Scratch Side Must Sting Spurs

INJURIES or not, striker light Boro must go for broke at White Hart lane tomorrow night. There must be no weak team, weak mind fudge. It is a game Boro must win.
Gareth Southgate may have a headache up front but dead man walking Martin Jol has far bigger problems as the vultures gather in the boardroom and his disjointed and demoralised side – tipped as Champions League challengers after breaking the bank – languish in the bottom three.
Jol is caught in a Groundhog Day nightmare of recurring votes of confidence and rumours of dressing room rifts hampering his team and heads are down after a shaky start to what was scripted to be a glorious season. There may never be a better time to play sorry Schpursh.


Boro must take advantage of the hapless Hotspurs and go for the jugular in what is arguably the biggest game of the season so far. The League Cup is the most realistic route to the Holy Grail of European football for Boro and the opportunity must not be spurned.
Spurs, in the UEFA Cup themselves, have bigger fish to fry and will possibly field a weakened side through choice. Boro will be forced to put out a patched up one but they can more than make up for the absences by playing with the pace and passion that has been hinted at in flashes so far this term, by showing a snarling no quarter given Lee Cattermole competitive streak and by showing from the off that they want it more.
Southgate will have learned from his time as a player under Steve McClaren and as a rookie boss himself last term against Notts County that if you play a weakened side and take a laissez faire attitude to this competition it will bite you in the bum – but if you graft and get the rub of the green it can soon stack up as a success and open the door to silverware.
He should learn the lesson from Sunderland too: that a side that battles and scraps and stays motivated right to the death can sneak something.
So Boro should approach the game as one that can and must be won. If we lose and then fail to ignite in the coming run of tough Premiership fixtures the season is all but over as a competitive entity before October. Boro urgently need an inspirational display and result to galvanise a season in danger of drifting.
That is not to minimise the problems facing the boss who must come up with an effective system that can hurt Spurs despite having his three first choice strikers crocked – Mido and Tuncay have joined Jeremie Aliadiere on the sidelines – and also without two of his ideal midfield as Gary O’Neil is cup-tied and Julio Arca is facing a long spell out with a knee injury.
And while Southgate got a lucky break with the news that his frontmen are not as badly injured as first thought, the derby day casualties will be sorely missed tomorrow, not least the former Spurs man.
Mido is the focal point of the fluid attacking style that is starting to evolve. His physical presence, his strength on the ball, his industry, his deft touches that link up with midfielders as the break forward are all essential ingredients in the new fast and flowing approach that is being fostered and without him it is not a viable option as there is no-one else in the squad that can play that role as effectively.
Plan B – and there must be one as the club must have factored in that Mido will be away in January for the African Nations Cup and also consider the probability of injuries or bans – has also been scuppered because it will have featured Aliadiere and Tuncay in tandem.
So now Southgate must find an ad hoc system from a pool of players that lacks any real cutting edge as with the best will in the world neither Lee Dong Gook nor Tom Craddock are capable of playing the Mido role.
Lee makes some good runs and has a nice touch but has struggled to cope with the physicality of the Premiership and is routinely monstered by defenders. He has made 14 starts and come off the bench 11 times for Boro in the league and is yet to score. His strength lies in breaking quickly onto balls along the ground and passing first time putting him more in the Aliadiere mould than the Mido one.
And what of Craddock? The prolific reserves striker, 20, like Lee has the knack of making incisive runs but as a one time defender is maybe more used to the robust stuff and has the confidence to go for goal but has had next to no Premiership pitch time. He clocked up eight minutes after coming on as a sub at Fulham on the final day of the 2005-06 season when Boro finished with 11 academy graduates.
Of course, if they are good enough they are old enough – and if they are not good enough you must ask what they are doing at the club – but there is a world of difference between banging them in for the stiffs and doing it on the big stage (just ask Ian Arnold, Nicky Peverell or Danny Graham) and whether the boss will take a risk is to be seen. While kids can sometimes be fearless and play out of their skins there is also the danger that a roasting and a nightmare display may destroy their confidence completely. Think Keith O’Halloran and Derby.
To play the two together up front is a massive leap in the dark too as neither would ideally even start a game but at least it has the advantage of sticking with the shape used this season, spreading the burden of industry up front and also the problems for the Spurs defence and at least they have played together in the reserves.
Southgate may decide that is too much of a gamble and instead make tactical changes. The obvious answer would be to play Boateng on the right, draft Shawky and Cattermole into midfield and play 4-5-1 although again, ideally that requires a hard-working, physical frontman. It may be a case of just picking one and getting them fired up to go out and seize the moment. Cometh the hour cometh the man.
A wild card of throwing David Wheater forward as the targetman has been mooted, indeed Southgate admited he considered if for the second half against Sunderland, but although the big defender has the presence and aerial prowess to cause problems he doesn’t have the touch to hold it up and bring others in. Besides it would just leave the defence short too.
A more likely scenario is a 4-4-1-1 with Fabio Rochemback in the hole behind the lone striker, presumably Lee, and getting forward to support him when Boro attack and slotting back into the midfield when under pressure.
But playing one up front or trying to sit back and defend gives the initiative to Spurs and they have the strikers to win the game if they are given the chances so it could be a case of attack being the best form of defence. One option would be to try a 4-3-3 with Stewart Downing and Cattermole advanced up the channels giving an outlet for balls out of defence that take some of the burden off the central striker. That could allow Lee to play to his strengths without being bullied out of the game as he tries to hold it up.
Whatever system the boss chooses the real key will be attitude, workrate and the will to win. The squad should be big enough, experienced enough and hungry enough to cope. They certainly cost enough. Boro must be fired up, scrap for every ball with an almost psychotic zeal and they must crack Spurs’ fragile facade. It is a tough task but not an impossible one and victory could light the blue touchpaper on a season that has spluttered so far.

