Do Boro Have The Bottle For The Battle?

HAVE Boro got the bottle for the battle? We are about to find out with four fixtures in ten tense days that will shape Boro’s destiny. Gareth Southgate’s struggling side play three of the bottom six in high-stakes basement battles in which all finesse or pretentions of total football must be junked in favour of a snarling streetfighting approach.


Because that is how the opposition will play. Charlton maybe not as they are demoralised, shapeless and have the body language of the beaten and Boro must be completely ruthless and batter them senseless. Defeat is not an option.
But Blackburn and Sheffield United will show feral bareknuckled malice from the off and that is bad news for Boro because their worst performances this season have come when the opposition have got right in their face, kicked and pushed and pulled and niggled and spat and played a physical high-tempo style.
Boro were muscled out of the games at Man City, Sheffield United and Watford and at home to Blackburn – defeats that were doubly painful because as well as denying us points they racked up in the credit column for the teams who now threaten our top flight status.
To be fair to those teams they have recognised their limitations, acknowledged they will never bamboozle teams with pretty little triangles and taken a strategic decision to play to their strengths: athleticism, pace, in-your-face pressure, long punts forward, dead balls and the percentage game played around the opposition’s box.
That ungraceful combat is a style that Boro have struggled ineptly with this term. Boro’s problem is that they fall between two stools. The team has been assembled with the intention of playing a patient, cautious passing game and competing on footballing terms with the top half teams but is not quite good enough to do it with the panache and penetration to pick up points.
Worryingly, that team has also fallen short when they have found up against the robust one-dimensional outfits who want to fight – and that is exactly the kind of teams they are directly up against now in the battle for Premiership survival. And there are more of those teams than outfits that will let them play a passing game so dealing with them is more pressing.
It is a long time since Boro had a spiteful, snarling player willing to put a foot in, charge around upsetting the opposition and ready to tackle his granny throat high from behind. A Paul Ince – Robbie Savage – Paul Dickov – Ian Baird character who would shed blood and leave bodies in his wake in a single-minded quest for victory. That is what we need right now.
That willingness to get involved physically has been lacking. It was noticeable at White Hart Lane last week when George Boateng got mugged on the touchline and within a heartbeat half-a-dozen Spurs players dived in to help out Zakora. Where were the Boro players? They arrived 30 seconds later. They should have been there in a flash. Right now we need everyone fighting for the collective and everyone should be willing to take a whack or two for the cause.
There is spirit there. In recent weeks both Pogatetz and Cattermole have dished out stinging on-the-pitch lectures to team-mates they felt were not pulling their weight. And there is bite too. You wouldn’t fancy being on the end of a Mad Dog, Huth or Boateng tackle. Now those qualities must be welded together with a new sense of urgency, passion and a vicious approach to every tackle, every loose ball. We need to get down and dirty and fight for dear life.
Forget one-twos and fancy flicks. When Boro go toe-to-toe with Blackburn and Sheffield United it will come down to workrate and bottle. Do Boro have it? They have shown it only in rare flashes of late. We must hope that it comes to the fore. Let’s see some Teesside steel!

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11 thoughts on “Do Boro Have The Bottle For The Battle?

  1. I’ve said for ages that Boro need a really horrible player in the middle that will get in the opposition’s faces, disrupt their key players and be really hated by rival fans. We haven’t had that dimension since Ince.
    One of Boro’s problems is that they are a soft touch. It is OK trying to play football but sometimes you need to FIGHT. You have to battle and graft and earn the right to play.
    Boro have been brushed aside by the 120mph teams that kick lumps out of anything that moves. We must be able to match that pace and aggression or we will lose the games like Watford – and they are the ones that will cost us if we go down.
    We should find a Robbie Savage, a battler who can play a bit. What about Davids at Spurs? Too expensive. Let’s see the scouts to earn their corn and find the player to save the season.

  2. break the bank for savage
    I heard southgate on the radio having another dig at steve mcclaren. he was saying he has to take part of the blame for our current mess as he left the club without any plans for the future of mfc as to help the new manager.
    Does Southgate really hate steve mac. or is he just looking for more excuses to deflect the blame?

  3. Vic
    The short but accurate answer to your question – No!
    AV writes: That is the icy hand of fear gripping my heart going into these games. I don’t think they have.

