5 clean sheets in a row and a televised visit to one of the division's lowest scoring sides. Uh oh. Andrew Lawn spoke to the Reading Chronicle's Anthony Smith ahead of City's latest instalment of "shithousing around the Championship with Daniel Farke"
Andy - Kicking us off, you lost 2-1 at Millwall midweek, leaving some fans beginning to question Jaap Stam, after last seasons unexpected (at least from my point of view) success, what has gone wrong?
Anthony - The six million dollar question.......basically, the goals have dried up. 8 goals in 9 league games, 2 wins, speaks for itself. It's the worst start to the season since 2009 under Brendan Rodgers, who was sacked that December. Not saying the same will happen to Stam, but things clearly must improve. Also worth noting Reading exceeded all expectation last season.
Are fans right to be restless or is this just a blip? Sky must be delighted they have chosen the lowest scorers in the league v the second lowest scorers...
It is still early days. Concerns mostly centre around a lack of striking options. Jaap Stam wanted to bring in a second striker to add to Jon Dadi Bodvarsson in the summer, but failed to do that, claiming prices were too inflated (Norwich's Oliveira, Brighton's Hemed, Nahki Wells were heavily linked). All this not helped by last season's 19-goal top scorer Yann Kermorgant having surgery and missing all this season so far.
Also, I think Bolton, Birmingham and Burton have all scored fewer goals than Reading and Norwich.
However, Reading fans are becoming fed up with watching the team have around 60% possession in most matches but without an end product. They want to see more goals.
*Checks Championship table* So they have, that will teach me not to trust random tweets...
That echoes a feeling which was beginning to develop at Carrow road, but two impressive 1-0 away wins at Sheffield United and then Boro midweek, allied to a record-breaking (for us) 5 clean sheets in a row, has put a spring in City fans' steps and there is a new-found confidence on the road. City fans would have been devastated had you whisked Oliveira away in the summer and the stage appears set for him to nick a goal Saturday. How do you see the game panning out?
If it follows the general pattern this season, Reading will have the majority of possession, mostly in their own half, without creating much in way of goalscoring chances. And when they do create an opportunity, the lack of striking options comes back to haunt them again. The team that started in the 2-1 loss at Millwall on Tuesday did not contain a single player who has scored this season. Reading have also failed to score a first-half goal in all 9 league games this season. So if Norwich can take their own chances, Reading could be in for a tough afternoon.
We appear to have adopted a gameplan away from home whereby we will let you have that possession but defend our 18 yard box, so it could be quite dull viewing. It is Norwich though and we do like to end other teams' runs, good and bad. I've always rated Dave Edwards, but who else should we be looking out for Saturday, the side may not be full of goals, but who can hurt us?
Sone Aluko is a dangerous player but it still finding his feet. Garath McCleary is quality player on his day, but has struggled for fitness recently. John Swift can also pop up with goals and has been sorely missed. He's out of Saturday's game with hamstring issues. Leandro Bacuna has also impressed me since his summer move from Aston Villa, but he has been out with a knee issue and could miss out again. Stam has started the last two matches without a recognised striker in it, leading to criticism from fans. But I have a feeling Jon Dadi Bodvarsson could start this Saturday as the main target man - watch out for him.
It sounds like a very good time to play you, however that normally means we won't show up, plus we are traditionally awful on TV. On the other side of that, where might we get some joy?
Reading have been pretty solid in defence for a good while. Liam Moore and Paul McShane are two excellent centre-backs. But if Stam plays three at the back, they don't have a specialist left wing-back as Jordan Obita is injured.
Set your telly boxes to record then as it all sounds perfectly set up for a 0-0. Looking ahead, what would be deemed a good season for you this year? A repeat of the top 6 considered a minimum after raising expectations last time out?
To be fair to Jaap Stam, he has tried to temper expectations from the outset, saying a top-six finish will be much tougher this time around, given the resources at his disposal. But club hierarchy have also admitted that promotion is the aim, so time will tell I suppose.
That's the joy of the Championship though, 22 teams thinking they'll be top 6 and 2 hoping to survive. Let's end with the arbitrary score prediction, in which "0-0" is too obvious and therefore unavailable for selection.
Haha, like it. Think I'll go 1-1 then.
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