Timely Boro Launch Fight Back As Brewers Droop

Talk about a timely result.  It may have taken extra time to squeeze past lower league opposition but it was crucial.

Not just to make progress in the cup and bounce back from the first defeat of the season. And not just to show that Boro could come from behind.

The fight-back that made the Brewers drop was the first time in just over a year that Aitor Karanka’s side had clawed back a deficit – the last occasion was at Bolton 12 months ago this week, a hard-fought 2-1 win.  All that is great but it was routine box-ticking.

The real result on the night was that it helped settle the nerves of Teesside’s more nervous faction of fans.

This past week there has been a toxic feel to the always intense bubble around Boro.

Not so long ago everyone was celebrating Karanka’s new deal as the best Boro signing of the summer.

But after a stuttering start to the season that optimism has started to ebb away and in the past week faith has faltered, morale has wobbled and pointed questions have been asked about the signings and the dynamics of the dugout.

So Boro really needed a result to relieve the pressure.

A defeat would have seen mounting tempers boil over.

So phew. Job done.

There was a fevered atmosphere long before Boro fans had even set off from Teesside with the rumour mill buzzing with Apocalyptic fury over “the Albert Adomah” situation.

He was said to have demanded a transfer, was being courted by a string of big clubs and was simmering after a bust-up with the boss.

When it was learned that he hadn’t travelled it stoked up the terrace temperature and the pre-match mood was fragile.

Not just over Adomah’s absence. Another current narrative is Aitor Karanka’s tendency to ‘tinker’.

Aitor Karanka
Aitor Karanka

He tinkered last year on his way to 85 points and the play-off final at Wembley but the mood has darkened of late and so seven changes at Burton fed into that current concern.

But all the chatter was about Albert and how it would play out.

A senior club source had earlier admitted to the Gazette the pair had an exchange but insisted it was “one of those things,” it showed he was hurt at losing and that he was still a valued member of the squad.

But his absence at Burton stirred up the fevered speculation once more.

The team had stayed at the England HQ at St George’s Park overnight but Adomah wasn’t included in the party.

Fans’ favourite Adomah – one of Boro’s best performers last term – was widely said to have had been smarting after an exchange with the gaffer following the late lapse in the Derby game.

The manager is understood to have blasted the team after the chain of errors that led to the Rams grabbing a sickening late equaliser and the winger is said to have bit back.

He was left on the bench until late in the game against his former team Bristol City on Saturday and at that point it was probably fair to describe their Facebook relationship status as “strained.”

Albert Adomah
Albert Adomah

But he was at least included on the bench. When Muzzy Carayol stepped out of line with “a bad attitude” he was given an on-air tongue lashing and put into internal exile and found himself training with the kids for a spell.

The situation is strange because both parties have eager to heap lavish praise on each other this this season.

Adomah was handed the armband for the Oldham game and afterwards gushed about his improvement under Aitor and his evolution as a more rounded and disciplined team player.

And in the press conference before the Bristol game – and after the ‘flare-up’ – Aitor reciprocated and said he was “perfect” to work with and that he “came here as a player and is now a leader.”

Katie LunnAitor Karanka gives instructions to Albert Adomah against Reading
Aitor Karanka gives instructions to Albert Adomah against Reading last season

Hardly the snarling and sniping you would expect after a row.

But with some sections of the Teesside crowd already jittery after the stodgy start – the cyberspace mood music all summer has been frantic – ‘AlbertGate’ nudged it close to hysterical with a heady cocktail of fear at a rumoured exit of a key player and pre-emptive finger-pointing.

Boro had started the season with one defeat in five but only one league win in five – and if you squint you can view that from any perspective and see whatever you want.

This result will make things appear just that little bit better.

****SORRY there was no pre-match predictions blog but I was left holding the baby. Domestic balls needed juggling. Won’t happen again guv, honest.


140 thoughts on “Timely Boro Launch Fight Back As Brewers Droop

  1. Won’t be long now…..”Blooming Prima Donna, well rid”

    Meanwhile Señor K gets his patterns out for Wednesday.

  2. As important a player if not more so than Stewart Downing. Stuani is not a replacement for Adomah, he is a completely different type of player and as Karanka said his best position is up top. No player is bigger than the club but he’s been our best player for six months and is as close to irreplaceable as you can be.

    Worrying times at the moment are the wheels falling off?

    1. I believe I asked the same question in the last article AV posted for us – IMHO no! Boro are robust, Albert is one player making waves, he’s not a tsunami. If he stays and plays, then that’s great, but if he goes there are plenty who would love the opportunity that his absence would create.

