Number Crunchers Undecided Over Boro Start

“IF WE get off to a good start we can be up there and challenging”. Yeah, right.
Have we had a good start? That was the debate over a few beers tonight. From an Ali Brownlee ra-ra perspective we have. We’ve deserved beaten the champions for a second year running at the Riverside – and been the first team to beat them after they took the lead in the league since the increasingly tetchy Mourinho arrived – and come away with a point from Arsenal, a fixture that usually heaps misery upon humiliation. So that bodes well right?
But from the Chickenrunning fence-climbing Slaven position things don’t look so great. Boro collapsed into disarray and threw away an early two goal lead to lose at promoted Reading then capitulated in quite spectacular fashion to lose 4-0 at home to Portsmouth and. Four points from four games is relegation form right?
How does that start measure against other early season returns in recent years? Let’s go number crunching…


The first thing to say is that the tally of four points was only bettered twice in Steve McClaren’s five season and compares very well to the former boss’s nightmare debut.
IN 2001-02 Boro got battered. They were hammered 4-0 and home to Arsenal and 4-1 at home by Newcastle and inbetween lost 1-0 at Bolton and 2-0 at Everton. No points from the opening four games and the Mac Out! bandwagon was rolling within the month.
There was another disastrous start in 2003-04 when the first four yielded one point from a goalless draw at Leicester with defeats at Fulham and at home to Arsenal and Leeds.
The best start under McClaren came in 2004-05 as a Carling Cup powered outfit with one eye on Europe grabbed a last gasp leveller in a 2-2 home draw with Newcastle, went down 5-3 in a cavalier diplsy at Arsenal and then beat Fulham and palace to rack up seven points.
And in 2002-03 there was a five point haul as Boro drew 0-0 at Southampton then 2-2 with Fulham before beating Blackburn and losing at Old Trafford to a dodgy penalty.
And last year McClaren also took four poinst from the first four with a 0-0 draw at home to Liverpool and an emphatic Viduka inspired 3-0 win at Birmingham plus defeats at Spurs and a 3-0 Riverside nightmare against Charlton.
In a bid to show you can do anything with statistics a friend from the wild eyed lunatic fringe argues that seasonal adjusted the Gate’s four points are seasonally adjusted worst than they seem. The equivalent fixtures last term brought five points: a win over Chelsea gave the same
return and Arsenal this term was a point better than the 7-0 drubbing at Highbury but last year Boro got draws at home to Portsmouth and at promoted Championship top dogs Wigan.
So in the grand scheme Southgate’s start has been mid-table acceptability, offering signs of potential while not prompting Arriva to saw the top off a double decker bus just yet.
Bolton will be a big game that can swing the stats indisputably in the Gate’s favour.
***Pessimistic footnote: the last “good” start was back in 1999-00 when Boro lost at home to Bradford but then reeled of three wins in a row against Wimbledon, Derby and Liverpool to go joint top… then promptly collapsed to four defeats in five. D’oh! Typical Boro!

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8 thoughts on “Number Crunchers Undecided Over Boro Start

  1. Vic
    Of more concern than the actual start to this season is the fact we have 69 points from the last 60 matches.
    This is a real tester for the Brownlee Slaven factions.
    The Brownlee view will be it is premiership safety and if we just put together a good run we can become an established top ten team.
    Slaven – the private Lawrie of summarisers – will be looking on the down side. It is only just clear of relegation and if our post Xmas slump starts as soon as the shops fill up with Xmas displays we are doomed.
    The truth is they are both right. Blackburn went through a similar spell after the Carling Cup and qualifying for Europe in the league, they have now turned the corner. West Ham qualified for Europe then went into a slump and ended up relegated.
    Oddly this season has already reinforced both camps. Each match will be viewed as a chance to move onwards, to turn the corner, a measure of our quality, proof we are relegation material.
    Yes, the roller coaster continues and will this post get on the Blog before John Powls?

  2. Ian, I think you are right about the start of the season reinforcing existing battlelines. I think it will be like that all season with every result seized on for political advantage.
    It has been an average start but given that the opening fixtures were tough (Reading away on the opening day was tricky plus Chelsea and Arsenal away) and also there is a trainee boss maybe that deserves a few more credit points.
    But that won’t wash with those who follow the Pied Piper of Doom on Century. The reaction after the Reading and Portsmouth matches showed that the Southgate honeymoon is over. Poor Gareth. Some fans are no longer ready to show patience or understanding or set realistic short term targets.
    Unless the points per game ratio goes up quickly Boro could be in trouble. Not from relegation, but from another one of those morale-sapping wars of attrition between pro and anti factions.

