Honours Even in Madrid Dug-Out Deputy Face Off

¡AY, CARAMBA! Scorchio. The much hyped battle of the Bernabéu supremo’s sidekicks was a feisty affair.

Honours were even as Aitor Karanka and Paul Clement, both former assistants to Real Madrid managers went head-to-head and their teams went toe-to-toe and Derby grabbed a late leveller in a 1-1 draw.

It was an eagerly anticipated encounter as the second tier proxies for Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti shaped-up against each other, promotion rivals but also cyphers for shadows of big egos elsewhere.

It was one of the narratives touted in the Championship trailers, a must-see managerial showdown heavy with sub-text. And round one was fantastic fare.

                      Blocked:  Ince’s free-kick got past the wall but Dimi saved superbly

It was an absorbing close fought draw, a tense and at times tetchy game that was tactically on a knife-edge and in the balance until the death, a game that was intense and exciting played with spirit and energy and between two very good sides.

While the game was billed as the season’s first big six pointer and the atmosphere was intense from the off.  Derby pressed high and hustled Boro and forced mistakes and some poor first touches in a frantic first 15 minutes piled the pressure on the visitors.

Boro dug deep and battled with determination with Ben Gibson making a couple of cracking high risk tackles in the box to block Ince and Martin while Dimi made two great saves from a Ince free-kick and a Martin header. It looked like job done until two minutes from time when Bent flicked on a cross and Russell fired home. It was a sickener but when the dust settles and the tempers settle a point at Derby will be seen as a good one.

And to be fair, while the tides swept from end to end and Boro had a major foothold after Kike scored the opener – his sixth in five games including pre-season –  the intensity of the game and atmosphere in the ground never dipped for a second.

And tempers bubbled on the pitch as tackles flew in and a flurry of yellow cards before the break punctuated a tempestuous contest. You know things are getting heated when Grant Leadbitter is gesturing his team to “calm down”

It was the usual emotionally draining, nervous affair we have come to expect from Boro. Stomachs were in knots. Or mine was anyway. But then we have been so permanently wound up for what feels like a year of slow twisting and when we all finally relax and our guts unravel we will take off like a host of cartoon helicopters.

But Aitor looked relaxed and composed in what appeared to be a tactically chosen tracksuit. It sent out strong signals that this game was no big deal. He’d come casual. In fact he spent most of the game strolling around the technical area nonchalently whistling while Clement looked stiff and formal in his suit six yards away.

              Smart. Casual. Aitor chills in the technical area as the game heats up.

Neither man sat down for the entire 98 minutes in a symbolic joust of body language – and it was only in the last 10 minutes that Clement became animated – but you can bet that under the surface both were totally wired and totally engaged with every single incident and tactical tweak as it unfolded.  It was fascinating to watch them. And the game. And it will be intriguing to see how that particular battle pans out over the season.

The pair have more in common than just being recruited from the Real dug-out. Having spoken to the Derby press corps about the immediate if under-stated impact Clement has had on Derby a lot of familiar themes emerged.

They are both studious coaching technocrats who micro-manage the whole club from the bright lights and the shop window to the smallest aspect of the back room set-up. hey both have a composed, scientific, analytic approach and rarely boil over on the touchline or use volume and gesticulation as a substitute for clear instructions to adopt pre-prepared tactics.

And in their every day dealing with staff, press, sponsors and the public they are respectful, measured and articulate in behaviour while expecting high standards or professionalism.

Their Madrid mentors are very different characters and their football ethos is different too, but the culture at the club is instilled in everyone no matter where they are on the footballing spectrum.

Both opted to start their club careers as No 1s in a lower league – but with well resourced clubs – after taking the scenic route.

Paul Clement may not have been a big name player but he has pedigree.  His dad Dave was a QPR and England defender while brother Neil played for year at West Brom. He played in non-league football with Bansteads  Albion and Corthinian Casuals then after taking up coaching worked his way up through Chelsea’s Academy to become a first team coach. He certainly caugh tthe eye of some big hitters at the clubs  and when Ancelotti left Stamford Bridge he took Clement with him, first to Paris St Germain then to Real.

