Dare To Dream: Pt 2

BORO were given a painful football lesson by awesome Arsenal but they left the Emirates Stadium with their heads held high.

There was to be no second coupon-buster – that was a dream to far. Boro almost got a late consolation that may have helped sooth dented pride and bruised egos but it wouldn’t have disguised that there was a massive gulf in class. Mind the gap!
There will be some recriminations from fans who feel the team let themselves and the fans down, that the midfield didn’t get tight, that the defence let Arsenal cut through at will that we barely threatened .  The complaints will be sincere and well meaning but looked at objectively will boil down to disappointment at the harsh reality that for all the progress Boro are still light years behind Arsenal in top gear.
The dismay at the defeat says a lot about the level of expectation around the team right now.  People really expected Boro to give Arsenal a game. On another day they may have.  In fact, in truth, Aitor’s heroes were never in with chance as Arsenal played football from another planet. They put out a full strength side and started at their very best  – which showed respect  to Boro and that they had done their homework  after the City upset. Arsenal were excellent and in the end the 2-0 defeat was flattering.
They mesmerised us with some sublime stuff: the movement off the ball, the technically gifted deft touches, the sublime intelligent high speed interplay were all too much.  Boro faced a similar testing time in the first 20 minutes at Man City but this time never got a grip on the game. But they were not allowed too. They never had a chance to close down the Gunners’ Galacticos, never managed to impose their own shape or style on the unfolding game. By the time they closed players the ball was long gone. Arsenal never let up.
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                 We’ll be back: Boro plays acknowledge fans at the Emirates  
But despite the slightly sheepish exit after so much pre-match unaccustomed optimism and  expectation, Boro’s cup run this term has still been a huge positive.  It has made memories that have seasoned the bread and butter grind of the Championship campaign and helped feed into the feelgood buzz around the club.
Boro have taken three massive jubilant away days armies as the supporters’ belief has flooded back with huge turnouts at Oakwell, the Etihad and the Emirates.
The well deserved win at Premier League champions and petrodollar juggernaut City in particular will be a delicious memory that will pass into terrace folklore. That was an “I was there” badge of honour kind of day.
At Arsenal Boro could not repeat that eye-catching display. It was a game too far. And there’s no disgrace in losing to a team on such sizzling form.
But it was a trip that has whetted the appetite for future fixtures in the big league against star-studded sides and in fantastic stadiums. It was a fantastic day out. And a lesson.
These last two cup games have raised the bar on the pitch, demonstrating the gulf that Boro must bridge if they are to go up, survive and flourish in the Premier League.  And remember,  if Boro go up they will not face the likes of Arsenal every week.  They will face the likes of Sunderland (turned over by plucky Bradford) and the turgid teams making up the numbers nervously in the bottom half.
And on balance Aitor Karanka’s outfit have acquitted themselves well.  They have played City, Liverpool and Arsenal on their own turf in cups this season, three of the Premier League’s top four last term and won one, drawn one and lost one.  You’d definitely take that points return next year. But if they want to return to the Emirates and the Etihad next year then they will have to raise the bar every week in the Championship.,
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      Out gunned: lone threat Kike surrounded by Arsenal player. Sums the game up.  
And the fan-tastic Teesside travelling army have acquitted themselves well too: loud and proud, quality and quantity, good natured and witty. They have backed the team from before kick-off until long after the whistle and enjoyed themselves along the way.  Boro are starting to build a new narrative: an emerging team backed by passionate fans.
There is a growing bond between team and town that has been strengthened by the cup run.  Now the team – and the fans – have to regroup and be ready to renew the push for a promotion that will seal that and make this a year  to remember.
Now it is time to concentrate on the league.  Birmingham next.

 

**********What I said before the game (mystic bloody meg)

BORO can beat Arsenal. Of course they can. Or at least bring them back to the Riverside for a lucrative bums on seats glamour replay. And then beat them up here. Why the hell not?

