The importance of John Swift

It’s fair to say, Jaap Stam has never been described as ‘gung-ho’ in his tactics. He prefers control over flair, the safe pass over the Hollywood ball. It’s what made Reading so successful at home last season; if you have the ball for 60 percent of the match, then that’s 60 percent of the match that the opposition cannot score in. Furthermore, for the majority of that time, Reading would have the ball at least 40 yards from their goal, meaning counter attacks tend to start from deep and so will have a lesser chance of a goal. Now, clearly, these tactics aren’t faultless: players will misplace passes, take bad touches and mistakes will happen. Yet, the evidence is in the 3rd place finish, this tactic of controlling the play is effective in the Championship.

However, the problem with playing the safe pass lies in the diminishing attacking threat. By often choosing to keep possession instead of taking on a defender or playing a risky pass, Reading aren’t going to create chances at will. With respect to Dave Edwards and Liam Kelly, they’re both more comfortable sitting in a deeper role in midfield. This is where John Swift plays such a vital role. At his best he possesses the confidence and ability to turn on the ball and play the killer pass, much like he did in Sheffield last month and for Aluko’s goal at Derby. When he was injured Reading looked very poor in attack, with the home game to Hull the nadir of that. This is because without Swift, the wingers often have to drop deeper to get the ball, so receive the ball in less threatening positions. Sone Aluko and Modou Barrow are very effective players when given the ball in good positions: facing the goal and an isolated defender. They aren’t so effective when having to play centrally and deeper, with countless defenders barring their way to goal. Aluko had to play more centrally in games against Hull and Sheffield United and it’s no coincidence that Reading struggled to create any attacking rhythm in those games.

Reading have scored 13 goals in the 10 games where John Swift has featured compared to 7 goals in the 7 games he hasn’t featured. They’ve also collected points at a rate of 1.2 per game when he has started compared to just 1 point per game when he doesn’t start. Furthermore, the average league position of the opponents faced when Swift plays over 20 minutes varies dramatically from 7.9 versus 15.6 when he doesn’t play. Hence, as the stats say, Reading score more goals and win more points when Swift plays, despite them playing significantly harder opponents when he does play in comparison to when he was injured.

Moreover, Swift has the goal threat to boot. Only two players managed more goal contributions last season. Those players; Yann Kermorgant and Garath Mccleary, scored a combined 28 goals last season, but have played very little minutes this season. Liam Kelly is still Reading’s top scorer, despite having no goals since the 16th of September. Liam Moore is the joint second top scorer with 3 goals, despite being a centre back. Reading are in serious need of a forward to gain some form in front of goal, yet until that happens, Swift’s goals from midfield could be invaluable.

Not to mention, John Swift is just an exciting player to watch. With the way he glides around the pitch and skips past players with ease, fans get excited. He’s the guy that can ‘make things happen’ in a Reading team failing to recreate last season’s success. It is no coincidence that Reading’s best performances this season have come when Swift has been at his best.

@calumtheGAM

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Reading 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0 Player Ratings

Vito Mannone 6

I’m not sure he’ll have an easier game in his career; the stats say Sheffield Wednesday had a solitary, unmemorable shot on target. Best wishes to him and his family after his mother’s poor health this week.

Leandro Bacuna 6

One of the day’s best attackers, despite playing as a full back. He was let down by his decision making in the second half having got into promising positions in and around the box. Bacuna remains a very solid full back yet his attacking abilities seem wasted there when Reading desperately need creativity against these defensive sides.

Paul Mcshane 5

Did little wrong defensively and recycled the ball well, as he always does. He seems reluctant to attempt the decisive pass, which unfortunately means a lot of possession without penetration. Mcshane also managed to make a hash of an early half chance from a corner.

Liam Moore 6

Handled Wednesday’s direct balls up to Joao with relative ease. His long-range passing was effective, finding the advancing Bacuna multiple times. As with Mcshane, Moore didn’t do much wrong, he just wasn’t tested by a Wednesday side more intent on containing than attacking.

Chris Gunter 7

Another solid display from Gunter who has been in good form as of late. Always an overlap option on that left hand side, putting in multiple testing crosses in the first half. Perhaps limited by the fact that he was often forced onto his left foot when on the overlap, but that’s through no fault of his own.

Joey Van Den Berg 7

Just about my man of the match. It’s his job to shield the defence and keep the ball moving through the midfield and you couldn’t fault him on that. Gets bonus points for avoiding a booking via his signature clumsy fouls.

Liam Kelly 5

Looks a long way away from Swift, having inherited his position in the team for the time being. Too sloppy in possession when he wasn’t trying the defence splitting pass but that’s hopefully just rustiness after being out of the team for a while. On a positive note, between him and Aluko, Reading seem to be able to trouble defences from corners.

Dave Edwards 5

The idea seems to be for him to join Kermorgant in the box when the ball’s out wide, increasing the options from the crosses. But it really didn’t work on Saturday and Edwards didn’t do a whole lot bar his usual high intensity pressing.

Sone Aluko 6

He’s made himself undroppable, largely because I can’t see Reading creating much without him involved. Again had the most shots of any player, particularly coming close with a right footed strike in the second period. Frustrating as he wasted two presentable opportunities in the first half with his less favoured right foot.

Modou Barrow 6

Always a danger with the electric pace at his disposal but let down by his final ball time and time again. He made a hash of Reading’s best chance as he just couldn’t sort his feet out quickly enough.

Yann Kermorgant 5

We saw glimpses of his link up play although he’s clearly not back to his best yet. Reading need him back to his best as soon as possible otherwise these defences are going to keep holding firm.

Substitutes

Pelle Clement 6

He’s got style and he’s starting to add substance. Unfortunately, his goal bound drive wiped out Sone Aluko instead of his goal duck. Put forward a decent argument to start in the midfield as Swift’s replacement.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson 6

Lively link up play when he came on as he set up a great chance for Barrow. However, he then proceeded to overhit a simple through ball when Beerens was in space much to the ire of the crowd.

Roy Beerens 5

Only on long enough to hit the first man from a cross.

Jaap Stam 6

The clean sheet was exactly what the doctor ordered, yet he just can’t find the cure to this ailing attack. Anything but a win on Tuesday might spell the end of any lingering play off hopes for this season.

@calumtheGAM