Championship side Reading were able to secure six signings in the summer transfer window, despite currently operating under an EFL-imposed transfer embargo.
Tom Dele-Bashiru, Baba Rahman, Danny Drinkwater (all loan), Junior Hoilett, Alen Halilovic and Scott Dann all made moves to the Select Car Leasing Stadium last month, vastly strengthening a Reading side that has been crying out for more squad depth since pre-season.
You could still argue the Berkshire outfit still require a forward and a right-back to challenge Ghanaian international Andy Yiadom – but they may have to do make do until January if they are forced to let players go first before bringing more reinforcements in.
20 quiz questions about Reading FC’s 2021/22 season so far – Can you score full marks?
As per Football Insider, they had opened talks with former Newcastle United and Liverpool striker Andy Carroll over a potential free transfer after being released by the former this summer, but that move has failed to materialise thus far and they made need to utilise the power of persuasion to the EFL if they want to get their seventh signing of 2021 over the line.
The Royals do have a strong starting lineup though when most players are fit, although injury worries seem to have hampered the club for several years now and with the likes of Lucas Joao, Tom McIntyre, Femi Azeez and Yakou Meite set to be out for the long-term, the prospect of seeing a full fit Reading squad in action this season seems unlikely at this stage.
But we are looking on the brighter side of life and picking the club’s strongest 11 if their entire squad is fully match-fit. You may disagree with some of these picks, so let us know what you think of the following lineup…
In goal, Rafael Cabral has to start as the most experienced option. Luke Southwood will be ready to take the Royals’ number one spot if the Brazilian makes several costly mistakes throughout the season, although Reading fans should be keeping an eye on youngster Jokull Andresson who seems to be doing well out on loan at League One side Morecambe.
The previously problematic position of left-back with Omar Richards’ departure has now been sorted with Baba Rahman arriving from Chelsea on a season-long loan deal – and he has to start as the club’s only senior option in this position.
Another summer signing in Scott Dann also has to start with his vast amount of Premier League experience and calmness at the back, although picking his partner at the heart of defence proved to be tricky.
As tempting as it is to drop Liam Moore in his current form, he probably has to start alongside Dann to provide a bit of pace in the Royals’ backline and stop the opposition firing balls in behind the defence.
And like Rahman, Andy Yiadom is the only senior player in his position. Central midfielders Andy Rinomhota and Felipe Araruna can also operate there, along with centre-back Tom Holmes, but the Ghanaian has to start as the club’s most effective option going forward.
The midfield is a tricky one. Josh Laurent and Andy Rinomhota were two of the first names on the teamsheet – but with Danny Drinkwater’s arrival – that has now changed.
Drinkwater comes into the starting lineup as a former Premier League winner and a top-quality addition, but it may have to be Rinomhota who drops to the bench temporarily instead of Laurent who was exceptional last season and will be incredibly effective again if he can return to that previous form.
The man who starts ahead of them in an advanced midfield role is a slightly easier pick. Yep, you guessed it, the main man John Swift comes in having been the club’s standout player of the season so far.
But who starts either side of him? The additions of Junior Hoilett and Alen Halilovic have made things more interesting in the wide area, but Ovie Ejaria and Yakou Meite would be the two starting options if manager Veljko Paunovic had a fully fit squad to pick from. Ejaria does need to be more consistent though or is at risk of being dropped.
You could also argue Meite is a better option to have up top, but having both him and Lucas Joao in the starting lineup gives Paunovic’s side a bigger attacking threat and he will be missed more than some Reading fans realise as he recovers from his anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Up top, it has to be Joao in there. George Puscas has a great deal of potential, but he’s better suited to a two up top like Sam Baldock was before his departure and Reading supporters will be hoping he can return as soon as possible.
Bench: Southwood, Holmes, Morrison, Rinomhota, Halilovic, Hoilett, Puscas