Aitor Karanka has his disciplined side well drilled in his tactical template and has them focussed and motivated. The side are capable of playing at a high intensity for the full 97 minutes, they  can concentrate under pressure, press quickly and defend from the front, they can pass it around at high tempo and can hit quickly on the counter.  They have shown that they can raise the bar in big tests this term –  Liverpool, Derby, City – and that they can flourish against sides who want to play football rather than scrap it out.

Add to that an inner steel, a willingness to mix it if necessary and an obvious air of collective confidence no matter what the opposition . Then throw in Arsenal’s sense of fragility at the back under pressure and – whatever they say in public- the likelihood of a germ of complacence in the minds of one or two of their Galacticos who have one eye on bigger prizes plus a slightly anxious crowd sitting on top of a volcano of frustration and you have all the ingredients of another coupon-busting cup ‘shock’.

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             We’re all in this together: Boro players join the crowd celebrating at City

So yes, Boro can go to the Emirates and get a result. Believe it.  They have nothing to lose.They are in great form – drawn two and won eight (including the scalp of the Premier League champions) in the last 10… the pressure is on the big boys to perform.  If  Arsenal fall short of their standards and Boro hit their own then they have a decent chance.

Of course, a lot more people believe that outrageously optimistic statement now than did when I said the same about Man City and was shot down as a delusional rara spin-machine. In fact, light-headed with top of the table vertigo and post-Etihad euphoria, plenty have now gone far beyond me on the foam finger fume index and actually *expect* to win.  And win well.  You watch, if Boro don’t win there will be an indignant backlash because the club have built up expectations and then failed to deliver. Typical Boro!

There will be people who believe the game is an unnecessary diversion from the main priority of promotion but it is a fixture that we have to play so we may as well go there and give it our best shot. There is nothing to be gained from putting out a reserve side and getting battered.  Far more benefit (in terms of profile as much as on the pitch) will come from the team testing themselves against the best in front of a global audience and a good display (even a defeat with honour) will boost confidence for the rest of the season.

Let’s be under no illusions:  This is going to be tough. Very tough. By all logic Boro will get battered.  Arsenal are a brilliant team. They are the cup holders. They resume their Champions League campaign next week – a competition they have qualified for every year since decimalisation. They are packed with big ticket international stars and World Cup winners. On song they play sublime football that is a pleasure to watch. And after Boro stung City they will be wary.  Arsene knows. They are not daft.

On paper – and on bookies coupons – they should walk it.  Losing would be no disgrace.

But Boro have gone to Liverpool and got a deserved draw and gone to City and won with a flourish. Neither of those results were flukes nicked from a dead ball or against the run of play. This is a good team in good form. And Arsenal are “suspect” at the back. So let’s dare to dream: Boro CAN go there and get a result. Let’s enjoy the tingle of possibility.

Usual drill ; let;’s have your scorecasts and predictions of how the game will pan out and then we can reconvene after the whistle and see who called it right. I’m going for a pulsating honour even draw – probably 1-1.  You can put your own match reports up after the game. I’ll put my own impressions up as soon as possible after the game. I’ll be back late but don’t worry I’ll be write something. I’ll be buzzing about Monday’s sixth draw.

 

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137 thoughts on “Dare To Dream: Pt 2

  1. Well, I’d have been delighted for Derby to draw tonight, but feel a little disappointed that Rotherham couldn’t hold out. Big opportunity for us tomorrow night. COB

  2. Just sent a text to my lad. Whatever Bent and Ince have done, Derby’s defending hasnt changed. That was and still is their problem, it isnt a huge problem. They did come back from 1-3, I wouldnt be happy with that scoreline but would be with the point.

    I would have taken level on points at the top with a game in hand if offered 1st Jan.

    The key thing is to do a job at Brum. The result will tell us a lot.

    At this stage every game requires tactical support.

