Goalless Grind No Classic But Plenty Of Positives

COMATOSE neutrals across the nation snoozed on sofas.  Affronted “purists” stormed out of the living room slamming doors behind as they went to find their hipster Ajax 74 Total Football DVD collection. And pundits with fear in their eyes groaned at the thought of digging out the “highlights” from 94 minutes of functional, glamour free grind.

Meanwhile metal merchants everywhere must have been surveying the screen avidly because if it was weighed in for scrap this match had hit pay dirt.

Welcome to the ‘Greatest League In The World’ and the start of yet another sizzling small screen soaraway Super Sunday subscription spectacular.

1Brad

Now, I don’t mind the odd attritional slog. It is part-and parcel in the football mix. Mind-numbing games with “nil-nil written all over them” in big thick black marker are far more common at every level than the brand-managers will ever acknowledge and I long ago learned to roll with them.

The highlight – the only historical footnote anyway – was that the team was led out by proud Teessider Ben Gibson, the youngest skipper since Lee Cattermole led a youth side at Fulham in May 2006.

Most of the aftermath will be dominated by competitively harsh comments on quality control. And that is fair enough. It was hard work watching it.

We would all like to see sweeping cavalier football and Teesside tiki-taka you don’t get extra points for artistic merit.  But while it will be quickly be air-brushed out of most people’s memory, don’t make the mistake of thinking it wasn’t an important game. And a very important point. Boro have put down an important marker in a tough match.

West Brom, a yo-yo side last time we were in this league – have stabilised in the top flight by making a habit of beating the teams ‘in and around’ them at home.  And Tony Pulis is a past master of setting up big, physical teams to be well drilled at the back, hard to beat, battle for the clean sheet and maybe snatch one from a set-play.

For Boro to get past that kind of test is a big box ticked.

It shows the team can bring took industry, organisation, collective sweaty work-rate and sheer ball-breaking battling to the table as well as flashes of flair.

They dug deep in defence with everyone getting back to help. Stewart Downing and Gaston Ramirez were neatly passing their way out of a crowded box at one point, Cristhian Stuani and Alvaro Negredo headed balls away.

The central defensive duo of Gibson and Dani Ayala blocked and tackled and intercepted and headed away everything that was fired into the box in the torrid spells.

After a torrid start Boro clawed back into the game with the midfield dynamic duo aided by Downing dropping deep were working hard to retain, regain and recycle possession and take the sting out of the game.

And Boro slowly – very slowly – started to push play into the West Brom half and assert some pressure of their own, although that was the weak link: Boro lacked the killer ball in the final third.

1Ben

There were flashes of hope at times with some crisp movement and passing going forward but very little sustained pressure, a succession of poor finals deliveries and not a single shot on target barring a bundled Ayala effort in a late scramble.

Boro need to sharpen up at the business end. No one would question that. There have been signs of potency if the Negredo-Ramirez axis is sparking and two of Boro’s three goals this term have been well worked. And that element can be worked on in the break .

But you can’t coach pace it may take a dip into the market to add some real extra zip and bring more width or pace going forward. We’ll see.  There may be surprise said Aitor.

West Brom wasn’t a good game but it was a good result to cap off what has been a good start.  Aitor Karanka’s team have extended their unbeaten start to life in the Premier League and kept their first clean sheet and they have gone into the international break having built a solid platform with three industrious performances.

They have taken five points from three games and were in sixth place at the full time whistle. That’s not bad.  They have opened a small but crucial gap over the sides in the relegation mini-league. If they can maintain that and be four points clear of the bottom three come May it might not be open top bus time but it will be a success.

They are far from the finished article but have shown they can match the established sides they will be measured against and look to be adapting quickly.

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HERE’S my player ratings….  feel free to mark this marking out of 10 out of 10.

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AND here’s what we said before…

 

BOING. Boing. If Boro can beat the Baggies they can bounce to the top of their league. The important results went kindly for our heroes on Saturday: a late leveller for Southampton against Sunderland (courtesy of a man who hadn’t scored for over two years in what we would call a ‘typical Boro’ scenario) meant all our rivals in the Premier League’s  Division Three dropped precious points.