Karanka also took the scenic route, opting not to jump straight into the dug-out with La Liga sides in favour of learning the ropes properly, starting at the the Spanish FA national set-up where he worked his way up the youth groups before being head-hunted by Mourinho at Madrid on the recommendation of Figo and Zidane.

Like Karanka, Clement aims to reorganise not just the team but the entire club. He brought with him from Madrid a trusted posse of analysts, conditioning and tactical coaches and set about transforming the rhythms and routines of training and matchday preparation.

He also demands tactical intelligence from his players and has spent pre-season trying out shapes and systems in friendlies to see what his squad are capable of and what the best fit formation is.  It may take a while for him to settle but he has a good squad and they will evolve into one of the Championship big hitters without doubt.

And there have been other changes at Derby too: a new chairman and new suits behind the scenes as well as a complete new dug-out and seven new players. The Rams reporters say it feels like the beginning of a revolution at the club and are cautiously optimistic.

That echoes the feeling at the Riverside when Aitor swept in with his all encompassing “philosophy and methodology.”

Boro and Derby have built up quite a spiky rivalry in recent seasons with our visits there having a big night-time atmosphere and games being high stakes edgy.  Fans now see each other’s club as the major competition and a benchmark, for squad depth and spending, league position and results. There is respect but  a fierce competition.

This personal dug-out duel will add fuel to that.


123 thoughts on “Honours Even in Madrid Dug-Out Deputy Face Off

  1. I’m confused with fans reports. The guy on TalkSport after the’ game basically said Boro were the more polished side with the ball than Derby although they had more of it.

    At the end of the day your not going to win 46 games. There is a concern about a big squad where all the players are good enough. Can you keep them happy ?

  2. If you can take a look at the text commentary on Boro Connect from 77 mins onwards and you will see how Stuani appears to be constantly fouling and giving away free kicks last night. It is something that was a trait from his Espanyol days. It doesn’t make him a bad player overnight and I’m sure there is much better to come but it did make me think that Nugent would have been a better and more psychologically influential introduction, not to mention a positive one that may have forced Derby to change their set up to accommodate.

    Still happy with a point though.

  3. Andy R

    Are you saying Martin and Ince are better than Heskey? Mmmmm, could have a point there.

    The fact is Derby DIDNT allow us to play the way we did against Bolton, they are a better team. It wasn’t a case of Adomah, Fabbrini and Downing not trying.

  4. A couple of comments from the Radio Derby team on 5xtra last night, (I may be paraphrasing): “Middlesbrough are working their socks off” “How are we going to get back into this game?” “from Middlesbrough’s perspective this will feel like a defeat”

  5. Just seen their goal, and for me Ayala has done it again: he’s allowed a forward to bully him. Maybe there is a pattern here, is he a little soft sometimes and maybe teams have moved him on? I like that Duffy at Blackburn,solid and tough,also young lad at Man City, Daneyer ,I think we need another one in.

    **AV writes: Daniel Ayala has the best record of all defenders appearing in teams that kept clean sheets last season. That is, the best defence in the division. When he lined-up alongside Ben Gibson they lost just ONCE in the normal season (at Fulham). Twice if you include the play-offs. He must be doing something right.

    1. I admire your loyalty AV, don’t get me wrong I’m not for running Ayala out of town but I think sometimes he loses a little concentration and instead of dominating his area he gets a little cute. On the Derby goal, it was a long ball in and if he basically gets rough on the guy and heads the ball out as far as he can job done. On this one the guy backed in and his header was weak. In the final although it may have been a foul, it should not have happened if he had been aggressive and cleared.

      Just an opinion.

      1. Gt

        Or why was the player allowed to cross unchallenged, why was Johnny Russell unmarked for the second ball, why did Dimi let it through his legs?

        People do make mistakes, goals are usually a combination of them.

    1. In spite of the late goal at Derby, I think we will look back in May and realise that the Derby game was one of the most difficult fixtures of the season, and was a good result. Clement seems to be pursing the same sort of top-to-bottom transformation of the club as we saw when AK came to us. If he can also successfully manage and motivate players Derby will be right up there.

