Southgate Revolution Haunted By Shadow of Mac

‘MEET the new boss; same as the old boss’ said the Who in their vinyl discourse on regime change. I thought about that and the tendency of revolutions to slip inevitably back into the unpopular ways of the despised old order as Boro capitulated at Manchester City and Watford.
For all the talk from the barricades of radical change and of sweeping cultural revolution at Boro to transform the conservative team into shock troops championing a populist attacking style of football, both games contained within them disturbing elements of the unreconstructed McClarenism which we were told had been overthrown.


At Manchester City Boro went into the game hampered by a familiar straitjacket of fear. Against a fragile side in free fall and there for the taking, Boro opted, instead of attack, for the old discredited cautious and sterile approach: rigid defence, square passing and fruitless possession interrupted only by the occasional hoof forward, in theory to the isolated one (and a half) up front but in practice straight to opposition defenders.
Ugo Ehiogu – remember him, one of Boro’s big money legion of the damned – gave the game away at half time on Sky when he admitted the game plan had been to ‘keep the crowd quiet for 20 minutes’ before hoping to nick something on the break, thus conceding the initiative to the opposition and, when they scored, leaving a team mentally prepared for containment chasing the game. Hmmmm. Sound familiar?
Against Watford there was an even more inexcusable example of one of the most annoying aspects of the former Great Architect’s methodology as new broom Southgate opted for the grand positional tinkering that had us bamboozled so often under McClaren.
The only consistently creative force was played out of position to accommodate the return of a player who had been out for eight weeks and was untried in the role he was given – and in which he lasted about 20 minutes before being switched out to play on his wrong foot on the right. Meanwhile the best performing centre-back so far this season was again pushed to left back where he is uncomfortable and a perfectly good full-back dropped to allow an as yet less than sparkling defensive pairing to continue in the middle.
At risk of sounding like Bernie, it was square pegs in round holes. Ah seyz that. Sometimes teams can live with an enforced positional change; Lee Cattermole played on the right against Everton and was solid with flashes of creativity and it was a success if not the ideal solution to an on-going problem. But he can’t do it every week because it goes against instinct and demands different strengths to those he possesses. And when several players are out of position the problem is magnified and it introduces the potential for mistakes, leaves the machine backfiring and hands a well drilled opposition a marked advantage.
Boro are in a mess and the pressure of damaging results, an unbalanced squad and shapeless performances has forced Southgate to retreat from his stated attacking ideology into the tried and tested strategies that were employed by McClaren and his coaching staff in recent years, but without the conviction or the success. It is the worst of both worlds.
Southgate must decide once and for all if his side is going to play attacking football or stick with it. And he must decide on his best team and stick with that too. It doesn’t help the team to drop Pogotetz from central defence to allow the £6m signing to play and it helps it even less if he is shifted to a position where he has always looked exposed and accident prone. If Mad Dog is to be dropped from the middle so be it, but leave Taylor continue in a position where he has rarely let us down and where he can add an attacking dimension that Pogo can not.
He must also identify quickly those players who can not play the way he wants to and prepare to replace them in January. The stakes are too high to allow him to either try to effect his changes with inadequate personnel or muddle through with half-hearted McClarenism.
There are some big decisions to make if Boro are to salvage the season and build a platform for the future ack from the last two damaging defeats and we must hope that Southgate has the bottle to make them. We can’t afford to slip into the old McClarenist negativism. The Riverside crowd won’t buy it. We won’t get fooled again.

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10 thoughts on “Southgate Revolution Haunted By Shadow of Mac

  1. Vic
    The problem is we have already slipped back into the bad ways and that makes it even more frustrating because we were looking forward.
    Not everything that happened under Mac was bad, we had just reached the point where his tactics and his spin had alienated the fans. It was time for him to go.
    What baffles us is how we have got back into the same situation of constant tinkering, playing people out of position, being ‘clever’. All this in addition to some gutless performances. There is tactical confusion, players need to be settled and know what is happening.
    All these so called killer balls played by teams like Manu and Arsenal are mostly simple balls played into space in the expectation someone will run on to it. That comes form a solid base of people in the right positions playing a game they are used to and understand.
    When players move into unfamiliar roles and are put under pressure they revert to type, eg Pogo will lamp it from left back. If he was centre back and lamped into row z he is a hero – in the words of Hansen talking about central defenders ‘launch it’.
    You can play the odd player out of position because of injuries and suspensions but to have the whole raft of misfits, not the players but the positions, as at Watford was inviting trouble.
    When you have to rip up plan A at half time it shows the plan was flawed and that leads to a lack of confidence in the players, the tactics, the coaching. All of which creates uncertainty and a lack of conviction.

