We return to EFL Cup action against Reading on Tuesday night, and ahead of the game Michael Cox analyses their strengths and the key areas.
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The eye-catching appointment of Jaap Stam in the summer underlined Reading’s commitment to good passing football. Their director of football, Brian Tevreden, is a former Ajax youth coach and selected Stam specifically because the former Manchester United defender shares his footballing vision.
“Jaap is experienced as a manager with young players and first-team players, and we want a specific style of attacking play,” Tevreden said. “He came from Ajax, was first-team assistant manager, so he knows about the philosophy, so that is why the connection was there.”
Reading deploy a standard 4-2-3-1 system. In the Championship, Yann Kermorgant has generally led the line. Now 34, he’s not particularly mobile, nor particularly prolific, but he’s excellent at winning aerial duels, holding up the ball and bringing others into play.
However, Stam might consider this game a chance to afford him a rest, and could instead turn to Dominic Samuel, a raw but talented 22-year-old who is more likely to go in behind the opposition defence.
Reading concentrate heavily upon possession football, averaging 59 per cent, the most in the Championship.
They retain the ball for long spells in defence and midfield, but play with width down both flanks, and Stam has been keen to underline he demands “attractive football” from his players.
One of Reading’s key players is John Swift, a product of Chelsea’s youth academy who is thriving at the top of a midfield triangle in a 4-2-3-1 system, having often been deployed on the left flank during a loan spell at Brentford last season.
He’s intelligent in terms of positioning, comfortable in possession and can burst forward and offer a goal threat. Any set-pieces around the box, and Swift will be first in the queue.
Areas to Target
Stam’s team selection is unpredictable. In Reading’s three previous League Cup ties this season he’s tended to play around half the players who generally feature in the Championship, and handed opportunities to some fringe players. He’s noticeably rotated a lot in the back four, and Arsenal should test the Royals defence from an early stage.
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