Shot-shy Boro beset by injuries - Interview
Friday, 8th Nov 2019 16:06 by Clive Whittingham
Just two wins so far this season for Saturday's opponents Middlesbrough, who haven't scored in their last four games and have a catalogue of injury problems. Respectful silence please for our Boro regular, James Boothby.
With hindsight, what did you make of the business done over the summer?
Business was pretty poor – none of the incomings have held down a place in the side. They were young players coming in with potential, but unfortunately they have struggled in a struggling side and mainly have to make do with making the bench in recent games. We did not really resolve any of our major issues from the last couple of seasons – main one is scoring goals.
Ins: >>> Anfernee Dijksteel, 22, RB, Charlton, £1.9m >>> Marcus Browne, 21, AM, West Ham, £200k >>> Marc Bola, 21, LB, Blackpool, Undisclosed Tomas Mejias, 30, GK, Nicosia, Free
Outs: >>> Martin Braithwaite, CF, 28, Leganes, £8.8m >>> Aden Flint, 30, CB, Cardiff, £4m >>> Luke Armstrong, 23, CF, Salford, Undisclosed >>> Stewart Downing, 34, LW, Blackburn, Free >>> John Obi Mikel, 32, CM, Trabzonspor, Free >>> Andy Lonergan, 35, GK, Liverpool, Free >>> Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, 40, GK, Released
Really poor start to the season, I think much worse than many people anticipated. The season actually started off ok. We were playing some decent football, and certainly in the early games maybe did not quite get the rub of the green. Brentford in particular stands out where we played well and had two good goals ruled out. But since those first few games we got found out a bit. We have had to change our tactics to tighten up a bit as we were conceding too many goals. By and large we now look more solid, but are really struggling to score goals. Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher are both very low on confidence, and are making missing sitters an art form. With a squad as thin as ours is, we don’t have a lot of options past our first 11 so it’s key we get them firing otherwise we could be adrift by January.
Results so far…
It’s hard to put your finger on one particular thing. The Premier League season was just a horrible season which I think affected the club massively. It unravelled for Aitor Karanka and his time was definitely up, but to replace him with Steve Agnew was essentially accepting relegation. Then Garry Monk game in and spent a massive amount of money but no real plan of what he wanted to achieve. I think it was a total of £50m spent that summer, but just as importantly we were offering big wages which has crippled us ever since. We have players on big, big contracts which we just can’t get rid of. Pulis came in, and despite what he tells the press, still spent a good amount of money on pretty poor players: £7m on Aden Flint who lasted one season, £8n on George Saville who has been incredibly average, £5m on McNair who he then did not play is still good money for a Championship club. Essentially the money has now run out if we are to comply with FFP.
The league table never lies – you don’t get points for good performances. I think in a couple of games he is right, we have played well and just not been able to hit a cows arse. We have definitely had the chances to put games to bed. In other games though we have been very, very poor. His press conferences and interviews after games have already become a bit confrontational which is never a good sign.
Boro’s league goalscorers >>> Britt Assombalonga 14 (1) apps, 4 goals >>> Paddy McNair, 15 apps, 2 goals >>> Daniel Ayala, 12 (2) apps, 1 goal >>> Ashley Fletcher, 11 (3) apps, 1 goal >>> Marvin Johnson, 10 (4) apps, 1 goal >>> Lewis Wing, 11 (3) apps, 1 goal
He was never really the choice of the fans, as he was seen as the cheap option, but I think most wanted to see him succeed and still do. I think he is definitely under some pressure now, but I think fans also realise that it’s hard to blame Woodgate for some of the chances the strikers are missing. I think most people accept it is very unlikely the club will sack him, but I think some experienced help behind the scenes is something that should be looked at. Robbie Keane, Leo Percovich and Danny Coyne are all fairly inexperienced in coaching and we maybe need that little bit of know-how in there.
I think by far our two best players this season have been Darren Randolph and Paddy McNair. For my money, Randolph is the best keeper in the Championship by a mile and without him I dread to think how many points we would actually have. He is out injured for the next few weeks, but his replacement Aynsley Pears has done pretty well in his place the last two games. McNair has been a revelation. After only playing for Pulis as a right back, he started the season off in his favoured midfield role and has been excellent. Unfortunately the injury to Ryan Shotton has seen him play as one of the three centre backs in the last couple of games and we really miss his influence in midfield.
The one glaring weakness is attack. We just can’t score goals. And we have no real options to change it. There has been a clamour to see local lad Ste Walker get a game, he has impressed for both Boro and England through the various age groups but I’m not sure the club are keen to throw him into a struggling side and see his confidence suffer as well.
To be honest at this point – the hope is just to make sure we are still in this league next season. Only two wins so far, and hard to see where the next win is coming from at this point. I would expect us to have enough to survive, but I’m sure Sunderland fans would have said the same as well.
The Twitter @jamesyboz, @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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