Normal Service Resumed: Boro Nil

OBVIOUSLY I will be a car most of this evening so no time for a blog on the latest exciting episode of mighty Boro Nil’s bid to grind out goalless draws from now until may… 11 in 16 now and 14 for the season.
But you feel free to crack on and I’ll publish as soon as a I can (midnight?)


23 thoughts on “Normal Service Resumed: Boro Nil

  1. AV: Don’t envy your journey home, but looking forward to your report.
    The only stats I’ve seen, apart from the score, are that Boro conceded two-thirds possession to mighty Bournemouth. Still, what the hell. It’s another point, another step forward for the Aitor project, and most important of all, and dwarfing any other consideration, another clean sheet.
    Just sorry I was not able to make the 600 mile round trip and witness it all for myself.

  2. Didn’t see the game but reading the admittedly retirement home biased reports it sound like Boro were lucky. These are games we need to win next season – hanging on against the mighty Cherries is simply not good enough. It is patently obvious that Special K needs to rebuild substantially if this is the best we can do against Bournemouth…

  3. Well it can’t have been all bad AV you had an afternoon of sunshine which we didn’t have in Smogland.
    Sounds like it was a ground out point which was saved due to a brilliant tackle from Ben Gibson, a few good saves from our goalie (can’t spell his name!) and a payback disallowed goal against us courtesy of Fred (The Ref).
    Main drawback is Muzzy looks like he’s done a cruciate which means end of season and longer for him.
    At the start, listening to the line up on the radio, I thought this is the team I would have chosen, the two wingers, our preferred nos 9 and 10 and a great attacking line up. Unfortunately it was not to be and it sounded pretty dire at times.
    Hopefully we will pull out the stops for the QPR match and even Special K was puzzled when interviewed why we look like a different team away to the one that plays at home.
    At least another clean sheet and no goals in the last ten minutes means we can feel pretty relaxed about our defending now. I hope we sign Varga in the close season as he has made the right back position his own and don’t think he would cost a lot .
    So, the cereal goes on, no snap, crackle and pop one in. Just a bran flaky attack.
    Fat Bob

  4. Looks like another clean sheet for the Boro Insomniacs to sheepishly count in their quest to dream the dream in the continued absence of being able to live the dream.
    Perhaps Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman will be inspired to create a new quiz show named goalless – still I don’t think it would be classed as family entertainment.
    Len’s observation of Boro’s lack of possession against Bournemouth (no relation by the way) mirrors that against Forest – so maybe I was wrong in thinking Karanka wants to play a possession based game.
    Though I think I’ve already forgotten what is supposed to happen after the pressing bit works out – maybe the players have too – or is our midfield looking a bit devoid of creativity.
    Perhaps it’s a bit like top snooker players who after a long bout of safety play can’t pot a ball to save their lives – or maybe an overly disciplined mind leads to the atrophy of the creative brain.
    I guess those who’ve endured the 600 mile trip will have had more time than most to contemplate what we are missing (other than the goal of course).

  5. On the way home still,over an hour and a half to go….
    Well that was a very, very poor performance. A clean sheet was about the only positive to take from the game and we were lucky to get away with that. They looked like they had a legitimate goal ruled out and Dimi kept us in it with two good saves in the last ten minutes.
    The whole team just didn’t look interested or up for it today. Carayol and Adomah were awful a shadow of recent performances especially Carayol. There was little passing and continual hoofing of the ball with no thought as to who it was going to.
    A poor performance is bad enough any week but when you have a coach load of people who have been on the road since 5am and spent a good chunk of their hard earned wages on the trip you expect some effort,enthusiasm and commitment.
    The vast majority of this coach travel away every match and hardly ever miss a game with an age range from teens to people in their eighties. A lot of them are now questioning whether it’s worth the time,effort or most of all their MONEY!!
    The players sure as hell don’t appreciate the support subjecting us to that rubbish!
    Thank goodness for the sunshine!

