Blunt Boro Need Break To Regroup After Reading

THE TWO week break couldn’t have come at a better time for Boro.  The certainly need to regroup,  reassess and reinforce a team that is still not the finished article.

The 1-0 defeat to Reading was a major blow. Hot on the heels of the home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday it shows that Boro, for all their patient probing and possession, still struggle to break down archetypal Championship sides. Wednesday sat deep, knocked it long to a big man and caused mayhem at the book; Reading snatched an early lead then set out to spoil, frustrate and waste time and did it very effectively.

But for all the natural angst in the crowd that the reshaped squad has yet to live up to the hype after a summer of spending, this new look Boro remains work in progress.

Meijas, Abella, Nsue and Kike have played less than half-a-dozen games in English football while Omeruo didn’t have a pre-season, Clayton has just arrived and Bamford has barely unpacked. Now Boro are poised to bring in two more front men – they hope to sign Jelle Vossen and Yanic Wildschut within 24 hours – and midfielder Lewis Baker so that is even more work to be done on assimilation, bedding in and philosophical orientation.

But after an August blur of midweek games that has allowed little time for work on shape ans system, the two week international break is a timely one for Boro.  It will give them time to bed in the new boys and work on much needed tactical variety – and the past two league games have shown the ability to change the game and tempo is pressing.

Against Wednesday the game was up after half-an-hour but Boro did switch to three at the back at the break to no avail. Despite clawing back two goals – from the spot – they were frantic and shapeless in chasing the game. Against Reading they started slowly and paid the price by leaking a sloppy early goal – the visitors first and only serious attack – then laboured and beavered away without much conviction as they tried to claw it back.

For long spells they dominated possession and territory and created a string of chances but never seized control. Reading were able to take the tempo out of the game, break up Boro’s fluidity and  for all the passing and probing 30 yards out they never turned the screw inside the box and when the chances came they lacked a killer touch.

Kike fired a tame shot at the keeper after a slotted free-kick from Leadbitter then Adomah and Tomlin brought decent saves in the first half and Kike and Hines headed over. After the break Adomah drilled an angled effort straight at the keeper then Kike failed to pull the trigger in the box and Reach had a cross deflected against the post. There was a frantic finale with Boro pumping the ball forward and at the death Bamford shot over but it was all hurried and scrappy and lacked cohesion.

Again, Karanka was angry after the game. Again the team failed to play with the tempo, consistency and swagger he is demanding.  Again the fans went away chuntering and questioning the ability and character of the team. But it IS early days. This team is far from complete, either in personnel or in ability to apply the shape as second nature – and crucially it is not yet able to switch systems effectively in play. But it will come.




26 thoughts on “Blunt Boro Need Break To Regroup After Reading

  1. How is this in any way different from the last six seasons. The same ponderous build up with no cutting edge. What makes you think this season will be any different?

  2. Solid at the back Boro are now weak, I think it shows just how important Given was to us last year, barking orders and organising the defence. Dimi also didn’t put a foot wrong when he came in – the bottle top was obviously placed there by red faced ‘Arry!

    It’ll be good to get a settled back four too, hopefully the two week break will help get Ben Gibson back up to speed. However one of the biggest concerns for me is central midfield. Clayton, Leadbitter and Whitehead are all too similar we are changing like for like when subbing these players. We haven’t a midfielder with creativity, guile or a pass – someone who can change it up and inspire the team forward. Fair enough play with two holding midfield players away from home but at home we need to be getting after teams from the off.

    Possibly the most disturbing thing to come from today was this quote from Karanka when speaking about new boy Patrick Bamford “He has to fight for his position on the pitch because we also have Kike and it is going to be difficult to have both players on the pitch.” ????!!!!!!

    Earlier in the summer Karanka said he can play many systems, the thing that has been holding him back is the personnel. Now with Kike, Bamford and possibly Vossen joining the ranks we’ve got to play with at least two up front – surely?!

    P;S When you come down to Cardiff Vic will you be staying over? I’ll get you a pint if you are! Though I’m already worried about Peter Whittinghams left foot and the balls he can deliver from corners and set-pieces with pace and whip over our very suspect number one.

    **AV writes: Karanka has told us several times over the summer that he is looking at several tactical options to make the team more attacking. We think he will play 4312 at home.

    Yes, staying over after Cardiff but not sure where yet, probably somewhere in the city centre. Might nip in the Gatekeeper for old times sake.

  3. That’s good to hear! I didn’t like that comment he made, especially following a lacklustre defeat.

    Try and stay on Cathedral Road, lots of good hotels, B&B’s and bars on it. It’s in between the Cardiff City Stadium and the City Centre. This place has just opened on there - walked passed it yesterday, looks good.

