Project Karanka Is Coming Along Nicely

PROJECT Karanka is coming along nicely. The manager is slowly putting together the team he wants.  Last season he got respectable results by reorganising the squad he had inherited. Now he has set out to get the specialist he knows have the skill-sets to play in the shape and at the tempo he requires to make his system more potent.

Kike is not only physically strong but he is mobile too, makes intelligent runs off the ball and knows where the goal is. We have only seen him in friendlies but he looks a good fit.

Emilio Nsue – signed today as exclusively revealed on the Untypical Boro twitter (sign up, you know it makes sense – has been playing as a wing-back at Mallorca but Karanka knows him as an attacking  wide-right player and occasional frontman from when he was in the Spanish youth set-up. Boro see him as a midfielder. He is fast, direct and can deliver a cross. Again, he knows the system and tempo Karanka will demand and as a free agent looks a great buy. Although obviously, the proof is in the pudding.

Naturally some Boro fans immediately started ssquealing… “oh no, what about Albert. That MUST mean he is being flogged.”. Er, no. Karanka wants to raise the bar this season. He wants two quality players competing for every shirt every week. Nsue will put pressure on Albert to perform. Last term he was 9/10 one week and 5.5/10 the next. There will be none of that next term. Karanka wants 8/10 every week from every player.

Nsue can play as an orthodox right-midfielder, as a winger, on the right of Karanka’s front three, as a wing-back, as a full-back and has even had the odd run-out as a striker. No wonder he is a Football Manager must buy.

So what about the right-back? What about another striker? What about  midfield? Wooah… one at a time. Boro are working through a list of targets with several sets of talks going on simultaneously at Rockliffe and across Europe.  And while the default is to slate the club at every turn, they deserve praise for the way they have methodically gone about their business this summer. Karanka has given them his list of priority targets and Steve Gibson and Neil Bausor have  tried to deliver them as much as possible.

Much of it has been under the radar. With many of the targets being foreign, the tabloids in England have picked up little news of substance and it has been frustrating fans more used to a seas of sloshing snippets to have to watch the same few  rumours come  and go.

The Gazette have been kept in the loop. Which is nice for us and good for you. The club have been very  candid in outlining their ambitions and strategy early on this summer and have been good in letting us know their chief targets. It stops us going on wild goose chases and means we can kill wild speculation quickly and keep readers informed. Which is after all what we are supposed to do.  We get to know as deals come close to fruition  so we can prepare stories  but we are  asked to keep names quiet until it is done so as not to alert potential hi-jackers. So it has been frustrating for us too but it has ensured we could shoot down the incorrect stories and be first with the signings as they happen.

And there are more to come. Boro have been locked in talks with a specialist right-back, a highly-rated foreign player at a massive club who is a regular in his international U21 side and who is hungry to step up prove himself in a competitive league. There have been a lot of guesses flying around from the ITK crowd but no-one has mentioned him yet – come on try harder! If that signing comes off it – and it is still in the balance – it will add real balance at the back after several years of patching up in what is a key position in modern football. If it doesn’t they have other equally impressive fall-back targets they are pursuing .

Meanwhile Boro are also in talks for a second striker, another wideman – domestic based – and are considering a second right back as cover.  Boro were keen on Adam Clayton too but as the price rose their interest has cooled and that is on a back-burner now while the urgency for a more creative midfielder has eased after Jacob Butterfield’s pre-season and attitude has impressed the boss.

They are also ready to sit down with Chelsea at the back end of this week to discuss a job lot of Chelsea loanees. The logic of that is well known now. We have talked before about why the two teams are a good fit and why Jose is keen.

The delay has been that the Chelsea boss wanted to watch his fringe players closely in pre-season to decide exactly what the next stage of their development should be,  There are a group he considers will benefit from Championship pitch-time and my understanding is that Boro will  get if not exactly first dibs (the players have to agree too), certainly  a very sympathetic  hearing . Patrick Bamford is obviously one on that list, as is George Saville, Nate Chalobah and John Swift along with a few others.  Watch this space.

