clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Grading The Reading Squad’s 2020/21 Season So Far: Midfielders

An A*, two As, a B, C and a D for Reading’s midfielders as Harry rates how their seasons have gone so far.

Derby County v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We’ve moved out from the defence and into midfield in our mid-season review of the Reading squad. Here, there have been some real contenders for player of the season, but also some frustrating individual campaigns.

Andy Rinomhota: A

How were things going before this season?

When Rino first burst into the first team under Paul Clement, he was absolutely superb. He immediately offered us a completely new dynamic to our midfield with his ability to run past players and turn defence into attack in a split second. This made him one of the the first names on the team sheet for a long time.

However, last season things didn’t quite go as well for the former AFC Porchester man. The topsy-turvy nature of the season in regards to different managers and tactical systems didn’t really suit him. And even though he ended the season in the team, he spent the majority of the season in and out of the starting eleven, going head to head with Pele for a starting spot.

How well has he done this season?

Very well indeed. For the majority of the season, he’s been back to his imperious best and has formed a truly beautiful partnership with Josh Laurent in the process.

He’s not the most technically gifted on the ball which is why he doesn’t usually get the headlines or the plaudits but he is so important to the way Paunovic wants to play, and his performances on the whole have shown that. His form has dipped in recent games, with the mistake against Norwich being an example of that, but overall he’s had a really good season so far.

Reading v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

What does the future hold?

Hopefully many more years in a Reading shirt. There have been whispers of interest being shown in Rino from a few different clubs, I remember one saying Bielsa’s Leeds were after him - which would not surprise me one bit considering the intensity they play at.

However, I think the fact that he isn’t a so-called headline player, such as his academy mate Michael Olise, means that higher level clubs may overlook him even though I can think of more than a few teams who’d midfield would be better off with Rino in there.

For now, Rino’s here and hopefully here to stay.

Josh Laurent: A*

How were things going before this season?

Last season, Laurent was plying his trade in League One with Shrewsbury Town, and after a performing well for Salop he begun to gain a few interested parties from the Championship.

I remember watching him against Liverpool in the FA Cup and, although the soon-to-be Premier League winners fielded a depleted side, Laurent was absolutely fantastic and proved to everyone watching that his level was much higher than Shrewsbury Town, with all due respect.

Luckily, it was Mark Bowen who wanted Laurent the most, and he got his man just in time before getting the sack.

How well has he done this season?

They say the step up from League One to the Championship is one of the hardest for players to make, but Josh Laurent has made it look like he’s a Premier League player who’s made the step down to the Championship. He’s just been different gravy.

Queens Park Rangers v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Loftus Road Photo by Tess Derry/PA Images via Getty Images

He is the best bit of business the club have done in a very long time and, if he continues to perform the way he is, not only will we have a much better chance of a successful season in the league, I’m sure he’ll be a shoe-in for player of the season.

Rolls Royce player.

What does the future hold?

Considering he only joined in the summer, you’d hope he’ll be around for some time yet. However, the fact that he only signed a two-year contract already has me very worried.

I think it should be a priority next summer to tie him down to a long term contract because if we don’t, he’s a player that will surely start to attract interest from some of the big boys.

But, I think we’re all hoping that he’s a mainstay in the Reading midfield for a long time to come yet.

John Swift: D

How were things going before this season?

Very well. Swifty was finally starting to show the consistency that we’ve all been crying out for from him since he joined. His quality is undeniable, he’s a special player on his day and far too good for the Championship - the problem is we just hadn’t seen ‘his day’ often enough until last season.

Last season was his best season in a Reading shirt, and I’d even say he was unlucky to miss out on winning the player of the season award.

How well has he done this season?

Through no fault of his own, he hasn't been anywhere near as effective this season - because he’s only played two games. A hamstring injury picked up after the Barnsley game in September has meant Swift hasn’t played a minute of football since, which is a real shame because I’d have loved to see more of him in this Pauno team.

Derby County v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

He should be back on Boxing Day when we host Luton Town, so I’m sure his second half of the season will be a lot better than the first one.

What does the future hold?

If you’d have asked me this question this time last season, I would’ve said he was destined for the Premier League. That was a destiny he actually nearly fulfilled when Sheffield United came circling for him in the summer, but to no prevail.

Now however, as he has missed half the season through injury, clubs who were looking at him in the summer will probably be looking elsewhere now. I have no doubt that the next step in Swift’s career will be to the Premier League, I hope it will be with us rather than another club.