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70 thoughts on “Scratch Side Must Sting Spurs

  1. To say Brad Jones was our M O M the other night is not saying much. I thought Wheats was, myself.
    Jones certainly made some fine saves but was too easily beaten at the near post for their first. Again, he wasn’t alone in being too easily beaten.
    My beef with Jones is that, like a lot of very average goalies (which is all he is) he can be a very effective shot stopper when it comes to the Hollywood stuff but he is far from sound on all the rest of his game and is prones to gaffes too. He has little in the way of ‘presence’ between the sticks.
    The result is he inspires no confidence in those around him either and makes the whole defence shaky.
    He’s not the answer to replace Eddie Scissorhands. We need to dip into the transfer market in January for that.

  2. Andy
    I agree and disagree. Yes 451 can be very effective with the right players.
    But an outbreak of square pegism (thanks JP) is not the answer to the problem with the players we had available. Luckily I cant be accused of hindsight, the topic has been discussed before.
    Whatever formation we played we were likely to lose against a full strength side. So the choice is how to deploy what you have. If you put three holding midfield players in the team all you will do is give the opposition licence to attack at will with nothing to keep their midfield and defence honest. To then play someone as lone striker who hasnt the physical presence to make the role work is grossly unfair on him and the team.
    I like Gate and think the players we have brought in will provide good football and the points we need. But, I would have criticised Mac for such a formation and tactics and would be part of a huge number of fans doing so, like his shocking tactics at Arsenal when we got drubbed. We debated on here the perils of going to Spurs and using the tactics and formation he eventually used. In all honesty, I cant sit here and say nothing.
    What I do hope is that as Gate keeps saying he has learnt from it. Sunday is another match with hopefully most of the squad available. Lets get something out of it.

  3. Ian – GS has said that his intention is to play attacking football, which we have all asked for on this blog.
    The team have showed promise this season, especially at home. If the first eleven are to play high paced attacking football, then surely the rest of the clubs teams should be playing the same system.
    Then any player who comes into the first team should be ready to step up to the mark.
    Our only hope against Spurs was to attack them, however GS resorted to a failed system and gave the iniative away from the word go.
    Regardless of who is available on Sunday GS must be more positive. If we invite pressure from Everton we will lose.
    At least O’Neill will be back in the team and so the midfield will be more balanced.
    On the goalkeeping debate, if the Skunks go for Jasskelainen, Boro should go for Harper or Given.
    C’Mon Boro

  4. SOUTHGATE OUT —- THE SOONER THE BETTER
    I cannot believe that this man was ever let loose at the boro. Hes a real shocker. No experience of anykind with just a few half baked fa blue peter style badges to go on.
    Why cant we ever get a proper manager instead of hiring these utter rookies? We have a striker problem but who is it who said lee was amazing during his trial – southgate did. We lost vids binned yak and replaced them with who exactly ? Give me fowler any day of the week over what we have now.
    All southgates doing yet again. Time after time we get beat and all we ever here is how the lads will learn from this or how much character they showed. All im waiting for now is for him to start saying magnificent. Do me a favour.
    How long will it take the lads to learn? Unlike many blind people here i just dont see any reason for optimism or any sign that southgate has got the faintest clue what hes doing. He got rid of morrisson and replaced him with who exactly ?
    The Boat !!!!!!!!!!!!!! My god if this is the best we can do on the right wing then were sunk. Sorry guys but SOUTHGATE OUT. sam

  5. Never Happy
    My point entirely, made even worse by the fact we predicted that it wouldnt work and it hasnt worked in the past so why would it work this time?

