We’re delighted to announce that Amadou Mbengue is your November 2022 player of the month. He won the award by a landslide, getting 80% of the vote, well ahead of Tom Holmes (18%) and Tyrese Fornah (2%).
This result isn’t really that much of a surprise. Mbengue was a proper stand-out in November, impressing in a variety of defensive roles despite the Royals’ broader struggles with form and results. As such he’s come in for praise from the fans consistently in recent times.
He is in fact only the second player to win our monthly award this season. Tom Ince won in July/August, September and October, reflecting his consistency and importance to the first team. Although Ince didn’t make the shortlist for November, he’ll no doubt be back in contention before long.
Mbengue is on track to be a surprise success story of this season. Mbengue arrived as a triallist in early August and Reading weren’t in a hurry to sign him up, only handing him a short-term contract in mid-September, seemingly as a result of being unable to secure Middlesbrough-bound Massimo Luongo.
Mbengue has however gone on to play eight times for Reading. Despite being initially billed as a midfielder, he’s instead filled in at right-wing-back, as a left- and right-sided centre-back in a three and on the right of a pairing in a back four. Don’t be surprised to see him slot in elsewhere as the need arises, especially with injured centre-backs set to return and current midfield options failing to nail down a place.
Paul Ince spoke on this subject to The Reading Chronicle recently:
“We need to find his best [position], sometimes when you’re a utility man you can’t get nailed down to a position, which is great for me as a manager but not always great for the player. When you get the likes of Liam Moore and Naby back, all of a sudden, we’ve got five centre-halves. It’s a fight then, competition, but that’s what I want.”
I’m keen to see Mbengue appear in the middle of the park. He’s certainly shown defensive awareness, energy and physicality in his appearances so far, and could translate those to a ball-winning role further upfield - whether as a box-to-box player or in a deeper spot. That may in turn allow Reading to press more proactively than is typically the case.
Either way, as Ince said, Mbengue needs a set position. While flexibility is great, it can prevent young players from really developing a specific skillset and excelling in it. Perhaps the return of various players from injury will allow some more clarity on Mbengue’s tactical future.
Reading will also need to see if they can keep Mbengue beyond January. Although the 20-year-old’s wages aren’t likely to be prohibitively large, there could well be interest from elsewhere, potentially pushing the Royals into a (probably unwinnable due to business-plan restrictions) bidding war.
For more on Mbengue, check out Bobbins’ piece on him from last week.