News and Views
Victory Over Aston Villa - Things We Learned
17 August 2017
By Alex Bower
Reading arrived at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday evening looking for their first win of the 2017/18 campaign.
After a disappointing draw against ten-man Fulham at the weekend, the Royals were keen on going one better when Aston Villa came to town.
Two second half goals were the difference for the Royals. A great run down the left wing by Adrian Popa ended with his effort being deflected into the Villa net by Glenn Whelan via the post.
Modou Barrow made it two as he slotted home from close range for his first goal in the blue and white hoops. A goal from Conor Hourihane from outside the Reading area made for an edgy end to proceedings, but the Royals took all three points. Here are some of the things we learned from the game.
On paper, the Aston Villa squad should have provided a tough test for the Royals. 4000 Villa fans were in fine voice for the start of the game, expecting an impressive display from their side.
Other than the first and last five minutes of the game, however, Reading dominated play. The Villa players stopped pressuring the Reading defence, allowing them to play it amongst themselves for large spells. As a result, some of the passing between the home players was particularly impressive. The Royals may have been unable to make the breakthrough until the 2nd half, but they dominated possession throughout and often left the Villa players spectating.
The most promising aspect of Tuesday's game from a Reading perspective was the willingness to attack. A lot of the play began with the defence, attempting to draw the Villa players out from their deep defensive lines. The likes of Modou Barrow and Adrian Popa were refreshing to watch, as both were always willing to run at the defence.
After a while of watching the Reading style of play, it can come across as negative. Against Villa, however, Reading were in control and offered an attacking threat (even though no striker was playing).
One player who deserves a mention after his start to the season is Tyler Blackett. Blackett has been subject to much criticism in the past, but his performances in recent games have been impressive.
Playing as a wing-back, Blackett is given free roam down the left wing and has already displayed the skills in his locker going forwards as well as his strength defensively. With Leandro Bacuna now in the squad and Jordan Obita still to return from injury, there is the sense of competition for places in the Reading defence. If his performances so far are anything to go by, Blackett is putting up a fight for his place this season.
Strength In Depth
With an additional striker being the main focus at the moment, it is easy to forget the strength the Reading squad now has in other areas. For example, the winger positions have all become up for grabs. Last season, Garath McCleary and Roy Beerens were nailed on for the starting eleven. Adrian Popa and Modou Barrow played there against Villa and both excelled (to a point where they are my favoured duo going forwards).
John Swift, Liam Kelly and Pelle Clement linked up beautifully at times during the game, with George Evans used as a substitute and Stephen Quinn missing out on the squad altogether. Even in defence, the likes of Tiago Ilori and Leandro Bacuna could only watch on from the bench. With the likes of Yann Kermorgant, Jordan Obita and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson all to come back from injury still, there is plenty to be positive about at this stage of the season.
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