Plymouth Argyle fixtures in the second round of the League Cup have been a rarity for many years. However, we have one to look forward to this evening as Reading visit Home Park. Ahead of the game, we spoke to Reading fan website The Tilehurst End to get their thoughts. They can be found on Facebook and Twitter, and also run regular Reading themed podcasts.
First of all, how did you get into supporting Reading?
I’m from Aylesbury in North Buckinghamshire, rather than Reading, but I’ve got a family link through my mum, who herself got into following the Royals through her dad. I was a Man United fan in my very early years (please don’t judge me!), but started going to Reading games in 2004. That wasn’t long before our record-breaking 2005/06 Championship season, which sealed my love for the club.
Are there any new signings at Reading people should be looking out for?
Pretty much all of them! Reading made 10 signings in the summer, and upgraded almost all positions in the first team in the process. Former Napoli man Rafael Cabral brings experience in goal, while there’s defensive solidity from Matt Miazga and Michael Morrison at the back, quality in the midfield from Ovie Ejaria and Pele, and presence up top from Lucas Joao.
However, the absolute stand-out is George Puscas, a young Romanian striker who took the under-21 Euros by storm in the summer. He became our record signing when he joined permanently from Inter Milan shortly before the end of the window, although we’re not paying much of the £8 million or so up front.
Reading’s season appears to have been kickstarted with an excellent win over Cardiff. How do you see your season going as a whole from here?
I’d agree that the Cardiff City game was the match which kickstarted our season. It was the first game when a number of the new signings showed what they can do – in particular Puscas thanks to his brace, Ejaria’s fantastic midfield display and Rafael being solid in goal. We also tried a new system, 3-5-2, which shored us up defensively while still letting us look dangerous going forwards.
The impact of those two factors – new personnel and tactics – also paid off at West Bromwich Albion (1-1) and Huddersfield Town (2-0 win). Getting both good results and solid performances suggests that we’ve got a good formula now, and that should carry us forward for the foreseeable future.
There are still more improvements to come though, as is natural when you’ve added so many new players to the squad.
This game will of course be played in the League Cup. Do you think Jose Gomes will take the competition seriously, or can we expect to see a weakened side?
I expect that he’ll take it pretty seriously, while also taking the chance to rotate his side a little bit where he can. That would be in line with the team selection for Wycombe Wanderers in the last round, when he took the opportunity to switch systems (it was the first match in a constant run of playing 3-5-2) and bed in new first-team personnel.
His attitude seemed to be more that a League Cup game was a good chance to experiment for the sake of making improvements for the league campaign – ie rather than changing the entire XI to rest players. That said, there are a few players who could come in for the sake of giving them game time: Charlie Adam, Josh Barrett, Andy Rinomhota among them.
What sort of tactical style do you expect to set up with on Tuesday?
I’d be surprised if we didn’t go 3-5-2. Although we could use a more attacking plan B, such as the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 systems we’ve used in in the not-too-distant past, it’s probably too early to be moving away from a new set-up that needs improvement through being used in matches.
That’ll likely mean a fairly conservative back three that doesn’t get forward too much, one player sitting in front of them, two really high wing-backs, and two pretty attacking central midfielders that support the front two. Depending on personnel though, that front two will either be a straight partnership or one man playing off the other – we’ve tried both in recent weeks.
And are there any real weak links in the side you’re worried about?
The wing-backs are key to this system, and they’ve not fully convinced me just yet. Both Andy Yiadom and Omar Richards are more used to being full-backs, but we need them to adapt to looking after the entire flank themselves. They’ve done that pretty well so far, but both must improve even more if the 3-5-2 is to work in the long run.
What’s bugging me ahead of Tuesday’s game is how we’ll rotate here if we need to. Our other left backs are either injured (Tyler Blackett) or not up to full match fitness (Jordan Obita), while young right backs Tennai Watson and Teddy Howe haven’t been involved with the first team that much. With Reading constantly playing the same wing-backs over the last couple of weeks, Yiadom and Richards will need a rest at some point.
What first comes to mind when you think of Plymouth Argyle?
How far away it is! Being the most southerly team in the Football League, Plymouth Argyle has a uniqueness, given how many teams are clustered in London, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the northwest. Things like that make for a much more interesting match day for away fans, getting to see a game in a part of the country you wouldn’t usually go to.
And finally, what is your prediction for the game itself?
Based on the last few games, I fancy us to not concede many – we’ve tightened up at the back and don’t allow many shots on target, so I don’t think you’ll manage more than one goal. We should ourselves be able to nab a couple of goals, but may have to be patient to get them. I’m going with Plymouth 0-2 Reading.