City head to a buoyant (ish) Reading side, having claimed their first win of the season on Saturday. The Royals however are in a fug and after a barnstorming performance against Boro, will they have a better chance to get on a roll? Andrew Lawn chats to the Tilehurst End to set the scene.
Andy - You secured your first league win Saturday after a slow start, have performances been poor, or is it a case of fine margins going against you?
The Tilehurst End - Generally speaking, performances haven't been that bad, albeit with a few exceptions. For the most part we've been in games, not being massively outclassed, instead making silly errors and/or the whole team suffering from a lack of confidence.
We haven't conceded too many goals, but the attack is very much still a work in progress.
What were expectations before the season began? It felt like last season, the expectation levels were really high from the season before but then the slump under Stam seems to have knocked the stuffing out of the club and the perception from the outside was that you were more likely to go down than up this season?
Expectations were very low over the summer in the fanbase - not helped by a lack of a squad overhaul in the transfer market, and the team failing to win any of its pre-season friendlies (even losing to Eastleigh).
As you say, last season knocked the stuffing out of us after hopes had been very high in the summer of 2017 that we could build on the previous campaign's play-off push. Because of that, supporters have been braced for another flirtation with relegation this season, and the start hasn't done much to expel those fears.
In terms of an overhaul, what did you need? Nelson Oliveira is available if you're still keen? We'll do you a great deal...
Naturally we needed quality added, but in general we also had to refresh a squad that had gone stale last season. The lack of fight and desire was worrying, so only an influx of new players would do that.
To an extent we've managed that, but we're still relying on too many of last season's underperformers. Then again, it's hard to ship them out when no-one wants them, and Paul Clement was right when he said recently that it could take a few more transfer windows to overhaul the squad to the degree we need.
A lot of fans would have loved to see Oliveira come in, at least as a sign of intent, but in truth I'm glad we didn't go for him, what with his questionable attitude.
The thing with Nelson is, he is excellent when he is the star, but with Farke adopting a much more team-orientated approach, plus the emergence of James Maddison as the fan favourite last year, Oliveira quickly became disinterested. When he did then play, you could also see it was all about him and link-up play was forgotten in favour of pumping efforts at goal from anywhere, so he could whip his top off and run at Farke again, ala Fulham away.
Anyway... on to Wednesday, how do you see it shaping up? Two newly confident, but definitely still brittle sides, sludging their way to a 0-0 or something more entertaining?
It all depends on how much confidence we can take from our first league win on Saturday. If there's a noticeable improvement in morale and we play with confidence, we'll be capable of giving you a good game. That said, we'll still be brittle so, if you grab the first goal, it could be tough.
I'll go with 2-2 for my score prediction. A relatively entertaining one at that.
We're in a very similar boat, in that when we score first we look very settled, but we also have a tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot and disintegrate if we concede. That said, we were excellent in beating Middlesbrough on Saturday, so if we can sustain that we should be ok.
What's the perception of Paul Clement? Has he overcome the Mike Phelan, Carlos Queiroz effect of no longer being a number 2, do you think?
Not yet to be honest. Beyond being pretty pragmatic and not wanting his team to play route one football, he's not got a particularly obvious style of play, and doesn't seem to speak much about his vision for the long-term future of the club - two things that he'd need to do if he's to be respected as a manager in his own right.
That said, despite a poor start to the season, fans are happy to give him time to turn things around, especially given that our current problems aren't really of his making. An honest, straight-talking style in interviews has been refreshing for the fanbase.
Where does the blame lie do you think? As an outsider, it seemed like Stam was shown the door too quickly, having paid for overachieving the season before, is that fair?
The blame doesn't really like with any one person to be honest, but certainly recruitment has been below-par for a number of years. Over the last three summers, we've not brought in many young talented players who've then been able to develop in terms of ability and/or resale value; Liam Moore being an exception to that. Generally, we've been building up an unbalanced squad that's low on quality (and eventually morale), and that's held back both Jaap Stam and Paul Clement.
I'm not sure that Stam was shown the door too quickly - most fans expected him to go a few months before he did - but he wasn't helped by overachieving in his first season. That 2016/17 play-off charge was hard to understand from the outside (Reading didn't defend or attack particularly well), so I guess it was a case of the manager not knowing how to repeat that success the following year.
So, what needs to change? Would new owners bring the sweeping reforms it sounds like is needed? We underwent a similar 'rip-it-all-up-and-start-again' process the summer before last, and results have been far from immediate. What, if anything, have you made of our new approach?
The owners seem to have good intentions for the club, investing quite a lot of money into the team and behind-the-scenes. However, we really need two things: a long-term plan that has a thought-out approach to youth and external recruitment, and more communication from the owners (they've barely talked to the fans even through official club media).
As for yourselves, I can't say I know a huge amount in detail, but I was still interested to see you go down a seemingly "Huddersfield-esque" route by appointing German manager Daniel Farke. Plus, it's reassuring to see you sticking with him into his second season - he'll improve you if you give him time.
Tactically, you're trying to play the right way, and have been towards the top of the table possession-wise since Farke arrived. Sure, it hasn't quite clicked just yet, but it's still good to see a team having a clear style.
That's essentially it yes, we appointed Stuart Webber as Director of Football, from Huddersfield then raided Dortmund for a Head Coach. We certainly now have a way of playing, plus a blueprint that should mean our recruitment is more hit than miss, although it's not been perfect, it has unearthed some gems.
So, finally, you've gone 2-2 for the game, how do you see our respective seasons panning out from there?
It all depends on how well we do over the next few weeks really. If we can (belatedly) start picking up points to match the decent performances we've been putting in, we'll be fine. I hope we've turned a corner thanks to that first league win, but the jury's still out.
As for you, I can see Farke gradually improving you across the course of the season. Where you'll finish up is hard to judge, but it'll likely be in the top half, possibly around 8th.
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