano Martinez and Matt Miazga bringing a sense of optimism to Berkshire. Some fans have gone as far as to say this is the club’s best January window in recent memory, especially considering Reading’s lowly position in the Championship table.

All five players arrived on loan until the end of the season, meaning - along with Saeid Ezatolahi - the Royals now have six loanees in their ranks. The maximum number that can feature in a matchday squad is five, so problems will arise when the Iranian international returns to fitness - that’s if he’s even in Jose Gomes’ plans at all.

It sparks an interesting debate about the pros and cons of the loan system.

On the one hand, you could argue that Reading have utilised it perfectly. They’ve brought in players who definitely improve the quality of the squad without having to pay inflated transfer fees. Transfermarkt value the Royals’ five new arrivals at just under £14 million combined, which is not only way out of Reading’s budget, but also likely an underestimation anyway.

You only need to look at the reaction of supporters of other Championship clubs to see that Reading have made a real statement of intent with their transfer business this month, and have given themselves every chance of surviving relegation.

Equally, if they don’t work out for whatever reason - because Reading certainly have a history of signing highly rated players only for them to flop - there’s not as many consequences as there are attached to a permanent flop. There’ll be no continued debate about how we paid ‘x’ amount for an under-performing dud, and the players will head back to their parent clubs in the summer anyway.

Ultimately these players are short-term fixes. Jose Gomes has identified the areas of his squad that needed improving and plugged gaps that were lacking. The sole focus between now and May is maintaining our Championship status, and that’s what these signings have been brought in to do. No one is looking beyond that. Come the summer, when Gomes will have been able to assess his squad in more depth, and more importantly know which division Reading will be playing in next season, permanent signings will be able to be made in confidence.

Of course the worry is that this month’s signings don’t live up to the hype. Seeing so many loan deals be confirmed in the last week took me back to the last few days of the summer transfer window in 2015, when Lucas Piazon, Matej Vydra and Ola John all arrived on a temporary basis in the space of 24 hours.

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All three came with a fair amount of promise and expectation, and although they each had their moments, they can ultimately be described as failures at Reading. At the time it was often commented that they weren’t committed enough, and essentially didn’t care what happened to the club beyond their time here.

Although this (touch wood) doesn’t seem like it will be the case this season, Oliveira and Miazga are two players with reported attitude problems in the past. You would hope that when the going gets tough they will fight for the club and not just sulk on the sidelines, condemning us to relegation in the process.

On the other side of the coin, they’ll hopefully be a huge success and secure Reading’s safety comfortably, but that brings about it’s own problems in the summer. We’ll essentially be back to square one, with the squad that got us in this mess in the first place. Of course as mentioned, that’s when permanent signings come in to play, but Gomes could find himself with the tricky task of replacing a couple of the side’s most influential assets without the budget to do so.

This makes it sound as if you can’t win with loan signings, which is unfair because Reading have had some very successful loanees in the past, as discussed on episode 182 of The Tilehurst End Podcast. All I hope is that this month’s new arrivals are more Glenn Murray than Chris Martin.