Reading started their EFL Cup campaign brightly on Tuesday evening, as they cruised to a 2-0 win against League Two side Plymouth Argyle. The goals came from Joey van den Berg and Roy Beerens, who both opened their accounts for the club after signing over the summer.
Despite being against a much weaker side, here are some of the things to come out of the game.
Swift Is Running The Show
Since joining Reading from Chelsea, John Swift has continued to demonstrate his sizeable ability. While it may only be early in the season, Swift is already becoming a vital part of the Reading team in the centre of midfield.
Despite featuring on the wing in pre-season, the departure of Oliver Norwood opened up a space for him in a central position. Here he has flourished, and much of Reading’s attacking play seems to be going through him. The England Under-21 international has already played a part in two goals for the Royals so far- scoring against Preston and delivering the assist for van den Berg’s goal against Plymouth.
Against Plymouth he once again dictated the play, operating between the attack and midfield. Whether he is setting up his team-mates or taking the shot on himself, Swift is already proving why he was in such high demand during the window. While it was only against Plymouth, Swift demonstrated exactly what fans can expect from him throughout the season.
Watson At Home In First Team
He may have only been filling in for Jordan Obita following his injury against Preston, but Tennai Watson is beginning to look at home in the Reading defence. Playing at right-back, with Chris Gunter moving to the left, Watson played with composure beyond his 19 years of age.
Again it has to be said, he was largely untested against a Plymouth side who did not offer much going forward. When they did attack, however, Watson made a number of good tackles and passed the ball forward with confidence. I would say that he is a lot more defensively minded than the likes of Gunter and Obita, but that aspect of his game will develop in time.
With Obita apparently being taken off with cramp against Preston, he will probably return to the starting eleven with Gunter against Wolves at the weekend. That being said, Watson has shown that he is developing into a promising player who can handle himself at this level if called upon.
Expect Plenty Of Rotation Out Wide
While there may be a lack of options in certain areas of the pitch, wingers are something that Reading now have in abundance. Garath McCleary, Roy Beerens, Callum Harriott, Yakou Meite and Tariqe Fosu are all currently at the club and can all play in the wide areas.
Beerens seems to currently be the first choice, with Harriott, McCleary and Meite all being rotated. They have all demonstrated their individual ability already this season, and subsequently Stam has a difficult choice to make. With so many options ahead of him, and after not being given a number this season, it would not surprise me to see Fosu loaned out again.
Even with Fosu out of the picture, that still leaves four players to push for two places in the squad. Such competition can only be good for the team, however, with each being pushed to perform to their individual limits. I would subsequently expect there to be plenty of rotation in these positions as the season goes on.
Cooper Could Be In Trouble
Despite being increasingly relied upon last season, Jake Cooper’s position in the starting eleven looks as if it may be in trouble already this year.
In the opening game of the current Championship season, Stam opted with Paul McShane and Joey van den Berg in the central defensive positions. As McShane is captain, that position will automatically be taken in league fixtures as long as he remains fit. Van den Berg, however, is naturally a defensive midfielder but he has been trusted in defence by Stam despite his tendencies to sometimes throw himself into tackles.
Against Plymouth, Stam rested McShane in favour of Cooper. Van den Berg lined up alongside him and is actually impressing as a centre-back so far. Cooper, however, was disappointing. While his aerial clearances were good, his passing out from the back was more often than not off target. Of course it was only one game, but against a team of Plymouth’s calibre and when largely unchallenged it was a concern.
With van den Berg being favoured in the league and the transfer of Liam Moore hopefully edging ever closer to fruition, the signs are not looking good for Cooper.
Reading Still Need A Striker
If Deniss Rakels and Yann Kermorgant have shown anything in the opening two games of the season, it is that another striker is becoming increasingly necessary.
Strikers have been a concern for Reading for years and currently it seems as if nothing has changed. On paper, the Royals have several options up front with Rakels, Kermorgant, Joseph Mendes and Dominic Samuel all on the books. The simultaneous injuries to Mendes, Samuel and Kermorgant recently caused them some problems. Kermorgant returned to play against Plymouth but Mendes and Samuel are yet to feature.
The current issue is that the strikers are often struggling to touch the ball, let alone score. Rakels had several opportunities against Preston but too often miskicked the ball. Generally over the period of the game, he was an anonymous figure and saw very little of the ball. Kermorgant against Plymouth was arguably worse, as he had to drop back into midfield to get anywhere near the ball. The only real opportunity he had was the chipped effort on goal that was ruled out for offside.
With goals coming from other areas of the pitch, Reading are currently coping well. The Royals cannot rely on this for the rest of the season, however, and subsequently need a striker capable of playing in Stam’s system.