With Financial Fair Play regulations limiting any exciting January transfer window action at Reading FC, yesterday saw the club capture not one but two new players.
After much anticipation, the club completed their first and second signings in the form of Slovenian left back Jure Travner and England U-21 Nathaniel Chalobah on loan from Chelsea. Travner, who has trained with the club since December, will provide much needed cover to a heavily relied upon Jordan Obita in the left back position. The announcement of signing Nathaniel Chalobah on loan until the end of the season, however, is the more likely of the two to excite fans. With Chalobah potentially set to sit in the defensive midfield position, it would allow players such as Norwood and Williams to have more of a creative input going forward. Steve Clarke is moving things in the right direction despite having high earners on the books and the limitations of FFP regulations. Hopefully these additions can assist the team in pushing up the table from the 18th position they find themselves in currently.
While these transfers will hopefully help the overall output of the squad, the past few games, in particular the away loss to Fulham, have highlighted several areas that Reading still need to improve on.
1) Life Without Murray
The Reading FC women’s team have found a proven goalscorer in Fran Kirby, having scored 29 times in 22 appearances last season. It is time for the men’s team to do the same. Glenn Murray’s return to Crystal Palace at the beginning of the year has seemingly caused much sadness amongst fans due to a noticeable number of chances being missed since his departure. If Murray’s tweets are anything to go by, the 31-year-old was happy to return to South London intending to stake a claim to his starting position in the squad. His absence from the Reading squad, however, has highlighted the desperate need for a finisher.
Before his departure, Murray was joint top scorer with Simon Cox. Since then, fans have seen the return of a highly criticised Pavel Pogrebnyak from injury. Despite contributing with a goal away to Fulham, the striker missed a catalogue of chances which could have been easily put away. Simon Cox, whose consistently high work rate cannot be faulted, built up a rapport with Murray that saw them both scoring goals; Something that is seemingly missing with Pog. With Blackman finally being played in his preferred position, but taking up the role of “super-sub”, a consistent target-man figure is much needed. Much has been said amongst the fans about giving 20-year-old Dominic Samuel a run in the first-team, having impressed at U-21 level, but what Reading really need is someone with the necessary experience to get them out of what could soon become a sticky situation. Rumours recently suggest that Murray could be on his way back to the Madejski for a suggested sum of £2m. With such a high price tag for someone of his age, he would only be a short term option at best. If we have that much money to spend, especially with the recent departure of Royston Drenthe, it would be better to find a long-term solution who could make a lasting impact at the club.
2) Left Wing
Hal Robson-Kanu, who has been increasingly played on the wing, has arguably been one of the most frustrating figures of late. Often criticised for his lack of speed and tenacity in both getting forward and back, fans are looking for someone else to take his place in the squad. With Garath McCleary returning on the opposite wing and providing a much needed injection of pace and flair, the limitations of Robson-Kanu on the left have become glaringly obvious. With today’s signing of Travner, Clarke has the option of returning Obita to left midfield where he along with McCleary can offer Reading speed and penetration on both flanks. This does depend, however, on where Obita features in Clarke’s plans now. With Jamie Mackie out, Reading are stretched if any more injuries were to occur with Robson-Kanu being a less than ideal option on the wing.
3) Central Defenders
In recent games, Reading have seemingly improved defensively but not that long ago it could not get much worse. The main reason for this improvement is, however, is due to the heroics of Adam Federici. Alex Pearce has shown improvement since he was given the armband by Clarke, and Michael Hector continues to impress. There are still moments of weakness at the back, however, often due to Pearce’s lack of speed. With Anton Ferdinand currently out, Jake Cooper is our only other option at centre back. Cooper impressed during his spell in the first team, but experienced defenders make a difference. Although not as much of a priority as a striker, it is another position which could do with being boosted in an attempt to aid Reading’s poor goal difference.
4) Adam Federici
Since the departure of Alex McCarthy to QPR, Federici has continued to impress the manager, his fellow players and the fans. His consistent performances have often been the difference between Reading losing and earning a point. Despite this, his contract is set to end this summer and has yet to be extended. Giving Federici a contract extension is the least he deserves given his performances of late, but you get the feeling priorities lie elsewhere at the current moment.
Despite the areas that need improving, it cannot be denied that Reading FC have thoroughly improved since the appointment of Steve Clarke. Reading have begun to play exciting football again and as the most recent game against Fulham has shown, are creating a catalogue of chances. All of this counts for nothing though until we find ourselves a proven goalscorer who can take advantage of these goalscoring opportunities.