  4. Looking forward to getting all the players in and bedding down to what is going to be a long season. To be honest even going a goal down I would rather watch a team like Boro who tried to play football rather than Reading who were a team of spoilers play acting spoiling time wasting and trying to get Albert sent off.

    Poor refereeing who didn’t get a grip on the game and who raised his arms when the Boro were complaining about the goalkeeper taking so long and the ref saying what can I do I’m adding time on. As we know it was a deliberate ploy to break up any fluency or fluidity of movement by the Boro and made it a stop start game.

    Too many players off the boil and they know who they are thought Albert was back to looking like his best and Omeruo was outstanding with another leadership performance from Leadbitter.

    Not going to say anything about the keeper we have to trust our manager and it’s still early days yet.

    We need to start playing with a fluency soon because crowds are dwindling and that’s before the bad weather starts to bite.

    Fat Bob

  5. “But it will come”

    So will Christmas!

    The alarming thing is the inability to go to Plan B. I still have faith ( not quite blind) but they need to get their act together. I don’t think the players quite believe yet. It is noticeable that once they go behind, the body language is negative. It’s 90 mins boys.

    **AV writes: In the last two home league games they have gone 352 early in the second half.

  6. it is far too early to panic but we should be concerned.

    Any defeat is disappointing, three in five games isnt great bearing in mind we have not been playing Derby, Wigan, Forest etc.

    Two in a row at home is never good news, conceding so early isnt clever to say the least.

    Plenty of points to play for so no panic but it would be better to be sixth rather than sixteenth.

    Two works to work on the team but dont forget the other teams have the same two weeks.

  7. That was my first game of the season what with being on me hols so was excited to see the match. However, I ended up coming away a tad dejected with the performance. The start of the match was promising with a few early chances then their goal killed the game for a long spell, but there were still a few decent chances to get back on par with Reading in the first half. So mulling over the first half with my mates at half time with the obligituary pint, I proclaimed after the good chances were missed ‘I feel it’s going to be one of those days…..’

    Tadaaaa…. and so it was. For all the huffing and puffing and chances created we still couldn’t find the ‘back of the shed’ and if they were stilll playing now they’d never knock over Bransons Rocket.

    So in conclusion it smacks of same old, same old, to me.

    I only hope that in the two week break they practice their finishing a little, no, a lot… otherwise it’s going to be a mighty frustrating season again.

    Come On

  8. All sounded a bit like the Leeds game, passing and probing with plenty of efforts on goal – 24 shots apparently (in the days of Strachan when you were lucky to get 2 shots per game) but Boro getting subdued by a setback again.

    News of the arrival of Vossen and Wildschut added to all the other new recruits including Bamford will have everyone guessing as to how and where they will all fit together.

    OK, the good news is that with 41 games to go we’re only three points off the play-offs – the next two weeks is where the second pre-season begins. Karanka’s and Boro’s fortunes this season may well be shaped on how he is able to find and put in place a system that gets the best out of what on paper will be a richness of attacking options – surely we should have enough to convert at least one of our twenty-odd chances.

    We could easily be sitting with 10-12 points now based on possession and chances, so I feel it’s more about needing to improve certain aspects of our game rather than starting to throw our hands up in despair of a team not up to the task.

  9. Maybe I’m easily pleased. I was at the match and I thought it was a good performance. We attacked constantly throughout the game.

    We could have gone ahead early on and their goal had an element of luck about it. The pass forward was deflected and bounced perfectly for Cox. Apart from that they hardly had a chance.

    Kike could have had a hattrick. We hit the post. Clayton and Adomah both shot narrowly wide. We had 24 shots to their 5, and 14 corners to their 4. My biggest criticism is that we should have made their goalie work harder and we still aren’t getting enough bodies in the box.

    I think Clayton is an excellent signing. He bossed the midfield and made some excellent passes. Our goalie does not inspire confidence.

    It’s a long season and most of the teams in this league are as inconsistent as we are. I’m confident that we stay in touch with the top six. And a good finish to the season will see us sneak into the play offs.

    I was disapointed with the size of the crowd, less than 15000. I think the club deserves better support than that.

    **AV Writes: I agree with that but after a defeat EVERYTHING IS RUBBISH! You should know that by now.

    1. steveh
      How many of the 24 shots at goal where from inside the 6 yard box or even the 18 yard. Not many I would guess.

  10. Looking at how things are falling in place I agree with what Andy R said in the previous thread, that is looks like promotion or bust ( not literally as I think that even SG will have learned from the Strachan debacle).