      Brilliant that Ben was back and played well because the centre back position was a worry. Let’s hope that Woody is fit soon. Do we have any idea when Baptiste will be back? The goalkeeping position is still a concern if Dimi gets injured. We now know that we are still able to apply the defensive strategy successfully, and no doubt the late slip will be used to ensure it doesn’t happen again, rather than becoming a habit. It looks like the crushing disappointment of last season has made us stronger, not weaker.

      My argument that Kike should not be the first choice striker looks like a shrewd piece of analysis so far (not), but I still hope AK finds a way of giving at least one of Stuani and Nugent some decent game time on Saturday. Our next three games look like an opportunity, but then I was optimistic last time we went to Wednesday…

      It is rumoured that we are interested in Michail Antonio at Forest, but Derby have already put in a bid. If we could get him it gives us a fantastic set of attacking players to choose from, and Forest will not want to sell their best player to Derby. He was left out of the Forest squad this week, suggesting that something is happening. But maybe I’m getting greedy…

      Another set of interesting results last night. After the first three rounds of matches everyone has lost points, so seems like the same old Championship bear pit. Wolves lost a two-goal lead at home, and Hull won 2-1 but only had two shots on target. Both Hull and QPR seem likely to lose more players, and will need to bring in replacements late, hoping they are the right choices and needing time to integrate them. Vossen taken off on 55 minutes for Burnley, and previously taken off at 65 minutes, so the decision to let him go doesn’t look wrong so far, although I’m sure we wish him well.

  6. The defence of Kalas, Ayala, Gibson and Friend is in my opinion the best back 4 in the Championship and now we have Fry and Stephens as cover. Nsue!! does not impress.

    Kike has had a good start and importantly is scoring goals, it does highlight the continental players needing a season to adjust when they move here, it also helps if they understand some English. Hope Stuani settles in quicker although what an ace move bringing in Nugent also.

  7. I was forgetting that opposing managers and scouts read this blog avidly. I’d just like to point out that, contrary to the misinformed speculation in my previous entry above:

    Michail Antonio is in fact an absolute donkey.

    His scoring record makes Dean Whitehead look prolific.

    Boro are not remotely interested in signing him.

    (If Mr Antonio’s lawyers are reading this, I am attempting to be satirical in the comments above and in any case, Mr Vickers is the person to go after if you decide to sue.)

  8. I think we’re stronger than we were last season. It will be interesting to see what happens if we go behind in a game. That was one of our big problems last season. We didn’t get many points coming from a losing position.

  9. Conceding in the 88th minute is aways worth a grumble and deservedly so. However had we equalised at that point it would have seemed a victory. I would have taken a point before the game and I’m happy with one now.

    I’ll take Ayala and Ben over any CB pairing in the division every day of the week.

    As it is we’re undefeated away and victorious at home. Early days but if that form continues through the season we’ll be alright.

  10. I love the quotes from AK regarding Antonio: “He is not here, so I prefer not to talk about him”.

    If I read between the lines, that could mean that he is “on the list” otherwise he would have just shot it down out-of-hand.

  11. I’d also take 92 points. It would have been enough in two of the last three years. The only time it wasn’t was when two teams ran away with it and that doesn’t look likely.

  12. Just got my Burton Ticket, asked the office and 18,500 sold so far for Saturday, problem is City have sold 111!

    Looked at the team Vic tweeted, someone tweeted look what Mogga had to work with. Mogga brought a lot of them in, Mogga lined them up to play narrow to match up against Bristolona who hadn’t scored since before the Romans came. Utterly outplayed.

  13. AV was right to define the Derby game as a tactical battle between two Real alumni. That’s clearly how the two coaches saw it. A chess game. But without the intelligence, ingenuity, element of surprise and attacking brio of say Fischer v Spassky in 1972.

