On Sunday afternoon as I was scrolling through some of the tweets from the Loyal Royals after Saturday’s game for my weekly Fans Verdict piece, I came across a big increase in criticism towards the team and the manager, Jose Gomes.
Yes, a fourth defeat out of seven is a disappointing outcome and leaves us in a position that to the naked eye doesn’t look that great after the investment that was made during the transfer window. However, let’s look at the bigger picture.
This team has had one poor game so far - Charlton Athletic at home. The opening two matches featured completely different teams to the one that Gomes has now; the opener against Sheffield Wednesday consisted largely of academy products playing out of position in a system that we have now learned isn’t his preferred formation.
As soon as Gomes got the players he wanted, in the system that he wanted, we comfortably beat recently relegated Cardiff City, went toe-to-toe away from home with one of the promotion favourites in West Bromwich Albion and secured a fantastic away win against Huddersfield Town. In all three games we played superbly; we defended better than anything we have seen from a Reading team in recent years and created chances galore - all while some of the new players were still learning the names of their teammates.
Yes, the Charlton game was poor - and Gomes will be (and was) the first to hold his hands up and take the majority of the blame for the performance and the result. Let’s also bear in mind that we came up against a team that was unbeaten in the league at the time, with one of the most in-form strikers in the league.
And then, moving onto Saturday afternoon, we were unlucky. We had the most shots on goal from any team in the league that weekend and yes, George Puscas missed a sitter, but Darren Randolph also pulled off about three absolutely stunning saves to keep us out.
Basically, what I’m saying is that we need to give this team time and have a bit of patience. Every win at this stage should be treated with cautious optimism and, of course, positivity. But we cannot overreact whenever we lose a game because, I hate to break it to you, this team is going to lose matches and play poorly every now and again.
Gomes also came in for a lot of stick for his substitutions against Charlton and Middlesbrough. He was accused of going gung-ho too early, bringing on two strikers for more defensive-minded players. In hindsight it’s a valid point, but if he makes those changes and we go on to win 2-1 we call it a masterclass. Football is a game of very fine margins.
Furthermore, if we weren’t creating chances and weren’t causing teams problems then I’d be worried. However, John Swift is in a league of his own in terms of chances created so far this season and Ovie Ejaria is always capable of producing a bit of magic. We have two wing-backs who have been threatening ever since we moved to a back three while also looking defensively solid for the most part.
We just need to start putting those chances away, and when you have players such as Puscas and Lucas Joao in the side it’s not going to be too long before we do just that. If I’m wrong though and we don’t, and we are still sitting in 17th place come Christmas - then I will accept any criticism coming Gomes’ way and will probably be dishing some out myself.
However, if what I’ve seen in all of the matches I’ve been to this season is anything to go by - especially the run of three games against Cardiff, West Brom and Huddersfield - I’m sure we’ll be more than fine and there or thereabouts come May.
Let’s give Gomes time, let’s give Puscas time and let’s give the rest of the team some time - because they deserve it. If we do and stay behind the team rather than get on their backs every time we lose, we will start seeing the fruits very, very quickly.
See you all the Mad Stad on Saturday. URZ.