Will Gardner on why we shouldn’t be quick to dispose of our livewire midfielder, despite the arrival of Sasa Lukic.
Harrison Reed, our latest iteration of a Ginger Iniesta. What a player he is, what a player he’s become, and I have absolutely no hesitation in announcing that I bloody love the bloke.
This Fulham team has rightly earned a lot of plaudits this season, with Mitrovic and Palhinha winning a ton of the praise for obvious reasons. Mitro has been banging in goals and bullying centre-backs, while Palhinha is winning every football fan over with his top-tier impression of a brick wall. But one member of the team who has slightly fallen under the radar, and definitely in recent weeks, is Palhinha’s right-hand man, Harrison Reed. He’s mentioned in passing while pundits and fans alike rush to praise the top-form players in the team.
There was a lot of love sent his way after he scored his first goal for us, and when he followed it up a week later with his second goal, but now that his scoring rate has slowed down, so has his flowers. Amid the excitement of our deadline day signing of Lukic, who will seemingly slot in to his position in midfield, I just wanted to highlight five reasons why Reed is crucial in that midfield role.
His ability to win second balls
During our run of form at the start of the season one thing that really stood out was Reeds ability to pick up the ball on the edge of the box during our attacking phases after the ball had been cleared.
The goal that personified this to me was the Brentford winner. The ball falls to him on the edge of the box and instead of rushing and trying to play it forward or having a pop shot, he calmly rolls it back to Mbabu who sends a perfect cross in to Mitro to nod in the winner. Reed is one of the shortest players on the team and he doesn’t really have a right to win these second balls, but what he does do is reed the game (sorry) and the situation perfectly and he always turns up at the right moment.
Also his second, and so far last goal, came from this exact position. Picking up the ball from the Villa clearance and having a pop at goal. The situation called for a shot at goal at that time, the situation in the Brentford game called for a calm tee-up for Mbabu. While these two instances have led to goals, one aspect of them is that by Reed collecting the second ball on a number of occasions, he’s able to save us being caught on the counter. An underrated and under appreciated tool.
His box-to-box nature
One reason for his ability to always pick up these second balls is that you can constantly find him hanging around the box at either end of the pitch. If you watch any highlight from our matches, Reed is always drifting into the side of the screen and appearing at the edge of the box. In fact it’s got to a point when you watch the match on TV, Reed is always in the picture. His stats and numbers at both ends of the pitch may not be ground-breaking with only two goals, one assist and 1.1 tackles a game, but he’s a presence at both ends, a block defensively and a distraction or extra man offensively.
His work rate
I’ve searched high and low (e.g. looked on about five different websites) for distance covered data, but it appears that the clubs own this data and it’s near impossible to find, so all I can say about Reed’s work rate is that it looks like he runs shitloads. His pressing; his ability to pick up the scraps from Palhinha’s tackles; his late runs into the opposition box and constantly being set defensively on the edge of ours. Then there’s pushing out to the right, being in position in the centre – he’s every where. We should all buy shares in socks as he is constantly running his off (sorry again).
In a pressing and attacking team, this work rate from the middle of the park is invaluable. With Pereira being the first press and Mitro up top, Reed then works with Palhinha behind, and if anyone gets past them Reed is there again to relentlessly chase the ball and help us win it back.
His drifting out to the right
A tactic that has picked up steam over the course of this season has been Reed’s persistence to drift out to the right. If you look at his heat map for this season you’d be hard pressed to believe he’s a central midfielder.
My theory is that Marco is looking to use Reed to push out to the right and provide an extra body going forward down the wing so Tete can be used more as a typical right-back and isn’t bombing up and down the wing like Robinson on the left. Potentially with Reed drifting across it also opens up the left-hand side for Willian to cut in onto his right foot and Robinson to overlap.
Why do you think Reed has been used so much over on the right-hand side? Is it to give Bobby De Cordova-Reid more of a chance to get into the box?
The fact he’s constantly improving
If you were to look at Transfermarkt’s view of Reed’s value over the course of his career you’ll see that it is constantly rising. Naturally this will happen throughout the course of his career and will increase with a team that’s flying high in the Premier Leauge, but Reed is a player who is consistently improving and working and developing as a player.
He didn’t “burst onto the scene” and he wasn’t a shining light as a junior, he’s a player who is constantly improving and striving to be better and contribute for his team. He may not get high post-match ratings, he may not get a number of goals, but what he contributes to a team is the hard yards and work that usually falls under the radar.
I bloody love you Harrison; your unselfish work rate is everything I adore in a footballer. Keep legging it around the pitch and being the glue that holds this team together.