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Tactics Corner: Reading Adapting To Meite’s Continued Absence

The Royals finally managed to edge a tight game in another clash where they used different combinations of players in order to achieve three points.

Rotherham United v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Rafael; Richards, Moore, Morrison, Yiadom; Laurent, Semedo; Ejaria, Olise, Rinomhota; Joao

Reading again lined up with a defensive screen of Josh Laurent and Alfa Semedo, with Andy Rinomhota being deployed in the right-wing position. Rinomhota had an impact here, running onto balls in behind, almost Yakou Meite-esque. Sometimes the academy man would (understandably) struggle here - such as when the ball was played to his feet and he’d enter a one-on-one situation with a defender.

The placement of Rino here was no doubt to keep Michael Olise in the attacking midfield role, an adjustment to playing either him or Alfa Semedo in this position itself. Arguably, Semedo further back, Olise in the middle and Rino out wide is the most effective combination of these men, in terms of their individual attributes and abilities.

Josh Laurent was in a more defensive role than usual - maybe due to not having Rinomhota beside him. Usually both he and either Semedo or Rino would both push forwards at different times, but he sat back in the defensive-midfield role while Rino was always in an attacking role and Semedo was up and down the field. This may also have been due to Paunovic not trusting Semedo in this role by himself - Alfa best when play is all around him and his responsibility is lowered.

Rotherham United v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Of course, even with the likes of Meite and John Swift in the side, movement and fluidity is needed for this Reading side to be at their best. With Rinomhota naturally a central player, and keen to move infield at times, both Olise and Semedo were able to move into the right wing position for brief spells. Olise in particular was drifting to either wing in order to create an overload, leaving space for Rino to move more centrally into the space Olise left over. Here, he was able to make runs in behind the centre backs and enable space for Andy Yiadom to push into over on the now unoccupied right wing.

As Michael Olise can create a chance from pretty much wherever he wants on a football pitch, moving to the right to deliver in crosses and cause different opposition players issues is a major threat in a side still lacking a bit of creativity. This gives the Royals different options in how they attack without having to make a substitution or changing their game plan. One thing he excelled in on Saturday afternoon was creating space for himself in the middle of the park and driving forwards before either playing in a winger or striking for goal.

As we know, Ovie Ejaria loves to get on the ball. Dropping in deep and centrally to pick up the play, this gave Omar Richards license to push forwards and overload the central areas with two tricky players. When Rinomhota would move inwards, both full backs could occupy high positions and stretch the Rotherham defence. Both Ejaria and Olise once more showed fantastic work rate throughout.

Defensively, Rotherham looked to use the spaces behind Richards and between both him and Liam Moore in order to commit players and use knock-ons to get into the spaces in behind the defence - especially from throw ins. As usual though, both Moore and Morrison were absolutely solid all game for the Royals.

This was due to the fact that Reading liked to press the Millers’ forward men and not allow them any time on the ball. On one particular occasion, Michael Smith had Moore, Richards and even Josh Laurent all on top of him, forcing him to go back to his midfield men. Despite this, Reading were too content to give away fouls in these areas, giving Rotherham chances to deliver the ball in to the box - but perhaps backing themselves from set pieces over crosses from open play.

Right at the top of the field, Lucas Joao really needs some more goals from open play. Regardless of this, he must aim to stop doing too much on the ball and focus on linking up with the players around him in a more simple manner. However, he does drop into the midfield role to create space for Rinomhota’s runs in behind, although needing to be on the move a bit more against sides who man mark him.

Perhaps he knows it’s unlikely he’ll be substituted, but in order to get the best out of him and prevent any potential injuries, rotation and changes in tactics (two up top) could act as a ‘Plan B’ for the Royals for their remaining games this season and beyond.