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Tactics Review: New-Look Right Flank Pays Off

Jamie examines the impact of the Esteves/Yiadom partnership in Reading’s win at Bristol City on Tuesday.

Bristol City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Ashton Gate Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images

Rafael; Richards, McIntyre, Morrison, Yiadom; Semedo, Rinomhota; Ejaria, Olise, Esteves; Joao

Reading looked to take Tuesday’s game to Bristol City straight from the off. As usual, City were an opposition side that looked to stop Reading from taking quick free kicks/throw ins, trying to regain their shape before Reading could take advantage of the spaces in behind.

These spaces were usually occupied by Michael Olise, who was able to drift out to the flanks to link up with the wide players and deliver crosses, while also using the central areas to create on the counter.

With Andy Yiadom coming in for Tom Holmes and Tomas Esteves replacing Josh Laurent, the Royals had more width to exploit than usual. Although both Yiadom and Omar Richards use these wide areas, having Esteves as an almost out-and-out winger gave Reading a different dimension in their link-up play in these areas.

Both full backs looked to push forwards, Reading clearly recognising how poor a side City were and looking to right the wrongs of the previous games by scoring multiple goals early on. The decision to play both Yiadom and Esteves was tactically a great shout from Paunovic. Tom Holmes is a steady right back, who has put in some fantastic displays this season – however, in the right back spot there is no better defender or attacker than Yids. Holmes of course uses his aerial threat to great use at both ends of the pitch, but in terms of one-on-one battles (see vs Danjuma against Bournemouth) he does struggle and is of course more comfortable defending as a centre back.

The Royals’ right-back options’ versatility in this position does lend them solutions to their ‘winger crisis’. As Esteves is arguably a better winger than full back, added to Yiadom’s quality in attack, Reading have multiple combinations on the right-hand side through these two men alone. Seeing as Bristol City have major weaknesses in their left-back area, looking to play two attacking players in these positions certainly paid dividends – Reading creating multiple opportunities from Yiadom’s crosses and Esteves’ crosses and shots, the Portuguese youth international getting into good attacking positions on the regular.

Game management this time made far more sense, starting Yiadom and reaping the attacking benefits, before introducing Holmes late on to secure the points. Against Millwall Reading were perhaps a bit too conservative and, as we saw in the 0-0 draws at Preston North End and Stoke City, this approach is not proving to be worth it, regularly winning games (or at least playing very well and looking convincing – vs Brentford) when taking the game to the opposition – as we saw on Tuesday night.