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Ruben Selles Should Stay Stubborn With His Tactics

The Reading FC boss came in for some criticism on tactics after the Blackpool game, but for Harry, Selles should stay the course.

Cambridge United v Reading - Sky Bet League One - Abbey Stadium Photo by Simon Marper/PA Images via Getty Images

There were a whole heap of things that angered and frustrated the fans from Saturday’s capitulation at Bloomfield Road. As we all know by now, it was a horrid afternoon with some all-too familiar problems rearing their head once again.

While the majority of fans are quick to defend the manager and appreciate the conditions he’s currently having to work in, in the aftermath of Saturday’s defeat, some threw shade at Selles’ stubbornness and commitment to the 4-2-2-2 formation.

I understand this to an extent. But I don’t expect Selles to change formation anytime soon - even though we changed to three at the back in the second half. That was purely a reaction to the awful first-half performance, and I’m sure the 4-2-2-2 will be implemented from the start against Burton Albion. In fact, I’ll go one further and say I actively want Selles to stick with the formation, regardless of recent results. And here’s why.

Selles has come to the club with a clear idea of how he wants this team - his team - to play. A philosophy, an identity, if you will.

Not only has he come to the club with that vision in mind, I strongly believe that, together with Mark Bowen, Brian Carey and co, he has recruited a group of players who fit into that vision.

During the summer a huge amount of work went into signing players that aren't just good assets for the club in the long term - in terms of their ceiling and resale value - but also in the short and medium term - with regards to them suiting Selles’ style of play to a tee.

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

The likes of Dom Ballard (who Selles gave his first Premier League appearance to last season), Ben Elliott (who himself said how instrumental Selles was to him joining) and Paul Mukairu (who Selles coached at Copenhagen) all spring to mind immediately.

If you think of any successful team in the last five years - at any level - they have a clear way of playing, a tactical idea that they’ve honed and become very, very good at. And I’m not just talking about the obvious examples such as Manchester City with their possession football and Liverpool with the gegenpress.

You can look at the EFL too, with Burnley and Vincent Kompany, Sheffield United under Chris Wilder and Leeds United with Marcelo Bielsa. They all had a clear way of playing football, and although they may have tweaked it here and there, it largely stayed the same, no matter who or where they were playing.

For some of those teams I mentioned, it clicked straightaway. But we cannot expect that to be the case here, particularly not in the state our club is currently in and the conditions Selles is having to work in.

Even without all the variables that are unique to our club currently - how young and inexperienced at this level most of the squad are, how much the players who were here before Selles were starved of any kind of tactics, the turbulence surrounding the club that I’m sure is understandably having an effect - it takes more than eight league games for a way of playing to be ingrained into a group of players.

If we compare him to his predecessor, who constantly used our situation as an excuse and a get-out-of-jail-free card, I for one admire Selles’ stubbornness and adamance that this is how we’re going to play, and although it may be tough in the short term, it'll work out alright in the end.

Millwall v Reading - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

I know what a lot of people’s reply to what I’ve said above will be, and that we need to be prioritising points over a way of playing and an identity. That we can’t afford to be suffering the pain of a group of players getting used to a high-tempo, high-intensity style of play in the position we’re in.

I get that, and think it’s a fair thing to say. What I would say though is that I think there has been enough in the few games so far to suggest that this style of play can work, and we will pick up enough points to be okay come the end of the season.

One thing Selles cannot do is let what’s going on above him affect the decisions he makes on the pitch. Bowen knew what he was hiring when he appointed Selles. He wanted to bring in a progressive, hungry young coach who could provide attacking, entertaining football.

That is Selles’ mandate and that is what he is working towards. He is not going to achieve that by scrapping his ideology and philosophy after eight league games.

No, it’s not perfect yet, but we can’t expect it to be. It’s a complete rebuild of the tactical identity of an entire club. And I say entire because it’s being filtered down into Reading’s youth teams as well. Instilling any kind of new practices or cultures into any new work place takes time, and this is no different.