  6. Just got home from Bournemouth. Business as usual I’m afraid, defence were superb but Boro were sluggish going forward. The 1200 or so Teesside traveling faithful deserved a goal but it was never gonna happen.
    I have to say it though – but Danny Graham looks off the pace. We will obviously not make the play offs now and despite his brace against Ipswich I think he is an empty shirt. No disrespect to DG because he seems desperate to do well, but it’s not working out so wouldn’t it be in the club’s long term interest in giving Curtis or Luke a decent run in the starting 11 for the last couple of months in order to gauge their potential for next term?
    In the meantime I hope Adomah’s “Crown Jewels” are feeling a bit better following their nasty contact with the ball and subsequent quick rub down from the Bournemouth defender, please tell me the Gazette caught that on camera??!!!

  7. While it’s impossible to disagree with Never Give Up on Boro’s sentiments on supporter loyalty and reward, and feel hugely for him, a good part of me feels that in the context of this season I’d rather come back with a 0-0 than say a 4-3 win.
    Putting the lack of cutting edge aside, the defensive turnaround is astonishing and bodes well indeed for next season. A 4-3 victory, although lifting the spirits, would take us back and away from the solid platform Aitor seems to be building and take us away from what we now seem to stand for.
    Jose builds from the back, as did Fergie and Jackie C here going back a few years. It’s fundamental. A slew of 0-0s and the occasional win for the rest of this season will instill a belief and understanding of how the new boss wants us to play and crucially, shows a defined path that we’re taking. That’s been missing since McClaren and we had more than our share of turgid play early on with him too.
    Admittedly this is far, far easier to write if you haven’t made the monumental journey down to Bournemouth but I do think there are positives onfield of late.
    I think all Boro fans of Jackie’s vintage cringed when the opposition fans shouted ‘boring, boring Boro’, but we loved it too. And we also knew it wasn’t quite true and was a testament to the good results we were getting as much anything.
    I like Aitor. I’d prefer a 2-0 any day of the week but what we’re getting isn’t so bad. There is potentially a lot of creativity in the side but to show that you have to learn to play and believe in a system first. Liverpool were great at that in the ‘70s and while Aitor isn’t Bill or Bob just yet, this is a start.
    **AV writes: Yes, I agree with that. The building blocks are in place. Get the shape and mentality right, add a striker that is right for that role and another attacking midfielder and we could be a good team in this league. Not far short… although the current position on the cycle can be very frustrating.

  8. Richard Evans –
    I wasn’t complaining about the 0-0 scoreline. Some 0-0 draws are exciting – look at the one against Blackburn at The Riverside last month.
    I was complaining and so were the majority of the people at the game around me and on the coach about the attitude, play and commitment of the players yesterday. Even if you lose, if the players give it a good go then you are not too unhappy whatever the result.
    But yesterday there was nothing from them,they never even got started,could hardly put two passes together. They never looked like scoring once and just got deeper and deeper as the game went on. Carayol and Adomah never did anything and proved really why Karanka was right to drop them recently for attitude and poor play.
    The possession stats were 66/34 and sums it up really.
    Btw AV I thought football league shows highlights summed our game up perfectly, Bournemouth looked the only winners yesterday. Varga couldn’t get to grips with Connolly and if it wasnt for Dimi it would have been a 2.0 defeat or maybe 3.0 if their goal hadn’t been disallowed and we got lucky with the free kick.
    Next two away games are Huddersfield and Brighton,players are going to have to up their game and work rate for them because they won’t even get a 0.0 if they don’t.
    **AV writes: Yes, the disallowed goal was a big moment but not sure about the rest of the game. I never felt nervous or particularly threatened. They had the bulk of possession and did most of the attacking but I’m not sure they ever really had us under the cosh. The two saves were well executed but straight forward. Apart from that Bournemouth’s best effort was a first half back header from Friend that squirted just over his own bar.
    The away pundits and manager are usually a good objective judge and they were more than happy with a point and thought it a far result. They thought Boro were a very solid and well organised team and could see why we had so many clean sheets. They were philosophical about the disallowed goal rather than furious. They certainly didn’t feel they had been robbed. They thought it was a decent 0-0 draw… although to be fair they haven’t had to sit through an endless cycle of them or drive for six hours either way to watch it.

