Jeepers, where do we begin? There have been lows supporting this esteemed football club, we’ve witnessed most of the worst kind of deflation in recent years, but Reading managed to hit a new low against Fleetwood Town.
I’m loath to say “no disrespect” to Town, but we should be better than this. Or should we? By now we’ve seen enough to know what these players are all about. We thought that, at the level we’re at, we should have enough about us to cope in League One, right? We were sadly mistaken.
On the night, we deserved what we got. A draw would have been a steal, an unlikely win would have papered over many cracks, nay, deep fissures in the team and the performance.
For many, including myself, we’d given Ruben Selles enough rope to hang himself with. But nothing is encouraging about his team selection, setup or his philosophy. A lot of his decisions seem to make little sense. We’ve all seen enough football to know when a manager begins to lose his way: players playing out of position (Tyler Bindon), making too many changes that don’t make sense game after game, random selections that backfire immediately (Mamadi Camara), steadfast refusal to play certain players despite their capabilities (Ben Elliott).
Selles is showing all the hallmarks of a manager that has gone so far down a rabbit-hole with his beloved 4-2-2-2 that it has become all-consuming but yet so divisive in the same breath. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the players are confused by it. They have no confidence in playing the system.
League One opposition find it incredibly easy to counter our play and it’s to no surprise. When we’re asking a team that’s been put together with sticking plasters to play in a formation with roles that none of them have played in before, it’s a huge ask for them to hit the ground running and be winning games at a canter.
It’s unfair on them to play in this way with no basis to rely on to know that this system can work. At least give them a fighting chance of winning some area of play. We lose out in defence because it’s so disjointed. Continually playing Bindon at right-back is so hard to watch. He’s doing his best, but at 18 years old it’s too much for him to bear.
Midfield is constantly swamped as the two DMs can’t get a grip on the game. There’s not enough bodies in central areas for them to cope. The less said the better about the magical two 10s that are supposed to make this system tick.
Not once in the League has it shown that having players in these positions has provided the opposition with so much bother that it’s clearly a worthwhile choice. It simply doesn’t work. Poor Camara looked all at sea and it was no shock to see him being removed. Ironically, his replacement, Femi Azeez, had his best appearance in quite some time.
Up front, we’re subjected to meaningless punts up the field for someone to chase. Either that or the forwards are coming deep but there are no runners that go beyond them even if they do manage to win the ball, which is unlikely.
Ballard and Smith tried hard, there’s no doubting that, but the service to them from the magical 10s is nowhere to be seen. Seeing Lewis Wing ping balls into the box just because that’s where all the bodies are is a frustrating watch.
It’s this stubborn refusal from Selles that is putting him in the firing line, quite literally. There is so much evidence now that this system just does not work. The oft used “definition of madness” now reeks throughout this formation.
Fans are now sick of seeing the same issues appear time and time again without the manager addressing them in any way bar putting another player in different positions and just hoping that something clicks.
These players are far too fragile to cope with everything else going on at the football club, so why subject them to something that is so alien and hasn’t returned any rewards? At least set them up with the best opportunity not to lose week in week out.
Football is a confidence game, it always has been. If the manager cannot devise a plan that the players are confident with and believe in, then results can come. If, instead, we make a team like Fleetwood look like Real Madrid, then something clearly isn’t right. A lot isn’t right. At all.
Selles now finds himself under a huge amount of pressure with the club now cutting itself adrift in the relegation zone. Either he has to make changes that help the team or, in normal circumstances, a change would be made to relieve him of his duties.
Unfortunately, we’re not in normal circumstances. While the noise to remove him would be deafening, who’s listening? Mark Bowen will be very conscious of what’s happening and what may need to change but who can sign off on Selles taking gardening leave or to find a new replacement? The CEO is AWOL and ditto the owner.
We all felt and feared that it would get worse before it gets better, but maybe not quite to this extent. Next up, the unbeaten league leaders, Portsmouth. Pray for Reading FC.