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Boro Boom Built On Rock

Posted by on November 17, 2008 9:09 AM | 

BORO'S away day heroics at Euro-hopefuls Aston Villa and Everton were built on foundations of solid rock. For the second week running Boro travelled to an in-form outfit above them in the table - and the pundit's tips as the teams most likely to break into the Champions League quadropoly - and passed the test.

Against Villa, Boro faced the blistering pace and attacking intent of a lightning front line of Agbonlahor, Young and Milner and were right up to speed on the day.

At Everton they were tested to destruction by a far more physical and direct but no less urgent style and by the robust penalty box presence of Yakubu and again came through.
In a demanding 96 minute war of attrition at Goodison, Boro's rear guard stood firm.

They grappled with the Yak, put shackles on Saha and coped with the elusive movement from deep in midfield of impressive Cahill. They will have been bitterly disappointed to concede what will appear a sloppy goal from a set-piece after a routine free-kick in from the left, and doubly so that it was Yakubu that bundled it home.

But that shouldn't detract from what has been an impressive gelling of a solid unit at the back after some early season stutters as the personnel was chopped and changed.
The central defensive pairing is always crucial and the manager must get it right.

Gareth Southgate took a huge gamble when he switched David Wheater - 'one of our own' - away from his favoured role in the middle to play skipper Emanuel Pogatetz and Chris Riggott against Blackburn but it paid off.

And as the duo hit it off he resisted the temptation to tinker and stuck with them for the torrid frenzy of West Ham and then went with the men in form for the huge demands of the two tough trips. Experience has showed that Riggott has often been the fall guy in those situations, finding himself back in the stiffs even after sterling displays.

It was a gamble that paid off with the pair putting in a string of spirited and steely shows, crunching into tackles, heading away periods of aerial assault and throwing their bodies into brave blocks.

In recent weeks they have been in keen competition for the man of the match awards and Gazette stars. Against Everton they wrestled with Yakubu, kept a firm grip on red hot frontman Saha and put in some clinical thundering block tackles when the pressure started to mount.

Unfortunately for Riggott his injury hoodoo struck again. Just as he gets into the groove he seems to pick up a knock and this time was left limping heavily after tangling with former Riverside team-mate Yak early in the second half. But how nice is it to have Wheater come on refreshed, hungry and raring to go after his two games on the bench?

It is not just about the big lads in the middle though. Both full-backs have also put in eye-catching shifts of late.

Justin Hoyte arrived from Arsenal having missed pre-season with his new team-mates and used to playing, when he got on, for in a team that dominated games and spent most of their time on the attack so to find himself playing with his back to the wall for long spells must have been a culture shock.

He came in for some early stick from the snipers (as ironically had Luke Young before him) but has gradually found his feet, formed an understanding with the players around him and is now flourishing and winning supporters over.

His mid-air leap to cut out a cross-field pass with his chest and turn defence into attack at Villa was exquisite but increasingly typical of his interventions. Against Everton he was a livewire presence again and kept the creative potential of Arteta firmly in check.
He has pace and anticipation and is clean in the tackle when on his defensive duties but his surging over-lapping down the right has added to Boro's attacking armoury too.

On the other flank Andrew Taylor too has also been growing with every game after a rocky start to the season when he was unsure of his place and dropped for Pogatetz.
Sharp and alert he has helped tame bigger and faster forwards but also offers width on the left and links up well with potent Stewart Downing.

Boro are five unbeaten and growing in confidence as they look up the table. The lads at the back deserve their share of the plaudits for that.

Comments (51)

John Powls wrote...


Agree with all of that and I'm not going to go through my whole Boro Banter piece again (you'll be pleased to hear!).

But, whilst the praise is deserved and should be extended to young Turnbull too, I have to say that I think there is still more work to do on how Boro defend corners and free-kicks that aren't shots.

'Zones' still makes us more vulnerable than we should be and - whether linked to that or not (and I think it is) - Rosco needs to command his box more and use his physique to take more crosses and to stamp his growing presence better.

Success should always prompt the desire for more improvement not settling on the laurels!

Posted by: John Powls  | November 17, 2008 10:36 AM

Redcar Red wrote...

We are starting to get more from less but the bench on Sunday told its own story, a few injuries or suspensions could leave us cruelly exposed. Still it is what we can afford and at the moment the lads are delivering.

