Sunday, February 11, 2007

After the Match: Aston Villa

Sorry for the time away!

West Ham in disguise? Villa indeed looked similar in the beginning. Unlike West Ham they had many scoring chances, but Hahnemann was good enough to produce a clean sheet. Again he wasn’t perfect, providing the opposition with similar opportunities to last week. But he gave up no goals. Sidwell delivered an early and late goal to carry us to the win. It was good to see him strike twice like we know he is capable of, as did his center-mid partner Harper awhile back against Newcastle. All in all it was a solid game

But, it has been markedly different without Doyle and Sonko. The forwards especially have been a less powerful force without Doyle. Luckily Lita has been on target as of late, but he still makes mistakes. I pray Coppell does not give him free reign as thanks for his scoring surge, for the young man still commits a variety of distribution errors. But as most good strikers are, he's selfish, and it’s been getting the job done, so for now I’m satisfied. However, Kitson has not yet returned to top form, and Long has been somewhat invisible in the last two Reading matches and in the call up to Ireland (according to the papers). It will be nice to get Doyler back.

Similarly, the defense is different without Sonko. I can’t say I’m necessarily more nervous when we’re grasping to a one goal lead without him, but he certainly eliminated the opposition’s chances quickly. I think he is innately more aggressive around the box than Bikey. This isn’t strictly a bad thing, however, as Sonko’s determination has lead to a couple of penalty kicks. Bikey simply takes a different approach, and his one man battle with Carew throughout the match was nice to see. I have to admit that I was initially apprehensive about Andre’s skill at center back, but his performance has impressed me. I’m excited about his future.

Good to see Oster getting time on the wing. He was criticized after the Blackburn game, if I recall, but I think he deserves to be present on the bench. He delivers the ball a lot like Convey used to, something I think the squad misses at times.

A great game by Shorey again, he is incredibly composed in all situations. I hope he can play for Englad someday. More coming later in the week…

Sunday, October 22, 2006

No Disgrace

Well, it was a lovely afternoon for ale.

I should begin by acknowledging that the match with Arsenal was not a devastating blow. The Gunners have top-notch talent sixteen men deep, and they are led by a well-respected and honest manager. Their movement was fluid and graceful from the get-go. Reading worked through the entire match with a lot of heart, but unfortunately without a single goal to show for it.

That said there were obvious issues. As stated in the preview, a strong defense was necessary to stop the multi-faceted attack from Arsenal. Unfortunately, De la Cruz looked no better than he did in the West Ham match. He could not decide where to put the ball or it simply came off his foot wrong; either way he clearly had a tough afternoon. Many passes were off target, and when putting the ball into the attacking third there appeared to be no target. He has of course seen little time on the pitch, but needless to say it was an unfortunate day for mistakes.

Maybe it was the pressure of meeting a truly world-class team, perhaps it was the tension in his new braids, but Sonko, the cornerstone of the defense, did not perform at his best. The main problem was simple decision making. A few sloppy passes and questionable clearances made it appear that the giant was going to fold. The quick goal from Henry surely made his head spin as we quickly lost our chance for escaping with points. Yet it did seem as though he regained some of his form in the second half.

In general, it seemed that the group was merely having a hard time working together. Unfortunately, this was demonstrated by the second goal. As the ball moved toward the center, Shorey retreated and Ingamarsson advanced. Ivar quickly re-though the decision and moved back to mark Hleb, but was too late. The winger slipped through and subsequently punched in a crushing ball as a result of the mistake. It may have been this that proved the hill on Sunday was too steep to climb.

I should reiterate that there were of course mistakes, but the fantastic side we faced made them much more apparent. Our play was not awful; the pieces just did not fit together correctly on Sunday. It was a sad loss, but not unexpected, and I will again sleep loving this club more than I did yesterday. More on the match later.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Here Come the Gunners

After listening to Wenger on BBC, it appears that Arsenal are looking to forget Tuesday and are hoping to continue the recent run they’ve put together in the Premiership. With luck we’ll make it far from easy at Madejski on Sunday…

As the match quickly approaches, there are a few pivotal positions that will be deciding factors in the outcome. First is Convey. After missing last week with an injury, the medical team will have to assure that he is 100% before he sees time on the pitch. If he is, there still may be a battle for the spot after Hunt’s performance against Chelski. Hunt ran his bottom off, and showed an incredible amount of spirit, getting many more touches than expected. Convey is an important part of the squad: he is a magician at set plays, and consistently puts the ball where it needs to be. However, the best option this week is to give Hunt the start and bring Convey off the bench in the last 20-30 minutes.