  9. AV –
    True we weren’t under the cosh and most of the game defensively sound but I always felt there was a goal in them but not in us especially in the last quarter as we defended deeper and deeper. Thank goodness we didn’t concede a free kick for Ian Harte to pop up with his usual free kick goal against us.
    I thought it was one of our poorer 0-0’s especially because in our previous two games we had scored and looked more of an attacking threat. It’s more frustrating when you know how some players can play and they just don’t perform and have a half hearted attititude, simply dont fancy it and that’s what most people get annoyed about.
    On the plus side though since Karanka took over we have gone from third worse defence to sixth best but about mid table in the scoring charts not bad considering we haven’t scored much this year.
    We are a work in progress though and on our fourth manager in the Championship which means virtually starting from scratch each time as each have their own ways of playing and players they want.
    I suppose you would be far more unhappy if you were a QPR fan with the players they have,not in the top two and still not guaranteed a play off spot

  10. I think a comparison between the two Bournemouth games this season is very interesting.
    The 3-3 draw at the Riverside was a calamatous affair with us gifting them two pens in the first ten minutes, swashbuckling our way way to lead 3-2 only to throw it away again in typical Boro style.
    This game… er, nowt happened.
    Same result but two very, very different games. It suppose it all depends how you like your football.

  11. I think you have to remember where we were half a season ago. Mogga did the best he could but it was an awful year.
    Mogga had the ‘best’ squad with a point a game. We had been shambolic at Barnsley. We were not Barca though we were messy.
    Yesterday we had our most potent front four. A winger fom a club relegated to the First Division, another winger project from Bristol Rovers, a No 10 from the Posh and a non scoring striker. The last two were window imports but were long standing targets.
    These players were not bought in bidding battles against ManU and Real. They are honest players but inconsistent. It is why they are with us and what we can afford.
    The defence was beyond belief. We had no shape or system.
    That has changed, the system is important because it allows players to come in and know their roles. If things are not going well at least you have something to fall back on, a chance of a nil.
    The way we were going was not healthy, at least we have something to build on.

  12. Once the team sheet had been read out, it was looking to be a great day in the south coast sunshine. But…..what a drab game and our line-up flattered to deceive.
    Admittedly, we were solid in defence and surely Varga should be a priority permanent deal in the summer. The centre backs made some excellent interceptions and were well covered by Leadbitter and Whitehead. Dimi made some outstanding saves, but was very lucky with the “goal” that wasn’t”.
    It was our attacking play which lacked guile and incisiveness and it was so disappointing not to see any of the front four come out of the game with much credit. We had one “shot” on target, which was more like a pass back from Graham, and a couple of wild efforts well wide, but that aside their ‘keeper may as well have spent the day at the beach.
    Definitely a point gained and a credit to the Boro faithful who made the 700 mile round trip. I was fortunate – mine was only 200!
    Better things next week please Mr Karanka.

  13. Ian –
    I agree with your post but the problem is that we have now reverted to a point a game again – nine from the last ten games and only one win. Where is Smog telling us that clean sheets win matches?
    Patience is required but it’s difficult with so little to get enthused about.

  14. The BW mob, at last, made it to their first game of the season with a naive belief that we would see something that the long suffering ‘Boro fans had not seen in ages.
    The defence was superb, organised and got the tackle’s and blocks in when needed but there seemed to be little urgency or a desire to press forward. The wingers had little possession or appetite while aimless balls knocked forward went over heads or fell short.
    Thank goodness the weather was great because this one had nil-nil written all over it (except for Dimi’s good and dubious interventions). BWB junior is hopeful that the standing/seating issue can be resolved asap as its all very well standing up if you love ‘Boro but if you can’t then see them you don’t know what there is to love…
    Roll on Brighton, Reading & Yeovil

  15. Andy R –
    The perspective also depends on where you are in the table.
    I would rather grumble sat in comfort than too close to the drop for comfort.
    A choice between nearly empty moggastatic and half empty Karanka.
    A case of you pays your money and plan for which division you are in.

