You know how it works by now; we’ve been grading everyone in the squad for how well, averagely or badly their 2022/23 season went. 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.
In the penultimate part, we’re examining four wingers - well, three wingers and one player who’s kind of a winger. While this is a new section as we didn’t cover wide players separately in December, you can find the following players covered in the wing-backs, midfielders and forwards pieces.
Reading’s best player of 2022/23 quite easily, Tom Ince deservedly won both our vote and the club’s fan vote for Player of the Season. His underlying numbers, which you can see in the graphic, are the best or joint-best in the squad (bar appearances). There isn’t really much more to be said about Ince that hasn’t already been said.
However, I’ve edged his grade down a bit due to a weaker second half of the season. Ince still contributed four goals and an assist in this period, but the campaign ended poorly for him. First there was the disappointing sight of him booting a ball in sheer frustration in the 1-1 draw with Hull City, then he was ruled out for the final eight games due to injury. Reading really could have done with him for that spell of the season.
Mid-season grade: A*
End-of-season grade: A-
Having had a very good first half of the season, in which he took to his new right-wing-back spot very well, registering his only goal and MOTM awards of the season, Junior Hoilett had a second half that was, well, alright. He was consistently in the starting XI and consistently put in middling (5/10 or 6/10) performances. Hoilett did however miss a big chunk of the campaign (11 games); Reading really could have done with an orthodox winger like Hoilett when we switched to a 4-4-2.
On the flipside, I was pleasantly surprised by how high Hoilett’s average rating (5.8) comes out - the joint-third of anyone who played 35 games or more. That’s weighted very much towards an excellent first half of the season (average of 6.1), but it still shows that Hoilett was one of the more dependable players in the squad.
Mid-season grade: A-
End-of-season grade: B-
The second half of 2022/23 was an important period for Femi Azeez, although more in relation to the long term than the short term. Crucially, he finally broke out of an injury curse which had written off the first half of his season and got an extended run of matches. All of his 21 appearances (six starts) came in the second half of the season and he featured in the final 19 consecutive league games. That experience should set him up well for 2023/24 and beyond.
Then again, he didn’t stand out all that much in the second half of the season. He didn’t get that many starts, and when he did (typically under Noel Hunt at the end of the season), he didn’t affect games enough. Partially that’s because Reading are yet to find a specific role for Azeez, who played as a 10, striker, winger and wing-back; although versatility is great, he could really do with some consistency. It’s also partially because he’s still young and needs more development time in general.
Interestingly, his underlying creative stats are impressive - 4.79 ‘goal-creating actions’ per 90 is the highest in the squad. However, it translated into just two assists and no goals.
Mid-season grade: E
End-of-season grade: C+
I know I know, Ovie Ejaria isn’t reeaalllly a winger, but the articles balance out a bit better if I put him in this one rather than with the central midfielders, so here we are. He had a terrible first half of the campaign, putting in eight poor performances, struggling with injury and then pissing everyone off due to a disciplinary issue just before the World Cup break.
The second half of his season was better in that he at least didn’t put in any bad performances - playing precisely zero minutes. That was officially down to injury, but that explanation didn’t allay suspicions that he’d been permanently excluded from the first-team squad. However, Ejaria didn’t show up under Hunt either.
At this stage it’s impossible to tell what the future holds for someone whose future was once such a cause for optimism. Maybe the new manager reinvigorates him (how many times have we pondered that before?), maybe Ejaria leaves, maybe Ejaria struggles as much in League One as he’s done in the Championship in the last couple of seasons.
Mid-season grade: E+
End-of-season grade: E
This wasn’t a breakthrough season for him, but at least Mamadi Camara got some more game time, including a surprise league start at Coventry City. That was one of six appearances in all competitions for the youngster; although he showed promise in his sub outings, that one start underlined that he wasn’t quite ready for first-team football.