  2. Revolution don’t inevitably fail but it is important to do two things to make sure they succeed: firstly smash the apparatus of the old regime and replace it with a new one, and
    secondly, propagate clearly the principles of the new order to the people so they buy in to it.
    There-in lies the problem for Southgate. ‘McClarenism’ was never smashed. He wasn’t swept from power by a popular up-rising, he was elevated, rewarded for his success as Boro.
    And his apparatus wasn’t destroyed, it was kept in place. In fact it was not only kept in place but publicly lauded by the chairmen and the security of his henchmen and coaching co-thinkers was underlined by all the talk of continuity.
    Their ‘scientific’ coaching principles were codified and made the official philosophy of the club, a philosophy that many prospective managers would not share but that Southgate, for all his public talk of a new culture must have done.
    Rather than Southgate coming in as a great reformer he was in fact co-opted and had to fit in with the existing frame work.
    So his taking over wasn’t a revolution at all. It wasn’t even a coup (although his dressing room revolt back in January may have been an attempted one). It was an orderly transition to power of the populist candidate but with no fundamental change to either the structure or ideology.
    If Southgate does have ambitions to press ahead with his new culture of attacking football he must address some these political problems first. He must transform the structure, weed out the old McClarenists and bring in new commissars of coaching more in tune with his outlook.
    Viva la revolution!

  3. I agree with red_rebel on this one, the problem with ‘continuity’ in this case is it looks as though we have an assistant manager and head coach who are still following the mac plan.
    GS needs to be brave play people in their best positions, consistently , not be under pressure to play the ‘stars’ and he must stick with his attacking philosophy.
    Professional football is all about self belief and confidence, the ability is there already. We cocked up at Man City and Watford, the team should have been instructed to get stuck into tha match straight away go for the jugular and get a goal, that way the home crowd is silenced and the team you are playing which is low in confidence suffers another psycological blow. By sitting back and defending the opposite happens.
    In simple terms we need to be much more positive and play a settled side with no daft changes like Stewie on the right…bizarre!!
    If we play an attacking style from now on what ever the results I believe GS will retain the support of the fans as Bryan Robson did the year we were relegated. This time we have a much stronger team defensively who have the ability to attack without conceding.

  4. Hardly surprising at the way performances have become depressingly familiar given that we have the same coaching staff merely with a different ‘figurehead’.
    Thing is, are/were the board really in favour of continuing with the existing philiosophy ? Or were they forced into minimalist intervention as their hands were tied financially because McLaren got all the backroom boys new contracts and then buggered off, thereby jeopardising any prospect of real change via O’Neil et al?

  5. Red_Rebel is right, for Boro to move forward Gibson needs to decide who he wants to keep most, Southgate or Harrison and Round.
    How can the team play attacking football on a Saturday when they are being trained by the same defensive minded coaches as last season?
    How about bringing in Mark Proctor as a coach? He did well in our youth academy and was highly thought of at Hibs.
    He is also a Boro lad and will know exactly how the fans are feeling.

  6. Completely agree. Th problem is basic. We, save for a couple, have a squad that is simply not good enough. Sporadic flashes of brilliance are great. But give me nine points from Shef U, Watford and Reading anyday over the three against Chelsea, and even the three against the mags.
    The one thing Boro have lacked for years is consistency – put simply if we dont sort this out then there is only one way we are heading and it is not into Europe it is into the ****.
    Mr Gibson, have you got big pockets in Jan cos by my reckoning we need 2/3 more midfielders, Robbie Keane plus one other striker.
    Oh and can we ask fulham to lend us french franck.

  7. How long can we keep going back to mr Gibson and begging for more money? We have the best defence and strikers thsi club has ever had in recent times. Spending more on those psotions in unlikely to improve things.
    The midfield needs a total rebuild with only downing worthy of keeping. over £100M has been spent since the riverside revolution started and nearly £60M since robson left. When is the time to turn round and say thats enough spent and time for the coaching staff to live up to their highly rated reputation?
    Maybe we missed the chance with getting Martin O’neil in. Is the coaching staff really that good to warrant keeping? Its obvious the current coaching staff cant get the best out of the current players. i dont think they ever have.
    Just look at all the players they have coached over the years. What are their credentials? have any of them had any experience as an attacking player in their time? Dont think any of the coaching staff have ever played as an attacking player. this could explain our negative and poor tactics going forward to attack

  8. Absolutely spot on – all of you. And as ever we’ve been saying all of this and more since before the season started.
    The problem is (besides all of those listed above!!) that no-one who can do anything about it is listening.

  9. The reality in measurable terms.
    Last 38 games W11 D8 L19 41pts 1.10 pts/game
    Last 20 games W6 D4 L10 22pts 1.08 pts/game
    Last 11 games W3 D2 L6 11pts 1.00 pts/game

  10. Eaststander
    I have been posting for yonks about how long our bad run is. It dates back to Xmas 2004.
    We are now in the slither that did for West Ham, Derby, Soton, Leicester, Leeds, Mackems. It nearly did for Everton, Blackburn, Villa. All clubs that were in or very close to europe.
    It is no consolation that we are three points ahead of the Barcodes.
    Following on from Ste points about the coaching staff, there are very few players bought in over the past five years that have increased or maintained their value. Good coaching should improve some of them but it hasnt happened. And that is the biggest indictment of all, no added value.
    But all is not lost, my glass isnt empty yet though I am tempted to keep swigging away. Match of two halves, not over til the fat lady sings as Ron Manager would say.

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