Reading FanZoner Stephen Dempsey is starting to ask some tough questions about manager Brian McDermott.
Has McDermott's time at Reading come to an end?
So Brian's third anniversary has been and gone and it appears to have gone much like any other anniversary in a dysfunctional marriage. Initial feelings of excitement before the big day, fuelled by the glorious memories of yester year, are suddenly overwhelmed by the crushing reality of the present day.
Things are not what they were and I write this after watching a lifeless, insipid and downright pathetic display by Reading against Arsenal... again. As painful as it is, there comes a point when you have to ask the killer question: is it time for a divorce?
Before launching into the big debate, it is important to remember that the last few years under Brian have been nothing short of a miracle. Two FA Cup runs, a heartbreaking play-off campaign and then the unleashing of a rampant Royals side who bulldozed their way to promotion have made the last few seasons, in my opinion, some of the most exciting in Reading history.
We should always be thankful for what Brian has done; rescuing the team from the failing philosophies of Brendan, persevering despite the sales of irreplaceable talent and bringing exciting (if, perhaps, unsophisticated) football to our club. We should not, however, let our gratitude for what Brian has achieved in the past become a millstone around the club's neck: something that it is inevitably becoming.
So why is it time for a change in management? First off, our transfer dealings in the lead up to the start of the season were woeful. For the sake of avoiding the argument about how much of this is down to a lack of funds from TSI, let's assume Brian spent all the money that was available.
We brought in several players this summer and I struggle to see how any - bar Shorey - have actually improved the team. Gunter and Cummings seem to be battling it out for the 'Overlapped with Ease' award, Mariappa has wholeheartedly thrown himself into the Good Samaritan defence ethic while McCleary has shown that he can just about compete with McAnuff on the wings - hardly an achievement at the moment. In fact, the only two players who I would have suggested could feasibly fit into another respectable Premier League team have been a complete disaster - but more about that later.
What exasperates me most is that Reading's biggest squad deficiency over last season was patently in midfield and, in the Premier League, the midfield is where games are usually won or lost. Even if Karacan were to be available all season (which a wise manager would doubt after such a serious injury last season), we were never going to be able to compete in the middle of the park... yet Brian skimped on bulking up our midfield and signed more wingers.
Returning to the mysterious figures of Pog and Guthrie, people will argue that it's not Brian's fault that some characters choose to act out. But Brian must have known that this could have happened - he had met Guthrie prior to signing him - and should have realised that he is one player we could not do without (one who can pass it along the floor).
The best managers know how to get the best out of their players but Brian seems to have taken the view that if a player disagrees with him, they need to be cast into the dungeon of the physio room - a place that has become akin to a POW camp in recent weeks. Conversely, those players that tow the party line despite horrific displays - Gorkss for example - are rewarded for their loyalty despite the seeming lack of any footballing justification for their selection.
The final nail in the McDermott coffin has to be the tactics we play. Four-four-two has not been the tactic of choice for most Premier League sides for a long time and though it's fair enough that Brian might want to give it a whirl for a while, we have been thumped in quick succession by good teams, bad teams, passing teams, counter-attacking teams and everything in between without any change in tactics.
Our manager appears to have buried his head in the sand, mumbling 'we move on' between mouthfuls of dirt. The bottom line from all of this is that we have become a laughing stock of a team, playing awful football with a team arguably worse than that we had a year ago.
When we came into this league, I didn't expect us to stroll up the table or even stay up. I was sure, however, that this club would fight for its pride and to entertain its fans even if only in a blaze of glory.
I think our manager has given up the fight, whether he knows it consciously or not, and for his benefit as well as ours, I believe a clean separation for both parties is the best option. The opportunity for that is, however, slipping away as time goes by.