There is a big question mark over Alves at this juncture as he struggles to hold the ball up and consequently struggling to find goals in a team that doesn't dominate as per Hoyte's adjustment period.

His workrate needs to improve and dig in when required. If/when he finds his shooting boots we should look a real threat, until then we continue to look a little light up front. His partner Tuncay is looking World class up front!

Defensively we are looking more solid with the central 2 permutations always delivering, the RB and LB incumbents are looking more steady and probably collectively Turnbull's growing stature has played a huge part in this form.

If we can improve in the middle of the park and impose ourselves more maybe we can dare to start to dream! 4 Points from Villa Park and Everton tells its own story, well done and now lets make it count with our home games coming up.

Posted by: Redcar Red  | November 17, 2008 11:07 AM

'Ignorant' of boroland wrote...

Wise words AV as many of us have to eat our words, well done Taylor I didnt think you had it in you!

Well I know Alves has it in him but its just a matter of can Southgate get it out?
Is it a case of getting him backed up with someone who can push forward from midfield and play ball to feet or just infront of him every time.

Aren't the team playing better and are we not getting close to it without buying anyone else anyway?

One of the BBC radio pundits quipped that if we had Stevie G type player in the team making incisive perfectly paced through balls , then Alves would easily score 20 goals a season!

Can Gareth find the final piece to the jigsaw in an improving team as unlocking Alves's potential would turn away draws into wins and so on.

So many questions , has anyone an answer is the BIG question AV.

Any ideas folks?

Posted by: 'Ignorant' of boroland  | November 17, 2008 11:40 AM

BoroPhil wrote...

I've been saying for weeks we needed to find a settled back 4/5 and stick with it, and now we have and look what happens.

Turnbull continues to be excellent and is repaying the faith shown in him by Gareth - and a few others.

Hoyte improves week by week as he surely had to - and Taylor is solid and unspectacular, but does a job and has plenty of room for improvement.

As for centre-half, we have four excellent players to choose from and I'd be happy with any two.

Great to see Arca back in the side, once he settles in, he could be a massive player for us. Two big home games coming up, 4 points is the minimum we should be looking for.

Posted by: BoroPhil  | November 17, 2008 12:29 PM

BoroPhil wrote...

ignorant - we do have a player who can make incisive through balls - Julio Arca

Posted by: BoroPhil  | November 17, 2008 12:39 PM

tonyblack wrote...

Another great point, of that there is no doubt in my book.

I think many fans come the end of the season will be more than happy to eat their words if we end up doing well, why wouldn't they??? I'll have absolutely no prblem in that whatsoever.

The acid test however is the end of the season. So we will have to wait and see.

But as things are going I don't think that even the most pessimistic of fans could have anything to complain about.

" BORO'S away day heroics at Euro-hopefuls Aston Villa and Everton were built on foundations of solid rock... "

Sorry Vic but in my opinion you're just talking rubbish here - no offence. The last time you said we had " turned the corner " we went into free fall.

So I think a little sense of perspective is needed and that we don't get carried away with a small run of form, even though it is fantastic to see.

These phrases are all too easily bandied about by the media and by the ever Stalinist Boro PR department as soon as we get a few good results and this is what I hate.

I don't recall any talk of solid rock foundations when GS and Co. were talking about going " back to basics " because things weren't going well.

So, yes, I'm over the moon about the recent run of form and whole heartedly congratulate GS and his staff for a job well done.

But at the same time I'm not getting carried away and I'm certainly not able to yet hear any talk of rock solid foundations as it wasn't not so long ago that we couldn't win away for love nor money and kept getting mugged in the dying minutes of games.


**AV writes: A bit of perspective? Boro (who won five away games in Southgate's first two seasons) have gone four unbeaten away from home, taken eight points from 12, won at Champions League hopefuls Villa and got a draw at an in-form Everton where we usually get battered. A lack of perspective would be sawing the top of a double decker bus. I think a little excitement is permitted.

Posted by: tonyblack  | November 17, 2008 12:46 PM

JC Marske wrote...

As usual AV a good summary of the last two games,for any team success breeds success, the team members are now playing for each other.

A prime example is Stuart Downing who is now working back for his team mates, you don't have to tackle all the time but make a nusiance of yourself and force people to pass when they do not want to because an avenue forward is closed.

What a pity Riggot is injured again he brings so much to the team, one of the best communicators we have.As regards the zonal marking I for one do not understand it but the top four teams employ the system and I cannot see it changing.

