Reading brought their summer activity up to six signings on Monday evening with the addition of Danny Drinkwater on a season-long loan from Chelsea. While on paper this move adds plenty of experience and quality, it’s hard to know exactly what kind of player the Royals will get. To find out, we spoke to Chelsea writer Ram Srinivas, who’s also co-founder of football recruitment consultancy Mrkt Insights.
Things clearly never worked out for Drinkwater at Chelsea. What went wrong for him?
Well, let's just say it was a bit of a short-termist signing that was always in doubt of having any sort of significant shelf life. It also cost a lot of money and erm... okay, the less I think about it, the better for my peace of mind.
But what actually went wrong was he just wasn't good enough to hold a regular rotation place once he spent some time out of the side and additionally, once Sarri came in after Conte, he played a three-man midfield and explicitly claimed that he thought Drinkwater only suited a two-man midfield system.
So it was the loan carousel, although finding the best loan destinations proved to be difficult because of his massive wages. Coupled with a few off-field incidents and injuries, it was just a fiendish cocktail to halt his overall career progression.
What are his main strengths and weaknesses?
He's a volume passer. He'll rotate possession in deep areas all day long and distribute out wide or in behind, no problem. It's what he did very famously for Leicester when they won the league and it's the most distinguishable part of his game. As for weaknesses, possibly some questions over mobility and defensive work rate.
What can he bring to Reading tactically?
He'll give you what you were missing last season with the Rino-Laurent duo, which is basically someone that can pass expressively, help you play out (relative to the rest of your options) and just make a more balanced midfield pairing with either Laurent or Rinomhota (if the former stays, that is).
What's his character like?
It's hard to comment on character but I can only tell you what I've been able to observe and there've been a couple of reported off-field incidents that don't read well, one such being while on loan at Burnley in 2019/20. There was also one occasion when he got sent off for the Chelsea 23s for kicking out at Spurs kid Alfie Devine, who was 16 at the time.
I'm no one to pass any judgment on his character though, what I can see is that he was clearly going through a tough time and it was nice to see him back on the pitch in Turkey for the six-odd 90s he played there. I'm hoping things have improved with him.
Do you think he'll be a success at Reading?
I wouldn't keep my expectations too high; all in all, in three years he's played about half a season's worth of football at a stretch. If he gets going he might turn out decently but I wouldn't expect it to go too well, mainly because there's just been so much inconsistency in his career since 2017. It's a roll of the dice and it could work out but don't bank on it.