    I believe because of FFP and the growing gap between the haves and have nots, Mr Gibson is going to give it his best shot this season, and it is him that is driving this and not AK. Yes AK is ambitious, but I do not think it is fair that PP says that he has no concern for the long term plan. If he does not succeed here, where will his next job be.

    I do agree though with his comments on Steele and Burgess and “Lets Get Promoted”, we are quite lucky to have a chairman that is prepared to throw HIS money in the pot. I do not see anybody else making any offers.

    Yes some of the buys I may not agree with. Kike probably not for the money we paid, because if we/he fail there will be little resale value, so a big gamble. But all strikers at this leve are, unless you are buying a proven Championship one, then look at the prices you have to pay for them…out of our league.Or you dip into the lower divisions.

    I would also have preferred a midfield player with more creativity. That I believe from what I have seen and other bloggers reports could be a crucial mistake.

    However I do hope AV is right when he says it is still early days, but it will come. I wish I had his confidence.

    Three defeats out of five against team not even in the top ten (OK SW at 10) is not they way to win back the fans, especially two defeats at home.

    **AV writes: IN a few days will be a choice of Tomlin, Baker for creative MF slot and/or Tomlin/Vossen or the No 10, possibly behind Bamford AND Kike. The coaches and the club are acutely aware of aware of where the weak links are and have been working hard to recruit the players needed to replace them. But these things take time.

  11. Can it be explained how come Hines took priority over Gibson / Ayala? Surely if they are fit enough for the bench they are fit enough to play and I always thought of Hines as second choice centre back.

    With 25+ shots with 6 or 7 on target as the BBC update unfolded it read like one way traffic to the Reading goal. This in no way influences my high hopes but I have serious cash on a top 6 finish so let’s get the act together…

  12. I was frustrated yesterday. Boro are a much better team than Reading on paper but we could not open their defence and score.

    Their tactics to spoil and waste time were annoying and not conducive to spectator enjoyment but you can hardly blame them. They were gifted an early goal and threw everything behind the ball to defend it.

    Meijas had a poor game again. He seems woefully indecisive about when to rush out at attacking players. More than once he came out at the wrong time and was lucky the defenders cleared up for him, if they hadn’t we could easily have conceded more. The boo boys were on his back which was totally unhelpful, ironic cheers every time he picked the ball up will not help his obviously fragile confidence. I do not understand why Karanka is sticking with him, he is ruthless with others who don’t perform but this keeper seems to have a golden ticket. He needs to improve and quickly. Sections of the crowd are now actively against him and as we have seen with recent outgoing managers once that happens it doesn’t go away but intensifies. I do trust Karanka so we’ll see.

    I was also disappointed with the lack of opportunities in the box. We did advance forward well, Clayton, Leadbitter, Reach, Adomah and Tomlin played well but our lack of clear cut scoring chances and shots on target were poor. We had quite a few corners but none really threatened, they all seemed aimed at the back post where they were never attacked.

    I am excited about the new prospective signings and agree that the 2 week break has come at a good time. Let’s hope we see a more defensively secure and attack minded team for our next game.


    **AV writes: The boo-boys will stop doing that sarcastic cheer thing once they realise they are doing it so often that they are making him sound good.

  13. Barring a promising first five minutes, everything about the Reading game was poor.

    Once again, the keeper rushing out, hesitating and stopping half way out allowed the striker to lob him. That’s twice in a week. Mejias’ problems are a lot deeper than being hopeless against crosses. Once that goal was conceded, the team looked devoid of belief – the same as against Shef Wed. The defence looked terrifed to let the ball arrive anywhere near Mejias, even taking the ball on dangerous runs around attackers just to punt the ball aimlessly upfield. It looks to me that there is no belief in the keeper and that is only going to cause problems every single game.

    The lack of creativity in midfield is also worrying. Clayton and Leadbitter are very similar players and become ineffective beside each other. Whitehead might not offer a lot going forward, but his willingness to sit behind play allows the other midfielder to drive forward, he needs to start.

    On the wings we look dangerous. If it isn’t Reach driving at the full back and whipping balls across the box, it’s Adomah doing the same. I understand that Reach needs competition on the left, but with Carayol at the club do we really need another permanent signing? I fear that Reach will be pushed out once Carayol is fit again. And with Smallwood already gone, Steele not in the first team picture and L. Williams looking increasingly likely to leave, I fear out own young players will not be given the chance in the first team. Seeing the brilliant academy underused would be a massive disappointment.

