Tangerine Dream: Towering Boro Pile Pier Pressure On Ince

IMAGINE: Away. At Blackpool where Boro had been battered on every visit since 1987. In January, when Boro are traditionally monstered week in, week out. To the team with the worst record in the division. It writes itself doesn’t it. Just look at the back story.
And yet Boro didn’t lose. Nor even leak late on to a set-play. They won. Comfortably looking solid at the back and with two great goals on the break.Just what is going on?


Historically, culturally, psychologically everything was set up for the Boro revival to hit the buffers at Blackpool. Admit it, you expected the mandatory mugging didn’t you?
They are a club deeply divided with the crowd on the manager’s back and the chairman under sniper fire. They are middle of the worst run in their history, going into the game with seven defeats in eight after a nosedive that started with an implosion that saw five players sent off in 85 calamitous minutes.
With six loanees recalled, two regulars banned, one in the gulag – arch-Nemesis Michael Chopra was in solitary, thus preventing him getting his obligatory first goal scorer dividend (90+2) – and a couple more injured, their first team had been filleted of quantity and quality. They only had 14 available professionals and to avoid the embarrassment of an empty bench they had dragged two teenagers off the Pleasure Beach and an passing amusements arcade bingo caller.
The only surprise is that former skipper Paul Ince didn’t name himself among the substitutes to make it almost certain he would come on and score.
Viewed through the jaundiced prism of ‘typical Boro’ and with even a cursory glance at our recent history that is a gold-plated, lovingly monogrammed, nailed on defeat worth a daft quid of anyone’s money.
It was all set up for a painful but familiar coupon busting catastrophe – but Aitor Karanka appears to not know or not care about the toxic traditions of this club.
Slowly and steadily he has been reshaping the mentality of the squad.
Rewind three months and that Blackpool game would have been a defeat so predictable we could have written the report in advance. It had “stoppage time sucker punch” written through the middle of it.
They probably have ‘Boro’ sticks of rock like that in the tourist tat shops on the front.
Along with “I nicked a late goal from a corner” hats.
You know that. I know that. And some of the players know that. Opposition players and coaches certainly did and exploited it ruthlessly.
Boro’s weakness late on at set-plays was an inescapable corrosive fact that would eat away as games wore on and then loom large as the clock ran down, sparking the jitters and heralding mistakes and confusion.
There was a spell earlier this term when the weekly post-match interviews involved a series of sheepish defenders shaking their heads and shrugging in resignation as yet another late goal sneaked in from a set play.
They bemoaned ‘lack of concentration’ and ‘individual errors’ almost as if a defence that was porous under pressure was an institutional problem they had no control over.
It was a given that Boro couldn’t hold out when being bombarded in the red zone. It was expected that no matter how dominant Boro had been, no matter how many goals to the good, they would wobble at the death and concede from a dead-ball. It is what it is.
But anyone who has seen Boro play over the past month will have seen a team zealously setting about defending their own goal at all cost as a collectives. And with four clean sheets in five games it is working.
There has been a lot of carefully crafted remedial underpinning going on to shore up the fragile foundations.Drills and reinforcement, shape and organisation, work-rate and concentration. Getting bodies in the way of shots, heading away the danger, putting it into Row Z… I almost got a touch on one Ayala clearance that sailed up into the press box at Blackpool. I missed but I think it hit Coxy. If BoroWorld went down, that’s why.
It is a back to basics approach that is starting to show benefits. Structurally, the team is now a far more solid proposition. Mentally too. The damage to self-belief from the goals against column has been repaired.
As we have discussed before, the whole the team are pressing higher up the pitch and defending from the front, with the forward players chasing and closing and harry the opposition in their own half, forcing mistakes, preventing balls forward and cutting out danger before it is fully formed.
But it is in the rear guard that the steely new approach is most visible.Boro’s defence now looks fierce and formidible with blocking tackles flying in from all angles.
Incursions into the Boro half are chased by a posse of vigilante Boro midfielders and mugged en masse by buzzing backs before they get into the box.
At times when Boro are defending it looks like the entire team are in and around the box, buzzing about and getting a foot in, Without conceding penalties not. Yet they can still break at speed and in numbers and that is a potent combination.
The change started with some minor tweaks to the shape with two holding midfielders to protect the back line and the full-backs repeatedly warned that they were not to go marauding forward. All that cavalier over-lapping down the flanks is so last year.
George Friend in particular has had to rein in his attacking instinct and now looks like a confident, physical and uncompromising defender rather than a displaced winger.
Whereas once he spent much of his time out of position and running back from a an attack that had broken down he has now taken up brooding residence in a far deeper role and patrols his territory like a hungry rottweiler in a scrap yard, quick to go for interlopers with a snap.
No more stepovers and drag-backs in the box: he is tackling quickly and cleanly, clearing the ball decisively and barging opponents aside to win headers.
On the other side Jozsef Varga has shown similar zeal in defending that once vulnerable zone too. He has awareness and a turn of pace to track wingers and good timing in the tackle. He quickly came to terms with the impressive early trickery of Blackpool’s Tom Ince to shackle their main threat.
And a word too for much maligned Rhys Williams. Increasingly the Aussie has been a boo-boy target this season and has struggled to find his feet both in the middle and at right-back but after a few torrid roastings his recent displays as a centre-back have shown a flash of his former promise. He was impressively solid at Blackpool.
Then there is Daniel Ayaya. His early displays were perfectly balanced in that for every goal he scored he would gift one to the opposition but now he is maturing into a commanding and athletic presence in the box and a towering figure in the air.
And to add to the mix we now have not only Jonathan Woodgate but also a Nigerian international. It bodes well for Boro’s development towards being an effective outfit.
Boro have won four league games out of five and that tells its own story – and crucially they have kept four clean sheets too.
Not all those games have been pretty – Millwall was poor fare and the first hour of the clash at Blackpool wasn’t for the purists either – but they have been instructive.
They have all given pointer as to how Boro are evolving into an archetypal fully functional Championship side.
From being soft touches and brittle at the back Boro are maturing into a steely, spirited side that are hard to break down.They are becoming increasing hard to beat and more than capable of nicking one on the break. And that, as we know, is the template on which promotion winning teams are built in this division.
Not that Boro are yet the finished article. But they are steadily progressing towards being a team that is more than the sum of its parts, a team that can compete in the Championship’s war of attrition.