The Mackems, Hull, Burnley, Watford, Bournemouth, Swansea, Crystal Palace – maybe even Stoke too now – all drew at best.  That means if Boro win at West Brom (they are in that group too) they will go up to joint third in the overall table – and top of the one that we will probably be more concerned with this season.  Victory will take Boro six points clear of five teams after three games. and three or four of a couple of the others That would be brilliant. Once we open that vital survival firewall and get a bit of momentum we need to scrap like drunken sailors to keep it up and stay clear. Hook or by crook. Nip and tuck.

1Snln1

And just as we went to Sunderland saying “it is a good time to play them”, there is an echo of that at West Brom. The Hawthorns is not a happy place with fans growing disenchanted with functional Pulisball and worried at the form which fell of a cliff once safety was secured last season. There have been few summer signings. There are whispers of tensions behind the scenes between owners and manager. There is even a suggestion it is a “must win” game if the bubbling dissent is not to burst into the open. Every little helps.

We need Boro to react sharply to the sting of defeat and a limp display at Fulham in midweek and to the old school “not as good as they think they are” post-match blast from Aitor.  We need the Ramirez-Negredo combination to click up front.  We need the defence to hold firm against the aerial assault and we need a solid show between the sticks.

I’m going for a repeat of the Sunderland game, with Boro getting the opener then digging deep against a Baggies bombardment and looking to hit on the counter. I think we’ll see a lot of that this season. Hopefully we’ll get a second goal to buy some time and space. If not it will be a long, tense scrap. But I think we’ll get there. 1-0 (Ramirez, 29).

Over to you…  usual drill (its been a long time but you must remember). Predict the score and how the game unfolds and then all back here after to swap notes.

Meanwhile…

1bob

Here’s a nice pre-match read, an interview I did with Teesside small screen surrealist and proper fan Bob Mortimer on ‘proper scary’ heart surgery, meeting Aitor Karanka and marking out the milestones of your life in Boro memories.

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271 thoughts on “Goalless Grind No Classic But Plenty Of Positives

  1. so assuming we don’t sign anyone else, I make our 25 man squad

    Dimi
    Valdes
    Guzan
    Mejias

    Fabio
    Friend
    Ayala
    Espinosa
    Gibson
    Barragan
    Nsue
    Husband

    Leadbitter
    Clayton
    De Roon
    De Sart
    Forshaw

    Fischer
    De Pena
    Stuani
    Downing
    Ramirez

    Nugent
    Rhodes
    Negredo

    + (under 21s)
    Traore
    Chambers

  2. Looks right to me, BoroPhil.

    I would have preferred to substitute in Reach and Adomah for Meijas and de Pena but it’s never that simple.

    It’s obviously too early to judge the success of the transfer window but I would think the club will be very happy with their work. We certainly can’t complain about quantity.

  3. I think our transfer business has been generally positive. Although I do feel this deadline day has significantly reduced our strength in depth in an area where we were probably already at our weakest.

    Our attacking options look very thin on the ground. Given that I thought downing and stuani struggled in the championship at times. We are left with a lot of unknowns. Players who we just don’t know how good they are or how they’ll perform. Adama may be great and I certainly hope he is but he is definitely an unknown after last seasons debacle both in terms of injury and performance. Yes, bags of potential but do we want to be relying on him to win games. Judging by how he fared in a struggling team last year that might not be wise.

    If Ramirez gets injured we would have to play with a 4-4-2 as I don’t believe in our squad we have anyone capable of playing that number ten role other than gaston. I think AK’s default will be to try other players there but it’s failed miserably on every attempt to play downing or nugent or a.n.other.

    I think the sale of Albert was inevitable. Him an AK never really saw eye to eye. I know people slated his performance against Sunderland but I felt he came on at a time when it was eleven men behind the ball which doesn’t suit his game at all. He needs to be further up the pitch to truly hurt teams. Did AK make him a better player? I’m not sure on Albert. Some managers prefer players to conserve their energies for the things they do best. For example telling Jordan Rhodes to save his energy for putting the ball in the back of the net. Something he does very well or did do well until he too was asked to do something very different.