    The attack also looked toothless on Saturday. I am glad I didn’t get sucked into the hype around Kike, he hasn’t showed much so far. He’s got a brilliant first touch and can hold the ball up, but he is far too slow in possession, cannot strike a ball cleanly – every shot he took dribbled harmlessly towards the corner flag -, in the air he doesn’t look great either, his free header at the end of the first half was the moment I became resigned to defeat, never mind his tap in miss in the last minutes. A player costing £2m+ should be taking those chances every single time.

    The seemingly imminent arrival of Vossen is exciting, his goalscoring record should take him to a much bigger club than Boro, but I fear he won’t solve much. He might take a chance or two, but he’s not going to singlehandedly pick the team spirit up when we go a goal down. The lack of desire and determination is more worrying than failing to take chances.

  14. “Maybe I’m easily pleased. I was at the match and I thought it was a good performance. We attacked constantly throughout the game.”

    I sympathise with this to an extent but our finishing and final balls were so bad it can’t be a good performance. 24 efforts on goal and the closest we came was their full back slamming it against the post.

    However, I’m an optimist and I can see that it could click. It’s early days and like AV says we have 2 weeks to try and work on things.

    It’s all fine margins in this division though – if Kike had scored early on from the free-kick routine, who knows, we go on and win 3-0 and everyone goes home happy with exactly the same set of players.

    Frustrating, but we forget about it and move on to Huddersfield.

  15. Some eminently sensible and well-thought out comments here, lads and lasses! I expected mainly invective and despair, to be honest, so I am pleased that the early-season optimism balloon hasn’t burst yet. Personally I do agree that it will get better, especially if Vossen and Wildschut arrive, but it simply has to, and very soon!

    Three further comments to add:-

    1) When Tomlin is fully on his game Boro do click, as we did, and he did, against Brum and Bolton. When he’s not so hot, as against Wednesday and Leeds, we have struggled. Against Reading, he was only half -effective.

    2) We do however have another creative option, and that is Ledesma. He can definitely pick a pass, and we all know he can shoot! He may not be Mr Consistent, but he could be useful if Tomlin is not on his game.

    3) Someone above commented that the crowd is already diminishing. This is a real worry. There were 1500 fewer Boro fans at the Reading game than for the Wednesday game. That’s a hell of a drop, and the performance against Reading won’t have helped. We must all hope for a rapid upturn in our form and our fortunes.

  16. Clive

    I guess the difference between the Reading and Wednesday games was down to the number of away fans.

    Anyway, looking forward to transfer deadline day and the influx of star players.

  17. This is the Dutch view on our prospective signing from…gulp…Heerenveen:

    ‘His career is not impressive thus far: scoring 13 times in 119 matches. The stats prove he is possibly not the player Middlesbrough should be looking for…’

    He continues:

    ‘He comes across as dangerous and possesses great speed to outrun any defender, but his ball-control is so poor that when he gets to the ball, his actions are not mind-blowing…’

    Now the Dutch have some history with ‘mind blowing’, so this is not encouraging…is it?

    On the other prospect from Genk, he bears a striking resemblance to one Tarmo Kink don’t you think…and with an equally silly name…scary eh?

    **AV writes: That’s not really the considered “Dutch view” is it? It is the view of a small fans website. Imagine “the Boro view” of some of our departed players from a fans’ forum. And “foreigner in silly name shocker!” I like his name: The Fox!

  18. I was staggered to get in the car, switch on the wrist-slashing BBC Tees moan-in only to find out (from people who don’t even go to the match and make that a badge of honour) that the season was over after five games. “It sounded awful, Ali.”

    According to these people who don’t go to the game the team are rubbish, all the new signings are donkeys and the manager doesn’t have a clue. We may as well write off this season and dig in for the relegation battle. How do they know? Are they psychic? Have they formed this judgement from the 42 seconds a week highlights on the telly? Or by reading the doom and gloom posts on message boards from other people who don’t go?

    The sooner the radio and the press and the websites stop letting people who DON’T go to the match (and the same ones every week) set the agenda the better. These empty vessels – who haven’t been since Juninho left/Eindhoven/relegation are NOT supporters and should not be allowed to give the impression that most Boro fans are negative and against Karanka.

    The boss has signed a lot of new players this summer and most of them have not had time to bed in. It will take a few weeks before they do. Two more will come in tomorrow. GIve them a chance for Gods sake. Get behind the team. Be a SUPPORTER.

  19. Wildschut

    His first touch is certainly not what stands out about him but such pace and so direct. And we need speed, speed is what we need.

  20. I had saturday’s result as 1-1 and i was disappointed that Boro didn’t manage that with all of the possession and shots on goal.