Then, when all top priority targets are addressed Boro will reassess the balance and the finances and look to fill any gaps.  They will also need to move on a few fringe players that Karanka does not believe have the consistency or mental strength to play a regular part. He has often talked about a group of 23 so there will need to be a bit of trimming.

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72 thoughts on “Project Karanka Is Coming Along Nicely

  1. Been waiting for an article on yesterday’s match but nothing forthcoming (Sunday lie-in, AV?). So here goes anyway with my thoughts.

    Villarreal won comfortably. Unless they fielded a weakened team, we never had much hope of winning, truth be told. Level for level, Spanish teams are generally better than their English counterparts and Villarreal are more than a division above us. Their class shone through. They were hardly ever troubled, mostly didn’t have to stretch themselves. In the second half, two goals up, they never had to find anywhere near top gear, Boro were toothless and Villarreal wrre able to cruise.

    However, bearing in mind the gulf of status between the teams, Boro didn’t play too badly. For the first 20 or 30 minutes we matched them and at times looked the slightly better team. Although we rarely stretched the Spanish, Boro were poised, passed the ball around well, were quick to the ball in breaking up play and at times edged the match. For a quarter of the game, we looked the more likely team.

    Ultimately we lacked goal threat and, once that became clear, it left Villarreal free to exploit defensive weaknesses. Having said that, they didn’t carve us up and only penetrated the back four on a handful of occasions. However their finishing was top class and they didn’t need many chances to convert in two goals.

    The lack of goal threat was the biggest concern – Villarreal took our efforts in their stride. There was a break-down between MF and attack. Kike is a grafter, a physical presence and makes intelligent runs. However he shows no signs of being able to win a match on his own – he is a striker who needs the right service. He must have been frustrated to be left feeding off scraps – and not many of them. One slight disappointment was that he did nothing with those scraps. Given a couple of half-chances he didn’t even trouble the keeper.

    Why the paucity of service? Why was there so little support for Kike? The priority for the MF seemed to be in winning the ball, an aspect at which they did well and regularly broke up the Villarreal play. However that was achieved at the cost of most of the creative play. There were few incisive passess and, despite his intelligent runs, negligible passes to Kike in dangerous positions. Hardly anybody pushed forward from MF to support the attack.

    That might have been OK if we’d had penetration from the wings – we didn’t get much. We knew Adomah was short of fitness and that showed through. Reach was lively to start with and looked promising. Unfortunately, having enjoyed a few breakthroughs early on, he did little with his crosses. Furthermore, Villarreal soon got his measure and, as the first half wore on, Reach’s runs and tricks began to get him nowhere. Throughout the second half, their defence had him in their pocket.

    With no passes, no crosses and no runs from MF, Kike was left to his own devices. Along with the lack of a RB, that is the biggest weakness that needs to be remedied. Thinking back to the MF of Murdoch, Souness and Armstrong, it is now some years since we’ve had a creative MF who could carve open a defence with one well-judged pass. We can get all the forwards we like but we need to give them something to work with.

    Having mentioned RB, young Bennett mostly looked the part. He got his tackles in and looked confident and capable going forward. Unfortunately both their goals started with penetration down that wing. Bennet was beaten for pace and the resulting cross led to their first goal. His naivety caught him out for the second because he had simply gone missing. Nevertheless he contributed enough to show promise.

    Conclusion: we’re a work in progress. Not surprisingly, we were well short of matching Villareal but we’re also still short of having a promotion threat. The basic shape & pattern is there, along with a squad of mostly capable players. However there are significant holes but the whole picture might look different in a week or two.

    **AV writes: I have had a lie in, but then again, the Villarreal blog was up by 8pm last night. Not sure why you can’t see it. I’ll move this comment over for you.

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