Midway through the week and I find myself, like I always do, missing Millwall and looking forward to the weekend. However, as Reading are still involved in the FA Cup we have to wait another few days to play our game next Tuesday. As I tend to always do, – strange or not – I think about what kind of team and formation I’d play if I was the manager.
The biggest criticism I had for Holloway was the formation he was playing throughout the first half of the season when it was clear it wasn’t working. We didn’t have the required players to play 4-2-3-1 and often found the team unbalanced. For example on Boxing Day John Marquis was playing on the right hand side of the 3, and I speak for all when John Marquis isn’t a winger! Not that the result was Marquis’ fault, but we then went on to lose that game 6-1 to an average Norwich side. For me that game was begging for a change of formation however the manager stuck with it, to no success. This season we’ve often had the lone striker being either Lee Gregory or Ricardo Fuller, neither of which are capable of bringing the ball down from the air or winning a header. Gregory likes to run onto deliveries over the top of defences, while Fuller enjoys coming short and wanting the ball to feet. Time and time again especially in away games the side would be under pressure and look for an outlet which was never there. However, I felt at the time if we went with 2 up top we could then have had a couple of different options to aim for, making life easier for the side.
We have since used the January market to go in for the HOF, at 6″7 he ticks the right boxes to line up in a 4-2-3-1, as he is a perfect outlet for the defenders to aim for. We also now have suitable attacking players behind the striker with Cowan-Hall and Fabrinni joining the side, these along with McDonald, Martin, Woolford, Gueye and Upson provide good competition for the 3 attacking midfield positions. I include Upson as I feel he is much more effective when carrying the ball at his feet, and therefore playing further forward could he be very useful and effective.
In my lifetime Millwall have always been a side that line up in a 4-4-2 formation, doing this you can be direct and get at teams, however often could leave yourself vulnerable in the middle. When Holloway first arrived at Millwall most fans were shocked to see the side not playing in a 4-4-2; it’s almost like learning a foreign language for some. Holloway has never been a 4-4-2 man either in his career, this has been proven at both Blackpool and Palace. His sides were more known for the great wingers, he had Phillips and Ince at Blackpool, while he had Zaha and Bolasie at Palace. In recent games Holloway has gone out with a 4-4-2 with the HOF and Gregory leading the line last weekend, I personally don’t see this lasting and could be changed by the Reading game. I believe, with Cowan-Hall now joining Holloway has valid wingers to play 4-2-3-1. Also with the HOF joining, especially in away games he will be a massive asset for us, as seen last season at Middlesborough.
If I could pick the side for Reading, barring any new signings by then my XI would be:
Although a lot of pressure and hype has been around Sid Nelson, you cannot deny how well he has coped and how he has settled into the side. He is nervous on the ball, but after a few more games I think that would disappear. I see Nelson and Beevers as the partnership for the next few years, if of course we can hang onto Beevers. Both compliment each other being right and left footed, and with Nelsons ability to hit a covering tackle, while Beevers who can win a header I don’t see too much wrong with that pairing. I’m not too much of a fan of Harding personally, but he is the best option for Left back and Cummings looks a solid addition to the side. Williams and Jimmy would be my holding midfielders, against Reading, who have good passers of the ball in the middle you do need Jimmy in the side. However, if and when Bailey is to return I would have him back in our side, a leader in the middle which we dearly miss.
As mentioned already in this post we now have some great options in the 3 attacking midfield places. I’d have Gueye and Cowan-Hall cutting inside with the latter proving he is capable of this while at Wycombe, I’d then have Fabrinni as the number 10, playing in the hole creating chances and running into spaces. The last position is up front and me personally I’d go for Gregory, hopefully some decent service to the lone man and we can see what he is made of.
What would your team be for the game? Thanks for reading.