Looks like Frank is going to go with 4-3-3. Its a system that we've used plenty before so we know what we're going to get. However, it does come back to the old problem of not having a consistent approach to managerial appointments - our constant change in styles means that our squad constantly needs rebuilding to suit those styles. So, 12-18 months ago we had a squad suited to 4-3-3, over the last year we slowly dismantled that squad to move it away from that style only now to want to revert to that without really having a squad capable of playing that way! Anyway, rant over... on to more progressive issues.
There are several keys to playing this way and they are as follows:
We want to play out from the back so we need defenders comfortable on the ball (FTR, I don't really see this as being a problem as I think we have got capable players in that regard);
We need TOP QUALITY full backs. The nature of the wingers being inverted means that you have to have full backs who are attack minded and will add that overlapping width. However, the fact that the wingers are so advanced (and almost play as auxiliary forwards), fullbacks will get virtually no protection - so they need to be solid and physically strong. I am not convinced of our options at left back (is Forsyth reliably injury free? Is Lowe proven?) and at right back it will be interesting to see if Frank sees Wisdom at RB or CB.
The player in front of the defence is key (formerly the "Thorne role"). He starts our play and conducts so much of it. Huddlestone is clearly capable of this but I still have reservations about mobility . Ledley is not good enough on the ball to play there and Johnson does not have the discipline. Thorne is unreliable injury wise. Huddlestone is good enough but will require support.
The two central midfielders need to be two different players - Lampard knows only too well that there is no point having two of the same (see Steven Gerrard) but it makes the system ineffective. Both players need to be good on the ball but ONE has to be a playmaker (dropping deep and moving forward with the ball in the way Hughes used to or how Modric etc play and playing through them) and ONE needs to be a bomber who gets up in support of the forward and beyond them (how Bryson or Lampard used to).
Mason Mount is clearly someone who can and probably will do the latter - he will look to make those runs beyond the forward to get into the box and score goals. Bryson could do the same but I fear they can't be used together as having the two means we have nobody who can get on the ball and control a game in possession. Ledley (who played the role last night) is a nightmare in that role and so is Johnson - neither are good enough in possession. The one player who could play that role is Butterfield.
The two wingers need to be creative and able to take chances but also need to have the appropriate work rate to be able to track back and support the full backs. Need pace to get beyond the striker . I think we have good options here (Lawrence, Wilson, Jozefzoon?) but I'm not sure we're as strong as we were previously and we could still do with someone with a decent left foot (although, I think Wilson does?) in that area to make us more effective.
The forward - to make this role really effective, needs to be able to play with their back to goal, drop deep and be judged on supporting play as well as finishing opportunities. We need some physicality but, crucially, I would like to see someone with a bit more pace. Martin was brilliant at this role originally but I don't want to get hung up on that debate - and the one criticism was his lack of pace which made him a little one dimensional. Jerome has the pace and power but I do not trust his link up play or his touch, Vydra does not do enough off the ball and does not have the required physicality and I think Martin is not part of Frank's plans. For me, the main option we have is Nugent but I think we need to strengthen.
It seems strange that we would want to sell our top scorer from last season but, if this is the system we are seeking to play, I don't see how Vydra fits. Selling him would release the fees to add players both in regard to wages and transfer fees.
My one concern about this system is our being lightweight in the centre of midfield - we effectively have three ball playing players and nobody to do the dirty work. We could be too easy to play against and, particularly with Huddlestone as the deeper player, I worry about us out of possession. But, in my view, the best way to make this system work is as detailed above.
So, for Reading away, based on what we have now and on the assumption that we want to play this system, I would go with the following (roles where I would look to bring someone in for are highlighted in bold) :
RB: WISDOM CB: KEOGH CB: DAVIES LB: LOWE
CM: BUTTERFIELD CM: MOUNT
RW: WILSON LW: LAWRENCE