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Reading FC Position Previews: Strikers

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Our position-by-position look at Reading's squad ahead of the 2015/16 season concludes as Wimb breaks down the battle between the strikers.

Ins:

Orlando Sa (Legia Warsaw), Rowan Liburd (Billericay)

Outs:

Yakubu (free agent) Kwesi Appiah (end of loan)

Already in squad:

Pavel Pogrebnyak, Simon Cox, Dominic Samuel, Andrija Novakovich, Harry Cardwell, Craig Tanner

Quick analysis:

Goals were a big problem for Steve Clarke after Christmas, with Pavel Pogrebnyak the only one of those forwards currently in the squad to net for Reading in 2015. Simon Cox seemed to drift out of favour under the man who also moved him on at West Brom and the temporary help from Yakubu and Kwesi Appiah barely helped matters. The young trio of Samuel, Novakovich and Cardwell all have promise, with Samuel showing his talents out on loan and during this pre-season but are any of them ready for regular Championship football? That means new signing Orlando Sa is going to have a lot of expectation heaped on his shoulders, especially with a reported injury to Pavel Pogrebnyak.

The contenders:

Pavel Pogrebnyak: Speaking of the big Russian, he once again showed he's a hard worker but far from natural goalscorer at this level. By now I think it's time to give up hope on him living up to his gigantic wages but given it's the final year of his contract you'd hope he's even more motivated to succeed this season. Pog is still a real asset to the football club and is capable of getting a few goals so getting him back up to full fitness again will be a priority.

Simon Cox: The return of the former Academy graduate was well received last summer and initially Cox looked at home at the Mad Stad, bagging 8 goals before Christmas and topping our goalscoring charts. Sadly his form slowly waned as the year turned and Steve Clarke didn't really seem to fancy the Republic of Ireland striker as the season progressed. A failure to find the net under Clarke won't have inspired the Reading boss but in public at least the message is that he's still got a future at the club. The arrival of Sa and more of a 4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1 system isn't good news though for the forward who would presumably be behind Sa and Pogrebnyak in the pecking order, so I wouldn't be stunned to see him moved on before the deadline.

Dominic Samuel: Long-touted as one of our best Academy prospects, it's hard to believe that Samuel made his debut in the Premier League way back in 2012. Since then his first team chances have been all but non-existent which is worrying given the way the senior strikers have all struggled in that time. Nigel Adkins clearly felt the forward had some attitude problems that needed correcting but the arrival of Steve Clarke seems to have helped the striker who made a big impact on loan at Coventry with six goals in 13 games. After recovering from a fractured ankle he's featured regularly in pre-season and in firmly in contention for a regular spot in the squad.

Orlando Sa: The Portuguese striker arrives at the Mad Stad for his second taste of English football after a short spell with Fulham a couple of years ago. Sadly Sa didn't seem to find his feet in England during his time with the Cottagers but he's rebuilt his reputation around the continent and impressed in Poland last season. Fitness has limited his involvement in pre-season so it's hard to really know what we'll be getting long-term but expectations will be high for the forward.

Rowan Liburd: The 22-year-old joined from Billericay earlier this summer after a season that had seen him bag 22 goals for the Essex side in the seventh-tier. Very much a speculative punt than a signing designed to slot straight into the team we could well have picked up the next Michail Antonio, or it could just be another Brett Williams. Only time will tell but his off-field attitude certainly suggests he's determined to take his chance here.

The others: Reading held American Andrija Novakovich back from this summer's U20 World Cup so that he could focus on his fitness for the new season, hinting that he could well be in Steve Clarke's thoughts going forward. He's appeared briefly for the first team already but I'd imagine a loan spell is a more likely scenario for the young American. Likewise, Harry Cardwell has earned plenty of praise during his time with the U21 side and could also come into contention as the season progresses. Craig Tanner tasted first team action with both Reading and AFC Wimbledon last year but his stock seems to have fallen somewhat and you feel he might need to prove himself in the Football League on loan again.

The verdict:

At the time of writing it seems a fairly straight battle between Orlando Sa and Pavel Pogrebnyak to lead the line as Clarke is seemingly preferring one main striker supported by those from midfield and the wing. Samuel and Cox might well come more into play if we're looking to play a bit more of an attacking system but both would seem to have a battle on their hands to convince Clarke they're worthy of starts. I'm still not sure Clarke has finished his summer spending as there isn't that quick pacey striker in the squad that can try and change things, so I'd be fairly confident of some more transfer activity before the window shuts.

What do you make of the options for the strikers? Are they good enough to mount a serious promotion push or does Clarke need to move in the market? Let us know in the comments below.