    Forget the stats. They are meaningless, apart from the only one that counts. Derby may have had 63% of first-half possession, but much of that consisted of the Derby back four passing the ball to one another, or of midfielders going sideways and backwards, much to the derision and frustration of the home fans. For half an hour Derby did not even put pressure on our holding midfielders, let alone the back four. It was an attempt to transplant a Real-style possession and passing game which fell at the first hurdle, since Boro allowed most possession to those Derby players who were least able to use it.

    Not until the stroke of half-time did Derby produce a threat, when Ince’s free-kick looked to be in until Dimi, excellent throughout, produced a stunning save.

    As an attacking force in this half we produced little. A bit of dribbling from Fabbrini. Long punts up the right hand channel for Kike to chase, which produced some throw- ins high up the pitch, a tactic owing less to Madrid than to Wimbledon. A couple of runs from Albert. From Downing, semi-detached out on the left wing,nothing. His body-language suggestive of a UKIP supporter who had just seen his job given to a foreign immigrant. Which, of course, it had.

    Fabbrini proved to be the catalyst for raising the passions of the Derby crowd, something their team had significantly failed to do. Ledesma used to serve the same function. Diving,rolling over and over when tackled, and presenting a picture of outraged innocence when the ref ignores you is catnip to a home crowd, and a conduit for the frustration that would otherwise be directed at their own team. On one occasion, attempting some fancy-dan footwork, he tripped over his own feet, went down as though poleaxed, and had the ref signalling for a stretcher, without a Derby player being any closer than 5 yards away. Fabbi is a great talent, but he would benefit from a primer on the sociology and psychology of the British crowd.

    The Boro goal came when Friend did what Stewey had significantly failed to: make an attacking run, Kike picking up the pieces to slot home another confidence-boosting goal.
    That produced one of the games most extraordinary moments: a triumphant run into his coach’s arms and a prolonged man-hug,that contrasted sharply with the perfunctory congratulations of only three of his team -mates. AV may have to reconsider his view that the manager does not have his favourites.

    The second-half was akin to one of those games of attack and defence that we used to play as kids when there was only one goal. You defend successfully and then give the ball away at the half-way line so that they can try again. Had it worked it would have been a triumphant strategy. But it didn’t. So it wasn’t.

    Boro’s failure to put together the 3 or 4 consecutive passes that might have produced more than a couple of counter-attacks appeared to be as much a question of motivation as ability. The plan was to frustrate Derby’s attack even at the expense of attempting to exploit their notorious defensive fragility. A pity because a second Boro goal at any stage would have killed the game off.

    One was left with the regret that this expensively assembled group of players had, like Derby’s, fallen victims to a strategy which had not made best use of either their motivation or the full range of their talents. Positivity and creativity had once again been put on the back burner. The strategists had won all right. But neither team had.

    1. Within any team isn’t it the idea to get your best players on the the ball the majority of the time? Hence get him in those positions were this should occur and he can have the most influence?

      Any coach at this level who continues to play Downing on the left wing in my opinion should be fired. However I don’t think that is going to happen. I will predict Fabrini will not be starting regular after eight games. It looks good right now but not long term

  14. It’s too early in the season to grumble (but not impossible) and winning all home games and drawing all away will still give us the magic two points a game – though I hope AK is planning a more attacking system away from home once Stuani and Nugent are match fit as winning 1-0 is a risky game plan in this league.

    This season is all about promotion and most of us expect it to finally happen – but it’s happening just as I’ve lost interest in PL football – it’s become boring and little more than making up the numbers for anyone outside the elite clubs who will predictably make up the top six.

    If asked who will finish in the top six in the PL, I’m sure 99% will say Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Man Utd, Liverpool, Spurs (with a bit of variation in the order). However, ask who will finish in the top six in the Championship and you’ll get probably 18-20 clubs touted – it’s a proper league not a pretend league to give Champions League clubs something to do at the weekend.

    So we should enjoy the season – it may be the last one we enjoy fully before we inevitably succumb to gravity and end up back in the Championship again.

    BTW it’s Quite Interesting that our second choice centre-back pairing is Stephens Fry.