      As AV has oft said, AK may shuffle his pack but the hands he plays are based on the same consistant strategy. l for one believe for better or worse that will continue – time will tell if I’m right.

  3. Oh dear. Things don’t feel right at all.

    For the last year and a half I have considered that AK had been close to infallible and that Boro had gone (albeit from a very low starting position) from strength to strength under his management.

    For the first time I’m beginning to have doubts. Probably nothing that a couple of wins and good performances won’t cure – but I’m worried.

  4. Never, he may think he is better than he is, but do we have a replacement that would deliver the defending side as well as he does? Stuani certainly does not.

    I am more concerned with the team spirit and where the goals are coming from to win us promotion.

    All this talk of SD delivering is tosh, crosses yes, goals, no chance.

    We may have a more indepth squad, but playing the strikers out of position to accommodate them will never work.

    We will not score as many goals as last season playing the current system, mark my words.

    1. I agree, everyone keeps saying we were mighty close and only one or two wins from auto promotion last year, well that being the case we should only be slightly tweaking this year but we’re very close now to having a completely new front four

  5. Burnley sign the football philosophy king Joey ‘call me Friedrich Nietzsche’ Barton and all we are worried about is Albert, come on there must be some mileage in taking the P155 out of Dyche here and we are missing an opportunity for a little brevity.

    Come on men, as Mogga would say, ‘if he goes he goes, if he stays he stays. It is what it will be’ or something. This is what makes everything interesting, we just have to loosen up and think positively. The wheels aren’t coming off at all, someone goes and it’s an opportunity for someone else; I think that’s what managers say.

    As that great philosopher General Patton said, ‘men we’re not retreating, just advancing in a different direction.’ I think it was Patton anyway, now I’ve got a touch of the Joey Barton.

  6. Managers? I’ve shot, shaved and shifted them.

    Two of the most creative players on the staff, two of the few capable of getting the crowd on their feet, alienated and probably away on the same day, their departures possibly not unrelated.

    Carayol, fit and ready to go on his return from Brighton, completely ignored, when he should certainly have had a run out on the last dead rubber league game, and a player who had it in him to produce that bit of magic so sadly missing in the play-off final.

    The saga of Albert seems to have been remarkably close to the lunatic, and scarcely believable, scenario which we discussed on here before and after the Bristol City game.

    Both of them victims of a simplistic ‘avoid mistakes’ blame culture from which only the manager’s tactics are exempt.

    AK apparently unable to think one or two moves ahead in his treatment of Albert, seemingly caught by surprise by the quite foreseeable consequences of his own actions.

    As GHW says, cue the leaks of disparaging copy about Albert, and a whitewashing of the manager’s role a la Steele, and Higgie, as the MFC press office works overtime to limit the self-inflicted damage.

    Mr Gibson must be in despair, His money and ambitions for the club he loves sabotaged by a style of management that would not have been out of place in a Victorian mill..

    I hope it may not be too late for the Chairman to bang a few heads together.

  7. I recall Mr. Keith Lamb saying the tenure of the club from top to bottom were mere custodians of the club and it was important the club is maintained and handed up accordingly, those words sit with me. Current sagas and stubbornness, to me are deliberaley de railing us.

    If management have a cunning plan that will without fail remedy this situation and make us stronger, then brilliant, but if we are entering into this without any cunning and potential risk then fix the situation with the people involved and quickly as there is too much to lose.

    If AK’s solution is Stuani on the right and Stewie drifting right to fill a void then, i for one am bitterly, bitterly dissapointed because that will give us mid table mediocrity and not much more.

  8. I’d buy into the ‘no player is bigger than the club’ mantra but I’d suggest that neither is the Manager..

    A dictatorial style of management may work at a top chamions league club but not at a championship one where the options to replace quality are limited. The sum of Stuani, Downing, and Nugent is not more than Lee Tomlin and Albert Adomah IMHO

    The dreadful treatment of Steel and Hignett, the seeming ejection of Tomlin , the absolute refusal to forgive Caryol, and now this latest escapade with Albert should be raising some very basic and very serious questions within the boro boardroom.

    There is of course the hope that Leadbitter or Clayton fall out with AK about who gets to play nearer to his own goal forcing AK to consider bringing Forshaw into the side, but in all likelihood, they’d be replaced with an extra centre back

    Seriously I think AK has done a great job in his time here but his zero tolerance approach and failure to admit to or learn from his own mistakes are stopping us and him from acheiving what is definately possible.

    1. “There is of course the hope that Leadbitter or Clayton fall out with AK about who gets to play nearer to his own goal forcing AK to consider bringing Forshaw into the side, but in all likelihood, they’d be replaced with an extra centre back”

      Love it!! Made me chuckle!