  3. Anyway, where were you lot all day?

    Typical posters, come in ten minutes late pushing past saying sorry with silly grins.

    Next time I wont get up and will leave my legs across the aisles to make it harder.

    I demand Comrade Vickers do something about it. Just pretend they vote conservative.

  4. Sorry, but I just got to work and so can settle down to a contemplation of all things Boro.

    Despite the two late goals by Derby, I would have taken this result and still view this as two points gained by us against the others. This could be a key moment in the season. The Birmingham game is a huge opportunity to make a statement with the Leeds game to follow. We could be six points clear by the time the others play on Saturday and that would really put pressure on Bournemouth particularly, as they are away at Brentford on Saturday and anything could happen there.

    I sense that Derby will be solid all the way to the end and, If a crack is going to open up, then Bournemouth are the ones that might falter.

    It’s a big few days ahead.

    UTB

  5. I’m gonna stick my neck out and say if we don’t finish in the top two now I’m blaming AK for not getting someone in who can bag the goals you need in the last furlong just like Derby did tonight coming back when a loss is on, an extra body who can come off the bench or start when needed. A guy like Fletcher up the road at them up the road would help.

    **AV writes: Fletcher? He’s a below average targetman for a long ball team. I wouldn’t have him in a lucky bag. Boro don’t have a problem creating or scoring goals. And the sides that have scored more have fans who panic about conceding too many. That’s football.

    1. At this level AV in this team I think he would do OK. He’s brave and looking at his record he has scored a few more than who we have now.
      Whoever I believe we need another central forward

      **AV writes: Yet since Derby changed their team around and put Ince and Bent in their record is WDLD. Funny old game.

  6. Exciting this Championship football, isn’t it? Much more fun at the top of our division than it is in the Premier League.

    Now, if we could just win at Birmingham, and then do a job on Leeds….the universe looks a very different place doesn’t it? I might even start to have an interest in the Premier League next season.

  7. Could have been worse Derby could have won 4-3. Things are going to plan and tonight is the night. If we are top of the table caliber then we should win.

    Lets wait and see.

  8. I think we should all take stock and forget the six points clear on Saturday lunchtime bravado.

    Four points this week would be an immense achievement and keep us well on course for a top two finish. Three even might be an ok return.

    Brum and Leeds are horrible clubs and niggly matches that need to be got through and three big games in seven days takes a lot of the system. Look at Derby last night after a Saturday cup match.

    The longer picture is all that matters and we will be fine. But is a marathon.

  9. A nitty gritty game tonight for sure.
    Previously when we have been in this position (a win tonight takes us clear by 3 points ) us typical supporters just knew there would be failure; but this season it’s definitely different .

    This isn’t Arsenal, and reputations need to be rebuilt by some, we’ll get a lot of the ball and I think nick the game which will set us up nicely for revenge against the Leeds result earlier in the season. Never seen a decision like the one which ruled out that over head kick.

    Another late night as I patiently wait for the internet..

    And yes Thomas Ince is making me eat my words at the moment

  10. It is in our hands and that is all we can ask for.

    We pushed our luck at Brentford, lets hope we get the job done tonight and tomorrows table makes great reading.

  11. Its important for us not to be beaten. The win would be a big bonus.I had us to lose this fixture when posting my forecasts for the Exmil challenge all those weeks ago, but today I am thinking we have a very good chance of sneaking off with all three points. COB.

  12. Powmill –

    I went for a draw for tonight in the Exmil challenge.

    Things have changed a bit since the predictions were made though. At the time, Brum were enjoying a new-manager-bounce under Gary Rowett whilst I think Boro had dropped points on the road at Ipswich, Blackburn and Reading.

    Since then Birmingham have struggled for wins whilst Boro have put together a great winning run.

    We can’t change the predictions, and this run of fixtures will likely see us drop points somewhere along the line, but a win tonight is more plausible now than it was a few weeks back.

    Fingers crossed.

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