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Tactics Review: Royals Draw A Blank At Stoke

Although there was promise in some areas of Reading's game, it wasn't enough.

Stoke City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - bet365 Stadium Photo by Dave Thompson/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Reading travelled to Stoke off the back of a poor performance at Barnsley, with Mark Bowen making three changes to his side. Reading lined up in a 4-3-3: Rafael; Gunter, Morrison, Moore, Obita; Adam, Pele, Rinomhota; Joao, Baldock, Ejaria.

The formation Bowen started the game with seemed to be a 4-3-3 with a lot of movement and rotation between the midfield three. With Charlie Adam consistently getting on the ball to spray passes around, he was one of the game’s more involved players, but seemed to take up a base position on the left of the midfield. With Ejaria on the right, at times it could’ve been a 4-4-2 when not in possession.

In a game bereft of chances, one pleasing aspect (besides the clean sheet) had to be the performance and attacking intent of Chris Gunter, supporting the attack on the right wing, where Ovie would come inside to free up space for him. This enabled him to cut the ball back into the box to either Sam Baldock or Lucas Joao, with neither able to get any shots away. Reading had long spells of possession, seemingly learning their lessons from Barnsley, but did not make use of it at all, never quite able to create the space for a chance.

However, in the second half Reading switched to a 4-4-2, Ejaria taking up position on the left wing with Adam again drifting onto the right. This soon changed with McCleary replacing the Scotsman - it being surprising that Lucas Boye was not the first substitute on. When Boye did enter the field, for Joao, Reading looked more of a threat, the Argentine’s hold-up play enabling Reading to build attacks. Despite this, Reading did not actually have a shot on target throughout the game. Although Stoke threatened from set pieces/crosses, both sides left a lot to be desired in the final third of the pitch.

One disappointing aspect from the game was Ejaria’s role on the wing. As a natural playmaker, he excels in the middle of the park and once more was isolated throughout the game. It came as no surprise to see his biggest involvement in the game come from a direct run through the middle of the park, unfortunately not being able to pick out Joao in the end. Reading did not seem to want to win the game and were content with a point, which was seemingly the reason that they did not throw bodies forward late on.

A positive taken from the game had to be the clean sheet, although once more risky play out from the back almost cost the team, with the defenders sometimes not being able to decide when to go short and when to go long. Taking into account the last two games, a point away from home is not a bad result, but the Royals will have to back it up with at least one home win from their next two games.