  9. Looks like I’ve bookmarked the wrong blog…somehow the level of anxiety on here is at par with the Manchelsiarespool sites.

    3 wins, 2 away draws, and a head scratching loss (with a good goal disallowed) is being perceived as a step backwards.

    People are even complaining we aren’t winning the right way. I feel like I’m consoling my friends that support Man U.

    Everyone should just take a breather, accept the bedding down period, and enjoy it when Boro begin cycling on all cylinders. I think December is a better month to be worried.


  10. I’ve been away for a week and come back to find the world has imploded and the crowd has turned against the manager who was “the best signing of the summer” when I left.

    Now I don’t live on Teesside so I don’t know what the hell is going on inside that super-heated bubble of gossip but is some of this knee-jerking serious? Aitor is “deliberately derailing” the club? Really? Is that like Steve Gibson “deliberately” got Boro relegated for some unspoken devious financial reason? His future is in the balance? Really? A month after signing a new deal? From outside it all sounds waaaay over the top. Especially when they have lost one in six with new players still being bedded in.

    Look, players come and go all the time and the team somehow survives. And you know what, some of these players will want to be away for a lot of reasons just like any job. And it is a job for them. Tomlin had moves lined up long before he got the runs. Albert probably has as well. No-one puts a transfer request in and forfeits all those bonuses in a fit of pique for not playing against their former team. They both may have jumped because they are are at their peak earning power (after being improved by Karanka) and you can’t blame for that as it is a mercenary business and short lived career and agents have to do their thing. They may have jumped because players have come in in their position and don’t fancy playing second fiddle. Again, fair enough. That’s the game.

    Players leave. It is part of the circle of life. So long as you replace them with the same or better its no crisis. And so far Gibson has let Karanka replace exits with better. Look at the ones he has culled. Who would you have back ahead of the people who came in and got us to Wembley last year? Varga? Kamara? JUtkiewicz? Maybe Butterfield (allthough he never really fitted the system). Sometimes we have to just accept a bloke who has been at the biggest club in the world may actually know what he ‘s doing.

    And to take it off at a tangent there was a blog over the summer in which the usual suspects were bashing the club saying Boro NEVER make a profit on transfers and what had happened to the so called Moneyball policy of buying cheap and selling on? Boro doubled their money (and more) on Tomlin and you’d expect them to treble even quadruple their money on Admonah. Maybe Boro are happy to bring some cash in. Business is business.

    **AV writes: Yes, the terrace temperature on Teesside is incredibly high but then, it has been all summer. It actually hasn’t dipped since the end of last term. Maybe it is an emotional hangover from Wembley, maybe a need for recriminations for that defeat, maybe it is because expectation levels have been raised so high that every set-back and stumble is magnified.

    On the movement of players I’m relaxed about it, so long as the sums add up. Players (and managers) come and go and the world keeps turning. The only constant is the fans. For me, whatever the reasons behind the scenes, you can’t keep an unhappy player no matter how good or popular they are. And that goes back to Souness. And for me every player that comes in deserves a chance to show what they can do and how they fit the skill set. You can’t pillory them because they are not the last guy.

    1. AV said – ‘Players (and managers) come and go’

      First time I’ve seen you write such a statement AV and given an earlier post reply about statements needing to be written with caution due to the sensitive atmosphere hereabouts, it stands out for me. In particular the bit about ‘managers’ coming and going.

      l was thinking back to how many managers l’ve seen come and go during my time as a supporter. l reckon about 9 or 10. At one point l even spent about 10 mins sitting in the manager’s chair behind his desk during one B Robson’s tenure – but l digress. The point l want to make agrees with your own, ‘they come & go’ & the Boro continues.

      l’ve said it before and l believe it deserves repeating. We aren’t at crisis point yet. There is still time to get it right and string a run of results together BUT (note the capitals) if the present run of points accured to games played in the league continues managerial change is inevitable before Santa has even thought of harnessing his reindeer. AK is not Mogga in that he doesn’t have the same emotional credit with the fans.

      Time to get the act together or more than Albert. could be looking to leave the circus.

  11. I don’t think people are wanting Aitor to leave. I think most people would consider that he has done a fantastic job.

    I think most people’s concerns are that flaws and mistakes that were obvious to see last year are instead of being learned from, are being repeated.

    I am worried that the goal scoring issue has not been resolved as the players stats don’t suggest that we are capable of scoring the goals we need in order to be promoted. Are we addressing these issues by changing our set up, to be more attacking, to play higher up the pitch? So far the answer is no.