    Reach, again 5 million is a fantastic amount of money but I would still have reach ahead of Fischer or de Pena on the left wing if Stewie isn’t fit.

    You could make a case that every one of our attacking midfielders are untested and may possibly not be good enough for the premiership. That includes gaston and Stewie who don’t forget had a renaissance playing behind two strikers in an attacking West Ham side after a few disappointing years being tried in other positions.

    We’ll see what happens, it’s fingers crossed it may all work out swimmingly but I was confident before today we’d have enough strength to stay up. I’m not quite sure anymore. 7-2-1 formation anyone?

  4. Looking at BP’s list, apart from having 4 keepers which is overkill (unless there is something more problematic about the injury to Valdes) the main area screaming at me are the below:

    Defensive Midfield:
    Leadbitter
    Clayton
    De Roon
    De Sart
    Forshaw

    Attacking Midfield:
    Fischer
    De Pena
    Stuani
    Downing
    Ramirez

    With the defensive midfielders we have the luxury of two from five which seems reasonable.

    That second midfield group is where my bed springs start rusting. We have three from five, one of which couldn’t force his way into our Championship side despite spending a considerable sum of Championship money and a rushed medical to usher him in in time to beat the transfer deadline so its fair to assume something decent if not even a little bit special was expected which so far has fallen well short. If the choice was Vossen, Tomlin or Reach then I think most of us would peg him into 4th place of that little lot.

    Fischer doesn’t look like the No.10 role is a natural fit, his offerings to date are less than spellbinding but we can hope like other projects the gamble comes good and injury free. Truth is that leaves us three from three proven players and of them Stuani is a player who fits on some occasions dependant upon the opposition and is hardly a wide right midfielder and clearly can’t alternate on the left. Downing was signed as the original No.10 but struggled so Ramirez was brought in and rescued our season.

    This season Downing looks far better thankfully than last but the usual alternative to Downing wide left was Albert pushed left. We now have Fischer or de Pena as options, that to me looks like a weakened area. We have great hopes for Fischer and had great hopes for de Pena. I admire the positive spin some are putting on de Pena but lets be honest had he went out on loan to say Rotherham nobody on here would have been surprised or indeed had he returned to South America for an “undisclosed” fee I doubt there would have been protestations or shock.

    The one area that needed seriously addressing was this area. This is our achilles heel. Ramirez looks laboured and to date hasn’t found his form of last season. Thankfully as already mentioned Stewy has surprised and improved but did de Pena or Fischer set the heather alight during pre season and I missed something? Against WBA we looked desperately short of players who could unlock defences or give us a lift in this area so much so that Negredo cut a very forlorn figure.

    Not unreasonably I think most of us expected improvements and strengthening in this area of the pitch. Instead we sign yet another defender to go with the eight on Phil’s list making it now nine in total and thats before we let Fry and Baptiste go out on loan. I’m not saying Fry and Baptiste are Premiership class (or indeed any of the others just yet) but if we got down to bare bones they could fill in and certainly to a standard equal to de Pena or Fischer could in their respective positions.

    Losing Adomah and Reach in the exact area of the pitch where we needed strengthening to be replaced by one solitary player whose “potential” is probably equal to his propensity for having glass legs (albeit very fast ones) apparently doesn’t seem to address our most obvious weakness.

    Keeping it tight at the back is fine and with four keepers and nine defenders that seems inevitable but even they need an outlet. It now appears that the bulk of that outlet now rests with projects. This is the Premiership, I thought we were “going to give it a go”. Fischer, Traore and de Pena may deliver long term but I wouldn’t put my shirt on it, not even one of those gastric band ones. This was the last day to finish of the squad, as of tonight I believe we have a weaker squad than this time last week.

    1. For attacking midfield it’s three from seven really but yes, there is a lack of proven talent.

      The same can be said for every other position in the team but I can understand and why the focus is on that area.

