Player selection baffling
When I saw the line-up, I was shocked that Mark Bowen decided to bench arguably our two best players over recent games: Michael Olise and Andy Rinomhota. In my opinion they should have both been in the team ahead of Felipe Araruna and Pele who were taken off at half time.
Rinomhota should have started as he provides a bit of fighting spirit and guile that Reading need at the moment. Olise had looked like a real bright spark in Reading's last two away games and had given some much-needed attacking impetuous. Wednesday night would have been the ideal game for him to start against a leaky Wigan defence, but Bowen decided to go with a defensive line up instead.
Finally, Bowen had Puscas on the bench but after the game admitted that Puscas wasn’t fit therefore he didn’t want to sub him on. With players such as Garath McCleary, Sone Aluko and Danny Loader all fit but not playing it is crazy that he would put an unfit player on the bench.
Tactics completely wrong
Bowen got Reading’s tactics completely wrong. Rather than lining up in the usual 4231 which we have been used to seeing under Bowen he decided to go with a 4222 or a narrow 442. I am not quite sure what made Bowen play this new formation, but it did not work at all.
It meant we had absolutely no width and somehow also got completely dominated in the midfield. Whilst playing this formation in the first half Reading were absolutely dominated; they failed to even have a shot and Wigan had more possession. None of the players seemed to know what they were doing in their roles and I think it was an extremely poor choice to change from the 4231 which has worked so well in the past.
After the game Bowen was adamant that Reading aren’t in a relegation battle and that we will finish the season comfortably. Losing to Wigan means that we are only five points above the relegation zone now with 11 games left to play. Bowen may deny it now but if we lose to Barnsley on Saturday then there is no hiding from the fact that we are deep trouble. However, a win on Saturday would go a long way to easing any fears of playing League One football next season.
Not only was Bowen’s complete disregard of any relegation fears worrying, but for him to blame the players and not take any responsibility for the performance isn’t good enough. Talking to BBC Berkshire he said he didn’t regret at all his choice of formation and players to start the game. But changing two players at half time and switching back to the usual 4231 tells me otherwise. Had he come out and admitted he got it wrong I would respect him, but deflecting any blame makes me think he will make the same mistakes again.
Araruna not ready to start
Araruna has showed in flashes that he has great technical ability and is a willing runner. I am sure in the future Araruna will develop into a good player for Reading but starting him in two big home games against West Brom and Wigan is naïve by Bowen.
Araruna should be introduced gradually as a sub to allow him the time to settle and not put too much pressure on him. Bowen opting to start him and taking him off is only going to dent his confidence and not let him bed into the squad quickly. I hope on Saturday he uses Araruna as a sub and picks Adam or Rinomhota to start.
Bowen can’t set up a team to attack
As mentioned above, Reading failed to even register a shot on target in the first half against Wigan. The introduction of Olise and Adam helped provide some attacking impetuous, but apart from one glaring chance which Baldock should have scored, Reading barely created any clear-cut chances.
Bowen prides himself on being solid at the back but when this fails what else does Bowen actually offer? His football is boring, predictable and players seem to have no idea how to form an attack of any quality. He knows how to set up to be an away team but that’s about it.
To set up like this at home to a team in the relegation and lose 3-0 is unforgivable in my opinion. Apart from against the top teams at home, Reading should always play to attack, score goals and win the game. Personally, I don’t want to see Bowen’s negative football beyond this season, but with a contract till the end of next season I fear that we are stuck with him.