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Reading 0-0 Burton Albion: Tactical Analysis

Tom analyses a first league draw of the season.

Reading v Stevenage - Sky Bet League One - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images

Burton Albion held Reading to a frustrating 0-0 draw on Saturday, as Ruben Selles’ side had to settle for a point against the Brewers. It was possibly one of the least exciting matches I’ve watched in recent memory (at least the batterings under Paul Ince had some goals, albeit against us), yet it could prove important in turning the tide of form after an awful performance away at Blackpool.

Despite the drab result, there were still some interesting moments. Let’s analyse the Royals’ first league draw of the season.

The opposition threat

In League One overall this season, Burton have had the joint-least shots out of any team, yet also have a very similar overall xG to Oxford United, who sit second in the league. What does this tell us? Well, for one that Oxford are vastly over-performing, but also that Burton create few but higher-quality chances, of which the Reading defence did well to limit them of on Saturday.

This left David Button with only one save to make, coming from a free-kick in the 30th minute, as shown below.

As the ball floats in here, Burton have two men in space at the back post. This is done when the Albion number four almost blocks and shrugs away Matty Carson, leaving him isolated outside of the box. If anyone remembers Declan Rice’s goal against Manchester United a few weeks ago, then this is a similar idea, with one man obstructing the markers, allowing his teammate to get a shot off, as Sam Hughes (number five) does here. This also draws Tom McIntyre away from the middle, towards the back post, backtracking away from his intended man.

Reading’s threat

Just to compare to those xG statistics for us, Reading have the ninth-most shots in the league, with the ninth-biggest xG, but with the fourth-worst amount of goals. This means that, although we have to put up with results like this for a while, across the season, the chances have been there - and they’re high-quality chances too. Patience is needed, and the results will come from this young side.

Reading found it consistently difficult to play out and progress the ball into the opposition half, as shown by the player positions graphic below.

Burton had an impressive press comparative to what I was anticipating, and this forced Lewis Wing (number 29) very deep to receive passes.

An example of this is here, where he is playing essentially as a centre-back, with McIntyre the one higher. Harvey Knibbs and Charlie Savage are also coming in very deep here to play, just increasing the void and separation between the attack and defence. I can’t help but think that, in this screenshot, Harlee Dean’s and maybe also Savage’s positions are almost wasted, as they’re hardly providing a progressive option to pass to.

However, Wing’s subsequent diagonal ball to Tyler Bindon on the right is quality and the Kiwi crosses into the back post as seen, which unfortunately loops over everyone’s heads. However, if you think back to the earlier positioning, Knibbs and Savage being so far back limits the men in the box to get on the end of this, meaning our insistence to provide options when passing out limits chances when we opt to do more direct.

The amount of creativity was also subpar on Saturday, with Reading registering only two successful dribbles all game, which is especially woeful considering that’s one of the main traits of starting players such as Femi Azeez, Knibbs and Ben Elliott. This left the chance-creation down to the defence, with Carson and Dean making the most progressive passes throughout the 90.

A Tuesday-night test in Northampton awaits next, giving SURELY a golden opportunity for the away league victory that we haven’t tasted since November. They’ve had an identical start to the season to Reading in terms of results, so this should prove a tight game, but with a good away following, I believe we can clinch the three points.

Bring on the Cobblers!