      In truth it is more about tactics/”philosophy” than players though.

  5. There seems to me to be a surprising amount of doom and gloom on the blog. I think that the club has been really impressive this summer and the games so far have revealed a number of positives.

    1. The defence can stand up in the premiership and the main additions – Barragan in particular but also Esposito – are getting rave reviews which suggests that our recruitment team at least has some idea of what they are dong. Fabio will also be a strong signing.
    2. Forshaw is an extremely good player who can play anywhere from penalty box to penalty box.
    3. Downing is much more at home in the Premiership and will always be able to deliver top class crosses with either foot from ether side.

    What the games have also shown us is that some of the Championship stars didn’t quite have the class or the guile to cut it in the Premiership. Effort just isn’t enough. Adomah certainly fitted into that description as the end product just wasn’t always there despite the effort and AK seems to have come to the same conclusion with Reach, supported by a nice chunk of money, which won’t hurt. I also have my doubts about Nsue but let’s wait and see.

    What seems to have happened is the players with high skill levels have been retained in the hope that three or four of them will turn into the real deal.

    With reference to the comments above, I would be delighted if at times we switched to a 4-4-2 or even three at the back with wing backs. Our squad is well suited to either option and I’m still hanging out to see Negredo play with someone (Rhodes?) stationed close to him.

    As a last question, what is the situation with loan deals in the premiership. Is everything now closed down until January or can we still ship out one of our keepers? I seem to remember that last year all the Championship clubs were waiting for the 25 man lists to be done to see who could be picked up.

    UTB

  6. Adomahs cross set up the goal against Stoke. Downing hasn’t had an assist yet.

    Forshaw is only playing due to injuries. He was AK’s fourth choice centre mid. Fans have been saying for months that forshaw deserved a chance but did stubborn AK listen? Did he heck. He knows best.

    Similar to guzan and dimi. We all know dimi is a better keeper already but AK has already told Dimi he can leave if he wants so he won’t back down there either.

    I’d also love to see us try and play with two up front, even just try it once or twice. Most fans would, but AK thinks 4-2-3-1 is the way to go and you know what he won’t back down there either.

    He is a ruthless organiser who makes a team harder to break down than the Berlin Wall but offensively I wonder if he watches the same games as me. Which to be honest is half the reason I worry so much about ‘the projects’ we are now relying on to set up the goals for ten goals in two seasons negredo. And that’s not meant to be a slight on negredo just that there are a lot of eggs riding in a basket with a fairly flimsy handle!

  7. Boro squad cover by position:

    Right Back: Barragan…Chambers…Nsue…(Fabio)

    Left Back: Friend…Fabio…Barragan…(Husband)

    Centre Backs (2): Ayala…Gibson…Chambers…Espinosa…Barragan

    Holding Midfielders (2): Clayton…de Roon…Forshaw…Leadbitter…(Chambers)

    Striker: Negredo…Rhodes…Nugent…Stuani

    Congratulations to the club for the great work done in assembling this part of the squad, looks like an excellent job and fit for purpose.

    BUT:

    Attacking midfielders – Skill-set to meet as far as possible:

    Vision in passing, can play killer pass

    Close control + interplay with others in tight situations

    Can run at players with the ball, beat a man, unsettle defences

    Can create space and play an accurate cross/pass

    Can perform the specific defensive role for Boro system

    Has experience of performing at a senior level in a strong league, and has already demonstrated skill-set at that level

    3 players needed

    Fit all or most of criteria:

    Ramirez…Downing

    May fit criteria for position with development:

    Adama…Fischer

    Have been tried by Boro but yet to show they can fulfil the skill-set, especially considering the quality needed for effectiveness at Premiership level:

    Stuani…Nsue…(de Pena)

    There are lots of discussion points here, but hopefully I have illustrated why I’m concerned. I wonder if Nugent and Forshaw might be useful, even if not ideal, in papering over the cracks here. People may also wish to consider the lack of options if Ramirez or Stewy are injured.