We cetainly need a mid field play maker Arca may fill the bill when fully match fit but at the moment he is a yard off the pace. Tuncay and Alves are starting to build a good understanding that will benefit the team in the future.

However I believe the next two home games hold the key to the season, two wins and we can look forward with confidence for the rest of the season two defeats (and we all know the Boro on self inflicted wounds) and we are back in a relegation struggle. I will be a bag of nerves for the two games and the dog and grandchildren will be keeping out of my way.

Posted by: JC Marske  | November 17, 2008 1:02 PM

Jarkko wrote...

Spot on, 'Ignorant' of boroland!

We need a 'Rochenbach' to the midfield to supply Alves. If AA could then hit 20 goals a season I dare not think where we would finish on the Premiership!

Otherwise, the defence have been superb as AV said - plus a certain Mr Turnbull!!!

Posted by: Jarkko  | November 17, 2008 1:09 PM

'Ignorant' of boroland wrote...

Redcar Reds comment about 'the bench telling its own story' is as important as the AA scoring issue is .
we really need Huth, Mido and Aliadierre fit for the home games to help push on if we get an injury or if we are running out of legs in the second half.
I would stick with the team that drew with the Toffees and bring on Aliadierre [ if he has got over his bug]for Alves in the second half and see how that works out.

Posted by: 'Ignorant' of boroland  | November 17, 2008 2:20 PM

Pat Mc, Dubai wrote...

A good point..or not? I think yes

The one aspect that delighted me was the way we responded after Everton had equalised. Thoughts of capitulation went through my head at that very moment but these days we are made of sterner stuff. Keeping sufficient players upfield so that we had an outlet was key in that respect.

The quality of dead ball delivery from Arteta was consistently brilliant all afternoon. I don’t think we defended them badly. It’s just that statistically something had to give. We should have prevented such a barrage of dead ball situations….which brings me round to Didier Digard.

Didier Digard had a generally good game yesterday looking a good buy, with undoubted quality starting to come through. However he has to learn how to jockey an opponent when needed rather than desperately trying to get in a tackle every time. He has to learn that in the PL he is up against players who are very good at inviting fouls to gain free kicks in dangerous positions.

Sometimes a tackle is not needed. To ‘show’ a player at the right time, closing down his options can a much better approach.

The goal that Everton scored was so very avoidable, simply in that Digard did not have to foul Arteta deep into the Boro half and provide him with yet another opportunity to send another fizzer into the goal area. Digard had made steady ground on Arteta, making up some 20 yards to get alongside him, and had ample time to assess his options. Instead he chose to bite at Arteta's ankles and then lunge in and commit a pointless foul. In comes another Exocet delivery and 1-1 it is.

Controlled aggression and timing are the keys, Didier. Take a look and learn from more experienced players who know when to put the foot in and when to jockey their opponent.

That said, the overall team performance was encouraging. I recall not so long ago going to places like Goodison and Villa Park expecting nothing but a dour boring effort and coming away with a 2-0 defeat. Now we expect to go these places and get something out of the game….and we generally do

Posted by: Pat Mc, Dubai  | November 17, 2008 3:23 PM

tim from sa wrote...

JC agree with you 100% the last two games were top notch for us but we need to make the next two count now .We have done so well i cant start to think this is a dream as a very very old Boro fan but yes the next to games can creat that gap we all want.
I know i am in Africa and dont come to many games but i would like to ask all local Boro fans to get out there at the weekend get behind the boys and make it diffacult for the opposition

Posted by: tim from sa  | November 17, 2008 3:30 PM

john donovan wrote...

The 'belief' that the team now have is down to attitude and hard work.

The Chelsea display was awful and they were rightly criticised for it. But it is great to see that the response from that defeat has been positive.

The fans who travelled to Villa and Everton, though small in numbers, gave the team their backing throughout, more so in times of backs to the wall defending and it was wonderful to be part of both games. The fans can, and do, play a major part for the team and when we pull together it can make things happen. Certainly the players and management appreciate it.

Two home games on the bounce gives us the opportunity to consolidate our position in the top half. Patience will be the key but i hope on both occasions that the fans and the team work together to get the right results.


Posted by: john donovan  | November 17, 2008 3:54 PM

Mike wrote...