  15. Its unbelievable the 10s of millions of pounds clubs in the Premiership are paying for 2nd and 3rd tier players from abroad. The likes of Sunderland and Newcastle struggle season after season because of it. How can they be cheaper than home-grown if you are out £6,7….10 mill after twelve months?

    You hear of teams after players you have never heard of from teams in European leagues, with names you can vaguely remember, maybe from some obscure competition in the past.

    Look at someone like Emnes, made a fortune and still around even though I think in all he played twenty minutes of league football last season.

  16. AK’s presser had it that the Derby equaliser was down to tiredness and lack of concentration.


    Well it was Adomah who failed to pick up the run of Johnny Russell, so I guess that is the principal, though not the only, direction for any finger-pointing.

    But hang on. I’m not having that. With 6 fully qualified and paid-up defenders on the pitch why should it have been the responsibility of a winger to cover the run of one of their most potent attackers only 10-15 yards from goal?

    Albert was one of our few attacking hopes in this match, and an assiduous tracker back and ever present help to Kallas. He expended more energy on his defensive duties than was either necessary or desirable, since there was little overlapping threat from a veteran full-back.

    Was he tired? You bet. Exhausted more like, as he is every match, from carrying out to the letter his gruelling dual role.

    Isn’t it about time that our much vaunted defenders were allowed to demonstrate that they are able to stand on their own two feet and let Albert revert to his almost forgotten role of being a potent attacking threat and a double figure goalscorer to boot?

    1. Len –

      That is not an unreasonable point, in fact it is a good one. Would this mean taking the shackles off some of the forwards and letting them rip at the opposition?

      I think we have the talent and ability to rip teams to pieces in this league but I sometimes feel that the brief some of our players are working to holds some of their natural abilities back and cancels out their individual creativity.



  17. As we all know, winning at home and drawing away has long been a formula for success. Consequently our results so far must be seen as encouraging and, by the end not the season, will hopefully be seen in a positive light.

    Similarly, if we had gone behind and equalised in the 88th minute, we would all view it as triumph and a point won. As it is, I definitely see it as 2 points dropped.

    Derby were poor and were there for the taking. For all the possession stats, they did very little with the ball and our defence cruised through much of the game until they fell asleep at the end.

    My beef is AK’s cautiousness in such games. Derby are still finding their feet with a new manager, had little to offer, were not threatening at all and have a notoriously fragile defence. Why not capitalise on our domination and go for another goal? It was there to be had.

    As it was, we shut up shop for the second half with two banks of four and next to nothing in attack. Why? It just wasn’t necessary and invited exactly what did eventually happen. AK’s ingrained defensiveness in such situations concerns me because I believe it will cost us more points than it gains.

    What’s the point in investing in creativity and goalscoring potency if defensiveness is our tactic of preference? In my opinion, all 3 games could have been won if we had shown greater enterprise.

  18. Nikeboro –

    In my pre Derby post I mentioned the match on Saturday against Charlton. It was a bit like our matches last season against Blackburn. 68% possession, 27 shots to 10, 14 corners to 4

    We played Bolton and had 55% possession and 17 shots to 8, 7 corners to three. That is a good thumping by any measure.

    Charlton are in the top six, Bolton bottom and desperately poor.

    I know stats can be misleading but they do bear looking at. Derby are not poor, they will be up near the top at the end of the season.

    I thought our execution was poor in the second half, when we broke we chose wrong options, our passing wasn’t good and we surrendered the ball.

    1. Hi Ian, I didn’t mean that Derby were poor per se just that they were poor for most of that game. Much like Mogga’s Boro, for all their possession they did little meaningful with the ball and there was minimal threat for the majority of the game. Even the stats bear that out.

      However, longer term, I too expect Derby to come good and I agree that we should expect them to be challenging.

      **AV writes: So am the only one that enjoyed the game then?

  19. Len –

    Great thought provoking post!

    Nikeboro –

    I’m with you on the attacking philosophy. I think chucking on Wildschut (had he made the bench) instead of Reach and Nugent instead of Stuani (who seemingly played into the Rams hands by persistently giving them a string of free kicks) would have eased the pressure far more by giving us a realistic outlet and Derby the jitters.