    1. My missus always says “a girl can’t have too many pairs of shoes and handbags” a bit like Boro with Goalkeepers and Defenders it appears.

      How on earth did we get to the end of a transfer window with such a glaring skills gap in the squad astonishes me. We had obviously been speaking with Arsenal and yet we bring in Chambers and not Wilshere (not that I’m a particular fan of Wilshere) when we had more than enough Defenders. Wilshere is far from my ideal midfield choice but he does like a good injury and a penchant for plaster casts, walking sticks and wheelchairs does seem to have been an influencer in us signing players.

      There are 4 players who I don’t believe were considered as “must keeps” in the remaining squad of 25 who we seem to have ended up with. Albert wasn’t the best wide right player in the Premiership, far from it but he was the best we had. Reach was nowhere near the best left sided player even at the club, both positions in reality needed improving whilst perhaps retaining them but losing 3 or 4 of the dead wood or projects. Put simply, Adomah and Reach are better than those who we have retained.

      All this meticulous planning, research, scouting and supposed in-depth player statistical analysis to me seems dubious. Gill, Orta, Vila were supposed to give us the edge yet here we are with a platoon of soldiers armed to the teeth yet nobody ordered the bullets. Cue the positive PR spin doctoring today!

      During the window we improved in some areas undoubtedly yet ignored the Elephant in the room especially after Sundays toothless display. How long before Ramirez gets the inevitable suspension and heaven forbid Stewy gets crocked. Still I suppose we are lucky that due to injuries we kept Forshaw, silver clouds, linings and analytics and all that good stuff.

  8. My understanding of the new loan system is that we can’t do anything to bring in loan players until January, so injuries, loss of form or player alienation (should that occur) have to be covered from within the squad until then.

    It looks a big gamble to sell Adam Reach, he might have been a useful option and could fulfil some of the skill-set I outlined.

    One conclusion as to why the club is so happy with things could be that we are very confident Adama can slot in and do the job, and that Fischer and de Pena are developing rapidly behind the scenes. Here’s hoping…

    I forgot de Sart in the holding midfielders section.

    I would have preferred Dael Fry to go to a stronger club than Rotherham, it could be a very difficult season in a struggling team. The fact that they have moved Richie Smallwood on suggests that all is not well there.

  9. I think our attacking options are more than good enough, we have the eight above (5 attacking mids + 3 strikers) + Traore, Nsue and potentially Forshaw. That’s 11 possibles for 4 positions. Versatility is the key, and if there’s one thing AK likes, it’s versatile players.

    We might have a weaker squad than this time last week (although I would wager Traore turns out to be better than Adomah) but the question is do we have a better squad than on May 7 – undoubtedly.

  10. Paul, not wanting to disagree with you all the time, but…!

    “Forshaw is only playing due to injuries. He was AK’s fourth choice centre mid. Fans have been saying for months that forshaw deserved a chance but did stubborn AK listen? Did he heck. He knows best.”

    I like Forshaw but he was no match for Leadbitter/Clayton last year and that was why he didn’t play as much – not because AK was stubborn! When de Roon and Leadbitter are fit again I’m afraid he’ll probably be back on the bench.

    “Similar to guzan and dimi. We all know dimi is a better keeper already but AK has already told Dimi he can leave if he wants so he won’t back down there either.”

    I don’t know he is a better keeper. One has never played in the Premiership and one has been there for years. I’m reserving my judgement on Guzan until I’ve seen a bit more of him but he’s done pretty well so far – we are re-writing history if we think Dimi didn’t have any dodgy moments.

    “I’d also love to see us try and play with two up front, even just try it once or twice. Most fans would, but AK thinks 4-2-3-1 is the way to go and you know what he won’t back down there either.”

    I wouldn’t. 4-2-3-1 has served us well and we should stick with it. It is effectively 4-4-2 anyway on occasion depending on where Ramirez/Nugent play.

  11. Overall a good window with a little concern at the attacking midfield options.

    Certainly not panicking but a hunch the squad was stronger this time yesterday morning, a lot will depend on Traore settling quickly and contributing. If that happens we could be in for a pleasant surprise.

