Not only did Garry Monk emerge from Tuesdays game against Reading with three points but with his reputation and dignity intact, the same cannot be said of Jaap Stam. Both Readings performance and Stam’s criticism of the way Leeds United played in the football news were both bizarre and classless.
It is true to say that Reading dominated possession, they had 77% of the ball but that does not mean they dominated the game. They barely got the ball out of their own half, over 600 passes with a 90% completion ratio but most of them backwards, or sideways not forwards. For all that possession the shot count was fairly similar with Leeds getting twice as many on target. Dominating possession is certainly one way to play the game but it matters for nothing if you don’t put the ball in the back of the net.
Perhaps Readings tactics weren’t that bizarre, possession football is nice to watch when it’s done right and it must have been working for Reading, they are third in the table after all. Keep the ball, keep it moving, make the opposition commit then catch them on the break. But it didn’t play out that way, mainly because Stam had met his match tactically. Leeds held their line, closed the ball down but didn’t over commit and put pressure on their defenders.
Garry Monk had clearly been studying Reading and set Leeds out to nullify them from the start. Liam Bridcutt explained to the Yorkshire Evening Post;
They had a lot of possession but they didn’t really threaten us with it. That’s the way we planned it and worked on it in the last few days. Monk showed how good a manager he is and that he knows what he’s on about. Tactically he’s up there with some of the best.
Stam clearly has a vision for how his Reading side should play but in Garry Monk he was clearly up against a tactically astute manager. Albert Einstein described insanity as repeating the same thing over again and expecting the same result which makes it bizarre that Stam continued with the same tactics despite them clearly not working as planned. Seeing himself outthought and his team outplayed was clearly frustrating but his post-match reaction was classless;
You can tell something about how they are as human beings to be fair. They can say ‘we won’ and of course at the end it’s about the result - but if you need to play like that then I don’t want to be a manager. Because I don’t want to play and just wait and wait and wait. That’s not my type of playing, my type of tactics. You can say congratulations to Garry Monk, he got the result and everyone wants results. But in terms of way of playing, it’s not my cup of tea.
So, an odd performance for both Reading on the pitch and their manager off it. But as Leeds fans we can be happy that we came away with the three points and clearly have one of the best managers in the league tactically. It may not have been pretty but we got the win. A Leeds team that can win any way and give us a shot at promotion is fine by me, Stam can keep his ‘total football’. And Garry Monks response was perfect too;
I felt a bit embarrassed for him making those comments. Sometimes emotions are high.