    People probably do have unrealistic expectations in the sense that Aitor has done such a great job in a relatively short period of time. But we do now have the players to get us promoted. I hate Boro getting beaten but I could probably handle it when you just had to accept the other side was better than you. The difference is this season is that the other side invariably isn’t better than you. So instead you look for other reasons as to why we lost or drew.

    It is these questions that put Aitor’s selections and tactics far more firmly in the spotlight and which leaves fans so incensed when selections like those against Bristol City are made.

    If we don’t get promoted this season with the massive financial commitment we have made over the next few years for ageing players like Nugent and Downing we may struggle to come close for many years to come.

  12. Needs to be sorted out and soon. Like nikeboro, I’m starting to feel a bit uneasy with how things are going for the first time in a long while. Things aren’t great with Boro right now. After some really really good signings so far this Albert scenario is disappointing to say the least.

    AK said pretty much what I expected today, he will say everything is fine to the media, he said the same with Tomlin too – it’s kinda part of the job. I suspect Adomah will probably leave. It’s a big shame if it happens as he would’ve had so much of a big part to play for us this season. I said a few weeks back that I thought a few bids would come in for him. Now, if Albert has requested a transfer, its unlikely that a reasonable bid would be refused come deadline day. AK has always said he doesn’t want players who don’t want to be here – seems pretty clear cut then.

    As someone said earlier unless SG can bang a few heads together to get them thinking straight then it’s looking unlikely. Lets hope it works out. A good win this weekend would be give us all something more positive to talk about.


  13. Are we dealing with Karankas ego,or do we actually have players who don’t know what they are doing,and need to be reminded every game,?
    I don’t know which could be worse,

    On another note, have we miissed out on an opportunity to sign a couple of players if nothing else are experienced and know their way around and wouldn’t need their hands held,I’m referring to Barton and Nolan, I know “what ” you might say,but its promotion for me,and I’m sick of dicken around with inconsistency,we need leaders who can sort things out on the field.and these two could.
    Paisley or Cloughy didn’t need a sophisticated coaching template.

  14. Everyone seems to be forgetting the Transfer Window is still open. I wouldn’t be surprised if Adomah isn’t the only one going through the Riverside Door.

  15. I’m sure Stewart Downing has Kevin Nolan’s number on speed dial. This would be a fantastic signing for the Boro. The one thing the team is lacking, an experienced head on the field to drive them.

      1. Spartak storms off pitch, down tunnel into changin rooms. Once in throws boots at wall sending tea tray with china pot & cups flyin, whilst pullin hair, grindin teeth & howlin ‘ l was robbed!’

  16. Tees Exile – good post.

    Regarding Karanka’s treatment of Adomah, none of us know exactly what happened, but the inference is that Karanka criticised him for something he did/didn’t do and Adomah then challenged the manager’s authority in public, ie in front of his team mates. Now if Adomah said I’m sorry boss I don’t agree with you, that’s a fair challenge, if he said you can *@#* off, then that’s another matter. If Adomah has over stepped the mark which he probably has then the manager needed to come down on him like a tonne of bricks otherwise his authority is shot and morale collapses because there is no leadership. I’m backing Karanka on this 100% because I’m guessing Adomah over stepped the mark. If any of my guys did that to me they’d be gone, in fact one went last year.

    What we need, very simply, is a couple of wins to settle the nerves. Karanka knew what he was doing last season when we over achieved, he’s the same man this season, he still knows what he’s doing.

      1. No digs whatsoever at AV….he is a top man and love his articles….players and managers can come and go but as long as we have AV to report then I am happy

  17. This is the same Adomah who caused an outcry wearing a QPR shirt last year, the same Adomah who has instigated a move from every club he’s played for.

    However the argument between Karanka and Adomah developed the Manager has to have full authority ,can’t have players calling the shots, Adomah may regret this transfer request, he’ll expect to sign for a higher profile club and may just end up sitting on the bench more!

  18. There are some players who I think could get their heckles raised pretty quickly at the Club and some who seem the more laid back, meek and mild type. I wouldn’t have put Albert in the heckles raised category and whilst he may not be as eloquent or tactfully shrewd perhaps as George could be in a debate I would put that happy smiling chappy more in the laid back group.

    Even the meek and mild however have a breaking point and if something was said that touched a nerve it may have sparked an out of character knee jerk response but until someone writes their memoirs I doubt we will ever know the truth and even then it will be a one sided version. We know that AK can be blunt in his style and we also believe that AA has an agent trying to get him a move and it may simply have provided an opportunity to raise the stakes for AA but I doubt it. I think he simply felt unfairly dropped and not for the first time but in this situation a bit victimised and things have become polarised in his own mind and I don’t think AK picked up on the “vibes” until the request probably.

