After recovering from their midweek loss against Derby County to take all three points away at Cardiff City last weekend, Reading will be going into this international break with a lot of optimism.
Compared to the first interval when the Royals had lost four of their opening five league games, the Berkshire outfit have recovered exceptionally well and now find themselves in 11th place, a run of form they needed with a points deduction on the horizon for breaking financial rules.
New signings including the likes of Alen Halilovic and Danny Drinkwater have all come in and made a good impact, with Baba Rahman providing the second-tier side with an orthodox option at left-back, Scott Dann recently coming in and helping to keep a clean sheet at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Junior Hoilett scoring the winner in that match and Tom Dele-Bashiru starting well.
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But there certainly is further room for improvement considering their lack of clean sheets and over-reliance on John Swift to create something against Derby County.
This and Veljko Paunovic’s side’s current injury crisis is why this latest interval has come at the right time for the Royals – but they will need to maintain their current form if they want to steer well clear of relegation with a potential points deduction around the corner.
With domestic football off the agenda, we have selected two things Reading need to work on during the international break if they want to succeed for the remainder of the campaign.
The fitness regime
All of these injuries are unbelievable, but won’t come as a huge surprise to many Reading fans who have witnessed the unavailability of multiple players throughout the past few years.
The 2018/19 season saw then-youngsters Gabriel Osho and Tom McIntyre step up to the plate and with their more compact schedule last term because of Covid-19, these injury problems returned.
Some would argue they have never gone away, but it seems to be particularly bad this season. Although some of this is down to pure luck, with Tom Holmes, Liam Moore and Tom McIntyre’s contact-related injuries causing a crisis in the backline, surely something can be done to reduce the chances of others from occurring.
This is no longer about bad luck – because the number of players unavailable through injuries in recent years has been abnormal. Something needs to change, especially with the Royals having a thin squad already due to the summer’s transfer restrictions.
The availability of players could play a big part in where the Royals finish, especially with the points punishment coming their way.
A wide threat
Reading have been reasonably good in front of goal during the 2021/22 campaign and in fact, they have rarely struggled to score under Veljko Paunovic.
However, they need to develop more of a wide threat to prevent the Berkshire side from becoming one-dimensional.
At times, it feels as though the Royals are over-reliant on John Swift and this is something they need to change. But Ovie Ejaria and Alen Halilovic are similar players, they aren’t the type to run past Championship full-backs with pace.
Junior Hoilett might – but Reading need to work on getting Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom in more advanced positions so they can make a real impact going for.
We have already seen Rahman get into some good positions, including against Derby County, but they need even more than that and Scott Dann’s fitness should give Andy Yiadom the chance to be set free down the right.
They struggled at times last season without an orthodox winger, something that will happen again unless they work on it in training.