Great to see everyone confident about the season again, it makes me look forward to going to the two next home games. I agree with the points made about needing a link up player behind Alves as well. Didn't Tuncay play that kind of role in the Euro 2008? Turkey did well and beat some strong teams so maybe Tuncay could do a job there. It wouldn't be a bad idea to try it out because if it doesn't work then we can always look to buy a player in January.
Just a quick one, if Pogatetz does get injured in his international friendly then who would partner Wheater at centre back seen as though Riggott and Huth are both out?

Posted by: Mike  | November 17, 2008 4:55 PM

steve h wrote...

I think Marko Marin from Borussia Moenchengladbach would be a good signing for the Boro. He's an attacking midfielder in the Juninho mould and he's only 19. He's on the fringes of the german national squad so he might get a game on Wednesday. The germans are using the game to test a few young players.

Posted by: steve h  | November 17, 2008 4:55 PM

Ian Gill wrote...

Boro Phil

Arca is capable of opening up any defence, the only problem is that it can be at either end. I admit to being happier with O'Neill and Digard in central midfield.

If we went 4-5-1/4-3-3 where Downing and Aliadiere were the wide men then Aca would fit in well. The only problem is fitting Tuncay in without a striker. He is most effective in a free role where he is very difficult to pick up, even then he can turn almost any defender.

Still, what a luxury discussing the finer points of tactics sat in 8th and in a run of good results and performances. Makes a pleasand change from draining the swamp and fighting off the alligators.

Hope Riggott is OK because he deserves a run of games for his patience in adversity in the past.

What was interesting was watching us trying to combat the aerial threat of Everton, maybe interesting is the wrong word. They were so much bigger physically than us that the goal was almost inevitable. Allied to that was the fact there were so many bodies around the six yard area so Turnbull couldnt come and clear everyone out.

By the way, grateful Gomes didnt come here.

As for TB and eating words, I stand by my views stated a few weeks ago, the club made some gambles pre season. My view is that they were risky, a look at the bench once Riggott went off showed what could happen if the curse of Rockcliffe strikes.

So I have my fingers crossed that we have no injuries, I am delighted at the current position and hope we continue playing good football. Lets keep the good run going.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | November 17, 2008 5:05 PM

Clive Hurren wrote...

Tony Black

I'm not getting carried away, just really enjoying the feel at the moment. No defeats in 4 away games is unheard of Boro territory in the last few years. Suddenly we seem to have lost our fear of travelling. Brilliant stuff. Untypical Boro!

As someone said above, it would however be typical Boro to blow it against Bolton or Toon; personally I think we're now made of sterner stuff, and shouldn't have too many problems. Nonetheless, it's good to hear Gary O' Neil come out with a dose of reality today. None of this "we're heading for Europe" stuff, just plain common sense - "let's win our next 2 home games first before we get carried away. " Precisely.

Just a thought:- Pogi v Tuncay in a "friendly." Now which one of these two whole-hearted professionals is going to ease off a little? Will Tuncay stop skipping away from tackles and making defenders look silly? Will Pogi sense it's Tuncay coming out of the corner of his eye and subconsciously hold back?

I seriously hope so, but I really doubt it. I'm going to pray that one or the other doesn't play. Please, dear football god or goddess, no injuries. I promise I'll stop abusing all Geordies, Roy Keane and even Christiano Ronaldo if you'll give us this wish. Our two most influential players. AAargh - nightmare!!

Posted by: Clive Hurren  | November 17, 2008 6:58 PM

tonyblack wrote...

" **AV writes: A bit of perspective? Boro (who won five away games in Southgate's first two seasons) have gone four unbeaten away from home, taken eight points from 12, won at Champions League hopefuls Villa and got a draw at an in-form Everton where we usually get battered. A lack of perspective would be sawing the top of a double decker bus. I think a little excitement is permitted. "

" I think a little excitement is permitted. "



Posted by: tonyblack  | November 17, 2008 8:06 PM

Redcar Red wrote...

In order to give Alves the service he needs I think we need to adopt either a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 as Ian Gill has suggested above.

The back 4 is academic but a midfield 5 of Gon buzzing wide right alternating with Ali just inside bursting forward, Digard marshalling the middle and taking 30 yard pot shots, Tuncay complementing Ali on the other side, conjuring his magic, pushing up and the born again Stewy fizzing crosses in dragging the defence out wide.