    De Pena must contribute as well, from what I have seen, Reach looked a better member of the squad.

    It is all done until January, lets enjoy the ride.

  12. Just looking at the numbers on the deadline deals – it was originally speculated Adomah had gone for around £6m but this morning the figures being quoted are £3m that could possibly rise to £5m – that sounds cheap for what the market has been showing of late as he’s a proven top-six championship player.

    It also sounds like Traore cost us £5m – the Guardian even state Adomah was sold in part-exchange, which does seem to indicate he was the cheaper of the two.

    Then there’e Reach who was quoted as being sold for £5m that could possibly rise to £7m – not bad business for someone who as a winger doesn’t have lightening pace and is still yet to find his best position and deliver consistently.

    It seems valuations are based on the possibility that a certain player will get better and not remain a project or fail to deliver early career promise. Whereas Adomah has probably been deemed to have peaked – but arguably his peak may be maintained for sometime yet and is ready to go from day one.

    So valuations are subjective and probably half the valuation is dependent on the strength of the needs of either the selling or buying club.

    Take Burnley, they’ve just signed Hendrick from Derby for £10.5m – does that mean they’ve bought a better player because they spent more? Of course not – and likewise £30m for Sissoko from Newcastle sounds like a club had a budget burning a hole in their pocket.

    In the end, very few players are consistent good to command the fees that they end up being bought for. The transfer market is not really a linear valuation – £5m players suddenly become £15m or £25m once the hype has been injected and the price is seemingly dependendent on how much money the buying club has got to spend.

    I blame agents, desperate managers and gullible Chief Execs – plus this non-disclosed fee business is probably just a fig-leaf to cover up their embarassment – or something accountants like to help them shuffle the bottom line to a favourable position.

  13. I’m not sure if you agree with my list of the skill-sets needed for Premiership attacking midfield places, BoroPhil. If you don’t agree with them, then I completely understand why you are happy.

    If you think the skill-sets are necessary for us at this stage of our attempt to establish ourselves in the Prem, then we really only disagree about how many of the players definitely have those skills.

    Of course, a guy like Adama will only get experience by playing, and maybe he’s strong enough to put him straight in, let’s see. I’m absolutely happy to give him a chance and let’s hope he’s dynamite.

    But looking at all the other outfield positions, we have far, far deeper cover of known quality and experience than we have for attacking midfield.

    1. I think Stuani has proved himself more than capable of playing the RW position and I suspect Traore may be more ready than some think, but yes I generally agree. There is a lot of potential there though and I’m looking forward to seeing how we line up in future and how these players develop.

      In simple terms, Downing-Ramirez-Stuani with Fischer-Nugent-Traore as back-up seems more than good enough to compete in the Prem.

      1. I think to put it simply we disagree on the quality of the players we have at our disposal.

        I think neither Downing nor Stuani proved last season that they are premiership class. Ramirez, who admittedly was fantastic for us, has never shown that form in the premiership in over two seasons at two different clubs. As for the back up options Nugent has never had a good season in the top flight and certainly not in the number ten role and Fischer and Traore are complete unknowns, although Traore didn’t get his game for Villa who were dreadful and Fischer never got his game for Ajax. Yes they may have bags of potential but to say they are more than good enough to compete in a league which is getting stronger and stronger all the time is questionable.

        Only time will tell and I’m happy to eat humble pie and hopefully I’ll be eating it by the spoonful.

        **AV writes: Jesus. We are nailed on to break Derby’s lowest ever points record.

  14. I think we have to remember as well, it is effectively a 27-man squad which is a lot. two players for each position is 22 players. Just because de Pena, Husband and Mejias are listed doesn’t mean they are going to need to be involved (unless they are good enough).

  15. As ever, I concur with RR’s summary of the situation.
    I think the jury is still out with regard to the effectiveness of the Gill/Orta recruitment process.
    I will, however, be delighted to be proved wrong when we storm up the league.
    UTB

    1. Yes a good piece and I agree with all of it.

      I suppose the only part it doesn’t address is the part RR and others are concerned with: are we left enough cover and quality in the right wing position?