    With 30 odd players to see to and consider I doubt AK gave AA’s mindset any particular special attention, nor should he have. What will be will be and all parties will have to move on in one form or another. For me I hope AK and AA can work things out and Albert stays but if push comes to shove then the Manager has to be backed.

    Apparently Westwood is a doubt for Sheffield Wednesday and Turner is likely to deputise in goal tomorrow. A back up keeper playing against the Boro, well we know how the script for that one normally goes.

    Nugent is also a doubt due to an injury apparently but Agazzi may be available. My thoughts on Agazzi are dubious at very best but I wouldn’t have thought his International clearance would be through in time based upon it being a similar situation to Stuani apparently.

    The good news is we are playing at Hillsborough in August and the pitch should be playable so I don’t envisage any extreme tinkering apart from perhaps consideration for the type of studs on boots. A defeat wouldn’t be a huge surprise as we never get anything there but with the current backdrop of Boro sentiment being in short supply it wouldn’t bode well. I suspect that we will see a Boro backlash (or at least I’m optimistically hoping so) with a few cameo performances from Senior pro’s leading the way.

    **AV writes: I think when Aitor said Agazzi was a “similar situation” to Stuani he was referring it to being the process – waiting for international clearance – rather than thetimescale or complexity. I think he is expected to have his papers before the game. although I’m not sure he is match fit so doubt if he would play.

  19. Well it’s all gone a bit Boronation Street this week hasn’t it? (other soaps are available)

    Albert on the bench, Albert comes on, Albert shuns the home fans, Albert out of the squad, AK being economical with the facts, Albert hands in a transfer request (the cad, bounder, roué…)

    Who knows what goes on. One thing is for sure though, it has the putrefying stench of agents stamped all over it. Are we supposed to believe that Albert hands in a transfer request because of some slight, and not because his agent has got something interesting lined up? It smacks of taking offence at something in order to get the move that you want. Perhaps that’s the reason he was “rested” in the first place against Bristol, someone had gotten into his head?

    Anyway, the only thing we know for sure is that the real truth will never come out. These things never do, they always get caught in he said/he said territory. The dressing room omertà will see to that.

    Difficult position, and good summary of the options on the Gazette website. Personally, I prefer the hang on and make him play option. If a Tyrone Mings costs you 8M, then the man who skinned him inside out for fun must cost you the same, especially as he is in his prime. If Boro sell for anything less than 5M then we’ve been had. If it was my decision I would put a price of 7-8M and if no-one meets it, then he stays and plays.

  20. Bit of a contradiction by AK today. To paraphrase… My rotation system works I’m the one who sees the players in training not the fans and I choose the starting eleven accordingly……

    ….When we’re playing Tuesday/Saturday/Tuesday there is not much opportunity to train.”

    It is a long season but a defeat tomorrow and our start will be worse than last year and we could be nine points off the pace. Even after five games that’s a lot of points to make up. Let’s hope we play with some positivity rather than setting up to not get beat.

    One point away from home is no longer good enough to get us promoted and that’s after 4 games.

  21. I hope Adomah stays. Love to see him in a Boro shirt and smiling.

    I think there must be long term issues, too. Not only this week. As a Southener he perhaps longs to London or near. Perhaps he has not really settled in into the area. Perhaps?

    Secondly he has improved here defensively. But perhaps deep down he likes to be goal scoring winger like he used to be. A bit like Tom Ince.

    But lets hope he stays. We need him. Up the Boro!

  22. EG wrote:

    ‘If a player doesn’t want to play for the club, then get them out’. That’s an understandable view among some supporters in pubs and across social media sites.

    How many reporters did you send to the pubs, AV? And how you chose the journalists. …

    Up the Boro!

  23. What are we defining as ‘tinkering’ then? I suppose I considered it to be any changes (isn’t that what Ranieri was accused of – never keeping the same team?) – but RR seems to be describing it as wholesale changes. Is 3 not tinkering and 4 is?

    I had a look at last season to see if there were any examples of lots of changes.

    One stood out in September – we won away at Cardiff midweek, made 5 changes for the home game with Brentford (promoted side, similar to Bristol City?) and won 4-0.


    November – beat Rotherham 3-0 (again promoted side, surprise start for Wildschut – bit of a theme here?) then we made 3 changes and beat Norwich 4-0

    and the one we know about:

    Feb – beat Charlton 3-0, then 7 changes and beat Blackpool 2-1.

