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Fulham vs. Reading Preview: Three questions with The Tilehurst End

Somehow reading sits third in the league. The advanced stats don’t understand how. We talk about that and more with The Tilehurst End.

Reading v AFC Bournemouth - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Fulham could really use a win to get on track. On the surface, this looks like a very hard game to do it. Reading are flying high and are at third in the table. Looking at the advanced stats though, they are by far the luckiest team in the league. Experimental 3-6-1 has them second to last in their E Ratings. They probably aren’t as bad as that, but they most definitely aren’t really as good as third.

Cottagers Confidential: You currently sit third in the table, but the advanced stats do not like Reading at all. By expected goals and strength of schedule it has you second worst due to the second worst defense and the 14th best offense. Is there some reason to believe the advanced stats are missing something about Reading?

The Tilehurst End: I find the second worst defence hard to believe. I guess it's how much value you place on the 'quality' of chances the opposition have had or just look at the number of shots on goal. I don't think any Reading fan would say we've been overly dominant but we've been professional and had individuals like our keeper Ali Al-Habsi make big saves at just the right time.

Our offense has been a bigger concern with a shortage of top quality options to lead the line but we've muddled our way through thanks to hard work from players like Yann Kermorgant and now Dom Samuel. Fortunately the midfield has really stepped up and Danny Williams, Garath McCleary, Roy Beerens and the injured John Swift have chipped in with some big goals.

The biggest plus is that we've been steadily getting better and while the strength of our opponents is a notable caveat to our success so far, it's given the team a confidence and swagger that they SHOULD be able to carry on against tougher teams.

CC: Which Reading players have performed better this year than you have expected? Any performing worse?

TTE: McCleary has really bounced back from a couple of tricky years. He's got back to the type of form that saw him linked with a string of Premier League sides in 2013 and long may that continue. Liam Moore has been an excellent acquisition from Leicester so it's a shame he's banned for this one but behind him Ali Al-Habsi is having a real late career resurgence between the sticks.

Unlike last season, there are very few I can point a finger at and say, well... 'pull your finger out' as pretty much everyone has been performing to at least an acceptable level. Roy Beerens is probably the closest I can pick to a player that's maybe not at their best often enough but then he comes out with moments of magic like his first goal against Bristol City and you realise why he's in the team!

CC: If you had to set up a side to attack Reading, how would you do it?

TTE: We're still vulnerable to pace, especially with Moore suspended so trying to play balls in behind us would be the way to go. Likewise, with no Kermorgant we've been struggling to win much in the air, so putting the goalkeeper and defence under pressure to stop the easy short passing is a must. We're the only team superior to Fulham in terms of possession this season so you've got to limit the number of times you lose the ball or else you can get tired out pretty quickly.

CC: Predicted lineup?

Lineup: 3-2-2-1-2

McShane van den Berg Blackett
Gunter Obita
Evans Williams
Samuel McCleary