    2. Albert was a character undoubtedly, a nice guy and genuinely liked, he had talent but was inconsistent and lets face it he wasn’t an AK kind of guy and we all knew it. I don’t have a problem with that, if a Manager can’t handle, adapt or force an individual to conform then a parting is inevitable. Fergie couldn’t stick Beckham despite him being a decent player, its not a new or unique phenomena. Players come and go and in the cases of Messr’s Stearman, Pogba, Luiz and our very own Stewy can come again.

      All of the above is old hat and nothing new, its been discussed to death on here many times. Albert got naughty stepped when others guilty of similar lapses got picked again, what sort of message did that send out to Albert? I know what message it sent out to me and a very clear one at that.

      Despite the hurdles Albert has been a mainstay in the side for the last few years, why was that? Like him or loathe the guy he was an integral part of the squad and if we were offering him a new contract (however derisory it may or indeed may not have been) it was clear that even begrudgingly and despite his happy effervescing self he was acknowledged to add a value of sorts, even in the Premiership. Now behind the scenes Albert may have been a very disruptive influence and smiled at the wrong times in training either unintentionally or intentionally.

      This situation has been bubbling, spluttering, simmering for two years now. It didn’t happen yesterday morning over breakfast. We all knew that it would end at some point yet with all the scouting and analytical resources in place at the club and the need to consolidate in the Premiership there wasn’t a plan B to mitigate the obvious?

      Here we had a mercurial talent who rubbed up the gaffer the wrong way who could be infuriatingly inconsistent yet we hadn’t identified or recruited a.n. other yet we could find plenty of a.n.others for defensive positions? Am I supposed to just swallow that and accept that its the best they could do with a shrug of the shoulders? Perhaps its OK because we can push the player that we recruited two (or even three if you include Fabio apparently) improvements for at RB up to play where Albert used to play? He was considered not good enough at RB but because we now have not one but three better players for RB he can play RW. Is this part of the Boro 2020 plan?

      Apparently we have been monitoring and tracking Traore on Fifa 13 or some such vehicle for years. That is good to hear but please don’t for one millisecond insult me with saying that his arrival was part of a planned ruthless strategy. He wasn’t identified and intended to replace a key player for the last few years with only 180 minutes of English Football under his belt. At best he should have come in as an alternative to Albert and to compete longer term. Even then its not the level we needed to upgrade/improve on Albert in the same manner that we have at the back. The lad now has totally unreasonable and unfair expectations on him.

      We needed beefing up or as mentioned upgrading in that area of the pitch in a similar way to say Nsue at RB or Ayala and Gibson at CB with competition arriving that questions their starting place in the team and even their very existence on the bench. The same goes for Ramirez and Downing (and I accept that probably Fischer was the Downing alternative). Imagine selling Ayala to the Toon for example and then replacing him with an injury prone 20 year old with less than two games under his belt in 12 months, better still imagine the spin on how it was part of a planned strategy!

      The Reach business made sense to cash in, made sense for Wednesday and makes sense for Adam to kick start his career. However to retain say de Pena for a Premiership campaign over Reach was not a strengthening for me even accepting that de Pena isn’t the new Emnes just yet. Was that part of the strategy or an opportunistic chance to recoup the Traore difference and salary?

      We are in the Premiership now, we may not be in two or three years time when the “projects” are finally ready. We needed two minimum incoming to improve what we had in attacking midfield areas, instead we lost a key player and recruited one unproven Attacking Midfielder at this level and yet another Defender!

  16. Sad to see Albert go, when he was on song he was untouchable and there always seemed to be a smile on his face too. I wish him well. And I wish Adam Reach well too, I still feel that there is the making of a really good player in his make-up, I’ll follow his career with considerable interest.

    I wonder how good could Boro have been with this level of organisation, analysis and fitness control in the Robson era and who, of those players, would have been identified as lacking in effort?

