Talking Tactics | Reading v Swansea City
Swansea City extended their unbeaten run to six games with a 1-1 draw with Barnsley on Good Friday, though a home stalemate with the relegation-threatened Tykes did leave Russell Martin frustrated.
They'll aim to return to winning ways at Reading's expense on Easter Monday and WhoScored.com are on hand to preview the encounter in Berkshire.
What to expect from Reading
Had the Championship season started when Paul Ince took over as Reading boss, the Royals would sit ninth in England's second tier. Considering they were at real risk of relegation, Ince has worked wonders to all-but guide Reading to safety after their late 2-1 win at Sheffield United on Friday afternoon.
Despite being out of managerial work for almost 10 years, Ince has thrived at the Select Car Leasing Stadium helm with Reading picking up five wins and 17 points from his 11 games in charge. The Royals are one of a handful of teams to favour a four-man defence, with Ince continuing with a 4-2-3-1 system for the most part on the back of his February appointment.
That said, Ince went for a 4-4-2 at Sheffield United on Saturday and he may elect for a similar setup after securing an injury time victory in Yorkshire. That they managed the victory at Bramall Lane without key man John Swift makes the win all the more impressive.
Swift is far and away Reading's best rated player in the Championship this season having earned a WhoScored.com rating of 7.13 and the 26-year-old, along with Harry Wilson, is one of two players to have registered double figures for both goals (11) and assists (13) in the division.
Beyond Swift, Lucas Joao is the key man in attack for Reading with the 28-year-old netting eight league goals this season. Four of those have come in the 11 games since Ince took charge and while Joao has earned a WhoScored.com rating of just 6.78 over the course of 2021-22, that has risen to 6.97 under Ince, further highlighting the new manager's impact.
There is ample top-flight experience within the squad, too, with Tom Ince, Danny Drinkwater and Abdul Rahman Baba all featuring at one point or another this season. In the absence of Swift, the creativity falls on the shoulders of Ince and fellow winger Ovie Ejaria. Reading have developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of 'creating chances through individual skill' with Ince and Ejaria proving key in that regard.
The pair rank joint-third for dribbles per game (1.1) of all Reading players, while Ince (1.2) and Ejaria (1) rank second and third, respectively, for key passes per game and will be the danger men Swansea need to be wary of when they do make the trip to Berkshire on Easter Monday. That being said, as improved as Reading have been under Ince, they still struggle defensively.
Only Peterborough (4) have kept fewer clean sheets than Reading (5) in the Championship this season, while only the Posh (83) have conceded more goals than the Royals (78). Their 39 goals conceded at home is more than any other Championship side in 2021-22, and they have kept just one clean sheet in their last 15 home league matches. It's no wonder, then, that all 10 of their WhoScored.com weaknesses are defensive focused, something Swansea will look to capitalise upon.
With 18 league goals to his name, the fifth most in the division, Joel Piroe has enjoyed a superb debut campaign with Swansea.
The Dutchman joined from PSV last summer and, despite a mid-season wobble, he is ending the campaign with a flourish. Of those 18 league goals, seven have come on his travels, that ranking among the top 10 players in the Championship, with Piroe netting in three of his last five away outings.
Piroe will need to get the better of the experienced Michael Morrison if he is to add to his tally on Easter Monday. Morrison has been an ever-present since Ince took over the Reading reins with two of his four-best rated performances this season coming at home.
The 34-year-old played no part in the reverse fixture, but he'll be keen to play his part in helping Reading do the double over the Swans.
While three of Reading's seven league wins this season have come in their last five games at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, Swansea have a fine record at Reading.
The Swans are unbeaten on their last nine trips to Reading, winning six of those, a record that stretches back to 2008.