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Tactics Review: New Year’s Joy At The John Smith’s

Jamie delves into the tactics behind Reading’s 2-1 win over Huddersfield Town.

Huddersfield Town v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Rich Linley - CameraSport via Getty Images

Rafael; Richards, McIntyre, Morrison, Holmes; Laurent, Rinomhota; Ejaria, Swift, Aluko; Joao

Reading again looked to overload the midfield areas, while allowing the full backs up the field. Sone Aluko and Ovie Ejaria, as usual, drifted in centrally at times to link up with Lucas Joao, but the Portuguese forward in particular impressed through his presence alone.

Joao looked to drop in deep and get on the ball and, although this only really occurred on one noticeable occasion in the first half, it broke through the Huddersfield backline. As Huddersfield liked to get touch tight to the big man, the defenders were drawn in to this movement.

As well as some fantastic touches/flicks into the central men, Joao was able to draw in his men before either offloading it to these teammates or turning himself and driving forwards into space. The fact that this didn’t occur very often played a part in Reading not committing many bodies forwards in the first period.

Rarely were the full backs able to push on, with the majority of attacks coming from the three attackers looking to link up (resulting in a few Aluko shots) or Joao’s movement creating space for the likes of Josh Laurent and Ejaria to run in behind but not quite being able to get on the end of anything. Ejaria was also fond of overloading the right wing (Aluko’s flank) and creating sustained attacks through this method.

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

Of the three attacking midfielders, Ejaria certainly looked far more effective and positive than in recent weeks. This seemed to be due to Swift, the returning man coming over to the left to help link up some attacking play. Swift actually showed to be most effective when dropping deep, doing so in the build-up for the first goal. Added to Semedo’s lack of attacking instinct, this seems to free up the number 10 role for Michael Olise for when everyone is back fit.

At the back, the home side were looking to press Rafael early on, a lot of his kicks going out of play as a result. This impressive early spell from the Terriers was also reflected in how they got forwards. Reading were not applying nearly enough pressure on their opposition at this stage, allowing Huddersfield to move from defence to attack with ease. As they got the ball into midfield, Lewis O’Brien’s movement inwards from the left wing dragged in Tom Holmes.

With masses of space for the defensive midfielders to charge into anyway, Laurent was dragged out of position by the attacking runners, meaning Andy Rinomhota became isolated in the middle. This in part affected Holmes’ decision to move infield, which allowed space for left back Harry Toffolo to advance into.

As Reading applied more pressure onto Town, they ultimately won the ball back both more often and quicker, and asserted some form of dominance onto a game in which they grew into.