    Oh yes, and that was a smart shirt that Adam Reach was wearing in his Sheffield photograph too.

    Now for the international break, yawn.

    UTB,

    John

  17. I think the club have done good business on Adam Reach.

    It would not surprise me if he went on to have a very good career but it seems to me that he was, at best, third choice in any position. £5 -7m is very good money for a player with limited prospects for us.

    If he goes on to be a £20m player in future – and the way prices has risen that is a distinct possibility with only marginal development – then I’m sure we will have plenty of comments deriding Boro’s lack of foresight. But he is highly unlikely to have become that player with us. He wouldn’t have had the chance to play often enough.

    Good luck to him but I think it was sensible business for us.

  18. The general tone coming across is of an overall disappointment with the results of the transfer window.

    I am more sorry that Albert could never consistently raise his game to the standards that he showed he was capable of rather than sorry he has left. Traore could be a better option than Albert, but we won’t know until we have witnessed him playing for us, in our team and to our system(s). Certainly Albert could not be relied on, so has there really been any diminution of our capability on the right?

    I am a little sorry to see Reach move on, but if the numbers quoted are correct, then it really is in his best interest to go and get a regular game and our best interest to take the money.

    Delighted that we still have Dimi, who I hope will get his chance, (but might we still lose him out on loan?)

    Overall, I think it has to be said that we are stronger overall at the end of the window than we were when the window opened. I don’t think we can criticise the recruitment team until we have witnessed the fruits of their work out on the pitch over an extended period. I remain optimistic for our chances of finishing clear of the bottom third.

  19. Valuations are crazy at the best of times. Adama was a Barcelona/Spain youth team graduate that cost Villa (an established Prem team) £7m just a year ago. Adomah is a good Champ player that cost us about £1m. If this years swap deal puts them both on a similar value I don’t think Boro fans can really complain.

    **AV writes: It wasn’t a swap.

    1. Just a figure of speech. The players have swapped teams, however the deals were structured.

      The way I see it, the player with the Champ level potential and ambition went back to a Champ level club. The player with the Prem level potential and ambition went back to a Prem level club.

  20. Overall I’m happy and positive, thought I’m aware I usually am when it comes to the Boro. I can’t help but taking the long view – living 250 miles away might be part of that.

    I was never expecting Boro to go tearing up the league, no matter who we bought in the transfer window. I’m expecting a resolute defence of our Premier League status that was always going to build from the back, and that’s hardly a football first.

    Do we look overall to be stronger defensively than going forward? Undoubtedly, yes. Am I surprised? No, not in the slightest.

    On top of this we created PLENTY of chances against Stoke and we went into the break 2-0 up against Sunderland. That we managed to ground out a 0-0 bore draw against West Brom is not entirely down to the Boro side – we were the away team, the onus was on their lot, and I’d be far more worried if I was a Baggie today than a Smog.

    Was the team realistically hoping for a lower mid-table position next May? Do we think we’ve got a squad capable of doing that, with an eye to kicking on next year? I say yes.

  21. **AV writes: Jesus. We are nailed on to break Derby’s lowest ever points record.

    I was not saying we will do terribly. Whatever happens we will be incredibly difficult to break down based on an extremely strong and well organised defence.

    I also said that a lot of our attacking midfielders are unknown quantities meaning they may be fantastic, it’s simply that we don’t know yet and there is a lot of pressure on them to start performing straight away.

    Last year at times we struggled to score goals in the championship, our first choice three attacking midfielders are two of the same players in gaston and stewie and our third is stuani who was arguably behind Albert in the pecking order. I never put our lack of goals down to the striker, Rhodes if given chances would score for fun he’s proved that throughout his career. Negredo, if fully fit and provided with opportunities will do the same. However, can we rely on our first choice three attacking midfielders to create those chances in a harder league against better players?

    For me the one area where we really needed to strengthen was in those positions and for me that is the area where we are actually weaker.

    That is not to say that we don’t still have the pool of players to keep us up. I think we have but I’m just not sure that we do in the current system.

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