Reading’s August Review: solid start

With a two-week break from the Championship for internationals, this is a good time to review how all 24 teams have looked in their first five league games. Here’s our assessment of Jaap Stam’s Reading.

What we said in pre-season

“With Danny Williams and Ali Al-Habsi leaving, Reading’s squad has been weakened a little. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson arrives to reduce dependence on Yann Kermorgant up top while Liams Kelly and Moore should impress again. The Royals need to inject a touch of pace into their possession play though to remain competitive. 8th

Have they surprised us so far?

Not too much. They were fortunate to lose by only two goals at QPR, then failed to beat 10-man Fulham over 89 minutes due to a goalkeeping masterclass and an error from Joey Van Den Berg. Those opening games might have stirred precipitous suggestions of second season syndrome under Stam, but two of the last three performances have put things back on an even keel.

The positives

The Royals’ possession play means they don’t come under much pressure. They look after the ball far better than they did under Brian McDermott or Steve Clarke and are capable of passing the opposition into submission. Aston Villa and Birmingham were unable to implement the right pressing game, making them two early victims of Reading at their best.

The negatives

Injuries. Big strikers Kermorgant and Bodvarsson have at times both been out, so have speedsters Jordan Obita and Garath McCleary. Young midfielders John Swift and Liam Kelly picked up injuries against Preston, while Van Den Berg has had a thigh problem. One player who is almost never injured – and has played more minutes in 2017 than anyone in the Football League – is Chris Gunter. The right-back is a solid professional but could offer a little more speed and quality in possession, especially when deployed as a wing-back.

Late business

Sone Aluko joins from Fulham to inject pace into possession play, as he did so well at Fulham last term. After joining from Aston Villa, Leandro Bacuna has recovered some match sharpness to complete a well-balanced midfield. Dave Edwards will offer commitment and a knack for goals, but his technical limitations make him a less natural fit.

The Football Lab’s Grade

A solid start. If Reading can out-pass teams with key men not entirely fit, then they should theoretically put a run together once they have a full bill of health. C