It’s been a great start to the season. I think anyone would have taken our current position before the season started; however, I can understand why a lot of fans are getting frustrated.
It’s easy to get carried away and start thinking we are better than we are; but the true reality of our situation is that despite being in a good position as a newly promoted side, we probably could, and should, be doing better.
We have a dropped a significant number of points against the likes of Burnley, Southampton, Palace, West Ham, West Brom and Watford; most of which we have outplayed. I’m not saying we should have taken maximum points against all of those teams but I think we definitely should have come out with more than we have. These were all realistically winnable games but we didn’t approach it in that manner. It’s been all too negative and too cautious.
We seem to be going into every match trying to nullify the game instead of trying to win it and against the likes of Burnley, who are also newly promoted, I don’t think that’s acceptable.
If you look at the possession we have had in key ‘mini league’ games like Burnley, West Brom and West Ham, we have dominated the time with the ball, yet the opposition have usually had significantly more shots on goal or made the shots count.
I am not someone who is calling for Karanka’s head to be put on the chopping block but I can’t understand his one size fits all type of football.
Where are the tactics? It’s ok to have our own way of playing but you still need to adapt and change depending on the opposition. The overly cautious defensive thinking can work well against teams like Man City and Arsenal (which it did); it works where we are concerned those teams may punish us, however, to play that against Burnley doesn’t add up. It leaves us open to concede the awful type of goal that Burnley scored. It was a poor free-kick conceded, the defence got caught with their pants down and Valdes will know he could have done better; but that’s the risk you run with the type of game we are playing.
Of course having Stuani on the right doesn’t help. No, I’m not going to make some sort of scapegoat out of him like a lot of people seem to be trying to do; however, the reality is that he offers nothing as a winger. I really don’t know why AK persists with him there. He is a striker, plain and simple. I actually feel sorry for Stuani in a sense.
Considering Karanka said that Traore needs to work on his final ball, it might be interesting to know that Stuani has provided no assists, no accurate through balls and has a shocking 6% successful cross rate.
He’s not a winger.
Traore may not be the finished article but he offers more than Stuani on the wing. I saw a stat recently saying he had completed the most successful take-ons in Europe but in a small portion of the minutes; if that is true then get him back in the team. He can’t do any worse than Stuani on the wing.
On the positive side, we haven’t been in the drop zone and hopefully with a few additions in January, it will stay that way; however, it will still depend on whether the manager lets us be more fluid going forward when it’s appropriate to do so.
Ben Gibson is growing with each game and with the exception of the goal against Burnley, Valdes is looking like the goalkeeper he once was. So there are lots to be positive about.
I’d like to think we can go from strength to strength in this league but we really do need to be more positive once in a while.
Next up Man United.
Come on Boro.
Russ Johnson (@iRussJ)