BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 04: Reading manager Brian McDermott stands on the sidelines during the pre-season friendly match between Bournemouth and Reading at the Goldsands Stadium on August 4, 2012 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)
Reading have a solid defense and a top striker, but a lack of top-flight experience, technical quality and creativity.
Reading's last trip to the Premier League lasted two years and was very fun, until their relegation. They were media darlings in their first year as a top-flight side, knocking off the Premier League's big boys with a lot of players that no one had ever heard of, including a 12-year-old babyfaced striker named Kevin Doyle. One year later, everything fell apart and they surprisingly went down. They've returned after a few years of exile in the Championship, better equipped to stick around for the long haul.
Unfortunately, this is a bad year to be a newly promoted side. There are usually a couple of teams that didn't deserve to stay up the previous season who stick around, and their awful form catches up with them. That's not the case this year, and Reading will actually have to be good to stay up. Fortunately for them, their defense is much better than those of Southampton, QPR and Wigan. They also went and bought a pretty darn good striker.
Pavel Pogrebnyak went to Fulham on loan from Stuttgart last year and played well, but the Cottagers couldn't match the wages that the Royals offered him. He signed for Reading on a free transfer and should be the best leader of a line among all of the teams battling relegation this season. He'll have an ample supply of adequate strike partners, but there are questions about whether or not he's going to get good service on a regular basis.
He might get some players to provide it before the close of the window, even if he doesn't have it now. Wealthy Russian businessman Anton Zingarevich recently bought the club, which was why they were able to out-bid others for Pogrebnyak's services. He's running Reading like a business and he's not about to write fat checks for players willy-nilly, but he's going to be a good owner by all accounts, and should recognize that he needs to open his wallet a bit more to ensure his team stays in the top flight.
Chris Gunter, Nicky Shorey and Adrian Mariappa are the new members of a defense that was the strongest in the Championship last season. Kaspars Gorkss has never played in the Premier League, but there's no reason to believe he isn't good enough to do so. Similar things can be said about Adam Federici, a keeper who finally got it together and started performing at a high level in his mid-20s. He's been one of the best keepers in the Championship for three years and should be able to make the step up.
Right now, Reading are a team full of rock-solid, but unspectacular Championship players with minimal to no Premier League experience. Their manager, Brian McDermott, hasn't made a trip to the top flight yet, but his team is well-drilled and the players seem to love him. Things are feeling a bit Norwichy here, aren't they?
Last year: 1st (nPower Championship); 27W 8D 11L.
This year: 17th, last team staying up
Key player(s): Pavel Pogrebnyak -- He's the best player on the team and he's going to have to create some goals from nothing for Reading to stay in the Premier League. He won't get top-notch service and Reading will be playing to draw pretty often, so don't expect anything outrageous, but his team could be staying up if he bags 12 league goals.
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