    Stupidly I decided to read some other ‘Boro Blogs’, what a mistake. I the natives of Teesside are masters of the ironic, have a dark sense of self-deprecating humour but some of those people on there… sorry, lost for words. As a consensus everything is rubbish, nobody knows anything, all players are ready for the scrapheap. They’re more distressing than Saturday’s result itself and the season has barely started. As for typical Boro, by tonight we’ll almost be a new team so that epithet doesn’t apply yet.

    It’s almost a cliche but this break could not have come at a better time and we are ‘back under the radar’, and quite a few teams, yet again. In fact we’re about where we’d be with no results on the board and simply listed alphabetically with zero points.

    We do seem lacking in flexibility on the pitch. Is this because of the lack of the creative spark or the player(s) who can produce the inspirational move? Once this group of players has some more playing time together and beds in there is, in my opinion, huge promise.

    The substitutes at sixty minutes seems a very predictable tactic, perhaps some changes should happen earlier rather than later, before half-time? Maybe that would upset some of the spoiling tactics of teams like Reading. Mind you they seemed, from what little I’ve seen, like the kind of team that would end a fifteen game unbeaten run.

    What will unfold today, more in and more out certainly.

    Av whats all this about ‘Bongs”, very worrying that some of the culture of the weed is appearing on this blog.


    John R

    1. Reading Home Game

      I’d like to mention George Friend and Adam Reach who went round the ground at the end of the Reading game applauding supporters in each stand in turn, even when the other players and most of the fans had left. Thank you, guys. George has consistently done this, he’s taken the risk of abuse when a match has gone badly. He’s signed a new contract with us rather than telling his agent to look for a lucrative move to another club, or waiting for his contract to run down so he could leave on a free. I wish all the players had been with George and Adam, because that sort of spirit, from all of us, is what will get us promoted.

      It’s an absolute sickener when we go down so early in the game, especially when it’s so avoidable – an unmarked player in a lethal position, then the usual bad luck when the ball sits up so nicely for him to dink it over Tomas. Then a cross which Tomas completely missed (again!) and luckily it’s Kenneth behind him to head away and not a Reading player, because then it’s Boro 0 Reading 2. The bewildering feeling that the game is spinning out of control, and the knowledge that we have made winning the game so much more difficult for ourselves. All the negative emotion and frustration.

      But we recovered, dominated the match and with a bit of luck would have won the game. If two of the chances go in, that exact same match would be viewed entirely differently – according to the BBC 55% possession (it felt like more than that, but most of Reading’s 45% was probably the time they took on goal kicks and throw-ins!), 24 shots and 6 on target. It would be viewed not as vintage, but a brave fightback and good result to keep things ticking over as the new squad assembles.

      Kike missed the good headed chance from a corner, and then somehow over-ran the ball at the death when Leadbitter crossed. However, he continues to battle, show for the ball, and get into those dangerous positions. It was good to see two players, Bamford and Kike, surging into the six-yard box to get on the end of that late chance. Too often it’s just one attacker in there. But we still need to get midfielders into the box. Maybe Lewis Baker will have the engine to do those lung-busting runs, and then get back and cover. Lee Tomlin is a lovely player to watch with his silky trickery, but can he cope physically with those runs?

      The keeper. Aitor now appears to have said that the keeper is chosen for the season. Every time Tomas collected the ball successfully, he got an ironic cheer from the crowd, me included, and on reflection I’m regretting it. It seems to have become a battle of wills between a fair number of the fans and the manager. Tomas knows it’s happening, the team know what’s happening, the opposition know. What if we went counter-intuitive, gave him his own chant, and started building him up? Because at the moment we are hurting ourselves.

      Aitor seems to be using squad rotation rather than a ruthless dropping of people who play badly. This rotation could be disruptive to the team as players may not build such a good understanding with each other, but with the games coming thick and fast as the season wears on, it could keep our players fresher for longer. Time will tell. And I can’t sit on the fence any more squarely than that.

      Aitor did not seem involved in the game in the first half, I looked several times and he wasn’t standing up trying to guide or motivate the players. If they were playing without ‘spirit or character’ maybe he should have been doing something about it. On the other hand, in the second half we improved after his half time talk, and he was there in the technical area playing a part. Much, much better…

  21. ‘We’ve got to treat Cardiff seriously’ urges Boro boss. What a weird thing to say.

    Was there a risk of the recent PL outfit, who are amongst the favourites for promotion, being treated casually? Why does he feel the need to emphasise this? After all, we hardly cruised past Reading and Huddersfield with a bagfull of goals so there is a clear danger of complacency.

    The time for that kind of caution is when we’re beating everybody that comes in front of us (please god) and nobody can remember when we last lost.

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