Obviously the defense will be as important as ever. If De la Cruz takes the place of Murty, he has to get in position. He played as well as necessary against West Sham, but was a bit out of synch with the team. The bulk of the pressure will fall on the shoulders of Sonko, who is consistently last back when defending a run. Together with Ingamarsson, the two will have to stay on their toes to defend Henry / v. Persie / Adebayor. When the ball is played correctly, all three have shown to be consistent scoring threats. If the back line can move together, good chances can be held to a minimum. They’re capable.

Arsenal will be running as much as any side we’ve faced so far, which means Harper and Sidwell must be at full potential. Harper’s greatest strength is his fitness; the two will have to move to keep opportunities out of the box as they did against Pardew’s squad. As alway, most of our scoring scoring chances will be coming through the wings, so the center mid will need to be strong as a defense to contain Fabregas and Rosicky. As former Arsenal prodigies, the Reading duo will be looking to impress. They both can.

Shane Long has shown again that he deserves action, scoring twice in the 5-0 reserve win against Portsmouth. Likely sub appearances should be Gunnarsson, Convey, and Long in the second half. Tonight I’ll be dreaming of three points. It’s almost time…

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Strikers, Strikers, Strikers...

I'm back. Sorry no posts for some time, I've been quite ill. Now recovered...

With Chelsea only days away, I'm beginning to keep a closer watch on injury updates. At the moment it looks as though Murty, Sonko, and Doyle should all be fit to play. However, considering that Doyle was unable to compete with the Ireland squad over international break -and left early to return to Reading for treatment- it's possible he could miss the start. This leads me to consider the overall depth at the striker position.

If Doyle cannot play, our gameday approach may change a bit. If the current formation is maintained, one might expect Lita and Long to make the start. The two have talent, but they are not an intimidating front two. And the first meeting with Chelsea in the Premiership may not be the time for Long to make his starting debut. A second possibility is leaving Lita up front, with five deep at midfield. Or, Seol could move up with Lita, bringing in Little or Hunt at mid. I believe this would be the best option, granting Seol the opprotunity to keep scoring; Long would still be able to sub in this case. It is likely the best choice in the case of any injury to Doyle or Lita before Kitson returns.

When Kitson makes his return, the position will briefly be crowded. As I stated previously, there simply is not room for all four strikers to get the playing time they need. Therefore, if Long is to keep improving, he will have to go out on loan. When the January transfer window approaches, we should then look for another striker, most likely to back-up on the bench.

More thoughts on the weekend coming...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Slow Day

No posts because there has really been no news, and the squad is on international break. Second most important, I've been bedridden for a couple days with a virus. New post before Monday.

Until then, this might quench your thirst:
  • Royals Goal Highlights
  • Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Under the Radar

    I'll save the bulk of transfer and signing news for tomorrow when I actually put together some thoughts on it. For now, here's one headline from the Official Site: "Osano makes temporary Aldershot switch as Federici loan is extended." Doesn't appear there's a reason to read the story, that summarizes it. Curtis Osano looks to have a promising future, some first team experience will do him well as he should already see time on the pitch Friday. He's listed as Defender, but he has made one good appearance at Mid with our side. More may come in the future, with luck. I pray someday Federici can show something, he's had plenty of teaching and has seen time at many clubs; yet, some time will pass before room on the bench could appear. He may remain at the Championship level for some time.

    More tomorrow. This should hold you over:
  • Kevin Doyle Showcase of Beauty
  • Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    Limitless Uselessness

    Defender Marvin Andrews reportedly rejected an approach from Reading and will re-sign with Raith Rovers, "because of what God said." The deeply-religious man missed all of his World Cup matches; I think by January we ought to be able to find better alternatives.

    Reading reserves lost to the Spurs, finally tarnishing a great record. Those with a keen eye likely noticed Glen Little was listed to play, but did not. He is allegedly heading to Stoke for a month-long loan. It should be good for the veteran to see some playing time. John Oster should be loaned out too, Hunt can cover Seol in case of an injury.

    Apparently the match with the Tottenham reserves was quite "forgettable," most of it played with few scoring opportunities. It should be interesting to see in a more competitive game how James Henry is coming along, he offered at least one great chance Wednesday.

    The International Break may make for a slow week, but I'll post when needed. I have to keep my mind off Chelsea; 1-2 sleepless nights and excited days is enough.