  16. I used to feel most sorry for Mrs McClaren, so obsessed was Steve with clean sheets.
    His philosophy taught us more than will ever need to know about the limitations of such an approach. He thought that Juninho wasn’t quite up to it because of his inferior defensive qualities. And who could forget his masterminding with Sven of our exit from the 2006 World Cup at the hands of an inferior Portugal team by playing with only Wayne Rooney in attack. A triumph for the belief that if you keep a clean sheet then you can’t get beat. We did, and we did. Lost 0-0, on penalties. What really defeated us that day was our own fear of defeat, our own lack of adventure.
    I finally lost patience with McClaren’s approach during an away game at Everton. We went behind in a first half during which we failed to have a shot on goal, or even to threaten a corner. Surely we would go forward in the second half. We had nothing to lose. Not a bit of it. We continued to defend deeply in the hope of keeping the score down. The game finished without us even attempting a shot and forcing one miserable corner. The whole experience was negative, disillusioning and expensive and I felt completely cheated by it.
    McClaren’s worshipping at the altar of the clean sheet went hand-in-hand with his stated belief that he was not in the entertainment business. At least we could all agree with that.
    That is the context in which I view the current glorification of Aitor’s defence at all costs approach. I find the view that a 0-0 draw is preferable to a 4-3 win incomprehensible. Win every game 4-3 and promotion is certain. Draw every game 0-0 and you will go down. And drive everyone away in the process.
    That applies to a single game. Had Boro won 4-3 at Bournemouth I would have driven over the Pennines next week to see the Huddersfield game, because there would have been a good chance of seeing an exciting attacking game which both teams were going all out to win.
    As it is, I will stay at home because the chances are that it will be an awful game in which we won’t score, will make no attempt to play the ball out from the back (too risky), concede ground and possession far too easily, show all too little imagination and creativity(again far too risky), and in which our attackers are so knackered by defending from the front that they lack the sharpness to take the one or two opportunities which do happen to fall their way.
    So a few simple counter arguments to the current philosophy and practice. Clean sheets don’t, on their own, win games. Goals do. A few weeks ago to have an outside chance of reaching the play-offs we had to go all- out to actively win our games, Not to avoid defeat. Draws kill you if you are going for promotion.
    Yet that vital period coincided with one of the longest goal droughts in the club’s history . That is the magnitude of of the failure of our current approach. It should be a source of some despair. Not the kind of endorsement that seems to be the prevailing view.

  17. There are youngsters who think that’nil’ is the second part of our club name. Ipswich Town, Man Utd, Hull City, Middlesbrough Nil …

  18. Ian –
    We have the “comfort” of knowing which division we will be in next season thanks to a four-week spell from back end of December to mid-January. There has been little sustained improvement in overall points return outside of that window.
    The question, I suppose, is what caused that upturn? I have no idea. If it was Karanka’s system, then why hasn’t the run been sustained? If it was the bounce of a new manager then why did it take two months to arrive?
    Most likely it was something between the two. Perhps it took two months to bed in the system and then we just got lucky as Ledesma found some great form from nowhere. That is probably what is missing now – top form from one or more of the front men.
    Defensively, the system looks collectively great to me but it allows little freedom going forwards and so is reliant on a bit of individual brilliance for a spark. Maybe that is just modern football.
    Or maybe the forwards haven’t had time to gel and Karanka has devoted most of his time thus far to defending. I have my doubts that he can repeat the minor miracle of the defensive improvements on the attacking. I think the system is set and we need quality forwards in the summer.

  19. Agree with most. Not much to talk about but have to agree we are building from the back.
    Hopefully we can hold on to our regular back four and yes Varga should be looked at on a permanent basis.
    We still lack that creative midfielder and strikers. Maybe with Hignett in the backroom the striker situation will get better . He certainly knew where the goal was.
    Its painful but required.

