Reading have a new centre back: Naby Sarr. The 29-year-old’s joined on a free transfer from Huddersfield Town and should now be a big player in the Royals’ new-look back-three system.
But is he actually any good, and how will he fit in at Reading? We grilled Terriers fan Matt Shaw from And He Takes That Chance to find out.
How would you sum up Naby Sarr’s time at Huddersfield Town?
A popular hit and miss. The big, adorable galoot was as equally frustrating as he was brilliant but became a key protagonist with the Huddersfield fans falling back in love with the team after a rocky couple of years.
Naby in his first season was characterised on our podcast as a bipolar figure where on matchday we were unsure as to which character would turn up! Naby Moore in reference to England’s 1966 FA Cup-winning captain or Gordon TuckSarr in reference to Huddersfield Town’s worst ever professional footballer Gordon Tucker.
There was zero in between, he was either brilliant or terrifyingly terrible, but we still loved him either way. The majority of Huddersfield fans were disappointed to see such a great character leave, especially after he played a key role at times filling in last season for Levi Colwill.
Reading are likely to play a back four and a back three at times this season - which set-up fits him better?
Naby’s best performances came in the middle of a back three but he can play as the left-sided centre back in a three- or four-man defence. His size and reasonable pace make him the ideal spare centre back to mop up covering areas where he can function as the defender who performs the double-up on an attacker.
What are his main strengths?
He is a big lad! He is good in the air, chips in with goals, has a touch of pace and can often transition passes through the thirds if given the opportunity to do so. As I touched on above, he is at his best as a covering defender and he tends to read situations pretty well.
And his weaknesses?
He can be incredibly error-prone. Naby, despite his strengths, has a very rash streak which can lead to him giving away silly free kicks and penalties as well as being prone to a ropy back pass. In fairness though, the errors were fewer and further between once we stopped trying to play out from the back at all costs and he was allowed to take safer options first. Having Nicholls and Tom Lees in close proximity to talk to him also helped him hugely.
What are your stand-out memories of him for good or bad reasons?
A last-minute winner at home to Blackburn and his celebration as well as a winner at home to Luton last season were great but he also came in and made a number of key defensive contributions last season with late tackles and big clearances.
He was also a good player to throw on to see out a game and away at Fulham he was colossal for his four minutes on the pitch - he was even in the running for man of the match, such was the quality of three goal-saving and as such match-winning tackles that he made.
What’s his character like?
The players, staff and media absolutely adored him. A really good human being and someone who is still loved by every fan of his previous clubs, his character is beyond reproach.
Will he be a success at Reading?
Yes, he’s a great character and I hope that you get to see the good side of him that we’ve seen over the last two seasons. All the best Naby, what a guy.