Wokingham Today

Reading cannot defend their way to safety

- With Simeon Pickup

AS THE saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time for a new manager to impose their tactical ideas on a team, certainly to turn a desperatel­y underperfo­rming Reading team into winners once more.

With that in mind, it’s probably understand­able that Paul Clement has taken an extremely conservati­ve approach to his first two games as Royals manager, sacrificin­g almost all attacking intent in lieu of defensive solidity.

Sone Aluko’s goal, a stunning Good Friday strike against Queens Park Rangers, remains the team’s only shot on target in their brace of matches in the Clement era.

In contrast, Vito Mannone has been bombarded by a whopping 55 shots (16 on target). Quite the deluge.

In back-to-back games, Reading have been perfectly happy to sit back and absorb pressure. It’s certainly an austere approach from Clement, who has form for keeping teams up by shoring them up at the back (see Swansea City).

Clement is playing a worryingly dangerous game if he thinks these tactics will pay-off in the long-term.

An impassione­d rearguard action handed Reading a win against QPR, but only just - they have Mannone to thank for that, and had pressure heaped on them by a reckless red card from Yann Kermorgant.

Tuesday night saw the same pattern - Reading sitting back and a stupid sending off from an experience­d player, in this case Dave Edwards, but to different results.

In the end, Aston Villa’s quality shone through, and the play-off contenders overpowere­d Clement’s 10 men.

Edwards took plenty of flak on Twitter after the game, quite rightly as a player of his experience should know better, but to make him a scapegoat for the defeat would mean Reading risk failing to learn the key lesson of the last two matches.

A defensive game can be effective, and Clement will be wise to solidify Reading as much as he can, but you always need an outlet.

Even the best backline can only absorb so much pressure until it cracks.

Simeon can be found on Twitter @BucksRoyal and his website’s account is @TheTilehur­stEnd.

Head over to wokingham.today to hear the latest episode of The Tilehurst End Podcast Extra with

The Wokingham Paper’s Tom Crocker and Simeon’s colleague Olly Allen, discussing all things Royals.

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