With the 2012-13 English Premier League season on the horizon, Tezini’s crew of soccer experts is here to get you ready for all the cracking finishes, devilish challenges and unforgettable drama. Over the next two weeks, we’ll give each club its proper due in a free-flowing roundtable discussion. We continue with Reading FC.
AJ: Reading strikes me as the new West Brom, the de rigueur yo-yo team now that West Bromwich Albion has managed to find solid footing in the Premier League for a few seasons, bouncing back and forth from the top of the Championship to somewhere mid-table in the Prem. Beyond that, I know very little of them, other than that they’re after some fringe-y Newcastle players and former Newcastle targets. Midfielder Danny Guthrie has signed for them already. So too has former Watford defender Adrian Mariappa. Right back Danny Simpson, who was an unheralded piece in Newcastle’s great season last year, could soon join them as well.
A cursory glance at their numbers from last year’s Championship-winning campaign does reveal that this was the stoutest back line in the second division with just 41 goals allowed, a fact that probably helped cover for a somewhat middling attack. Their 69 goals last season were merely sixth best in the Championship, 12 and 16 fewer, respectively, than the division’s top scorers (and fellow promotees) Southampton and West Ham.
Sam: After looking over their squad, it’s not a completely uninteresting one. In addition to the aforementioned players, Jimmy Kebe, Noel Hunt (Stephen Hunt’s brother), Nicky Shorey and Jason Roberts are all serviceable and should make the transition to the Prem relatively easily. Brynjar Björn Gunnarsson sounds like one of the polar bears from the Golden Compass series, and as a central defensive midfielder from Iceland, I suppose he should sound like that.
I imagine they’ll struggle to score goals, and will have serious lapses in defense. I expect that they will be solidly in the battle for relegation all season. It can’t help their cause that they have the same colors/kits that Blackburn has had in recent years.
Mark: Given that I once went on a few dates with a girl who told me I resembled Nicky Shorey, I have mixed feelings about his return to the top flight. I’m also glad to see one of my favorite soccer names ever, Kaspars Gorkss, promoted as well.
Jason Roberts has scored plenty of goals in the Premier League and has had a nice little career for himself, which I think gets to your point Sam about transitioning easily, though at age 34 I can’t imagine he’s going to light the league ablaze. Other than that, Danny Guthrie is fine in a “you’re-not-as-good-as-Cheick-Tiote” sort of way, Shaun Cummings was signed by Chelsea as a 12-year-old back in 2002, and has yet to make his mark at any professional level, and they’ve just signed 22-year-old Chris Gunter from Nottingham Forest it seems, who was once a promising Spurs prospect and has 37 caps with Wales. Feel the excitement.
AJ: I quite like Guthrie, I just don’t see where the goals are going to come from, which is usually a sign that you may end up as relegation fodder. I guess what I’m saying is I tend to bet against teams thriving in the Premier League when a stout defense is their big strength and they struggle to score, because Premier League teams have a habit of exposing both that sort of strength and that sort of weakness.
Is it kosher to tip the champions of the Championship for relegation? Because I think that’s what I’m saying here.