x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

The long and short of it is Reading are not good enough to stay in the Premier League

No side has had as little as the 39 per cent of possession Reading have had this season. No side has completed as little as 69 per cent of their passes.

Reading, under the management of Brian McDermott, were not good enough to play in the Premier League. Christopher Lee / Getty Images
Reading, under the management of Brian McDermott, were not good enough to play in the Premier League. Christopher Lee / Getty Images

Is that it, then, for Reading? Saturday's defeat at home to an Aston Villa side who had won just one of their previous 11 games means a resurgent Queens Park Rangers have caught them at the bottom of the table and that safety is four points away.

Their season has fallen into four distinct bands. They drew six and lost four of their first 10 games and won the 11th: the period of hard battling and optimism after last season's promotion.

They then lost seven as the realities of Premier League life set in and morale began to drain.

That run ended with a controversial defeat at Manchester City, with Reading's manager Brian McDermott (who was dismissed following defeat to Aston Villa last night) adamant that Gareth Barry had climbed on Nicky Shorey in heading the late winner.

Reading, burning with righteous anger, took 14 points from their next seven games. But fury, no matter how justified, can only take you so far, and they have lost their last four with trips to Manchester United and Arsenal up next.

Perhaps they were unlucky on Saturday, missing chances and seeing ricochets fall to Villa players in their own box (and to an extent any team who concedes to Gabriel Agbonlahor can feel unfortunate) – but poor or indecisive defending has a tendency to lead to misfortune.

One of the great truths of football to those dealing in tiny margins, whether at the top or the bottom of the league, is to make sure the luck takes place in the other team's box.

That, in a sense, is the reason behind Reading's many late goals: scrap to keep it tight for 75-80 minutes, then see what havoc Adam Le Fondre can create in a harum-scarum last 10-15.

But the statistics tell their own story. No side has had as little as the 39 per cent of possession Reading have had this season. No side has completed as little as 69 per cent of their passes.

That sounds like a long-ball team – and it is true that no side has played so few short passes as Reading this season – just 253 per game, fewer than half Arsenal's figure – but Reading are fourth bottom of the long-ball chart as well.

It is not about the type of pass they make, it is about making passes at all: Reading just cannot get the ball.

They have fought hard, but Reading are just not good enough for the Premier League.

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