When we are on top (optimism rules!) the 4-3-3 becomes obvious with Tuncay and Aliadiere pushing up the park but the 4-5-1 is potentially the most lethal because of the flexibility, energy, pace and skill in the middle.

Alves would then benefit from a more compact strikeforce unit pushing up supporting him rather being up front on his own in isolation. With Tuncay playing the full width of the pitch just behind him at the moment poor Alves (let alone the opposition defence) hasn't a clue where to position himself.

I also believe that this will get us more goals from midfield, provide the defence with more cover, outmuscle opponents through sheer numbers in the middle giving us control.

Mido of course lends himself to 4-3-3, 4-5-1 or a 4-4-2 as he can dish it out with the best of them battering the opposition defenders giving us the option to totally switch system if needs must.

Now 6 points out of Notlob and the Toon would make things really tasty!

Posted by: Redcar Red  | November 17, 2008 9:33 PM

Richard wrote...

Ian Gill:

'Arca is capable of opening up any defence, the only problem is that it can be at either end.'

Regretably, in Arca's case, I agree with you, for three reasons.

Firstly, Premier League football is far too quick to afford the luxury of having a lightweight midfielder hanging onto the ball too long. He loses it under pressure too often.

Secondly, he's half a yard off the pace of the game at the moment. I think he could have benefited from more matches in the reserves to get his fitness levels up before putting trust in him in more serious competition.

Finally, his distribution is poor. He's sending postcards out before he delivers and his passes are being intercepted. It happened a few times on Sunday in the space of just a few minutes and put us right on the back foot from otherwise decent possession positions.

If you compare the best teams to that sort of performance, they simply don't do it. Chelsea's passing performance, their one-touch, quick, triangular rotational movement was a masterclass when they cuffed us 5-0. Contrast that with Arca searching for the killer ball all the time while the opposition close him down.

He can be great sometimes. But he worries me more often than that. If he was wading in with 10-15 goals a season, you could forgive the occasional loss of possession - because he does track back to try to atone for losing it. But he's not a prolific goalscorer from midfield either.

Posted by: Richard  | November 17, 2008 10:22 PM

'Ignorant' of boroland wrote...

Some interesting thoughts from Ian Gill , Borophil and Redcar Red of how to unlock Alves as the potent striking force he is meant to be. I am gonna google Marko Marin from Borussia Moenchengladbach.

A few weeks ago Alves said that he was trying to relax and keep the presure off to allow the goals to flow. He certainly looks like he is snatching at shot rather than staying cool. We payed a club record for him and no matter what he says he is definately feeling the pressure. It will be a great weight lifted if he can break into the goals, not just for him but for the fans as we all want him to go goal mad!

A fit and in form Arca in an advanced midfield role could be the answer but maybe the fact is that Alves just hasnt settled in yet. I think Southgate will try and play him in rather than playing Aliadiere and Tuncay upfront as that is the only other option at the mo.

A few mugs on here , way back when , suggested that we should go for Darren Bent as he was proven in the prem even if he wasnt getting the games coz of Berbatov , Keane and Defoe. What would they know.

Dont forget folks that it took Tierry Henry 18 months before he clicked.
Anyway I am gonna keep it short as I have to save my hands for another bout of ReDial for John Sargeant in that comedy show about people who cant dance.

I dream of a Come Dancing final with one of the celeb wonder dancers taking on John Sargeant where John employs the tag team rule to seamlessly tag in Jo Brand to lambarda to the echoing vibes of a massive gowned Demis Roussos singing his epic ' Forever and ever'

And as the plates smash on the floor John is voted to a victory for the people.
This is a metaphor for Boro winning the league.

Posted by: 'Ignorant' of boroland  | November 17, 2008 11:29 PM

Forever Dormo wrote...

Ian Gill at 5.05pm - "Arca is capable of opening up any defence, the only problem is it could be at either end". Harsh but true. There is always the worry that he is going to be caught on the ball, or have a cheeky little pass intercepted on the edge of OUR penalty area.

If we could find a way of tethering him to a spot inside THEIR half it wouldn't be so bad. But didn't we actually buy him as a left back? Who would now want to play him there?

But that's enough of that. We are now going to be positive, buoyed up by waves of enthusiasm and optimistic for the future. But hopefully with at least one foot firmly grounded, because looking on the bright side of the future doesn't have to mean being unrealistically stupid.