  4. forgot to add…
    everyone seems to be suggesting we need creativity in midffield. well aren’t downing and morrison doing that?
    We need a player to take the heat and dish it out. when you are near the bottom an creative midfielder is not what you need

  5. Lee Cattermole and Boateng together in the middle with Downing and Morrison on the wings should do it surely!
    We have a tough defence, two midfielders who are happy to get stuck in, there shouldn’t be a problem. The key is having the right mind set. We will know soon enough I guess
    Well I’m off until the 2nd Jan by which time I’m certain we will be on the up.
    Merry Christmas everyone

  6. As my last posting disappeared into the ether I will repeat it.
    We get overun in the middle of the park. Boat is having a poor season, if he cant dominate with tempo and physicality he does not have touch and finesse to fall back on.
    Roch may have worked but the penny finally dropped for me that he shone against us in our drop back and be cautious mode giving him the time and space to excel but he cant do that in the premiership against the bruisers in the teams battling for survival.
    Most of the alternatives are not up to it, Mendi is too lightweight, Parlour is too old. (by the way did anyone else see him on Sky the other night alongside Ugo) Arca is a squad player as is Euell. Dont really know about some of the kids.
    Mozza and Downing will track back and help out, despite many criticisms the do work hard. But it is not their job to battle.
    That brings us back to the only solution I can come up with and that is we will have to play Cat and Boat together. They have to drive the Boro forward, push us up the pitch so we can attack the other teams penalty area.
    The back four have to press the midfield. That means we can play two up front and two wide men. It means we can play with tempo and bring our skill to bear.
    The strikers have to attack the ball, if they dont it is pointless having Downing cross it. They have to make runs to the near post, get across the defenders. They have to chase and pressurise the defenders into mistakes.
    Cat and Boat must get up their box and battle, pick up the loose balls so that there are no easy get outs.
    But will we do it? Is there enough heart in the team? If we do we will be ok, if we dont we will be in real trouble.

  7. What about pushing the Pog into midfield?,he could play the zenden role down the left and support boateng.
    That way we can accomodate huth and woody at the back and keep the two strikers up front.

  8. All the above postings have correctly identified Boro’s problem, the mid field. However no one has come up with a solution that will work.
    George is now too slow and cannot get up and down, on top of that he gives the ball away more than any player in the team so immeadiatly the pressure is back on.
    Cattermole is too lightweight to become truely effective,not quick enough starts a game like a tiger and ends it like a pussycat and again does not use the ball very effectivly.
    The answer as everyone knows is a combatative midfielder with some pace I do not know of one any manager will want to give up so I suspect it will have to be one from abroad. So how about our continental scout earning his corn for once and delivering the goods.

  9. I agree that we need a combative midfielder. What I dont understand is why we don’t look to the Scottish league (since every game is basically like a war).
    How about Paul Hartley as he is about to leave Hearts? A very skilfull, hard working aggressive midfielder. Hope your reading this Southgate.

  10. Vic,
    Put it this way, if we don’t or can’t start battling over these next 2 weeks or so we are doomed to the fizzy drinks league believe me.
    And whatever we say here about bringing in this player and that player in the window, quite frankly that will be too late, we need to have got ourseleves clear of the drop zone by the end of the first week in January.
    So it’s down to the players we have, and if recent results (not performances, points make prizes not hard luck stories) are anything to go by we will struggle.
    Midfield is our obvious weak spot, and every team in the PL knows it, we have a soft centre so it is crucial that we get additional muscle in there. In the current squad, apart from Boateng and Catermole, who is there? My answer, Riggott!!
    As Ian says the rest are either past it or simply not good enough or tough enough. In fact Ian, ask your Derby pals, did Riggott not play a few games for them in midfield??
    Riggott can tackle and as long as he makes simple passes, might just do as a make-shift central midfielder in much the same way as Paul Jewell has started using Scharner for Wigan.
    Riggott is unlikely to break the centre back partnership of Woody/Huth/Pogo, so other than play him at rightback (a distinct possibility) then he could be a valuable assett in a midfield holding role.
    It might also allow Boateng to settle down a bit and stop running around like a headless chicken if he knows he’s got experience alongside him.
    It would mean us having to dispense with Catermole in there as well, but maybe best to have him on the bench and in any case it would give us more options to change the formation.
    But whatever we do, we MUST WIN today, or I fear for us. So I hope the boys can prove us all wrong, roll up their sleeves and get stuck in.

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