    I have to say as well, using the Sheff Wed/Blackpool games as an example of tinkering are poor choices – other factors were at play here such as the pitches. AK clearly set up with teams/formations that he thought could win the conditions.

    There are countless others where we made 2 changes and the won the next game. I guess that doesn’t count as tinkering?

    and this from Nigel

    “The reason we didn’t get promoted last season was because we didn’t score enough goals, an issue which has been addressed this season by the purchase of more attacking midfield players and strikers.
    We didn’t fail to get promoted because of poor team selection.”

    is absolutely spot on. How many games last season did we bemoan the lack of a finisher or quality of a final ball? Was that because we played 4-2-3-1 or rotated? AK has improved the squad and we have to expect rotation – I’d argue he doesn’t actually rotate enough – Forshaw should have started at least one of the league games to give Clayton/Leadbitter a break.

    And it isn’t about poor players needing a rest – if the players are fresher and hungrier, they are bound to play better. It isn’t rocket science.

    What is interesting as well is looking back at the first half of last season, is how often Adomah was rotated (certainly in comparison to the second half) – so there is surely more to it than just being left out.

    1. Great points made concisely BoroPhil. My thoughts circled around those issues & the external variables like Higgy, Tomlin etc., so the fundemental remains- why are Bournemouth, Watford & Norwich playin Premier League football & we’re off to a ‘flat start’ (Woody) in the Championship?

      For me it’s irrelevant to say we were close and we shouldn’t complain. It’s like sticking 50 quid on a nag for the Grand National and it’s up there at the last fence with 4 or 5 others but as they jump ours falls. It’s a failure (Leadbitter) no matter how you dress it up with stats or excuses.

      ‘A couple of spuggies a summer does not make.’ So what’s the main issue, why do Boro fall flat at crucial times especially when Aitor insists that rotation is not a problem & therefore the team should be up & firing on all cylinders?

      1. Spartakboro – For me it’s simple, last season we weren’t quite good enough to get promoted. Hopefully this season we will be.

  24. BoroPhil’s analysis of results following ‘tinkering’ adds weight to the arguement that when we lose an excuse/something to blame is looked for and the easiest thing to do is blame the manager.

    The various wins BoroPhil notes despite the team having been ‘tinkered wth’ suggests AK is right that rotation is not an issue.

    **AV writes: He “tinkered” all teh way to Wembley. He’ll “tinker” again this year… and hopefully with a better skill set in the squad.

  25. Borophil

    AK wants a compact squad with two players competing for every position, keeping everyone on their toes. I have no problem with that and for the umpteenth time I have no problem with taking a CB like Gibson or Ayala and resting him and bringing in another CB for example Woody. I don’t have a problem with resting Dimi in the cup games and giving Mejias a run out. I don’t have a problem with resting Grant and bringing Forshaw in etc.

    Rotation keeps players competitive and also does prevent niggles becoming a flared up fully fledged long term injury. I fully agree with and support that ethos.

    Taking your example of Cardiff in Midweek and then Brentford on the Saturday, AK rotated his squad with his changes like for like with only one, Damia sadly being enforced.

    Boro Team V Cardiff

    13 Konstantopoulos
    04 Ayala Booked
    22 Omeruo
    02 Damiá (Nsue – 64′ )
    03 Friend
    27 Adomah
    08 Clayton
    20 Reach
    07 Leadbitter
    21 Vossen (Tomlin – 66′ )
    09 Kike (Bamford – 87′ )

    Boro team V Brentford

    13 Konstantopoulos
    05 Fredericks Booked
    06 Gibson
    22 Omeruo
    03 Friend
    24 Nsue
    27 Adomah
    23 Bamford Booked (Kike – 76′ )
    18 Whitehead
    07 Leadbitter (Clayton – 70′ )
    21 Vossen (Reach – 85′

    Each of those changes are like for like, Freddy came in at RB for Damia a RB, Gibson a CB came in for Ayala a CB, Whitehead came in for Clayton both of whom are Central Midfielders, see a pattern here?

    I don’t like too many changes (I personally would prefer less than 4 changes for continuity and synergistic reasons) but these players train in these positions and follow Aitor’s strict game plan and in that way his rotation policy works and works very well. Minimal disruption and like for like.

    When Wildschut came in against Rotherham he wasn’t playing as a LB but in his preferred position on the flank, another pattern.

    I have never known any manager to throw out his manual and pick a Team, formation or set up based upon a pitch. I have known managers to maybe pick a big lad up front and hump it up to him to keep it off the ground but that is as technical as it gets but not an overhaul of personnel and tactics to confound things even more. Against Wednesday we were shocking and we scrapped past Blackpool when we should have blown them away.

