The end of the summer 2021 transfer window is hotting up. Fresh off the arrival of former Crystal Palace centre back Scott Dann on a free transfer, Reading have announced the capture of Danny Drinkwater. He’s joined on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea, becoming Reading’s sixth signing of the summer.
On paper, this is quite the coup. Drinkwater, 31, has won the Premier League and Championship with Leicester City, been named in the PFA Team of the Year for the top flight, been capped a few times by England and even featured in the Champions League.
But that would be overlooking quite the fall from grace. Drinkwater has barely featured for Chelsea since a big-money move to Stamford Bridge four years ago, spending time on loan at Burnley, Aston Villa and Turkish side Kasimpasa. Moving to Reading therefore, one year out from when his contract is due to expire at Chelsea, will be a key move in his attempt to rebuild his career.
“Danny’s talent and ability is unquestionable and to bring a player of his calibre to our club is extremely exciting. A proven winner, he is a player whose achievements on the pitch can inspire those around him and help to drive this club forward from the centre of midfield. We are very pleased to welcome him to Reading.”
Should we get even a decent portion of the player that won the Premier League with Leicester City, we’ll be laughing. Having been a key part of Claudio Ranieri’s 4-4-2 (alongside N’Golo Kante), Drinkwater should have the positional awareness and defensive resilience to be a good fit in the double pivot that anchors Pauno’s preferred 4-2-3-1.
Plus, his range of passing is more expansive than Reading have available in a deep midfield position - except if John Swift drops back there. The ability to switch the play or knock the ball over the top that bit more quickly and accurately should provide a useful alternative plan of attack.
That’s the theory at least, but we’ve seen all too often in recent years that the theory behind signing well-known players doesn’t always pan out. In fact, it can misfire badly. The job is now up to both Pauno - to coax out the old version of Drinkwater, and Drinkwater himself - to show he’s serious about putting the last four years behind and getting back on track.