Stuart Gent gives his view on how this one might shape up today, again pressing for the inclusion of David Fox…
Today`s tactical view brings us to a critical home game. I don`t often like the term ‘must win game` but if ever the term was going to be used it would certainly be used for this game.
With the heartbreak of the Arsenal game still fresh in the mind of many a fan and player alike we come to what has been called by Sir Alex Ferguson squeaky bum time and we are squeaking.
Last time out saw Hughton change it a bit, playing a fluid 4-3-2-1 formation, with Tettey, Howson and Johnson in the middle, and Snodgrass and Kamara either side of Holt. This game I would alter things slightly and go for the 4-2-3-1 formation and I will explain why below.
With Ruddy`s return from injury (and two development games played), he could well be ready to start, however Hughton might see this as too much of a risk and with Bunn`s strong performances (especially against Arsenal) I would be tempted to ease Ruddy in slowly. I would say for the Stoke game Bunn does lack the aerial presence that is needed but only then would I look at a possible change between the sticks.
The defence is straight forward and there is no reason to change it. So I`d go for Martin, Turner, Bassong and Whittaker across the back.
With Martin and Whittaker strong defensively and offensively, the one winger that worries me for Reading is Hal Robson Kanu but it looks like he may be missing after his training ground miss hap of landing on a stone and requiring stitches to the wound.
Then we come to our two man defensive midfield. Like last week, I again would urge Hughton to drop Howson and bring in David Fox to play alongside Bradley Johnson. With tensions being high this Saturday not only on the pitch but off of it Fox has the composure to link the ball from the defence to the midfield or to the wing.
Then we come to our attacking midfielder. This should see the return of Hoolahan after being rested with his sole purpose of being the link between Fox and the striker he is also more of a creative influence, and hopefully after a small break he is back firing on all cylinders.
Either side of Hoolahan in attacking winger positions would be Snodgrass and the returning Pilkington. Hugging the touchline and cutting inside will bring the fullbacks of Reading inside creating the overlap opportunities for Martin and Whittaker.
Now we come to the solo striker. The reason I`ve gone for just one forward is none of strikers are in form, and then we have one man who hasn`t been given a chance.
That man is Becchio. I`m struggling to see why he was brought in other than getting rid of Morison. Maybe a knee jerk reaction after not getting Hooper? Unlike our other strikers he has scored goals this season (Championship goals) and he can hold the ball up. Reading are probably the team most Championship-like in this league, so in my view it could offer Becchio an opportunity to become a City hero.
Some might say that we should go with two-up from the start but in all honesty we have looked best as an attacking force with Wes/Snodgrass/Pilks in behind a lone striker. Bringing in David Fox means that we will retain more possession and be able to keep the supply coming to our creative three in behind the striker.
This is the game from the first whistle we have to hit them with everything we have got, chase them, attack with pace, give them no time to settle try and force errors. If we get a early lead we need to force their heads down.
This is also the game where us fans need to turn Carrow Road into a cauldron make it the most hostile place they have been to this season and support our players. If a pass doesn`t go right let`s stay fully behind the team and not create added tension, there is already enough.