The dust has settled on a particularly busy January transfer window. All in all, it was one of upheaval, with Jose Gomes turfing out around a dozen players on permanent or temporary deals. Five arrived - all on loan - giving Reading a very different squad to the one they started the month with.
Below I’ve had a look at some of the people/groups that did best and worst from that transfer window. If you’ve got any more suggestions, mention them in the comments below or on one of our social media pages.
The new manager is trying to overhaul Reading’s style of play, bringing in an attractive possession-based system, and the five January signings all fit the bill. Bringing in technically comfortable players - ones that can receive the ball and pass it under pressure - isn’t easy when the budget and club appeal is low, but we’ve managed just that.
Lewis Baker and Ovie Ejaria should add composure in the midfield, while Matt Miazga and Emiliano Martinez can play the ball out from their defensive positions. Up the other end of the pitch, Nelson Oliveira is the kind of all-round striker that can link the play up well and be a goal threat in his own right.
All in all, Gomes couldn’t have asked for too much more.
The departed fringe players
There’s no getting away from just how bloated Reading’s squad was at the end of December. Years of ill-considered recruitment had left us particularly bogged down out wide and in the middle of the park, with some players not getting anywhere near breaking into the first-team and staying in it under Paul Clement or Jose Gomes:
That had, naturally, taken its toll on the club both financially and in terms of morale, with restless squad members understandably frustrated at a lack of game time. So shipping almost all of them out (more on the exception below) was a good job well done for the Royals. In the end, that included:
Dave Edwards, Adrian Popa, Pelle Clement, Axel Andresson, David Meyler, Marc McNulty and Sam Smith.
I’m also happy for the players themselves. For all our talk of squad trimming and doing right by the club - which of course has to take precedence - it’s easy to forget we’re talking about guys that want to do the thing they love - playing football. That wasn’t happening for them at Reading, so the best of luck to them on making that happen elsewhere.
Reading’s bank balance
Although we don’t have exact figures for the above deals, Reading have done well financially out of the January window. The five loan signings may cost a decent amount in wages, but that’s offset by money coming back into the club through trimming the squad and cashing in on players.
In all, four players were sold for a transfer fee - Tiago Ilori, Leandro Bacuna, Axel Andresson and Pelle Clement - the first two for perhaps in the region of £5m combined. Contrast that to the summer, when only George Evans was sold outright, and the difference is stark. The exits may have come too late in the window for sensible reinvestments, but the money will hopefully be there for the next window.
If you’d asked me to name one position where Reading HAD to make a signing in January, it would have been left-back. Jordan Obita’s long-term absence, combined with the not-entirely-convincing performances in that position of Andy Yiadom, Tyler Blackett and Chris Gunter, meant Omar Richards was essentially the default option - and he hasn’t been completely making the spot his own either.
However, the club’s reluctance to sign a new left-back is a big show of confidence in Richards’ ability. He’s now got the opportunity to keep his place in the side at least until the summer, assuming he can stay injury-free.
I feel sorry for Vito. The Italian started the season as Reading’s number one but, after poor form led to him being dropped from the side, he’s slipped down the pecking order to now find himself the fourth-choice goalkeeper. Although he wasn’t in the best form when he was demoted, he’s a) not had a chance to get back into the side, b) reportedly been cut off from the first team.
That was done in the hope of pushing him out of the club - quite understandably, given his rumoured large wages - but without a January exit he’s now in a seriously rough position. It’s not a situation he much deserves, and hopefully he’ll be able to find a solution sooner rather than later.
Liam Kelly and Yakou Meite
The young duo are in a similar(ish) situation to Mannone. Sure, they’ve not been cast aside like the Italian, but it’s now clear that neither are in Jose Gomes’ immediate plans, despite being talented players with potentially a lot to offer Reading going forwards. Both were strongly linked with loan moves out of the club in the last few days of the transfer window - Liam Kelly to Udinese and PEC Zwolle, and Yakou Meite to Amiens and Pescara (rumours of him joining Juventus were unfounded).
It’s unlikely that either will feature regularly for the rest of the season. Reading not only now have a wealth of options in central midfield and up front, but also in similar styles to Kelly (a technical midfielder) and Meite (a physical striker). They may have to rely on an injury crisis to force their way back into the manager’s plans.
Academy talent (some of it at least)
Before the window opened, Jose Gomes said he wanted Reading’s youngsters to play a part in his squad, and he would clear out deadwood to make that happen. Although the latter came to pass, it still doesn’t really feel like there are any clear, open opportunities for an under-23 player to step into.
Take Ryan East for example, who made the bench at Manchester United. Despite Pelle Clement, David Meyler, Dave Edwards and Leando Bacuna all leaving, he’s still got Andy Rinomhota, John Swift, Lewis Baker, Ovie Ejaria, Liam Kelly and Saeid Ezatolahi (when he returns from injury) to get past.
Similarly, Reading have a lot of talent waiting in the wings at centre-back, in goal and up front, but we don’t lack for experienced options in any of those positions. I’m not saying that Reading should have focussed their January transfer window activity around the promotion of youth, but an even further clear-out in the summer will be needed if the under-23s are to make their mark.