What better addition to the glamorous awards season than The Tilehurst End’s very own gong for Player of the Month? Move over the BAFTAs and Grammys, you’ve got nothing on this. We’ve had a star-studded set of winners so far this season, with Andy Yiadom, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Anssi Jaakkola going home with the award.
We’re delighted to announce that Andy Rinomhota has joined their ranks, having registered a whopping 77.3% of the vote for January’s award. He was followed by Sone Aluko (10.2%), John Swift (8%) and Liam Moore (4.5%). All in all it was a much better month to be picking a ‘best player’ - in previous votes it’s very much been a case of the best of a bad bunch.
Just how important is Rinomhota to this team?
For me, he’s integral. For all the talk of technical defenders who can play out from the back and creative midfielders that move the ball around and create chances, Rinomhota is this side’s lynchpin. As Fernandinho is the unsung hero of Pep Guardiola’s Man City, so too does our former AFC Portchester man do the important work without necessarily always getting the plaudits.
It’s an important role for sure. Not only does Rinomhota have to win the ball, he also needs the energy to cover the ground vacated by others around him. That’s been particularly true in recent weeks when a more attack-minded playmaker like Swift or Lewis Baker has lined up alongside him, potentially leaving gaps for Rinomhota to plug.
Those qualities are shown in his defensive stats. Of all the players to have featured under Jose Gomes, only Andy Yiadom and Omar Richards make more tackles per game (2.4) than Rinomhota (1.9). For context, Ovie Ejaria and Swift come in at just 1.3, with Lewis Baker on a paltry 0.5.
Rinomhota is also hard to dribble past - that happens just 0.3 times per match, a rate beaten by only one Reading defensive player: Tyler Blackett (0.2). The Royals’ other central midfielders in recent weeks compare poorly in this regard - Leandro Bacuna and Swift 0.7, Lewis Baker 0.8, Liam Kelly 0.9, Ovie Ejaria 1.0.
When you consider that previous defensive midfielder Joey van den Berg was dribbled past 1.5 times per game across his Reading career, it shows just how big an upgrade Rinomhota is.
A safe pair of boots
The academy graduate is no mere defensive midfielder though - he’s also got the technical ability to offer something more. Rinomhota has a pass completion rate (86.3%) that’s beaten by just two players in the squad - new arrivals Ejaria (90%) and Baker (89.8%). To go back into the Joey comparison, the Dutchman’s Reading best pass rate was 83.5%, which was set last season.
Moving away from the stats and into pure observation, I just feel assured when Rinomhota is on the ball. He has a natural composure in possession that isn’t easy for a young man to come by - don’t forget he’s only made 16 league starts in his professional career, all this season.
He’s often asked to do the risky work - coming short for a goal kick, taking the ball to feet under press, before passing it up the pitch calmly and effectively. I expect players like Baker and Ejaria to do be able to do that, considering their experience at Chelsea and Liverpool respectively, but it’s so encouraging to see Rinomhota adapt to Gomes’ style so quickly.
The question now is how much further he can develop as a player. We’ve seen young, talented defensive midfielders briefly impress in recent years (Aaron Kuhl), fade after a promising season (Liam Kelly), or try their luck at a different club (Aaron Tshibola). I really hope Rinomhota’s got a long-term future in Berkshire, because he could be so important to the future of this side.