Stam has revolutionised Reading, so much so that they're almost unrecognisable - in a good way, too.
Jaap Stam’s possession-based philosophy is certainly paying off at the Madejski with Reading third in the Championship, and Martin Allen saw no qualms in comparing them to legendary pass masters Barcelona on Football on 5.
The Dutchman completely remodelled the club’s playing style since arriving from Ajax, the home of Total Football, in the summer with WhoScored reporting that The Royals average possession of 59.3 per cent is the highest in the division and ten per cent more than their tally from the 2014/15 season.
That’s not to say the revamp has been universally embraced however, with fans taking time to warm to an approach that appeared distinctly anaemic on occasions earlier in the season.
In fact, in a Friday night win against Ipswich Town in September, some sections of the Madejski booed their players for passing the ball back to goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi and attempting to play out from the back.
However, results have finally started to match performances in recent weeks with four wins in a row, including successive 3-0 victories against Burton and Wigan, catapulting Reading to the verge of the automatic promotion spots, an achievement that has Allen raving.
“I’ve been down to see them play a few times and they are the closes thing I’ve seen to a Barcelona and Manchester City type team,” the current head coach of Barnet said on Channel 5’s The Championship show, broadcast on Saturday 19th of November at 9pm.
“They keep possession right from the goalkeeper, very often they pass it round the back and wait for openings.
“[Stam] has been very, very brave with how he’s asked them to play. It’s a complete transition from the style of football we’ve seen at the Madejski before.
“They’re getting the results, the players look confident and they have got some very, very good players.”
Stam brought in a number of new signings to fit his system in the off-season, with former Heerenveen utility man Joey Van Den Berg arriving to control possession from a deep lying midfield role – Reading’s very own Sergio Busquetts if you will.
According to WhoScored, of the 15 teams to have played in each of the last two second tier seasons without being promoted or relegated, only Rotherham (95) collected fewer points than Reading (102), while only Millwall scored fewer goals.
It’s fair to say, then, that Stam’s revolutionary approach is bearing rather exotic fruit.