  6. It would have been about 5-0 without brad jones playing well. Wheater had a decent game, he can handle the high balls all day but his marking and gets pulled out of position sometimes is a bit suspect. Hopefully that will improve with expereince

  7. To echo other posts, we must be positive on Sunday and attack Everton, if we play 451 again we are dead and buried before we start. If we start with attacking intent we have a chance of making Everton a little more cautious.
    samallen – fowler in!!? You should be sacked from this blog for even thinking of the idea.
    Nigel ‘The Blind Optimist’ Reeve

  8. Kenny – “Despite our dodgy start, I cant see us being beaten anymore this season!”
    I wish I could have your confidence, but as hard as I try, the more I see the less confident I get.
    Because of our dodgy start, I can’t see us winning many more this season!!!!!

  9. Sam, as much as I totally and utterly agree with you about southgate being in charge, the fact of the matter is that he has the full backing of Steve Gibson and so we have to accept that he’s there for some time, get behind him in a constructive way, and hope that we get proved wrong.
    The last thing we want is for people to start booing him or the team as this is just counter productive, especially at this stage of the season. Fair enough, if this was towards the end and we were in the midsts of going down, then I think that these questions would be more acceptable.
    But for now I personally think that we have to accept that he and his team are there, and that they are in fact rebulding things, and that they will take the club forwards.
    It does worry me though that southgate and all his team can be so sure and rave on about people when they are on trial, only for them to be the total opposite after they sign. Perhaps we should look at how we analyze and view people that are on trial ?
    If Mr Lee was not immediately big and strong enough to cope with the demands of the Premiership then why did we buy him ? Do we have the luxury of the time that is required to then develop him, or others ? I think not and would much rather do that with the academy players. It’s pointless the club then releasing press statements staying that, ” Gym’ll Fix It For Lee ” as this just shows that he should never have been bought in the first place.
    I think that these are valid, reasonable, and constructive questions that should be asked, rather than just calling for Southgate to get the bullit with that kind of hard language.
    TB

  10. Anthony,
    In the interests of harmony can I through you humbly submit our application to Chairman Lamb for the posts of twin Managing Directors of the club?
    Dear Chairman Lamb,
    We apply in writing for the posts of twin Managing Director’s. Your munificience may be excited to know that we have been running Sunday league football in the Salamanca region of Spain very successfully for a number of years now.
    In fact the number 1 pub team we have been managing El Toro Loco (The Crazy Bull) the pressure from running which nearly left us without a home but anyway we succeeded in being promoted from 3A Division to 3 Division which was a major milestone or even a millstone around our necks depending on how one might view it.
    We did not change any tactics of this pub team or improve it in any way, shape or form. We simply (and this is the clever bit) followed the best City tradition of simply getting the most money out of this already impoverished club without improving anything one iota. Isn’t that brilliant?
    How did we manage to do it? Well we believe in God Almighty who is always at hand to help poor sinners and rascals like ourselves. No wonder our favourite hymn says it all “Amazing Grace!” which we sing with great fervour every Sunday.
    Therefore we promise to bring God with us to help us in our endevours to transform the club with the help of your management and of course the Holy Spirit and any other Gods or Godesses at hand.
    To demonstrate our good faith we are prepared to jump from any building in the town and have God save us from injuries in front of the whole press if necessary.
    We hope our application will be considered although even though we employ what to the world of soccer what might be thought of as eccentric methodologies.
    We remain your kindly servants always,
    Robin & Juan
    FOOTBALL FOR NATIONS Ltd

  11. Tony – DGL should never have been bought by the club, he is the Korean equivalent of Maccarone.
    Looking on the bright side, he only has a short contract and only cost a fraction of what Maccarone did.

  12. ” If Mr Lee was not immediately big and strong enough to cope with the demands of the Premiership then why did we buy him ? ”
    He was bought somebody with potential, a gamble if you like, a case of suck it and see and a backup 3rd/4th choice – remember we still had Viduka and Yakubu at the time, and remember that he cost very little. I dare say that even Southgate would have never envisaged having to play him as a single striker.
    Well, now he knows that he can’t hack it and unless there’s a sudden massive improvement, the gamble has failed, but like all gambles it could have gone the other way – look at Arca.
    We are a small club with limited resources who have to take a chance in an increasingly competitive market. We just cannot afford to buy more than the occasional ready-made product, and that can equally apply to managers.

  13. TB I think you make a good point about how ‘trialists’ are viewed, equally importantly is how they are ‘sold’ to the fans.
    GS made a mistake in ‘bigging up’ DGL, he should have been more circumspect. As much as I would like to see him (DGL) thrive and be a success, its hard to imagine at the moment.

