Six games in and things feel very different than they did at the same stage of last season – of course in a positive way. That shouldn’t be hard though, considering last years start saw the only time Reading have failed to win a league match in their first six attempts since the 2012/13 Premier League season.
Undoubtedly, though this season does feel different for more than just the results sides of things. But how different are things really from this time last season under Paul Clement This week I look at just how far we’ve come.
It’s A Possession Game
After Jose Gomes’ appointment, the vast majority of us were expecting Reading’s style of play to revert back to the Jaap Stam philosophy of ‘death by passing’, but as we’ve witnessed, it’s far less regimented than under the ex-Dutch international. It’s clear that Gomes would rather have more possession and keep the ball, but he is happy to sacrifice this when the situation demands, as you can see from games like Norwich (a), 26%, and Brentford (h), 38%, possession was happily sacrificed in the name of getting a result.
Under Paul Clement, though, Reading averaged 47% possession in their first six matches of the 2018/19 season. By way of comparison, Reading have averaged 50% possession in the first six matches of this season – not much difference at all, which suggests that a clear break away from Stam’s style of play has now occurred with this team.
Interestingly, the two of the highest possession statistics for Reading have come in defeats – to Sheffield Wednesday (59% for) and Hull (64% for) in the first two matches of the season. Whilst in their wins v Cardiff and Huddersfield and that solid away point at West Brom, the Royals average only 42% possession. In contrast, the three defeats suffered saw an average of 58% possession for Reading.
What does this tell us? Reading don’t do so well once the opposition has scored. In all three of the games that we have lost, the opposition has taken the lead and they are happy for us to have it. It was clear on Saturday that Reading were comfortable in possession until they went down, then all of a sudden felt pressured on the ball and made mistakes in the attacking third that they weren’t doing in the first half. To improve this season we simply must learn how to deal with conceding the first goal if we’re to have an impact on the league.
Shooting Boots Fitting Better
If possession statistics seem to have remained similar from last season, then our attacking threat has seen more radical change. The obvious stat when compared to last season that illustrates this point clearly is the overall potency, five goals scored under Clement in comparison to the eight so far this campaign.
In terms of shots, we see an upturn too; an average of 13.5 a game in the first six games of 2019 - up from 10 a game in 2018. On the face of things this seems like a good thing, more goals, more shots = more points. However, overall shot accuracy is down, as you can see below:
19 shots v Charlton - 3 on target
11 v Huddersfield - 4 on target
10 v WBA - 5 on target
14 v Cardiff - 6 on target
13 v Hull - 4 on target
14 v Sheffield Wednesday - 4 on target
8 shots v Derby - 4 on target
8 shots v Forest - 3 on target
15 shots v Bolton - 3 on target
8 shots v Blackburn - 4 on target
10 shots v Villa - 7 on target
13 shots v Sheffield Wednesday - 4 on target
So, whilst this season in our first six games Reading have had 81 shots in comparison to last seasons 62, we’ve managed just one additional shot on target – 26 over 25. So now we’re left with a shooting accuracy of 32% down from 40% in the first six games of 2018/19.
Last season 8% of our shots in these opening six games resulted in a goal, whilst this season that stat climbs to 10%. This last stat does actually suggest that Reading’s potency has increased in front of goal then, especially when you narrow it further down to the percentage of shots on target which have resulted in goals – 31% this season over just 20% at the same stage last season – it just takes this side to have more shots to get to it.
Obviously, you didn’t really need this long drawn out explanation using stats to realise that we are a much more threatening side in attack this season, but I suppose it’s nice to have some reassurance after the dire performance against Charlton last week.