So the transfer window is almost over, and what a month it’s been. Reading went into January in need of big changes - both incomings and outgoings - and have certainly got that so far.
On the whole, Jose Gomes has probably just about finished his wheeling and dealing until the summer, but we could very well see some more movement in and out of the Madejski Stadium. If an unpredictable January is anything to go by, anything could happen on deadline day.
What business have Reading done so far?
In total, five players have joined the Royals so far, all of them on loan. They are: Ovie Ejaria (Liverpool), Lewis Baker (Chelsea), Nelson Oliveira (Norwich City), Emiliano Martinez (Arsenal) and Matt Miazga (Chelsea).
Although none of those signings have cost a transfer fee, they’ll likely have cost a decent amount in wages. It’s certainly reminiscent of the 2015/16 summer transfer window when Reading forked out on loan deals for seven players - interestingly, two coming from Chelsea.
For more on the pros and cons of filling your squad with temporary additions, read this from Olly:
In the other direction, Axel Andresson, Pelle Clement, Tiago Ilori and Dave Edwards have quit the club on a permanent basis. They’ve joined Viking, PEC Zwolle, Sporting Lisbon and Shrewsbury Town respectively (side note - what a gloriously exotic collection of clubs that is).
Additionally, Reading have loaned out Adrian Popa, Darren Sidoel, Sam Smith (again), Luke Southwood, Gabriel Osho (again), George Legg (again), Lewis Ward (again) and Ben House (not again).
On the whole, that’s a decent clear-out, but perhaps not on the big scale that we were hoping for/expecting. But more on that further down the piece...
What business needs to be done now?
As for signings, nothing is urgent unless any first-team regulars depart before the window closes. Reading are pretty well-stocked throughout the squad and should be able to cope with most injury problems as they arise.
We could well see a left-back come in though. Jordan Obita is out for the season, while Omar Richards’ fitness has been up and down recently. Assuming the position is up for grabs between Andy Yiadom, Chris Gunter and Tyler Blackett, none of whom have fully convinced, Jose Gomes may want another man in.
Elsewhere, the potential departure of Modou Barrow (more on him later) could very well prompt Reading to sign a new attacker. Adel Taarabt is the name that’s been mentioned this week, so that’s one to watch on deadline day.
It’s the departures lounge that will be busier, though. Besides Modou Barrow, Liam Kelly and Tyler Blackett have also been linked with exits in the last few days. The former is reportedly interesting Hull City and Bursaspor, while Kelly could move to Udinese on loan and Blackett to Nottingham Forest.
If those players do depart, Reading will want transfer fees for them - not loans - and for the deals to be done early in the day. Cashing in on a trio that are talented but generally inconsistent may gave Jose Gomes some cash to play with towards the closure of deadline day.
Otherwise, the reportedly frozen-out Vito Mannone, Marc McNulty and David Meyler have been on the transfer list for quite some time and will be desperate for a new club to come in for them. Whether that’s a sale, loan or cancelled contract, Reading will want those three off their books to trim down the size of the squad.
Are Reading in a position to make signings?
Potentially yes, but it would likely depend on departures. This week’s exit of Tiago Ilori will have brought some cash into the bank, and following that up by selling Blackett, Kelly and Barrow could leave Reading with a few million to invest in, say, a new left-back and winger.
The owners have indicated that they’re ready to upgrade the squad to keep the club in the Championship, but that of course is with the added complication of Financial Fair Play. That’s the same thing that stopped Reading from spending bigger last summer, so balancing out incomings with outgoings is important.
What’s more, the squad has gotten a bit smaller this month, but not a huge amount. Reading have somehow managed to end up with about 76 goalkeepers and strikers on the books (perhaps an exaggeration), despite Jose Gomes’ very public desire to trim the playing staff down.
Speaking of which...
And are exits actually likely?
Pretty likely, yes. That’ll be the focus of Reading’s attention now, with the futures of up to half a dozen squad members under the microscope. Although most of those players (Mannone, Meyler, McNulty, Blackett, Barrow and Kelly) have either been completely frozen out or are just out of favour at the moment, they should theoretically be appealing targets for other clubs.
Mannone and Meyler are still experienced pros, McNulty is more than capable of scoring goals (albeit at a lower level than Reading, unfortunately), Blackett is a talented and versatile if unrefined defender, Kelly has unrealised potential, and Barrow has pace to burn. Considering that clubs may well be forced into panic-buying on the last day of the transfer window, there’s every chance they may settle on one of Reading’s players.
Further up the pecking order, Reading are in a solid position to resist moves for their better assets. The owners have already shown with the Liam Moore saga that they won’t be forced into an unwanted sale, so don’t expect any hopeful enquiries for Andy Rinomhota or John Swift (for example) to come off.