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70 thoughts on “Tangerine Dream: Towering Boro Pile Pier Pressure On Ince

  1. Werdermouth –
    You have to be very careful about the laws of physics. Not long ago scientists were telling us the universe was round and finite, now some claim it is flat and infinite. Todays ‘law’ is tomorrows chip paper. If the new manager has declared he wants 120% that’s good enough for me!!
    BoroPhil –
    yes it makes me laugh when the usual suspects moan about the ‘wrong’ formation, the ‘wrong’ tactics and players playing out of position when we loose, but never a whisper when all those things are true but we win.
    Interesting comment from ron in the delta, if true it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  2. Nigel –
    I believe it was always thought that the Boro universe was purely a static model until the discovery of a super massive Bulkhaul that created a sudden inflationary surge in the number of stars visible to the observer.
    This then collapsed in on itself and gave rise to a parallel universe of mainly fading stars including a brief appearance of an incoherent white dwarf that disappeared behind the rising Venus.
    Though since the discovery of the Karanka nebula the Boro universe appears to be a little more stable now.

  3. Werdermouth –
    very good!
    Charlton is one of those ‘Banana skin’ games isn’t it? Given recent form, we’re expecting 3 points I would imagine. I hope Aitor has the squad focused, he doesn’t seem to be one that is particularly forgiving where complacency is concerned.

  4. Great stuff Wedermouth!
    On a totally unrelated point, the BBC website reports that Southampton are operating a clean sheet bonus for the whole team to promote a good team ethic. In defending from the front that sounds very sensible and relevant to Boro, though going by recent results we’d have to watch the Financial Fair Play limit!
    Perhaps goal bonuses should be for all too. Win as a team, lose as a team, score and concede as a team.

  5. Boro have just taken another Chelsea youngster Chalobah on loan for the rest of the season, central defense or defensive midfielder.
    Come on BORO.
    **AV writes: Didn’t I tell you this before New Year? Kenneth, Chalobah, Ayala deal extended and “a Spanish speaking striker if we get a few out.”

  6. Centre Back / holding midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah now in on loan from feeder club Chelsea I see. Did very well at Watford last year but haven’t heard much about him this season.
    Can we expect someone to be leaving them AV?
    **AV writes: Four or five fringe players out on loan, one or two available on a free if someone will take their wages, one or two possible sales if a buyer can be found.

  7. So the influx from Chelsea continues. Another snotty nosed kid from the Bridge arrives.
    Can I put on record that I thoroughly dislike Chelsea and I hate the fact we are going cap in hand to them and forging an unofficial link up. I don’t want to link up
    with them; I want us to distance ourselves from them and all they stand for.
    I can’t bear Mourinho who represents everything that’s wrong in modern management. I can’t stomach that whiskered Russian no mark that owns them or their scumbag of a captain. Everything about them annoys me, always has. More so than those two up the road.
    The thuggery of Ron Harris, the bloody pensioners, Micky Droy’s beard, the crap flower show, Dennis Wise, Damon Allbran, Major and Mellor, cup defeats, electric fences, awful away end, Farmer Ken , Peter Borota, the Wilkins brothers, Kings Road, Tony Banks,more cup defeats, Seb Coe, Clive Walker , buns.I actually don’t mind Lampard, but preferred his dad.
    Part of me hopes these two lads come in and set the place alight but most of me hopes that they are useless and that they go back with their tails between their legs in a McEachranesque sulk. That might see this whole sorry venture being consigned to the rubbish bin. We can then concentrate on bringing our own lads through rather than rely on undignified brown nosing.
    If promotion depends on sleeping with the enemy I’d rather battle on in the Championship thank you very much.
    **AV writes: Where “influx” = two. But yes, it is hard to disagree that historically Chelsea are probably in the top three of most Boro fans’ hate list.