    At the risk of repeating myself on tinkering it is when players are moved into unfamiliar positions when there are fully fit and available players into whose position another player has been moved into with yet another player then moving into that players position who again isn’t playing in his best position thereby weakening two areas when one only needed changing and frustratingly when there is a Player available in whose position the original position it was.

    This is then further compromised when unfamiliar players are then also partnered up. e.g. on Saturday Kalas moved to CB and Nsue brought in at RB (when we had CB’s available) then Albert is benched for Stuani who is not familiar with his colleagues generally as he is still settling in but put in the side in front of Nsue who is susceptible shall we say at RB when he could have had Kalas behind him. As a consequence we had a weakened Central defence, a very weak and unfamiliar Right side with Stuani in front of Nsue. Guess where Bristol exploited our defence for their goal, more predictable than a pattern I would say.

  26. Nigel –

    ‘We weren’t quite good enough’ IMHO is something of a kop-out. The question remains, why?

    We were good enough to beat Norwich at Norwich but fell flat at Wembley. We were good enough to get into the play off final while all others bar three weren’t good enough. Last season’s problems are now past tense or are they? This season’s flat start belongs to a new group with old faces remaining. Why should it be flat with money invested yet a solid core of players who know how to beat Man City.

  27. Interesting debate. But wasn’t Kalas originally a CB who can play at RB? Just saying. Is it really tinkering.

    Personally I think Kalas and Nsue should not play the same time. They don’t support each other but then I haven’t seen many matches when they played together. But in one match Nsue was horrible and Kalas needed to leave the center ….

    When are Rhys and Abela back, AV?

    Up the Boro!

  28. I see my wish has been granted and we have signed Amorebieta on another season long loan, with regards to Albert, I get told in July his agent is very busy trying to find him a new club (Premiership ?) and suddenly in August he takes offence at being “rested” for the Bristol City game (with at least another 3 other players) but it turns into a clash with AK and the result is Albert putting in a transfer request, coincidence or not !

    Come on BORO.

  29. Fernando is back! If he continues scoring at his goals per game ratio from last year, we won’t need the new forward line at all.

    Tomas Kalas is an accomplished player at full back, but he has struggled in central defence. One issue is that he can get outmuscled by the Wilsons and Wilbrahams of this world. My sons keep stuffing themselves with Weetabix and protein shakes but are still as skinny as rakes, so I’m afraid there is no quick solution for Tomas’s problem there.

    Demarai Grey? Swap deal? Get on the phone to Birmingham. If Albert hears there is a move he might not like in the offing, it may concentrate everyone’s minds on reconciliation. Grey is one for the future, but unfortunately I believe he’s left-sided. Still, would be a fantastic signing.

    1. GHW, I read it this morning, you wonder if you want to rub shoulders with people in the premiership when you read articles like that. More spin than a cricket ball. Oops, the ‘c’ word.



  30. Wow, that Baptiste must be some player. First we entice Woody back from retirement to replace him. Then we promote Fry and buy Stephens. Now Amorbieta has been brought back in.

    That means it has taken 4 players to replace him – I look forward to seeing him play when he’s fit again.

    1. Well at least we shouldn’t see Kalas back in the centre with Ayala, Woody, Fry, Gibson, Stephens and now Amorebeita all fit and available.

  31. “At the risk of repeating myself on tinkering it is when players are moved into unfamiliar positions”

    But I don’t agree with you on this either. As Jarkko said above, Kalas is a CB by trade. Everyone has seemed to judge him on one performance last year against the best team in the division at the end of a week where we had already played Ipswich and Derby. He’d played there quite comfortably for us before then as well.

    Nsue is a RB, played there in Spain and played there last year for us. Certainly not unfamiliar.

    Stuani played a lot of his football as a right-sided forward in Spain.

    None of them unfamiliar positions.

    Having said that, I think he did get it wrong at the back – I’d prefer that to be less rotated and I’d have played Gibson if he was fit enough to be on the bench. But that team was more than good enough to win that game, and we lost because we played poorly, not because of the teams selection.

  32. Kalas might believe himself to be a CB and fair play to him but I don’t consider him capable of fulfilling that role in the Championship as he is too lightweight and doesn’t fill me with confidence at all playing there.

    Nsue has indeed played at RB in Spain (as I have already pointed out in an earlier post in this self same blog) but he looks poor in that position in the Championship and goes AWOL. Maybe its the set up or maybe its the tempo of the Championship but he most definitely is not good enough to play in that position for a Team that wants to seriously challenge for automatic promotion. I would also point out that Mejias played as a Goalkeeper in Spain and Alves as a Forward in the Netherlands.