  3. Vic
    I take the 04-05 season as the best benchmark – if not the fairest comparison for Gate at this stage of his reign.
    Carling Cup Winners, got things better organised (by Boro standards) in the transfer window – this might have more than a little to do with a good start, went on to UEFA qualification through the Prem just as the wheel was starting to come off the McLaren bandwagon and despite our efforts to chuck it away.
    As you say, today’s result will say a lot for me. Can we take the spirit and defensive competence from last week into a difficult tie, but one where we got a backs to the wall point last season and do as well if not better? That will mean offering much more going forward.
    If Gate plays 4-5-1 (but see below) again as many suggest he might, I think the 1 selected may tell us a lot. Two ways to go. The Yak playing up front only works if we play a pressing version as against Chelski, where he gave Terry and Carvalho a rough ride.
    Last week at Arsenal shows that he can’t hold the ball up if we play the defensive version when the midfield is so far back they isolate him and take too long to join and support. So if we start with Veruka we’re in ‘hold what you have’ mode with the possibility of adding The Yak as a second striker or subbing Veruka in the 2nd half.
    With who we have today I think we’d be better playing 4-2-3-1, filling the pitch more effectively, countering Diouf, Stelios and Anelka, keeping better contact with eachother and giving the front 4 the remit to keep going forward and retain the ball up the pitch.
    So the team could be – Schwarz, Parns (I’d prefer McMahon, but – hey! And Gate may favour Dava again but he needs to watch his temper with the 3 above to mark), Woodie (Congratulations on being made skipper), Pogo and Tayls. Defensive midfield 2 – Rocky (his position for Sporting and Barcelona before The Ex decided he knew better and Gate seemed to like what he did after The Boat got sent off at Arsenal) and Catts. Attacking midfield (start tight and work from in to out to give us width) – Mozza, Euell and Johno with The Yak up front.
    Outfield subs – Veruka, Bates, Macca, Dava/Parns/Kennedy depending on who plays.
    Sooner, rather than later Gate needs to settle on the 2 basic systems he wants to play and get the squad drilled into the roles so we can assert them, otherwise we are forever just trying to react to what the opposition do.
    C’mon Boro!!

  4. John
    To paraphrase David Coleman ‘Vic, to blog, to Gilly, its there!!! You cant afford to give that much posting time to Gilly and Powls has paid the penalty – 1-0 Gilly!
    Great result today and we got better as the match went on it seems, trying to win, yes win, the match even at the end.
    I know Powls senior and junior went to Arsenal and for Boro it was struggle but the gunners do play some wonderful stuff.
    One good smirk for today, we know Yanks are appalled by draws and love scoring so I was creased when I saw on BBC they are thinking of appointing Sven as manager of the national team.
    ‘Sven, your offense dint seem to get going and your deeefense kept giving away turnovers. Is there a reason why you couldnt create any first downs?’
    ‘Wellll, I thought we did very well, we didnt lose.’ Sorry my sons Sven impersonations dont come over well on blogs.

  5. As a final thought on this particluar blog, the result at Bolton is a classic.
    A good point away from home or a missed opportunity to get three points. My view is that I would have taken the result Saturday morning. In our five matches to date happy with three results out of the five. The season has gone better than I feared but not as well as I hoped.
    The crucial things is this weeks game – ‘the result will define our season, turn the corner, chance to kick on etc, etc’.
    I am afraid it was ever thus with the Boro, the only good thing about our inconsistency is the shear reliability of it.

  6. A ‘solid’ start to the season, Bolton was a good point, especially given we played with a very young team and with no Boateng. Hopefully what will happen now is that the team will develop some self belief and when Huth is settled in we develop a consistently mean defence (the key to success), when we’ve done all that we”ll certs. for a UEFA cup spot and another cup in the cabinet!

  7. Undoubtedly a good point given Boltons home record and the ‘Boro factor’ of not having a clue which team will turn up!
    Especially pleasing was the fact that we had 5 academy players in the starting line-up and a total of 6 local lads. Now that really is unusual and none are ‘make weights’ but good players showing great potential.
    Early days yet but looking at our forthcoming fixtures, the next few games are emminently win-able.

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