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Ups And Downs: September 2019

How every member of the Royals' squad has done so far this season.

Huddersfield Town v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Luke Nickerson/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We’re just over a month into the new season so, to recap how it’s gone so far, we’re bringing back an old feature: ups and downs. Simply put, I’ve gone through everyone that’s played for Reading’s first team so far (at least 45 minutes) and judged their overall progress - so not just their performances on the pitch.

Goalkeepers

Rafael: Up

Reading couldn’t have asked for a better start from new goalkeeper Rafael. The Brazilian shot-stopper made two key saves to win a penalty shoot-out against Wycombe Wanderers, and has looked assured since. My own worries that he could take time to settle seem to be unfounded.

Joao Virginia: Down

Given the nod for the first two matches of the season before being dropped for Rafael, Virginia is barely in the picture now. Although I don’t think he was as poor as he’s been made out to be, he doesn’t inspire confidence - and the error at Hull City has put a sour note on his start to senior football.

Sam Walker: Even

We knew he’d be a back-up this season when it became clear that he would stay at the club, and that’s proven to be the case. He did alright in his only appearance in August - the 4-2 win at Plymouth Argyle - and the fact that it was him that started in the first place (rather than Virginia) suggests Gomes has some faith in him.

Hull City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - KCOM Stadium Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Full-backs

Andy Yiadom: Even

Unsurprisingly, the Ghanaian started all of Reading’s league games in August - and would have played every Championship minute had he not been substituted during the Charlton Athletic game. For me, he’s taken pretty well to his new right wingback role, but there’s more improvement to come from him. Good, not great.

Teddy Howe: Even

As with Walker, we knew that Howe would be the back-up option this season, and he’s done just that. Besides the odd appearance for the under-23s, the academy graduate got his first senior start at Home Park. Hopefully he’ll get more opportunities in the first team as the season progresses.

Omar Richards: Up

In the grand scheme of things Richards is probably Reading’s third-choice left back behind Blackett and Obita, but injuries to those two have handed the youngster a chance that he’s taken convincingly. He’s matured well and looked composed so far, showing that he’s at home at this level. I want to see more attacking impact from him though, but that’s something he’ll naturally improve on.

Jordan Obita: Up

Having played for the under-23s a few times in August before getting the full 90 minutes against Plymouth Argyle, a league appearance probably isn’t far away for Obita. He should now be set to put an agonising two years of injury behind him - even if he has to displace Richards from the team.

Plymouth Argyle v Reading - Carabao Cup Second Round Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Centre-backs

Liam Moore: Even

A solid month for the skipper who’s played every minute of Reading’s league campaign, the highlight being a very solid display at West Brom. He’s generally done well but, for me, he’s not stood out as obviously as new signing Morrison. To be fair he’s not been settled positionally, instead playing in an unfamiliar role as a right centre-back in a back four, and on both sides of a back three.

Michael Morrison: Up

How did we manage to get him in on a free?! The former Birmingham City captain has brought much-needed experience and leadership to the back line, and was a key component in the tightening-up of Reading’s defence.

Matt Miazga: Even

As with Moore, I’m fine with Miazga’s performances but he’s not stood out enough to get an ‘up’ vote. He’s also had to deal with some positional changes - playing as a left centre-back in a back four before coming into a back three. Injured during the Huddersfield Town game, he missed the Charlton match but should return before long.

Tom McIntyre: Up

The signings of Matt Miazga and Michael Morrison shoved McIntyre well down the pecking order, but he still ended August with almost two full league appearances under his belt. Miazga’s injury, coupled with Reading playing a back three, meant the academy graduate played almost all of the 2-0 win at Huddersfield Town before starting at the Mad Stad for the first time against Charlton Athletic. Especially given the balance he brings by virtue of being left-footed, McIntyre has a good chance of staying in the first team.

Gabriel Osho: Even

Started at Plymouth to get some more first-team experience, but is likely to be mainly playing under-23 football this season.

Akin Odimayo: Up

A good month for the 19 year-old who made his first-team debut by starting at Home Park, becoming the 53rd player to graduate from the academy.

Reading v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Midfielders

Andy Rinomhota: Down

Although he seemed like a key part of Reading’s first team at the start of the season, he’s since fallen out of favour. With Jose Gomes playing Pele as a holding midfielder behind the more creative John Swift and Ovie Ejaria - both of whom are in good form - it’s hard to see where Rinomhota would slot in, unless there’s an injury.

John Swift: Up

A great month for Reading’s creator in chief, who made four goals (joint top in the division) for his teammates, more chances than anyone else in the Championship, and even scored once himself in the 3-0 win over Cardiff City.

