Date:Monday April 16 2007
With Steve Coppell accepting the loss of Steve Sidwell, Saturday`s match at Fulham saw Brynjar Gunnarsson partner James Harper in the centre of midfield.
And according to the Reading Evening Post; "Brynjar Gunnarsson showed there is life beyond Steve Sidwell" while Gunnarsson himself believes 'if I do all right between now until the end of the season I think I have a chance.`
But you`ll have to excuse me if I`m not positively exultant that Brynjar Gunnarsson will be holding the helm in the centre of the park next season.
I mean no disrespect to neither Brynjar nor the writer of the article, but if either believes that Gunnarsson will be a practical and capable replacement next season they need to get real.
Before Saturday`s encounter with Fulham I was very much resigned to the same sentiment especially after the man of the match performance Gunnarsson put in against Liverpool, "Gunnarsson will do the job next season, all else we need is a decent and able midfielder who can rotate with him and James Harper."
But after watching 90minutes at the Madejski on Saturday I changed my mind.
Gunnarsson put in a star performance for 45 minutes; he and Seol Ki-Hyeon were positively radiant with quality and pizzazz. Watching the two together was truly poetry in motion as they seemed to read each others games and understand what each other expected of the other.
Seol played Gunnarsson through with a jaw-droppingly awesome through ball that cut through Fulham`s backline like a knife. Gunnarsson reacted well to be on the end of such an intelligent ball and was denied only by Fulham`s Niemi.
The same sort of movement between the players was recreated time and again as the half went on, both increasing the pressure on the Cottagers.
But come the second half, something had changed for both Gunnarsson and Seol, I`ve always commended Seol`s commitment and skill but it`s undeniable that the South Korean is not up to a full 90minutes at the same tempo and tenacity he begins the game with.
Unfortunately it seems this is true too of Gunnarsson when he plays in the middle; the Icelandic international could not maintain the hard working ethos that he emitted from the first half and as a result of not being able to keep hold of the ball or win the ball in midfield, Reading suffered a torrid time as Fulham nipped, bit and scratched to get themselves back in the game.
Fortunately, they couldn`t.
But that`s not to say other teams will not. If Reading anyone believes that Brynjar Gunnarsson is a suitable replacement for Steve Sidwell; they must be extremely naļve.
Although he has proved himself a valuable member of the squad and capable of doing a job in almost any position in the park I fear he doesn`t have the stamina for a season`s worth of games and next to a player who is as complacent in his position as James Harper, I believe next season could be an uphill struggle for Reading.
To replace Steve Sidwell, Reading are going to have to bring in a couple of central midfielders to do the job, the competition rotation will create in the centre of the park will guarantee match-winning performances from whoever starts in the Reading line-up the only question is who can do the job?
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