By Chris Harris
Some promoted clubs get accused of being too strong for the Championship but too weak for the Premiership. Not Reading. Steve Coppell's men are right at home in the top flight.
The only side to outclass Reading this season have been Arsenal. Arsène Wenger's side ran riot at the Madejski Stadium in October but that result was the exception rather than the rule. The Royals are sitting pretty in sixth place and few would bet against them booking a place in Europe next term.
After two cruel Cup defeats, there won't be any let-up for a depleted Arsenal side this weekend. We spoke to Nick Ive of the Reading Evening Post about the Royals' stunning first Premiership season, the quality of Steve Sidwell and why he expects Coppell's side to go on the attack this weekend.
THE STORY SO FAR
"It has been unbelievable. They are now chasing a Uefa Cup spot. I'm not sure whether they will get that but I think that realistically they will finish between sixth and 10th. Earlier in the season I thought mid-table would be the best Reading could hope for; now it's probably the worst-case scenario. It's hard to say why they have done so well. They have a good work ethic and the team has hardly changed from last season. All the players have made the step up and their style of play is quite suited to the Premiership. Look at Watford for example, they don't have that style of play and they are struggling. Reading also have four strikers capable of scoring goals, and they get goals from the flanks too."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"Nicky Shorey has been very steady, Glen Little has been creative and causes teams lots of problems, and Kevin Doyle has scored goals. Steve Sidwell has done very well too, he is an all-rounder who gets stuck in. He won't spray 60-yard passes but he's very tidy and gets everyone going. Him and James Harper have grown up together and got better together. I'm not sure whether Sidwell is ready for England, that's for the future, but he is a very good player."
"I'm not surprised Steve Coppell hasn't really brought anyone in because he didn't need to. He has made a few minor signings but his secret is not buying superstars. That can upset the balance of the side. Coppell has been compared to Arsène Wenger and you can see why because he doesn't shout and scream at players, he treats them like adults."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
"I thought that they might get found out if they got a couple more injuries but, having said that, they lost Ibrahim Sonko and Kevin Doyle and coped well. They were also without Dave Kitson for months but they have surpassed expectations."
"I think they will go with a 4-4-2 and give it a go. I expect Kitson and Lita to start up front with Sidwell and Harper in the centre of midfield, Little on the right and Hunt on the left. Andre Bikey and Ivar Ingimarsson will probably play in the centre of defence with Murty at right back, Shorey at left back and Marcus Hahnemann in goal. Reading will definitely give it a go, they tried to keep it tight at the start of their Cup replay against Manchester United and it didn't work. When they gave it a go they caused United problems."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"It's probably as good a time as any to go to Emirates Stadium considering Arsenal's injuries and suspensions. Arsenal are the only team to beat Reading heavily [4-0 at the Madejski Stadium in October]. On the day Arsenal were excellent and Reading were pretty poor. It was straight after the Chelsea game in which Petr Cech suffered his injury and that was still in their minds. By the time Reading started playing Arsenal were two up and it was game over."
Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 2 Mar 2007