Rafael; Richards, Gibson, Moore, Holmes; Laurent, Rinomhota; Ejaria, Olise, Meite; Joao
Reading reverted to their tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 as they welcomed Queens Park Rangers on Saturday afternoon. As usual, a high-energy press gave promising signs for Pauno’s men early on. However, due to Rangers also lining up with three central midfield players, this sometimes gave Stefan Johansen space to roam forwards with the ball when they broke the press.
Added to this, on too many occasions Reading stood off their opposition, Andy Rinomhota in particular dropping off at times, with Josh Laurent needing to come over to help out. For Rangers’ goal. Rino did press Ilias Chair up to a point, before both he, Tom Holmes and Michael Olise all stood off him and let him set up the opening goal.
The whole Reading side did like to drop deep when Rangers were in possession around the Royals’ box, but with the defensive midfielders dropping right back to the centre backs. and the front three also behind the ball, as well as being solid and not committing into risky tackles, Reading looked like they were just allowing the opposition to play the ball around and create a bit of magic to open them up. Chair especially enjoyed doing what Olise does best, drifting from the number 10 role to both wings, linking the play and attempting to make something happen.
Further up the pitch, Reading’s approach was of course very different. Ovie Ejaria in particular put in a spectacular performance off the ball (and on it of course), winning back possession numerous times to sustain the pressure from the Royals’ attacks and keep pushing for a goal.
As well as using Ejaria’s tricky feet to create chances, his trademark clipped ball over the top to Yakou Meite was also a route to goal well tried throughout the game. This was utilised by many men in blue and white, not quite beating the offside trap on most occasions, but proving effective in the second period, after the switch to 4-1-2-1-2 - one such ball from Rino assisting Meite for the equaliser.
The final 10/15 minutes were beyond disappointing. Tired legs looked like a lack of effort/acceptance of a point, especially from the holding midfielders who couldn’t keep possession or even get near the QPR attackers. The substitutions Pauno made moments before this spell were not entirely awful though.
George Puscas replacing Lucas Joao was a change many a Royals fan was calling out for. Although Puscas hardly had a touch, hoofing the ball up to him was not something in his control, both he and Meite getting nowhere the inaccurate balls slammed up to them.
Olise being replaced by Alfa Semedo however was slightly strange, seeing as Reading were losing creativity and not simply replacing it with Sone Aluko. (It should be said that, added to this, Olise’s tireless running and fantastic attitude - shouting at Joao to run and physically picking up Meite when he was rolling around - were also brilliant to see). The main issue with this was moving Ejaria into the central role and putting Semedo out wide. Although not a bad call on paper, Ejaria was keeping right wing back Osman Kakay quiet with his fantastic tackling, and proving himself to be a nightmare when running at him with the ball at his feet too.
This change allowed Kakay to steam forwards and become heavily involved in the Rs’ attacks - Reading unable to get out of their half thanks to the sheer number of QPR players pushing forwards.