Breakdown, Preview and Predictions for Reading's 2012-13 Season
Reading made an improbable run to the top of the table in the English League Championship this past season and will now take a shot at surprising the team's Premier League.
The team made a brief appearance in the Premiership from 2006-2008, but stayed in the Championship until this season.
The Royals will be hoping for an extended stay in England's top league this time around and their ability to accomplish this will be analyzed as they are the final newcomer to be featured in my series of EPL previews.
Here is a complete breakdown of Reading's upcoming season.
Transfers In, Transfers out
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|Transfers In||Transfers Out|
|Garath McCleary||Michael Hector|
|Adrian Mariappa||Gozie Ugwu|
|Nicky Shorey||Joseph Mills|
|Pierce Sweeney||Michail Antonio|
|Pavel Pogrebnyak||Karl Shephard|
It seemed all but certain that Pogrebnyak would join Fulham after scoring six goals in 12 Premiership matches after moving to London on loan. But Reading was able to swoop in and steal the striker from Craven Cottage.
The 28-year-old center forward will provide a presence up top for the Royals after they struggled to score goals last season. This move was both necessary and impressive.
Chris Gunter/Adrian Mariappa
Reading had the best defense in the Championship last season and manager Brian McDermott is showing with his transfer activity that he will continue to play to his team's strengths.
Mills is a young outside defender who saw limited time last season. He made 14 total appearances, which were the most of any player to leave the squad, but he will not be missed much.
The players who were central to the team's success this past season remain with the club and new talent has arrived to help the team have a successful year.
Biggest Matches and Full Schedule
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The full Reading schedule can be found via the team's website. Here are the must-see matches.
At Chelsea, Wednesday, August 22
All the newly promoted teams will face the terrifying task of taking on one of the giants of European football. For Reading, this will happen early as they take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their second league match.
While Reading has been abnormally aggressive in the transfer market, their spending pales in comparison to Roman Abramovich's lavish splurge on attacking players this summer. New arrivals like Oscar and Eden Hazard will test Reading's stingy defense.
These seemingly lopsided matchups can be demoralizing or uplifting for the underdogs, depending on the result. If Reading can keep the match competitive, it will be a positive sign of things to come for the remainder of the year.
At Southampton, Saturday, December 8
Reading edged out Southampton by a single point to win the Championship, and the two sides will certainly want to prove which newly promoted team is more suited for success in the top flight.
This match comes at a difficult time for the Royals, as their previous match will have been against Manchester United, and they will face Arsenal and Manchester City immediately after taking on the Saints.
A victory here will prove that their stout defensive play, and not Southampton's free-flowing attack, is more conducive to winning in the Premiership. It will also give the team badly needed points in a difficult stretch of matches.
Vs. Liverpool, Saturday, April 13
The second meeting between these two teams will be a return to Madejski Stadium for Brendan Rodgers. The Liverpool boss left Watford under controversial circumstances before floundering at Reading, proving to be a waste of £500,000.
He finally achieved success at Swansea City when he took them to the Premiership, then had a fantastic season and was subsequently chosen to take over at Anfield.
Reading supporters do not have fond memories of Rodgers and a win here would be a fantastic result for the players—who will have defeated a traditional power—and the fans.
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Alex Pearce, Defender
Pearce is an exciting young center back who appeared in 45 matches last season, all of which were starts. No other player spent as much time on the pitch.
This shows how much Brian McDermott trusts him, despite Pearce being just 23-years-old. He is a physical presence on the field while showing remarkable maturity and leadership for a player his age.
Reading's defense will be its best attribute this season, and Pearce will be the back line's standout.
Jobi McAnuff, Winger
McAnuff captained the team last season and provided a constant threat on the wing. He recorded 11 assists and led the team in that category.
He is an unselfish player who leads by example and has been remarkably productive. He has 30 assists in his three seasons with Reading.
McAnuff's presence in the clubhouse and on the pitch will be vital to the Royals' success in the Premiership.
Pavel Pogrebnyak, Striker
Reading struggled to score goals last season and the best way to cure that malady is to add an efficient center-forward. That is what McDermott did when he brought on the Russian.
Pogrebnyak proved this past season that he can defeat Premier League defenses during his spell with Fulham, and he will likely continue his goal-scoring success with the Royals.
With McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe (10 assists last year) providing service, Progrebnyak will have plenty of opportunities to hit the back of the net.
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Reading will be tough to score on in each and every match, as they had the best defense in the Championship this past season.
Alex Pearce and Kaspars Gorkss are the first-choice center-backs and they will be solid throughout the season. The back line also has experience on one side with Ian Harte, and youthful exuberance on the other with Shaun Cummings. Goalkeeper Adam Federici is also extremely solid.
Brian McDermott has wisely brought in a stable of capable reserves during the the transfer season. He now has several attractive combinations to work with and the Royals' back four will be effective throughout their campaign.
Attacking Up the Touchline
Reading's defense is is helped significantly by players like Jobi McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe, who provide outlets on the wing and can quickly take the ball into the attacking third.
This allows the back line to rest and recover. The wingers recorded the most assists of any players on the squad, although the team did not have a daunting offense.
Still, their attacking abilities fit well with the teams defensive mentality, and with center forward Pavel Pogrebnyak on the pitch, their crosses may end up being more useful.
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Distribution From the Center Midfielders
The team's wingers are excellent playmakers, but Reading can be too predictable in the attack and this will cause the team to struggle.
The players in the center of the pitch must look to occasionally put pressure on the heart of the opposing defense and create scoring chances themselves. Mikele Leigertwood and Jem Karacan, the team's central midfielders, recorded just three combined assists this past season.
They did score eight combined goals, but increased production for either of these two in either statistical category would help the team become more offensively threatening.
It is worth noting that 25-year-old Danny Guthrie, who was signed from Newcastle, could drastically help the situation. The last time he saw significantly playing time for the Magpies was during their 2009-10 season in the Championship and he recorded 14 assists in 38 appearances.
Pavel Porgebnyak was an excellent signing, but if the team suffers a stroke of unfortunate luck and he falls out of form, they will risk becoming an offensively deficient team.
Adam Le Fondre and Noel Hunt had serviceable but unspectacular seasons in 2011-12 and neither player will give Premier League defenses much to worry about.
The team will be overly reliant on Pogrebnyak's scoring output this next season, and if he fails to put in 15 or more goals, Reading's stay in the Premiership could be extremely quick.
Prediction for 2012-13
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The Reading defense will stay strong all season long, but the attack will struggle. The lack of goals will make it extremely difficult for the Royals to win matches.
Pavel Pogrebnyak will be their only true threat up top, and that will make them easy for opposing defenses to figure out. Their offensive struggles will be a constant source of frustration for the team.
There will be few victories while the ties and losses will start to rack up. Still, the team will earn enough points to keep themselves out of relegation.
This will not be an entirely poor result, as Reading has a young core of players who can stay in the Premiership for several seasons with the help of a few more additions.