The new Championship season is less than a week away and last season’s play-off final losers will be hoping for a strong start to put them into contention again. Reading surprised a lot of people to finish in the top-six, before coming a penalty shootout away from the Premier League. It can be tough to bounce back from such a crushing disappointment, but the Royals have managed to keep Jaap Stam and their eyes will firmly be on the top two positions.
It is gearing up to be another competitive season in the second tier and Reading are heading into the new campaign under the radar, as few are mentioning them as part of the promotion picture. However, that could change if they manage to pull of the double swoop of Nahki Wells and Sone Aluko.
The former has been nudged down the pecking order at Huddersfield Town and Stam has confirmed, as reported by the Reading Chronicle, that the Royals have an interest in the player. Meanwhile, Aluko has been the subject of bids from an unnamed club, say BBC Sport, and many believe that to be Reading after their interest was reported, by HITC Sport, earlier this month.
Based on their goals for (68) and goals against (64) last season, it would be easy to think that Reading’s problems lie at the back, but that isn’t the case. Their defence was strong throughout the campaign and it was a few freak results that skewed their record to look like a poor one.
It was evident during the play-offs that they were well organised, as they conceded only once across three matches. They were playing against two of the best teams in the division and they managed to keep things tight at the back. This is the foundation that they must build on for the coming campaign.
During the play-offs in particular, they struggled to create clear-cut chances. A part of the reason for that was the lack of creativity, but another was their lack of dynamism in the final third. They were often predictable and lacked a player that could cause problems with his movement.
For the majority of the campaign, Garath McCleary provided this spark, but he was injured in the final and Stam needs to ensure he has other options in the squad.
Fulham’s Sone Aluko would be a great solution to this problem. He is an intelligent player in the final third, and he often picks up pockets of space. He can beat an opposition player in the dribble, while his direct style means that he offers a huge goal threat. Last season, he contributed eight goals and ten assists.
Reading need a player like him and he would be a good fit for Stam’s style, as he is comfortable in possession – underlined by his pass success rate of 85.2%.
Reading fans have a lot of love for Yann Kermorgant as he is a hard working striker, who puts the team ahead of himself. His haul of 19 goals last season shows the quality that he possesses, but at the age of 35, he can’t be a player that the Royals rely on. That is why another striker must be signed. Nahki Wells is one of the best players available to them.
The 27-year-old is more mobile and has a yard of pace that would provide an extra dimension to the Reading squad. For an investment of £10 million, he can be considered low risk, as he has scored ten or more goals in the last three Championship seasons.
If Reading do sign the Huddersfield Town striker, they would be getting a hungry player with something to prove after being denied a Premier League opportunity by Huddersfield. Stam and the club could only benefit from that. It would also provide the manager with tactical flexibility as he could be utilised as part of a front two next to Kermorgant.
Despite finishing third last season, Reading face a difficult battle to replicate their success this year, especially as they have to recover mentally from the Wembley disappointment. They need to add some proven quality to their ranks to create some momentum heading into the season. If they managed to sign Wells and Aluko, they would certainly go some way to establishing themselves as a real force in the division.