Michael Olise: A

How were things going before this season?

Last season, particularly the second half under Mark Bowen, Olise really started to make a name for himself and show glimpses of the ridiculous quality he has.

However, his age and inexperience worked against him a lot of the time, and he never really got the chance to express himself fully in the way he probably wanted too and he had to spend some time building up the trust of Mark Bowen - something he gained in the end.

How well has he done this season?

Superbly. The 19 year old has provided seven assists and scored four goals in 20 Championship appearances and, in Swift’s absence, has continually been the guy that the players look at to provide a little bit of magic. Something that he’s provided more often than not, most notably the last minute stunner against QPR and a couple of sumptuous assists against Millwall and Bristol City.

Blackburn Rovers v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

He’s still young and has a lot to learn, which is very exciting but also means he's not going to start every game. Pauno, in my opinion, has used him very well so far and he’ll need to continue to do so to keep Olise performing at the high level he has done so far.

What does the future hold?

A level much, much higher than us. There is no shame in saying that. Michael Olise is a special talent, one that will be playing at the top level before too long.

All it is now is a case of savouring him whilst we have him, and making the most of watching him in a Reading shirt. With his contract running out in 2022, hopefully the club have learnt their lesson from the Danny Loader debacle and we either tie him down a contract very soon or cash in at the perfect time. Either way, this boy’s going to the very top.

Ovie Ejaria: B

How were things going before this season?

Ovie was one of the big stand-outs from what turned out to be another disappointing season last campaign. He was the sprinkle of star dust that every football fan craves and produced some truly outrageous moments of magic on a consistent basis.

For a lot of the season, we were under the impression that Ovie would be joining on a permanent basis at the end of the season, but this was thrown into doubt due to the ongoing Covid situation.

Thankfully, we got the deal over the line, a deal that we were all craving.

How well has he done this season?

He certainly started the season well, grabbing a goal in the opening game against Derby. As ever he has produced some wonderful pieces of skill, but it’s always been a case of the end product for Ovie.

Reading v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship - Madejski Stadium Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images

If he can add the goals and assists to his game, he could be a truly special player. My expectations are always high with Ejaria, so even though he has started to find his groove a little bit in recent weeks following an injury, you still think there is so much more to come from him.

What does the future hold?

Considering he’s only just signed on a permanent deal, hopefully he’ll be a Reading player for a few years yet. He has a lot of developing to do in terms of his end product, and I think we’ll be the lucky ones who get to witness that development first hand.

He’s one of those players who get’s fans on the edge of their seats (or sofas in this day and age) and is more than capable of producing a match-winning moment. If he can tidy up the loose ends, you’d think he’ll be in the Premier League before too long.

Alfa Semedo: C

How were things going before this season?

Semedo came through the ranks at Portuguese powerhouse Benfica and, more recently, made 24 appearances on loan at Nottingham Forest last season, scoring two goals from defensive midfield.

I don’t think a huge amount of Reading fans knew a huge amount about him before he came, I certainly didn’t, but there was certainly reason to be optimistic about him, considering he’s a player with Champions League pedigree.

How well has he done this season?

On the whole, he’s done okay. I think we all expected him to come in and give competition to Rino and Laurent in the deeper midfield positions, but Pauno has opted to use him a bit further up the pitch either as a number 8 or number 10.

Sheffield Wednesday v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It’s clear that that experiment isn’t working, and he has really struggled with adapting to playing that more advanced role - his qualities just aren’t cut out for that position. He still seems a handy acquisition though and will more than play his part in the coming months.

What does the future hold?

There is apparently a clause in his contract which states if we do get promoted, we will buy him for a fee around £6 million. At this point, that is the only way I see him staying longer than the original season-long loan. Don’t get me wrong, if that is the only way we keep him then I’ll be more than happy to see him stay for many years.

Anyone else?

Dejan Tetek had been involved regularly on the bench for Reading, but hasn’t been in the matchday squad for a little while now. He had an encouraging full debut in the League Cup defeat to Luton Town. Tennai Watson partnered Tetek in midfield that night - somewhat surprisingly given that he’s previously been a right back.

Fellow academy graduates Ryan East (who made his debut under Jose Gomes) and Oli Pendlebury have also been on the bench at points, but are yet to play in any competition. Felipe Araruna could be used as a midfielder at some stage when he returns from injury, given the other options at right back.