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Reading’s 2022/23 End Of Term Squad Report: Wing Backs

In which Sim grades how the 2022/23 campaign went overall for Reading’s full-backs/wing-backs.

Reading v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Halfway through the season we went through everyone in the squad, handing out grades for how their season had gone. With the campaign now done, we’re doing the same thing but covering the entirety of 2022/23.

Everyone gets a grade from A to E based on how the season’s gone for them overall: very good (A), good (B), OK (C), bad (D), very bad (E). Rather than judging them solely on their performances, we’ll also factor in how well these players have lived up to expectations, how often they’ve been able to actually play, and more.

Having looked at the goalkeepers, now we’re examining the wing-backs/full-backs. You can find the December edition of our grades for them right here. However - plot twist - this time we’re doing a dedicated section on attacking midfielders/wingers, so you won’t find Junior Hoilett in this article.

Andy Yiadom had an OK season on the whole without standing out as much as he’s done in previous years. His average rating of 5.7 is just above the squad-wide average of 5.6, which largely sums up his campaign - while the lack of goals, assists and man-of-the-match is also pretty telling for someone who didn’t starkly catch the eye.

Although he’s lost some of his spark (hopefully temporarily), I’m more minded to think the switch to a back five constrained him. Yiadom’s very much a right-back; while he can play as a right-sided centre-back or right-wing-back, he’s more comfortable in a back four. Indeed, his best performance in the second half of the season (8/10 against Burnley) came from the right-back spot.

Admittedly I’m basing this very much on feeling rather than anything more concrete, but Yiadom doesn’t strike me as a natural captain, which didn’t help his season. He doesn’t seem obviously loud and authoritative as predecessors have done. Hopefully either he’ll grow into the role next season or I’ll just be flat-out proven wrong.

Mid-season grade: B+

End-of-season grade: C+

Back in December I called Baba Rahman’s season a “damp squib” and the second half of the season didn’t go any better, with the low point being a horrid error at Sunderland that effectively cost Reading the game. He only managed half a dozen appearances from December through February before succumbing to an ultimately season-ending injury.

That was a real shame, with Reading more often playing a back four in the second half of the campaign under both Paul Ince and Noel Hunt. Such a system favours Rahman, who’s naturally a left-back in need of a dedicated winger in front of him, rather than a wing-back capable of doing everything by himself. I’d have been intrigued to see what Rahman could have done in the 4-4-2 often used by Reading in the closing weeks.

However, given that a bad season for Rahman only went backwards after December, I’ve got to put his grade down a touch.

Mid-season grade: D+

End-of-season grade: D-

In contrast to Rahman, Nesta Guinness-Walker went from strength to strength in the second half of 2022/23. This was when he finally got a proper run of games, only missing six league games in this period and frequently being in the starting XI.

On the whole I was pleased with what I saw from Guinness-Walker, particularly towards the end of the season when he did surprisingly well (albeit not perfectly) as a left-back in a four under Hunt. I’ve got a lot of time for those moments when I’m worried about a player (in this case Guinness-Walker being given a tougher defensive task) and they prove me wrong - at least for the most part.

Although it’s a bit of a shame Guinness-Walker managed no goals and just one assist (a long throw for Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan at Preston North End), his other stats are impressive. His average rating is the second-highest of anyone in the squad who played more than 30 times, and Guinness-Walker is joint-second for MOTM awards (alongside Amadou Mbengue and Naby Sarr).

Mid-season grade: C+

End-of-season grade: B+

I’ve shunted Amadou Mbengue into this section of the squad review (he was included as a centre-back in December) because I felt like it after extensive, proper deliberation.

While he didn’t massively drop off in the second half of the season, he was certainly better in the first half - his average rating dipped from 5.9 to 5.6 (which is the same figure as the squad-wide average). He also picked up just one of his four MOTM awards in the second half of the season and his game time wound down a tad, with Mbengue used only sparingly in the closing weeks by Hunt.

Still, overall this season should go down as a good one for Mbengue. He took to Championship football adeptly after his 2022 arrival, and while he was prone to some errors, his energy, commitment and versatility were impressive. Hopefully Reading can keep hold of him this summer.

Mid-season grade: A-

End-of-season grade: B

A new entry in our grades, Abrefa snuck into double figures for appearances thanks to a run of games in the closing weeks when he came off the bench various times. While that’s not a massive sample size to judge him from (he only started twice - both in the cup), to me he showed promise as an energetic, positive player.

In fact, he did that in various positions. Abrefa was used at different points as a right-wing-back, right winger and left winger, demonstrating his versatility; he didn’t look fazed in any of those spots. He even popped up with his first goal for the club, seeing his cross sail over the ‘keeper unexpectedly to open the scoring against Watford in the FA Cup.

While it’s still early days in hopefully a long Reading career, I’m excited to see what he can do next season. Hopefully that’ll include much more extensive game time.

Mid-season grade: N/A

End-of-season grade: C+

Everyone else

Due to long-term injury, left-back John Clarke added no more games to his tally after managing a few early on in the season. However, one player who did is Nelson Abbey, who managed a couple of substitute appearances - one as a left-wing-back at Cardiff City, another as a right-back at home to Blackpool, hence being included here with the other wing-backs (he was a centre-back last time out).