Boro struggling to live up to expectations - Interview
Friday, 19th Jan 2018 11:17 by Clive Whittingham
Things haven’t gone quite according to plan for big spending pre-season title favourites Middlesbrough – Riverside regular James Boothby tries to explain why.
Honestly I thought Middlesbrough would blitz this league this season, why hasn’t it worked out like that?
JB: That is the million dollar question. It could be argued we made too many changes in the summer, and it just took too long for us to make any real progress. Despite spending a lot of money on strikers, we rely massively on Britt Assombalonga to score the goals. Under Garry Monk, there just never really seemed to be a plan of what kind of team he wanted us to be, too many different formations and starting elevens and the players quite often didn't seem to know their roles. That being said, we are still very much in touch with the play-offs so it is not all doom and gloom.
JB: I think most fans, myself included, were cautiously optimistic when Monk was appointed. He tried to play a more expansive style of football but with the players we had it just never worked. We started games too slowly almost every week, and were always capable of a defensive howler or two. A big thing for Monk was that he never really connected with the fans or the area. His press conferences were always bland, stock answers about projects etc. He never really got across his message, and how he would take the club forward. Whilst the timing of the sacking was a slight surprise, it was not a surprise to see him get shown the door.
JB: I think initially it was a 50/50 split between the fans. He has his reputation for 'direct' football, and we all want to see our teams playing free flowing football scoring three every week. However, I think the discipline he brings is something we definitely needed. We now have a system, and all players know their roles. It might not always be pretty, but it is effective. And despite what people may think, it's not been just lump a ball up to Gestede, we have at times played some decent stuff as well.
JB: I think the worst would have to be Ashley Fletcher - £7m on a player we did not need, and in his brief appearances has not really contributed. There is a decent player in there somewhere, but I think his confidence is shot and a loan somewhere will do him the world of good. Assombalonga has scored 12 goals so can't really complain at that, whilst Randolph in goal has been consistently good. Christie was having a good season at right back as well, although seems not be in favour with Pulis. Howson had a slow start, but has now found his feet and is putting in some good performances.
JB: I think money is available, but Pulis wants to trim the squad a bit before bringing anyone in. Would expect more outgoings than incomings, with Fabio already stating a desire to return to Brazil. Can see Adam Forshaw and possibly Adam Clayton also moving on as well as Lewis Baker returning to Chelsea. We could do with another left back to challenge George Friend, and a bit more creativity in midfield. We have been linked with McGinn from Hibs, but been a bit quiet apart from that.
JB: Stewart Downing has arguably been the player of the season, after starting it training with the under 23s. Is at the heart of all our good work and really stepped up this season after a disappointing time last year. And the enigma that is Adama Traore has had a good run of games. He has sublime skills, and frightening strength and pace but the signs are that he is starting to understand the game a bit more and find some end product.
JB: We are more than capable with the squad we have, and I would be disappointed if we finish outside the playoffs. It's a tough league though, and we have given ourselves plenty of work to do.
The Twitter @jamesyboz
Pictures – Action Images
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