Posted by: Forever Dormo  | November 18, 2008 12:06 AM

Neil (Korea) wrote...

After readings Gate's summing up of the game on Sunday, and the inference that someone had told him we were doing OK in terms of form, I checked the form tables: http://www.statto.com/football/teams/middlesbrough/2008-2009

He needs to have a word with his informant.

We are basically middle of the road in terms of league position, away form, home form and overall form so there's nothing much to shout about yet, although we are above Bolton and Newcastle.

The signs are there that the team is jelling again after a series of bad results caused in my opinion mainly by the paper thin squad, our inability to fill the gaps with experience when losing key players, and some abstract tactics by the manager.

It is essential that we keep it going in the next two games, they could prove crucial if we are to maintain or even extend the gap between Divison 'B' and Division 'C' in the EPL.

Any more key injuries now would be a disaster, and I for one would have done a Ferguson and pulled the plug on players attending these meaningless international friendlies. I hope none of our players play any part in the games, as much as I think this unlikely.

Minor ripples of excitement may be justified, but I'll keep mine under wraps until we've taken maximum points in the next two games.

Posted by: Neil (Korea)  | November 18, 2008 3:56 AM

Allan in Bahrain wrote...

I still have that sinking feeling in my tummy!!!!

Posted by: Allan in Bahrain  | November 18, 2008 6:53 AM

'Ignorant' of boroland wrote...

International friendlies could undo our status in the league.
Its a difficult one as Pogi and Tuncay will want to show what they can do for their countries but if either of them get injured we are scuppered as we just dont have the squad to cover.

Posted by: 'Ignorant' of boroland  | November 18, 2008 9:13 AM

Ian Gill wrote...

Below is a post from Boro Banter in reply to Richard.

'The first thing that came into my mind when I saw Speed and Gray on the panel was Boronoia.

The penny had dropped when I picked up the Sunday Telegraph from the mat (and they are one of the best balanced sports papers). Turned to the sports supplement to check my theory. It goes like this, if you dont know if Boro are going to be televised check the sports pages of the Telegraph. On opening the pages the evidence leapt from the page. There was an article about a player who would be appearing against Boro, Lescott had a decent spread all to himself with nary a mention of Boro.

Now the Gray/Speed partnership was not deliberate. They were on for the Hull City match and just so happened to be Everton fans as well, the sin was by ommission because Peter Taylor was going to be on later. There was absolutely no reason for him not to be a pundit other than they didnt care.

Now a poser. I think the worst ever punditry bias was when we played Arsenal in the first leg of Carling Cup. We had Alan Smith, I think there was also Kenny Sansom. That was bad enough but to top it off with Merson was rubbing salt into the wounds. A Gooner and a back stabber to boot'

My challenge is for someone to come up with a more biased panel than that Cup semi.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | November 18, 2008 9:42 AM

Nigel wrote...

Ian - Gray and Speed at first sight appears to be a biased punditry panel, but having watched the match on Sky I was impressed at how positive the two were about Boro and how unbiased their views were.

Boro are in terrific form at the moment, what is impressing me is the teams collective ability to maintain a mental and physical strength for 90+ minutes which has resulted in four excellent away results on the trot.

It is becoming apparent that there is a strong team spirit developing, which most leading managers acknowledge is key to success, for this Southgate must be given credit, firstly for buying the right players and secondly for demonstrating the leadership which is required to allow such a spirit to develop.

If we can in the next two games develop a home form as good as our away form is currently then the season will start to look really exciting.

A combination of resilient defending and attacking flair is indeed a heady mix!

Posted by: Nigel  | November 18, 2008 10:43 AM

Sweaty Agar wrote...

If Downing had got his finger out and made an effort this season and Southgate had an actual clue as to what he is sometimes doing, we could have been in the top 3 quite easily.

Posted by: Sweaty Agar  | November 18, 2008 1:07 PM

Ian Gill wrote...


The piece was tongue in cheek and at no point did I critcise Gray and Speed, thought they were fine.

There is always a grain or two of truth in tongue in cheek comments and this was no difference. Besides it is Boronoia we are talking about.

Anyway, you didnt give an answer to my poser about biased punditry panels, can you beat the one I suggested?

I am looking forward to the weekend and hopefully give Notlob a larruping.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | November 18, 2008 2:06 PM

BoroPhil wrote...