    As we know though AK is extremely conservative when it comes to offensive game plans away from home so I doubt we will see anything cavalier like anytime soon.

    We are however still on for two points per game and Kike is averaging a goal a game so plenty to be optimistic about.

  20. Ian –

    Derby were very poor in the first half, the crowd was restless, and I was surprised at the impatience of their supporters that I spoke to at half-time.

    After the game their local media were saying that Clement had to be given time to bed in and get his message across, a sure sign that things are not exactly living up to pre-season expectations.

    I may be wrong and am going on precious little evidence, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Clement’s position came into question if things don’t improve over the next couple of months.

    **AV writes: The local press lads are very optimistic about Clement but admit he has made a lot of changes, similar to the ones Aitor made when he arrive, or even McClaren, and that they will take time to fully take hold. He is a techocrat and has brought in conditioning coaches and analysts from Madrid. The press lads seem to think he has been well received behind the scenes and don’t seem overly worried about the start. They are ubeaten after all. Obviously they have spent a lot of cash so that raises the stakes and they have a complete new set-up behind the scenes with a new chairman. No-one knows too much about them or how they will react to a sticky season.

  21. RR:


    Stuani nudged his marker in the back a couple of times, that’s all. He made no impact, yet managed to get himself into a confrontation with minimum justification.

    He carries a lot of our hopes, but the auguries at Derby were a trifle underwhelming.

  22. Len –

    Derby were not great in the first half but you cant write off how they played the previous Saturday. Maybe we made them look ordinary, that may just be a possibility.

    We didn’t perform up front, the possession we had was wasted, the passing was poor, that is how the opposition gets 60+% possession.

    By the way, how did you speak to Derby supporters in the first half, were you amongst the home fans?

    I speak to Derby fans every day, I live here. They were grateful for a point and had no criticism of Boro, we were away and they were impressed by our organisation. They were optimistic going in to the match, I was the sole Boro fan in a local pub full of them!

    As the local reporters say, they need a win. Of course they do after three draws.

    As always there are two teams on the pitch, neither deserved a win.

  23. Some brilliant material here, thanks to Len, nikeboro and everyone exploring the performance from an angle of constructive criticism. I suppose it’s early days and AK did not want to get beaten at a potential promotion rival. We saw things start to click against Bolton, and as the team and season develop maybe he will feel that we are strong enough to be more adventurous away from home. From his point-of-view we get more space to play in when counter-attacking and the strategy nearly worked at Derby. Maybe he will be working in training on getting more support to the striker before the Sheffield Wednesday game.

    Allan, I’m not sure I like the idea of the star system. If people start rating my sense of humour I’m in trouble.

  24. Mark

    AK wont change the way we play at our major rivals, as I keep repeating it would help if we passed to a team mate.

    Part of the problem at both Preston and Derby was that we were not going to throw men forward and neither were they. Even when we broke at Derby they had a back four securely in place with a couple of midfield minders in front. It is why they had so much windscreen wiper passing and possession, they were not going to go gung ho.

    May see a change or two tomorrow though Kike has made a case for staying in the team. Two good away draws and a resounding home win in the league plus a comfortable win at Oldham make a case for same again.

  25. Sounds like Clement’s main priority was not to lose the game, Ian. Both teams wanted to avoid any damage to morale.

  26. Shush – don’t tell Sean, Burnley about to drop £7m on Andre Gray.

    Those clubs spending money in the championship, pushing it to a whole new level,what ever next? Spending more than them?

  27. It’s the Premier League working its way down, I hope it isn’t a sign of things to come.

    The PL was noted for its frenetic pace and cut and thrust for 90 minutes. This made it very attractive to the TV companies and their world wide audiences. Recent seasons have seen that diminish to be replaced by a more cautious “don’t get beat at all costs” approach.

    This stems from the vast sums of money on offer for being in the league, making relegation something to be avoided like the plague. It can be a death knell for some clubs.