  8. A bit harsh there Paulista – I’ve got no “issues” with the Chelsea Pensioners and Seb Coe, out of your long list of shame.

  9. I don’t like Chelsea either but I am more than happy with Aitor.
    This window has been a success if we still can sign a striker now. And move some dead wood to make the squad smaller. At least the match results been excellent recently!
    Perhaps we can a loan a player or two to Chelsea? They might even buy a couple if we cannot find a buyer elsewhere for them?
    Up the Boro!

  10. So it’s you Paulista Park who keeps chucking rocks at the Chelsea Snack Bar in the Dundas Arcdade! Not too keen on Chelski myself mind.

  11. Chalobah sounds like an interesting prospect – especially since he’s already got 50 games under his belt in the Championship – and seems to fit the Karanka profile of a skillful player with a high work-rate.
    I presume he’s going to play defensive midfield as we’ve already got two central defenders on loan. Whether his arrival is a precursor to Boro cashing in on Leadbitter to fund someone like Vossen remains to be seen.
    Sorry to hear that Paulista’s got the blues – he may actually go super nova if the bookies have got Essien rumour correct.
    BTW, thanks to Nigel, Len and Andy for giving their space and time for their stella feedback.

  12. Mr Reeve, –
    I can’t let “Todays ‘law’ is tomorrows chip paper” go unchallenged.
    New discoveries don’t mean yesterday’s laws of Physics stop working, they simply become working approximations.
    To pick a couple of examples:
    Although the earth is not flat, you can design a house using Euclidian geometry without having to worry about correcting for the curvature of the earth.
    You can play snooker without having to worry about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
    Pendantic?, me? don’t start me on giving 120% either.
    As for Chelsea, even thinking about them makes my blood boil …figuratively of course.

  13. Geordie, blimey that was a later challenge! I’d already laid the ball off to Werdermouth! Okay, so I accept yesterday’s law is today’s working approximation, which by my calculation means 120% can be approximated to 100%?
    As for Chelsea, I always take a pragmatic approach where players are concerned, I’m happy having an ex-Geordie keeper in goal and if Chelsea offered us Torres on loan I’d suggest to Aitor that we took him.

  14. Been away and come back to Paulista sitting on the fence about Chelsea. I think he should declare his hand instead of keeping it close to his chest.
    I am an unbiased Boro fan, I can find reasons to dislike all clubs. I must adnit I am trying to remember anti Chelsea sentiments when Mogga brought in McEachran.
    Odd that.
    I must admit, whilst I was away and sneaking on to the lappie, I kept posting trying to praise AV’s presser translation, it made me laugh at our friends in the sarrff. All posts have just disappeared.
    **AV writes: Have there been problems posting? I’ve been getting every post TWICE. That’s 100% extra free!.

  15. I did find my despise gene stirred by Paulistaparks elloquent stream of bile, but seeing as there are worse blue coloured things to worry about at this juncture I am prepared to bend over and be all pragmatic, after all at least we arent bringing in cockaknees…we arent are we?
    Other than that I am pretty chipper over how things are going, it seems AK has taken all the complexity out of the situation that has been a blight on the boro since…well since Robbo got us promoted and tried getting all cerebral

  16. OK, I’ll go first then. What to expect today?
    Logic says we’ll win well. Charlton are one of the weaker teams and we’re in an excellent league run. On that form we should beat them convincingly.
    However, every fibre of my being is screaming ‘Typical Boro territory’. Decades of soul-scarring trauma tells me we’ll flop. This situation is exactly what Typical —-ing Boro!?! was founded on and that leads me to steel myself for the worst.
    However I’ve been claiming here and on twitter that those days are behind us. We’re probably not there yet but I believe we’re entering a new era. Organised. Efficient. Structured. Ruthless. Effective.
    I’m hoping we’ll win convingly. If we extend the run and win well we’ll be announcing to the world that the new era is on the way. This could be where we state our credentials for a push for the play-offs.
    If we revert and flop I think it will be a temporary setback – a case of one step back. However the steps forward have already come and will come again soon. I for one am confident that we are at the start of steady, overall progress. It’ll probably be next season before it comes to fruition but it will come.
    If we lose I can’t promise to be so rational and not be vitriolic. Despite any emotional reaction, I will still secretly be confident that we’re on the right track.

  17. Boro to win with or without the snotty nosed kids!
    Follow up to my previous Rhys Williams info the company that leases cars to Boro have been told that Mark Venus and Rhys Williams will not require theirs to be renewed. Do not know if it’s now or end of season.
    And please, Rhys Williams is not one of our own and all the phoney sentimentality that goes with that statement. He is an Aussie who promised much but didn’t really deliver after his injury; too bad, that’s how it goes sometimes, let’s move on and get in whoever it takes to move us up the table. Mackems, Geordies, Chelsea payers and anybody else that fancies the fight.

  18. Nikeboro –
    I’m going to stick my neck out and give you all a scapegoat if it goes wrong – Typical Boro is (temporarily) dead.
    Bookies are offering around 2/1 for Boro to win to nil today. That’ll do me.
    With two tough games on the horizon a win today could be vital if we have any geunuine hopes of scrambling fot the playoffs.

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