  20. Andy R –
    As I haver posted before the system we play is basically that of other clubs.
    The fact we are not playing tippy tappy football near own box allied to some discipline means we are not conceding.
    A lot of the goals we have scored all season have not been the tap ins of a team dominating the opposition. Some have been from individual skill by Carayol and Adomah, many on the breakaway.
    The division is full of hard working players, the best teams have the best blend. Some have more skill. Mogga’s first choice central duo of Leadbitter and Whitehead are workhorses and the threat was probably intended to come from Adomah and Carayol.
    We have been short of goal scoring striker and a someone to play off him for ages.
    As I have posted before, Maddo is making similar comments as over the last year or so. They are the same comments we used to get from Higgy.
    Under Mogga we were never going to play two out and out strikers, we would have relied on the midfield breaking forward to join in attacks. Many a time we had three holding midfielders so were never going to overrun anyone.
    The players are largely similar, many with the same inconsistencies as before. With the players we have the main difference has been that we don’t commit defensive howlers so often.
    I cant see how we can expect much else other than abandon defensive discipline and see what happens. Nothing has really changed

  21. This is my third attempt at posting, I purposely deleted the other two as they just didn’t feel right. I’m not sure if it was because Saturday saw the “Dream Team” line up and then went on to disappoint us in almost every way possible.
    That’s two consecutive games now where we only had a third of the possession. I could stomach Jack Charlton’s tactics as they were effective and lead to relative success against much better and much richer opponents. Then there was the Arsenal of the Tony Adams era, 1-0 to the Arsenal. It may have been dull at times but it lead to victories.
    I think Lenmasterman above sums up my feelings exactly with the caveat that I hope now that the defence is sorted the same dedication and analysis is shown to the middle and the front line by Aitor. Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor will “Real Middlesbrough” I suppose even with an all white kit.
    My thoughts are that I suspect only four or maybe five players who played on Saturday will be here next Season including the bench. Is that something to be concerned about or rejoice in, I’m not sure, still they always say its darkest before the dawn.

  22. As usual I find myself in agreement with Andy R and Len.
    I’m not fond of re-referring matches to come to the result that best suits your own view, but as I recall, our mini revival around Christmas depended heavily on Ledesma being the lucky beneficiary of a couple of goalkeeping howlers. Take them, and the points won, out of the picture and we would be looking over our shoulder a lot more anxiously.
    Maybe we should see that as a blip where the opposition’s scouting reports set them up to meet Mowbray’s Cavaliers but left them ill prepared for Karanka’s Roundheads? The word is out now and the rest of the division seems to find us fairly straightforward to handle.
    My one divergence from Len is I still think that any manager is entitled to a full pre-season before judgement is delivered so I will hold my fire for now but I would like to patent the terms “Karankie” as I fear that this will turn out no better than wee Gordon’s reign of error, and “Spanish Aquisition” for the buying of technically proficient but lightweight forwards that I anticipate in the summer.
    I really do want to wrong on this, as I’m sure do PP and Len but I don’t find the evidence before my eyes to be as rosy as some.

  23. Ian –
    I disagree there – a lot has changed in my view.
    The major differences are obvious: we are now rock solid where once we were calamatous, and we used to create a lot of chances, now we create very few.
    It has made little difference to overall results – we concede far fewer, we score far fewer – outside of that superb four week period I noted earlier.
    I still think that the 4-2-3-1 is not a problem, nor would a 4-3-3 or any normal system with only one striker. It’s more about what instructions you have within that, and as you intimate, the quality of your players.
    With our way of playing the 4-2-3-1, we are reliant on individual brilliance, rather than any tactical innovation, for creativity. I don’t think we have the players to consistently produce that – not many do in this division – that’s why I still think the balance is too cautious as I said many Middlesbrough-Nils ago.
    I have my doubts that Karanka can address that in the summer but I’m still prepared to give him time and agree with Wiggy’s mate.

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