Reading continued their superb form yesterday as they claimed a 1-0 home win against a struggling Barnsley side.
Winning five of their last six Championship games, the Royals have atoned for their poor early-season record and have now climbed up to seventh, a position many of the Berkshire side’s fans wouldn’t have expected to be in after a difficult summer.
After being placed under a transfer embargo by the EFL, the club lost two of their most promising academy graduates in Michael Olise and Omar Richards to Crystal Palace and Bayern Munich respectively.
Have Reading FC had a higher or lower average attendance compared to these 23 sides this season?
Despite generating £8m for the sale of the former, they lost Richards to Bayern for free, a huge blow for a side that breached the EFL’s profit and sustainability rules, placing them under strict transfer restrictions throughout the summer and leaving them short in some areas.
An injury crisis at the Select Car Leasing Stadium also hasn’t helped matters and a six-point deduction could be coming down the tracks for breaking financial rules which would be a considerable blow.
However, recent results mean they would remain out of the relegation zone if this punishment was enforced today.
Looking at the present instead of the future though, we have selected two things manager Veljko Paunovic needs to weigh after his side’s hard-fought victory against Markus Schopp’s Tykes yesterday afternoon.
Who comes in for George Puscas?
The situation surrounding Puscas is a strange one.
Although he hasn’t exactly done himself justice with his recent performances, failing to get on the scoresheet so far this season in 12 Championship appearances, he hasn’t received a huge amount of service from his teammates in recent games.
It’s clear the 25-year-old puts 100% effort in each game, but he just doesn’t seem to fit this system and would probably require a forward alongside him if he wants to succeed in Berkshire.
The return of Femi Azeez from injury could allow manager Paunovic to play two up top but he will be reluctant to take out any of the five in midfield who have performed well this season and change a working formation.
Ovie Ejaria less so than John Swift, Tom Dele-Bashiru, Danny Drinkwater, and Josh Laurent, with the latter struggling in yesterday’s game, but all five have probably earned another start in midweek against Blackpool.
This may force the manager to pick between Puscas, Azeez, and Jahmari Clarke for the sole starting spot up top and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Azeez start against the Seasiders considering the manager’s comments after the Barnsley tie.
Where does Andy Rinomhota fit in?
Although Rinomhota wasn’t fit enough to be on the bench against Barnsley, he has a chance of returning to the first-team squad for the midweek game, according to Paunovic.
He was one of the first names on the teamsheet alongside Laurent last term, making 42 appearances and impressing in the early stages of 2020/21 as the Royals went unbeaten in their opening eight Championship fixtures.
The 24-year-old academy graduate has been a consistent player for the Royals, but he isn’t getting in ahead of Drinkwater, Laurent, and Dele-Bashiru at the moment.
Andy Yiadom’s return at right-back has also damaged his prospects of starting, so unless there is a formation change, there’s every chance he will be on the bench when he returns, even when he’s fully fit.
The only way he could possibly fit in is if a false nine formation is adopted, with Drinkwater, Laurent, and Rinomhota in the middle and Dele-Bashiru out wide.
But as mentioned in the last point, Paunovic will be reluctant to change a winning formation whilst it continues to work.