So with the first week of the Championship over I thought it would be a good time to start this blog for Middlesbrough FC. The Boro have kick started the season hopefully as they mean to go on with two wins and a draw (one win in the League Cup). This leaves us sixth in the league and hopefully we can remain in and around that area maybe even having a cheeky push for promotion.
That been said it hasn’t been entirely plain sailing. I raise the issue that has been bothering me for the whole of the last season.
Why can’t we kill teams off?
It hasn’t been as much of an issue since Mogga (Tony Mowbray) came in but this season is looking suspiciously like last in the way that we spurn a hatful of chances then find ourselves in added on time and hanging on for dear life (and in the case of the Portsmouth match being punished for it.) Based on the match against Pompey the main issue I could see (except for our wasteful finishing) is how deep we seem to drop entering the 90 min mark. The midfield starts to look tired in the last quarter of the game and this leads to the rest of them dropping further and further back which invites pressure. A simple answer to this has surely got to be introducing the subs a lot earlier in the game. A few changes around the 70 minute mark would make all the difference and help to keep the pressure off. The stats would suggest that I am being too picky as we have won in our last four consecutive away games however it is a problem that has followed on from the Gordon Strachan era.
However now that I have got that rant out of the way I can comment on the outstanding player who, as one of my mates put it “has become like the second coming of Jesus to our fans.” Marvellous Marvin Emnes. It has to be said that I had my doubts about our hero of the last week with his meagre goal scoring and at times quite frankly abysmal touch however five goals in his last three games has certainly put me in my place. He has linked the play exceptionally and shown great awareness in the pass. The goal against Leeds was nothing short of brilliant, the composure to touch it past his man then rifle it in the top corner was excellent considering the amount of pressure he was under to put it away; Sky Sports News even gave it goal of the weekend. I hope that he can keep up this kind of form and continue to prove me wrong throughout the season.
The thing that has come to my immediate attention this week has been our lack of activity in the transfer market. We have let players such as Kris Boyd, Didier Digard and Leroy Lita go over the course of the summer and these must have been among the top earners in the squad. With that in mind I would love to see at least another two bodies in. A big striker that can offer a different threat to that already posed by Scott McDonald and Marvin Emnes and cover for the left back position because I in no way rate Jonathon Grounds as a left back (or any kind of professional footballer). These signings would give us the boost that I certainly feel we need if we are going to keep on pushing for the automatic promotion places. We have already brought in an unproven midfielder in Malaury Martin and goalkeeper Carl Ikeme on loan from Wolves for a month. The latter was absolutely outstanding against Leeds and fully deserved his clean sheet. A keeper was something that was in sore need of addressing based on our pre season game against Darlington where our current number one Danny Coyne had a torrid time dealing with the aerial threats that were posed by the non league side.
The return of Julio Arca has certainly been a positive as I feel we would have missed his creativity in the midfield and the balance he brings with that left foot of his. Keeping him should prove to be a key signing. Another key player for us is our utility man Rhys Williams who in my opinion doesn’t get the credit he deserves. At his best in the centre of midfield he is strong in the tackle and has an eye for a pass. If we can keep hold if this player who is attracting attention from the likes of Bolton Wanderers we could look at that as one of the defining moments of the current transfer window. Having said that I understand the loss of the parachute payment scheme will leave us with a sore need to slash the wage budget so patience may have to be key.
Attendances are another issue which have blighted Middlesbrough for the last few seasons since our relegation. It has led to the closing of the South Stand for the home support as we fail again and again to draw in the crowds. The football under Gordon Strachan was terrible with people leaving the stadium disappointed and dejected with no hope for the team but under Tony Mowbray we look a rejuvenated side that can certainly go places. The football is fast paced and exciting, very rarely have I left the stadium feeling disappointed about our manner of football. Our fans have to let go of the fact that we were not so long ago European qualifiers and accept where we are and the good work that is going on at our football club to take us in the right direction.
Overall I feel that although we have a long way to go, we have started the season positively and Tony Mowbray has us playing the kind of football that should start to draw in the crowds. In Mogga we trust.
Written by Stephen Wright, We Are Going Up’s Middlesbrough Blogger
Stephen tweets at @stealdon