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What Reading Need To Do In The January Transfer Window

A closer look at what the next month of transfer activity could have in store for the Royals.

Queens Park Rangers v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The January transfer window is upon us, and it’s set to be a busy month for Reading Football Club. The Royals are set for a decent number of incomings and outgoings, with Jose Gomes looking to trim, rebalance and bolster his squad ahead of the final portion of the season.

Annoyingly, we don’t know what kind of budget he’ll be working with. You’d think he would have been promised a decent amount of cash before agreeing to join the club, but we could instead see a repeat of the relatively low-spending summer 2018 window.

Below, we’ve gone through the Reading squad by position to see what business the Royals need to do. What signings are required, and who’s headed for the exit door?

We've also put how much of a priority it is to see players leave/arrive in each of these positions.

Main options: Anssi Jaakkola, Vito Mannone, Sam Walker

Other options: Luke Southwood, George Legg, Lewis Ward, Jokull Andresson, Liam Driscoll, Adam Desbois

Reading have quantity, but not quality, between the sticks. None of the three three senior options have properly cemented their status as the side’s number one just yet, even though all have had runs in the first-team. At the moment Jaakkola is top of the pecking order, but his jittery distribution is always a worry, not least for Gomes who’ll want a goalkeeper that can play out from the back.

Getting that specialist ‘keeper will be important, but may only happen in the summer when there’ll be more options available on the market. In the meantime, expect at least one of Mannone and Walker to leave in search of first-team football, either on loan or on a permanent basis.

The Royals have plenty of young talent ready to make the step up to at least third choice, perhaps most notably Under-20 World Cup winner Luke Southwood. So Mannone and Walker both leaving wouldn’t leave us short for goalkeepers.

Priority level for incomings: medium-high

Priority level for outgoings: medium

Main options: Andy Yiadom, Chris Gunter, Omar Richards, Jordan Obita

Other options: Tennai Watson, Ramarni Medford-Smith, Teddy Howe

A possession-based system always needs good full-backs - just see Reading’s problems last season when constantly playing a right-footer at left-back reduced our balance and attacking threat. If we’re to truly take to Gomes’ brand of football, ensuring that balance is vital.

We’re sorted for that on the right, with Yiadom the first-choice and Gunter an able back-up, but left-back is still a thorny issue. Richards may be back fit and in the side, but he lacks the experience of the still-injured Obita, so Reading could well look into the loan market for a reliable left-footed left-back, at least for the short-term.

Priority level for incomings: medium-high

Priority level for outgoings: very low

Main options: Liam Moore, Tiago Ilori, John O’Shea, Paul McShane, Tyler Blackett, Tom McIntyre, Gabriel Osho

Other options: Tom Holmes, Danzell Gravenberch, Jamal Balogun, Akinwale Odimayo

Axel Andresson has already joined Viking on a permanent deal.

Reading aren’t short of options at centre-back, but it’s certainly felt that way recently with a growing injury list. Because of that, letting get of players in this position may be tricky - Gomes will have to ensure the squad has enough cover in case of further fitness problems.

The contracts of O’Shea and McShane expire in the summer, but Gomes may try to move them on even sooner, while one or both of McIntyre and Osho could drop down a league or two on loan.

A new signing is possible, but they’d have to tick several boxes: experienced enough to help organise the back four, quick(ish) to allow Reading to play a high line, and comfortable with the ball to feet. Buying one of those defenders in January is easier said than done.

Priority level for incomings: medium

Priority level for outgoings: medium

Main options: Leandro Bacuna, Andy Rinomhota, John Swift, Liam Kelly, David Meyler, Saeid Ezatolahi, Pelle Clement, Dave Edwards

Other options: Joey van den Berg, Josh Barrett, Darren Sidoel, Ryan East, Jordan Holsgrove

Having quality, specialist options in the middle of the park will be crucial if Reading are to make a success of their new playing style. We need technically minded midfielders who can keep the ball well under pressure, move it around and create chances, but not enough of the current squad fit the bill.

Meyler, Edwards and Clement have barely played this season, and were probably headed for the exit door even before Gomes’ arrival. Similarly, Kelly has failed to impress this season, and the form of Rinomhota has pushed him down the pecking order.

Nonetheless, with several talented players in the under-23s not far off making the step up to senior football, only first-team quality midfielders are required. A tough-tackling holding midfielder wouldn’t go amiss in Ezatolahi’s continued absence, while another playmaker would give us some much-needed creativity. But any signings must fit Gomes’ system.

Priority level for incomings: high

Priority level for outgoings: high

Main options: Modou Barrow, Garath McCleary, Josh Sims, Sone Aluko, Callum Harriott

Other options: Adrian Popa, Jack Nolan, Tyler Frost

Adrian Popa recently joined Ludogorets on loan until the end of the season.

Reading are seriously lacking in quality out wide. Barrow is a shadow of the ten-goal player he was last season, Sims hasn’t made enough of an impact, McCleary is the wrong side of 30, Aluko has been poor ever since he arrived, and Harriott’s appearance against Swansea was his first in just over two years.

One or two quality wingers would give Reading the extra attacking dimension they’re crying out for. Pace, creativity, and most importantly a reliable supply of chances for the strikers, are all needed in any new recruit. If the Royals are going to spend big on one position this January, they should do so here. Having technical midfielders to keep the ball and strikers to score goals will all be for nothing if there isn’t enough creativity to create chances.

For outgoings, Barrow may well be cashed in on, and Sims could be sent back to Southampton having failed to impress since joining on loan.

Priority level for incomings: high

Priority level for outgoings: medium

Main options: Yakou Meite, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Sam Baldock, Marc McNulty, Danny Loader, Sam Smith

Other options: Andrija Novakovich, Ben House

Sam Smith was recently brought back from his loan spell at Oxford United early

Despite our lowly position in the table, Reading have some decent options up front. Meite and Bodvarsson have had good goal-scoring runs (albeit before both being injured), while Baldock provides experience and Loader talent. However, McNulty and Smith - both of whom have failed to regularly find the net this season (the former at Reading, the latter on loan at Oxford United) - could be allowed to move on, with Gomes typically only playing one striker up front in his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.

As noted above, ensuring there is service for the lone forward is more important in the January transfer window than splashing out on a new goalscorer (for me at least). We shouldn’t say no to a new first-team option if the right deal presents itself, but there’s no point bringing someone in for the hell of it.

Gomes should also keep an eye on the young talent that’s set to come through in the near future. Novakovich has done well in the Netherlands, while Loader and House have both scored goals for fun at under-23 level. Perhaps one of those two will head out on loan for first-team experience in the lower leagues.

Priority level for incomings: low-medium

Priority level for outgoings: high

What do you think Reading need to do in the January transfer window? Let us know in the comments down below, or tell us on social media.