Ovie Ejaria: Up

Our player of the month winner, Ejaria settled back into life at Reading quickly, taking his game to a higher level than we saw last season. His stand-out display at home to Cardiff City was the highlight, but he also scored at West Bromwich Albion and Huddersfield Town.

Pele: Even

A decent opening few weeks for the defensive midfielder who’s slotted into the team well enough. He’s not really made any glaring errors, but I want to see him having a bigger impact on matches in the future. He should be able to do that more as he gets more minutes on the pitch.

Charlie Adam: Down

You voted him man of the match for a positive impact in the opening-day defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, but since then he’s done little of note in a good sense bar setting up Josh Barrett at Plymouth. As shown by a poor display at Hull City, he’s simply too slow for Championship football and, although he brings experience to the squad, his effect on the pitch isn’t good enough.

Reading v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Attacking midfielders/wingers

Michael Olise: Down

This season looked like it would the breakout campaign for Olise, but an influx of attacking players in the summer has restricted his time on the pitch for the first team - a sub appearance against Sheffield Wednesday before starting at Plymouth. Although it’s clear that Gomes would prefer to be patient with the youngster rather than rushing him in, his lack of chances is still frustrating.

Danny Loader: Down

After a poor performances against Sheffield Wednesday, and then almost sealing a deadline-day move to Wolverhampton Wanderers, he’s mostly been cut out of the first team. Now well down the pecking order as either a midfielder or a striker, and has even dropped into the under-23s for game time.

Josh Barrett: Up

Game time has been hard to come by for Barrett, but he’s caught the eye when he’s been given it. Set up Yakou Meite against Sheffield Wednesday and scored twice at Plymouth, meaning he’s directly involved in a goal every 55 minutes he plays. He deserves a bigger chance in the first team going forwards, but will he get it?

Modou Barrow: Down

After a summer of reportedly wanting to quit the club, he started the season opener against Sheffield Wednesday before being sent out on loan to Denizlispor in Turkey. Gomes’ move away from formations that use wingers was effectively the death knell for Barrow’s importance at Reading, and it’s hard to see him returning.

Huddersfield Town v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Luke Nickerson/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Strikers

George Puscas: Even

It’s been a steady but encouraging introduction to the Championship for Puscas who’s played regularly and got the important hurdles out of the way: scoring both home and away (including a stunning individual goal against Cardiff City).

However, he’s not fully up to speed just yet - whether it’s a tactical issue of developing an understanding with his strike partners Joao and Boye, personal issue of him settling in, or a mixture of the two. He’s also missed a few one-on-ones that a more confident, settled striker would gobble up. He’ll get there though - give him time.

Yakou Meite: Up

Although the Ivorian hasn’t played that regularly so far this season - two league starts at the beginning of the campaign, another in the League Cup and two substitute appearances in the Championship - for me he’s had a strong month all round.

Three goals in five appearances puts him joint top of the scoring charts alongside Puscas (three in six), while he also showed his mental resilience by brushing off both an appalling racist attack online and injury to score two crucial goals that won us the Plymouth Argyle game.

Lucas Boye: Even

He’s shown good signs here and there, but is yet to properly demonstrate what he can do over either a full game or a few matches. I’m cautiously optimistic about him, but he needs time to settle in.

Lucas Joao: Even

For a multi-million pound expenditure, for me he’s not consistent enough, although like Boye he’s shown some good signs. Got a good goal against Hull City on his debut, and has since played regularly but without really having enough of an impact on matches. As with Puscas, there’s room for improvement when he clicks with his strike partners.

Sam Baldock: Down

Now well down the pecking order after Reading were unable to get him off the books in the summer, Baldock has been restricted to two substitute appearances in the League Cup. He made little impact at Wycombe Wanderers, but did set up Meite for the fourth goal at Plymouth.

Reading v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship - Madejski Stadium Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

Everyone else

There’s a fair few other Royals who have been in first-team contention to some degree but haven’t been involved enough to be properly graded. Andrija Novakovich played just five minutes against Wednesday before being sold, Tyler Blackett has been injured so far, while Chris Gunter and Garath McCleary are still excluded from the squad.

Ramarni Medford-Smith, Ethan Coleman and Thierry Nevers all had the good experience of being included in a matchday squad for the first time (away to Plymouth), but none made it off the bench. Adrian Popa, Tennai Watson, Jordan Holsgrove and Tom Holmes were all loaned out after the season started without playing for the first team, and there’s also been no involvement for Ryan East, Tyler Frost and Jokull Andresson despite being on the pre-season trip to Spain.

Overall (out of 27)

Ups: 10

Even: 10

Downs: 7