  14. Fair enough Ian, but the problem is still without Gario there is still no answer to the RHS problem. Who to play there on Wednesday; not obvious to me I must say.Gate sees ’em in training and knows better than anyone of us well-meaning amateurs who is capable of what.
    Sure, I disagree with some of his decisions, and many would say he got it wrong. I would say with what was available any other outcome was exceedingly unlikely.
    The use of 4-5-1 is a trend which is gathering pace in the Prem due to Managers being overwhelmed by the fear factor that ultimately is relegation. The onus is often on not losing rather than winning.
    Anyway, lets move on and hope for a point or 3 on Sunday.
    **AV writes: Congrats on the 5,000th comment posted on the blog!

  15. ” Tony – DGL should never have been bought by the club, he is the Korean equivalent of Maccarone.
    Looking on the bright side, he only has a short contract and only cost a fraction of what Maccarone did. ”
    We won’t start this whole debate AGAIN, and you won’t be surprised to find that I don’t agree as I’m firmly on the side of those who say he didn’t have a fair go here, and you are not, which is fair enough.
    But just to make the point that Maccarone went back to Italy last year and in the 11 games he played he had a better goal per game ratio than Viduka did here.
    You may not rate him, and again, that’s fair enough, but to compare him to Mr Lee is an absolute joke.
    TB

  16. Nigel
    You could play 451 and be positive if you have attacking talents in midfield and send them out to play in the right manner.
    A middle five of O’Neill, Rocky, Tuncay, Boat, Downing with Mido upfront would work unlike the line up on Wednesday. It is the players aptitudes and attitudes that make a formation work.
    It is likely we will play Tuncay in a floating role a bit like Rooney and allow O’Neill and Downing to bomb on as required.
    The main thing is to have some shape and an outlet other than just Downing.
    As for the Gate out debate, well that is dead in the water because Gibbo picked him and will stick by him. He is moving in the right direction, my criticisms are when he occasionaly reverts to MacClarenesque tactics and/or Managerspeak.

  17. Regardless of our current situation I think we should be behind GS 100%. The current situation is not entirely of his making and without a shred of doubt he cares deeply about the club and the supporters.
    Yes we were hoping for a “big name” manager but take for example Martin O’Neil who has hardly brightened up the Villains, in fact with hindsight I’m glad we got Gareth and not O’Neil! At least we have the hope that Gareth will become more astute and worldly wise whilst O’Neil is looking a bit of a spent force bereft of ideas in the management dept at the moment.
    I doubt if the decision to award LDG a contract was Gareth’s alone. LDG looks to have a degree of technical ability which may have appeared impressive at Hurworth but he lacks the skill and aptitude for top level combatative football.
    I think the club should have had enough acumen and experience to have sensed this before even wasting Gareth’s time. Can you imagine someone applying for a job at Bulkhaul as a driver without a driving licence even getting close to an interview with the transport manager?
    On a different level there does not seem to be a blueprint (e.g. Arsenal) on how the club is developing tactically on the pitch. And subsequently this being cascaded down through the club at all levels.
    The Youth set up for instance has been in place since Robbo’s time, yet tactically we have been at a loss for years as to where Mac was taking us. We cannot lay the blame for this at a Rookie manager’s door.
    He has made some very tough decisions disposing of former team mates like Ugo for instance and had to cope with losing two strikers in Viduka (who had financially crippling wage demands and as such was a Director level decision) and Yak (who stopped playing for the club 9 months ago and had done exactly the same at Pompey previously under the very experienced Harry Redknapp).
    Additionally his decision to let JFH leave was the right one considering how Jimmy subsequently failed to do the business and hold down a place in a dire Charlton team and is now plying his trade at Cardiff.
    Tactically on Tuesday most of us on here called it right in saying that we needed to unsettle Spurs rather than let them build up confidence. Gareth obviously felt that caution was a better option and that he could nick it perhaps in extra time or take it to penalties.
    Hindsight and experience is what gives us knowledge and I’m sure that Gareth has taken all of this on board which is more than I can say for the previous incumbent.
    Lets get behind him, remember when he used to punch the air at the end of a victory with the fans cheering in unison, I don’t think his passion or personality has suddenly altered because he has now become the Manager.
    The higher level infrastructure of the club has failed on more than one issue of late (pricing, kit, badge, century radio and general PR). Gareth has to work under the same creaking administration and right now needs all the support he can get and all the support we can muster!

  18. samallen
    I see you are another goon who is pre-judging GS, before he has had the chance to get his act going, and the chance to ride his luck.
    Just get behind the lads and a manager they all highly respect and shut up whinging. The effort this season from everyone behind the team, has given everyone something to smile about.
    So take that on board and let’s hope the YAK performs like he did for us, because that means the Toffee Apples will have only ten men, if he starts that is!
    We are now at a stage in the season, where we need to strengthen our voices and fill the ground, because no-one can deny that another Reading will end up at the Riverside.
    So, good fortune to the lads today and if we get something out of the game then point taken!!!

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