Championship side Reading are currently looking to get back on track after losing four of their opening five league games of the 2021/22 Championship campaign, arguably a continuation of their poor form at the back end of last season.
However, a difficult summer has provided the Royals will major hurdles to overcome, with the club being placed under an EFL-imposed embargo and not being able to make a single signing until last month.
In the end, Veljko Paunovic’s side managed to welcome six new arrivals to the Select Car Leasing Stadium in the previous transfer window, opting to sign three free agents and bring in three loanees as they were forced to abide by the EFL’s restrictions and missed out on a striker in the final stages of the window.
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As per journalist Courtney Friday, the second-tier side may have needed to shift players out before bringing in further additions due to their squad size, with free agent Andy Carroll one player the Royals were reportedly in talks with regarding a potential move to Berkshire.
But their embargo could mean they may not be able to make any further additions until January – and with the situation the second-tier outfit are in – manager Veljko Paunovic will need to work with what he has for the moment.
And though the attacking department ideally requires more depth after Lucas Joao’s surgery, there is a little more competition for places in other areas of the pitch for the Royals.
With this, we are taking a look at three selection dilemmas Veljko Paunovic faces ahead of Saturday afternoon’s home tie against a high-flying Queens Park Rangers side.
Does Dann start?
After arriving at the club on a free transfer from Crystal Palace at the latter end of last month, Scott Dann will be hoping to make an immediate impact at the Select Car Leasing Stadium and come to the aid of a side that have conceded three or more goals in three of their five league fixtures so far this season.
In fact, they have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their competitive games so far during 2021/22, something 34-year-old Dann could come in and improve in the short-term after making 15 Premier League appearances last term.
With nearly 250 appearances in the top flight under his belt and a tall stature to rely on, this could turn out to be a season-changing signing for a leaky Royals side if they can keep the veteran defender fit.
But who would be the man to make way? Michael Morrison who was excellent in his first two seasons at the club? Or Liam Moore who is club captain and may offer sorely-needed pace at the back if Dann starts?
Where does Drinkwater fit in?
Another summer signing in Danny Drinkwater could also be in line for his debut against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, although it is currently unclear who will make way for the Chelsea loanee.
One person it’s unlikely to be is John Swift, who is likely to remain in the starting lineup as a key creative figure for the Championship side and their best play so far this season.
This leaves Josh Laurent and Andy Rinomhota as the potential candidates to drop to the bench, with both two of the first names on the teamsheet last season and admired for their performances during the 2020/21 campaign, especially in the opening stages.
However, they haven’t been as effective in midfield this season and with a change potentially needed in the middle, who better to have than a former Premier League winner at their disposal?
He will offer something different in midfield – and provide the competition that may be needed to kickstart Paunovic’s side’s campaign.
Who starts on the wings?
Yakou Meite and Femi Azeez won’t be options for Reading in the coming months with their severe injuries, although the Royals do still have a number of players that can operate out wide and cause problems.
Ovie Ejaria could be involved for the first time this season after suffering from an injury and then testing positive for Covid-19, with new signings Alen Halilovic, Junior Hoilett and Tom Dele-Bashiru also standing out as potential candidates to take up a spot out wide.
It would be good to see the latter in his more natural position in the centre, giving the likes of Hoilett and Ejaria a chance to thrive and give the side something different going forward.
Even during the final stages of the last campaign, you could tell the Championship club needed wingers to give them a different option and this is exactly what Hoilett could do whilst allowing Swift to flourish in the middle.
Halilovic is also an exciting acquisition – and it will be interesting to see how much he can create for the Royals during the upcoming campaign. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the former Birmingham City man line up on one side with Ejaria returning on the other.