I think our best midfield could well be the one that started against Everton, O'Neil has always seemed more effective to me on the right, especially if he has now re-discovered the knack of scoring.

Arca is off the pace at the minute, but that has to be expected. As for his distribution, it may have been ropey last season when he was unfit/off-form/jinxed by the armband or whatever, but when he was on top of his game, his ability to keep possession was one of his strengths.

He is very good at dictating play, playing simple balls when he has to, and looking for that 'killer' ball when he can. He has also shown in the past that he has the knack of arriving in the opposition's penalty area and has decent composure in front of goal.

If he is paired with Didier Digard, Digard can play the more defensive role, freeing Arca up to play more in the opposition's half where he is best.

Posted by: BoroPhil  | November 18, 2008 2:43 PM

Nigel wrote...

Ian - I have wracked my brain (it didn't take long!) and I have to admit defeat, Sansom and Smith would be biased enough but adding Merson to the mix really was taking the michael!!
Perhaps in the future we could have Zeige commenting on Boro vs Liverpool who his punditry Boronoia partner would be I'm not sure, Zenden doesn't quite fit the bill..........

Posted by: Nigel  | November 18, 2008 2:43 PM

John Powls wrote...


So, you'd drop O'Neil (or keep him out right) or Aliadiere to accommodate Arca?

You won't be surprised if I tell you that I wouldn't.

A sacrifice of either of the two reduces the pace in the side - even when Arca is up to speed (still a yard off everyone else) - and the speed of the continuity passing and the control that gives us when done well.

I don't feel - as you do - that what little he gives Boro is worth either sacrifice. If we had the athlete/artist right sided attacking midfielder that we actually need then you could make the trade off with O'Neil or Aliadiere to Boro's benefit.

I think Arca's a useful squad player at best and, if I was going to pair him off with anyone to get the best of him and mitigate the risks he poses to Boro, I'd make him understudy to Tuncay in the 'in the hole' off a striker role.

It's still not a good trade and I'd never play him in preference to Tuncay but we may need to fill the slot at some point when Tuncay's unavailable.

Posted by: John Powls  | November 18, 2008 5:00 PM

Pat Mc, Dubai wrote...

I fully agree with John Donovan that attitude and hard work are the key factors to success. And that goes for everyone working at MFC, not just the players. I recall Tony Black referring to it as the 'winning attitude'.

I mentioned earlier how impressed I was in the way we more than held together after Everton had scored on Saturday - a great attitude clearly evident in the face of possible collapse.

I have posted previously that I believe that the squads outside of the top four are pretty much the same in terms of individual quality. It is the two factors highlighted by JD that separates the teams who finish fifth to tenth from the rest scrapping it out below.

The only concern is that Boro have less strength in depth to cater for the injuries and suspensions that inevitably intensify around Christmas and after.

Pre-Southgate we were always poor in January/February. There were no secrets behind this phenomena; it was simply because of the distinctly average players who made the first eleven due to unavailability of regulars. This time around it is not back up quality we necessarily lack, it is experience.

Posted by: Pat Mc, Dubai  | November 18, 2008 5:06 PM

Tom Crimling wrote...

i totally agree AV!

Some things to mention though. Over the past couple of games when Arca has been playing, he has been giving the ball away far to easily. He looks weak, and totally off pace. Kind of like how Fabio Rochemback looked until he knew he was leaving.

Also Gary O'neil did play okay out wide, but he is still a better player just inside of Aliadiere, who i think we missed a bit on Sunday.

As for Alves, all he needs is time. Yes the Dutch league was a bit more of a lightweight league than the Premiership, but he is a proven goalscorer, and a natural finisher no matter what.

I really think that he an Tuncay can forge a great partnership together. Once the goals come for Alves, and his confidence has risen, he won't stop scoring thats for sure.

And i think one player who needs a mention is Ross Turnbull. So far, him, and Chris Riggot have been our players of the season. And who would have believed that if you said it at the beginning of the season. So credit goes to GS for putting trust in his keeper.

Posted by: Tom Crimling  | November 18, 2008 8:45 PM

BoroPhil wrote...


Yes, if we are talking a Julio Arca at his best, he'd be one of the first names on my teamsheet.

Aliadiere has done alright this season, but he still fades out of games too much for me. It depends who/where we are playing as well.