    Stuani is new to the club, the tactics, the formation and his team mates. To put him in a side with a dodgy RB and a Central pairing weakened by playing Kalas there when there was no need was asking for trouble and we got it.

    If no CB was available (Gibson or Fry or Woody) then why not slot Friend in there with Husband who at least is a LB which would have been a better shout than moving Kalas inside.

    Obviously we disagree on what is simple rotation and team selection and what is in my opinion tinkered “Unforced Errors” by a Manager but regardless of who is correct AK needs to improve on last season and also his start to this season. If he tinkers and wins then great but so far he has repeated things that did not yield points last season and just done it twice within 4 days and in so doing lost to the newly promoted bottom side and needed extra time to beat a Burton side with 7 or 8 changes from their league side. Whatever the technicalities of it, it wasn’t good enough.

  33. Why have signed Amorebieta? Are Stephens and Fry not good enough to step in and has AK accepted that Kalas is not suited to CH. Nsue….i would not play him a RB ever!!!!

  34. The tinkering debate is going to divide us until the last star dies or Bernie runs out of opinions, whichever comes first.

    Wondering what exact number is acceptable rotation, and what number nudges us over the line into tinkering is as useful as knowing that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. There are so many variables to consider in each match situation and selection, which helps to make our discussions so rich and fascinating.

    AK has built the team, trained them to play a system which works, and has achieved excellent consistency and success. Home form has been really good and last season represented the best value for money we’ve had for years. In the end we fell marginally short, but there’s still a decent chance for us to do better this time. There’s no case for saying AK is not the right man for the job.

    But occasionally his team selections have not been helpful.

  35. I think Nsue has done a decent job at RB whenever he has played there. When he first played there last season he seemed to want to bomb forward at all opportunities, but he seems to have curbed that a bit and plays more responsibly. Did well v Bolton and you can understand why AK thought he would be fine v Bristol City.

    Kalas – well ok RR, if you have decided he isn’t good enough based on not a lot of games, fair enough. I think he’s done ok when I’ve seen him there, bar the Bournemouth game where anyone could have struggled – but at the end of the day I haven’t seen enough to really make comment and AK is probably a better judge of a centre half than you or I.

    “But occasionally his team selections have not been helpful.”

    I think this is fair – AK gets it wrong sometimes (for me Bristol City, Sheff Wed), but he gets it right the vast majority of the time, and he tinkers to some degree in virtually every match so it works more often than not.

  36. At the risk of repeating myself. How are we going to get more goals.

    People keep saying we have signed more goal scorers. I agree we have. But we only play one of them each game and if we do play two we play one of them out of position on the wing.

    You can not expect any of our strikers to score 20 goals because at best they will only play one game every three up front so it’s irrelevant how many strikers we have signed.

    Being optimistic if you say between them nugent, stuani and kike will get 30 goals and that’s very optimistic considering only one of them plays up front each game where are the rest of the goals going to come from?

    Downing who’s never scored more than 6 goals in the last 7 years? Fabrini who scores 2 a year?

    I’m sorry I mightn’t be able to spot a player as well as aitor but I guarantee aitor can’t use statistics as well as I can and the funny thing is statistics don’t lie.

    **AV writes: I know people will always project their own world view onto any given situation but why think Boro’s new boys wouldn’t get goals? Kike has got three in three league starts so far. Stuani has banged in four in three starts (including the cup but they all count) . Nugent we haven’t seen yet but he has averaged better than one in three in the Championship over eight seasons. People keep on telling me Boro are poor up front but they’ve scored nine in six games. That to me suggests that there *are* goals in there if the balance is right.

    1. I agree if the balance is right. But the fact is in our current setup it is not physically possible for them all to get goals as they can’t all play.

      From what we’ve seen stuani will get goals if he is upfront and I think kike would do better than last season but between them they won’t get enough games to get the goals they need.

      Even if one of them plays the majority of games and gets the magic twenty goals the other two strikers you’ve named won’t be anywhere near that as they won’t have had the opportunity to play.

      I think with a different system and set up the goals are there but I don’t think we’ve found it yet as evidenced by our first four league games. Cup games against lower league opposition can’t be used to make us look more prolific.

      Hopefully it will come but a lot rests on things coming good.

  37. I thibk we need around five to ten more goals this season than last season to go up. Depending that we defend as well as last year.And that the goals are evenly spread to several matches.

    I agree with AV. Kike and Stuani have started the season very well. If they continue in the same way they end up BOTH with 20 to 30 goals in a season. Optimistic, but thats how you can read the statistics!

    Up the Boro!

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