Reading have recovered well since the last international break, going unbeaten in five of their six games since then and lifting themselves into the top half of the table.
After such a dire start to the campaign, falling into the relegation places at one point, the club’s September/early October has been a lot better than many expected and could provide them with the platform to go on and do well this term.
Although they are unlikely to reach the play-offs with less squad depth in their ranks and a potential points deduction happening at some stage, they could still have a positive season and will be hoping the ability of the likes of Chelsea loanees Danny Drinkwater and Baba Rahman will play a big part in their quest to achieve another respectable finish.
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A seventh-place finish last term was above many peoples’ expectations, so there’s no reason why they can’t spring another surprise and set themselves up well for what looks to be an uncertain future.
Many players’ contracts are up at the end of the campaign, a real source of concern for Veljko Paunovic and fans considering they are likely to be under transfer restrictions again for a while.
We’re focusing more on the short-term though – and picking our best Reading FC XI from what we’ve seen thus far in 2021/22.
After some superb performances, Luke Southwood starts between the sticks. The 23-year-old has been almost faultless after stepping in for Rafael Cabral, made a selection of world-class saves, distributing the ball well at times and proving to be a commanding figure in his box.
That last asset is the big advantage he has over the Brazilian who doesn’t seem prepared to come and claim the ball a lot of the time.
At left-back, it has to be their only senior, orthodox option in that position, Baba Rahman. The Ghanaian has been a good option to have and has got forward well at times, certainly making a difference and providing some balance in the defence.
The central defensive pairing is a strange one, but Liam Moore has probably performed closer to expectations than Michael Morrison has so far, putting in an excellent performance on Saturday afternoon against Cardiff City. Scott Dann hasn’t played enough to warrant a place there yet.
But Josh Laurent has, performing admirably in a less natural position. Many Reading fans would prefer him in the midfield, but he also did a decent job at the back and should be commended for that.
Andy Yiadom starts on the right, with loan duo Danny Drinkwater and Tom Dele-Bashiru in midfield. The latter has more than held his own at this level and has been impressive, but Drinkwater has been a class above and has shown real composure in the middle of the park. He deserves his place in there and will no doubt be a great asset for the Royals throughout the 2021/22 campaign.
John Swift starts in a more advanced position in the centre after recording 12 goalscoring contributions (goals and assists) in 11 Championship games. He is more than deserving of his place, but is likely to go at the end of the campaign with his contract coming to an end.
Ovie Ejaria starts on the left after his brace against Fulham and flashes of quality, with summer signing Alen Halilovic impressing on the other side. The Croatian hasn’t been afraid to get on the ball – and from his performances so far – he looks like a shrewd signing.
Up front, George Puscas has played regularly in the absence of Lucas Joao, but it has to be another signing in Junior Hoilett that starts as the lone striker after doing reasonably well in Berkshire thus far. What a finish on Saturday at the Cardiff City Stadium, by the way.