Where did it all go wrong?
At the beginning of our return to the top flight, you could have argued we were in great shape to fight for our survival. We had a promotion winning side and seven new signings during the transfer window.
However if you take a look at our seven signings only TWO signings are actually performing at this level and they are Adrian Mariappa and Pavel Pogrebnyak. Mariappa has been a revelation, he is a very solid and a very composed centre back. Pogrebnyak has changed our strike-force, playing up-front by himself and terrorising opposition defences with his Russian strength. Our other five signings: Chris Gunter, Danny Guthrie, Gareth McCleary, Nicky Shorey and Stuart Taylor have all been bit part players throughout the season.
Gunter started the season very poorly after signing for £2.3million from Nottingham Forest and didn`t do anything to cement a starting place. Gunter is not a Premier League player and the signing of Chris Gunter signals a very bad transfer market. Danny Guthrie, has been very much under-used this season. Guthrie signed as a free agent after being released by Newcastle and after a falling out with McDermott he has very much struggled to cement a place in the starting line-up. Since Guthrie signed for Reading, McDermott has made Guthrie change his style of place from a CAM to a CM, reducing the amount of passing. Therefore why did we sign a passer if we are going to change the way he plays or was it because he was a free transfer, he was the cheap option?
Another free agent was Nicky Shorey, Shorey signed after being released West Brom at the end of the season. Shoreys performances have not been up to scratch and throughout the season veteran Ian Harte has started at left back. Gareth McCleary and Stuart Taylor were also free signings, McCleary is quick but McDermott`s loyalty is costing him a starting place, McDermott is constantly playing Jobi McAnuff, who could be the worst captain in recent history? Stuart Taylor was brought in as a third choice keeper and has played one game so you can`t really judge him, but he was decent against Everton and you can`t fault him.
Therefore was it a bad summer transfer window? I would say YES. We brought in FIVE free agents and they are hardly been played. We spent £4.6million on seven players but Michail Antonio departed to Sheffield Wednesday for a fee believed to be £750,000 therefore we actually spend £3.9million does that figure suggest ambition? Does this therefore suggest we thought the quality of the squad was good enough or did we not have any money to spend?
McDermotts loyalty to certain players has been criticised by fans across social networking sites. Jobi McAnuff is being played week in week out and even though he has a few assists to his name, he is hardly setting the league alight. McAnuff to ever game needs to beat his man at the first attempt and then he gains confidence and plays well. This was shown against Manchester United in the league and in the FA Cup but whenever he fails the first time he just goes into the shadows but McDermott refuses to drop him for Gareth McCleary or Hal Robson-Kanu. Another player who has been poor in sections this season is Mikele Leigertwood. Leigertwood has been poor on the ball and off the ball.
His passing recently has been very poor and players like Jem Karacan and Danny Guthrie are sitting in the wings waiting for an opportunity to prove their worth but because McDermott refuses to drop him they are sitting on the bench. McDermott said he dropped Pearce against Wigan because of a mistake against Stoke "'I spoke to Pearcey on Friday, I said to him he needs to do better [for both goals against Stoke]."He had to do better picking up Robert Huth for the set play and then when [Cameron] Jerome turned him for the second goal. He accepted that.' Any Reading fan could write pages and pages regarding mistakes from Jobi McAnuff and Mikele Leigertwood but they don`t get dropped. Therefore is McDermotts loyalty costing Reading Football Club a Premier League spot for the 2013/2-14 season?
McDermotts tactics have been questioned throughout large chunks of the season. The formation dilemma has been the most talked about. We started the season playing 4-4-2 with Pog and Le Fondre up front but we quickly transformed to 4-5-1 because we were constantly getting outrun in midfield and now with Pog out we have transformed back to a 4-4-2. Are we a one trick pony? Without Pog we have to change our tactics completely therefore starting Le Fondre and destroying his super sub approach subsequently destroying plan B. Therefore are McDermotts tactics partly to blame? McDermott has done wonders for this club but he is tactically naive at this level.
The January transfer window is another talking point. We spent approximately £3.4million on four players, Daniel Carrico, Stephen Kelly, Hope Akpan and Nick Blackman. The January transfer window is about bringing in players who can make an immediate impact for example Remy and Samba for QPR who have transformed their defence and attack force. However only half of our January signings are actually doing that. Kelly has been great at right back and has changed the defence the same could be said about Hope Akpan who has been great at centre midfield. However Daniel Carrico and Nick Blackman have not been great signings. Blackman seems like a signing for next season, it`s almost like we have accepted we might go down so we are building for next season. Carrico before signing for Reading hadn`t played a competitive match for Sporting Lisbon because of contractual issues.
Therefore how could he possibly make an immediate impact if he lacks match fitness? The latter days of the transfer window, it was rumoured we bided for Blackpool centre midfielder Thomas Ince and former Reading favourite Gylfi Sigurdsson for a fee rumoured to be north of £9million. But why did we leave it so late to put in big bids for centre attacking midfielders? Also perhaps we know these players would not be sold and we put in these bids to please the fans? Therefore the January transfer window was on the whole a fail because of the amount of money spent and how only half of the players have made any impact.
Therefore a number of factors have produced a season hanging by a thread. A bad summer transfer window followed by an average January transfer window. McDermotts naïve tactics have cost us in a few games this season for example Reading V Wigan at the DW Stadium.