    The Championship was seen as much more entertaining for the fan in the last season than the PL. However, now it seems almost as if teams in the Championship are readying themselves for possible promotion by playing Premiership tactics now, making them better equipped to survive their first season back in the big time.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but the few Premiership games I have seen on TV have hardly entertained me.

  28. GHW –

    It is the way of football, before we played them derby had employed 442, 4231 and 433.

    Even the notional 442 was really a 4231 with the second striker dropping off in to the hole.

    I suppose this is supposed to suck the other defender out but they wont come out to play, the shielding midfielders are picking them up. If sides are patient it becomes a stalemate. There were five shots each on Tuesday.

    I think the pattern will be repeated in away matches. Decent teams just wont over commit against us, they will be relatively cautious.

    When cracks first appeared in the invincible Arsenal side Arsene complained about teams not playing properly against them. Arsenal were set up almost without a striker with Henry sat on the left wing, at the time I called it a 4-5.5-0.5 formation with half a striker.

    Arsene wanted teams to play 4-4-2 so they could out pass them in midfield with their highly skilled, pacey players. They could then slice the opposition apart. Think how many wonder strikes there were from Henry running from the left wing.

    Big Sam at Bolton was one of the first to play 4-5-1 against them, everybody followed suit. It didn’t always work because they have had fantastic, skilful footballers.

    I cant see Aitor deciding ok lets go for it at places like Derby, Wolves, Hull. It just wont happen, there are some decent players in this league, he wont want them in space running at the back four. Look what happened when Ince caught sight of a Boro player approaching, he collapsed like he was Fabbrini!

    I am not saying we should revert to two banks of five or play up and at them. Aitor will play with four attackers to go and attack, full backs will support but are defenders, the holding midfielders will try and push the team up the pitch. if it doesn’t work away from home the fall back position is you start with a point. When there is someone we can overrun then they will try to do it.

    Don’t shout at me, that is my amateur reading of what I see in front of me.

  29. Len, on the money as ever. Best two posts in a long time. Your analysis of Albert’s role also explains perfectlly for me the apparent decline of Adam Reach.

    1. W’s mate:

      Thanks, and I agree that any analysis of what has happened to Reach wold cover much of the same ground.

      Where’s Wiggy these days by the way?

  30. I’ve just watched the highlights of Tuesday’s game on Boro plus. Although I stand by my main point, I have had to revise my assessment of the two teams, assuming the edit is representative. Derby attacked more than had seemed the case and Boro counterattacked more than was my impression on the night.

    Nevertheless I still think that if we had been less cautious we could have sealed the win. Although the Derby attacks were rarely incisive or dangerous, with little threat from us, we allowed the Rams to pile forward with the inevitable outcome. If we had given them more to worry about they could not have come forward in such numbers and there was a realistic chance of us grabbing a second goal.

  31. NikeBoro

    The problem was when we did counter attack we coughed the ball up so we couldn’t sustain any possession or build up pressure.

    In rugby the turnover is even more crucial, the team that turns the ball over the most invariably ends up on the back foot. It is more obvious in rugby because of the way the game is played, the tackle just stops the opponent but they retain the ball and recycle it unless they make some handling error.

    We tried several ambitious balls when a simpler one would have kept us on the attack, Fabbrini kept getting mugged in the wrong part of the pitch.

  32. Looks like John Stone leaving Everton, do Everton still have an interest in Ben Gibson? and what’s the chances of him leaving? Money talks I guess, but I think he needs another season in the Championship to mature into the great player we know he can be. Hopefully by then Boro will be in the Premier League.

  33. Initial crowd prediction 20,800 boro fans, difficult to predict Bristolians when only 111 had bought a day or so ago.

    1. Well I’m not there and neither is my youngest due to holiday’s interfering with the footie season but I’m going for a 2-0 Boro win (Kike brace) and 21,768.

  34. Listened to Clement on Sky after the match after the Brum v Derby match. First half too open, too much distance between the lines of defence, midfield and attack. Much better when they played Ince behind Martin with Weiman and Russell either side of Ince.

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