If it's an Everton-type game where we are looking to counter-attack, then Aliadiere's pace is obviously an asset, whereas if it's a Bolton-type game where we will probably expect them to come to the Riverside and defend, someone like Arca who will get time on the ball and can unlock defences could be key.

We obviously have a few options now, which has to be good. We may have a squad on the small side, but I don't think we are carrying anyone, I'd be happy to see any of our squad in the team on match day, unlike say Sunderland who seem to be carrying a ridiculous amount of dead wood.

Posted by: BoroPhil  | November 18, 2008 9:19 PM

Ian Gill wrote...

Boro Phil

Arca is off the pace because he doesnt have any. That is not a personal criticism but more a statement of fact.

The premiership is evermore athletic, the time to dwell has gone except for the exceptional player. People like Fabregas make it look easy because of the ability to play with their heads up and make an almost instant decision.

Our little Argentinian doesnt have that
and gets caught in two minds, it isnt his fault he isnt Maradonna but playing him in a midfield four is dangerous.

O'Neill isnt perfect but he has the engine that lets Arca down,

Posted by: Ian Gill  | November 18, 2008 9:35 PM

Mac in Baku wrote...

I think a lot of our success recently is down to the fact the team seems to be working much harder now than they have in the past. I have watched the Everton match twice and everyone is working hard closing down, harrying and forcing the opposition into mistakes and backward passes. Hull City have probably overachieved so far this season by doing the same thing.
A run of unbeaten games will then hopefully give the players the confidence to play to their potential.
I would like to see Aliadiere come back in to add that bit of extra pace.
What's the news on Pogo - is he fit? With Riggott out is Huth ready to step back in alongside Wheats?
Feast or famine with our centre backs!!

Posted by: Mac in Baku  | November 19, 2008 7:00 AM

Benny Brown wrote...

Gary O,Neil has found his shooting boots, what difference now, he is taking his chances coolly and methodically and is not snatching at his chances as he was earlier in the season. He looks like a regular goal scorer now, and I hope he continues in this manner, Diegard is starting to flourish and looks to be a quality player who will only get better as the season progresses. The quality of the Boro football is wonderful to watch, they only resort to the big boot up the field in emergency clearance situations now. I can not see any weak links in this Boro team a present and young Turnbull must be in line for an England call up if he continues to impress as he has done so far this season.

Posted by: Benny Brown  | November 19, 2008 9:30 AM

'Ignorant' of boroland wrote...

i think Aliadiere and O'Neil must be in the starting line up before Arca!

I even think Digard should be infront of him on he team sheet.

Arca is just not match fit at the mo and cant be judged.

I hope Tom Crimling is right about Alves, I think he is. Alves seems to be going through a Darren Bent under Ramos thing at the mo and I cant wait till he finds his shooting boots.

We are a very counter attacking team so the home games should be interesting.
Poga is out of the Turkey match so fingers crossed for Tuncay [ the main man] to keep out the way of injury!

Posted by: 'Ignorant' of boroland  | November 19, 2008 1:17 PM

Ian Gill wrote...

Watched Skysportsnews journo slot this morning and John Powls also pointed me to an article by Martin Samuels.

It covers moves by the French to get europe to impose a French style governance on football in UEFA.

It is instructive reading, I agree because whilst I dislike the power of the big four it is a better situation than elsewhere in many countries - Lyon in France dominate the game. I also fundamentally do not want european bureaucrats telling me what to do. These are the type of people worrying about exhaust emmissions from the Challenger Battle tank when they should be morried about what comes out of the pipe at the other end.

Rant over.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | November 19, 2008 1:23 PM

John Powls wrote...


Let's hope the rock doesn't change to shifting sands by the weekend!

It's good news in one way that Boro-sense has prevailed over Pogi and that he's no longer to be risked for Austria.

But what Steve Agnew said about his injury didn't sound too encouraging.

Huth won't be ready and Riggs must be a doubt or worse.

The risk is we'll be facing Notlob's thuggish forwards with the only Rock around being the Redcar variety and, good though Wheats is, he'll need the support.

Don't know how far off fitness Matt Bates is yet - making a pillock of himself with Catts aside. But he is not the biggest and his stomach for a battle hasn't been tested on his return.

Notlob's defence - goalie apart - is poor. They are get-at-able through the middle and down the flanks.

They are lively but ordinary in midfield but we all know what to expect of Davies and Elmander up front.

Makes it more important that we cut out the service from their midfield and that the strikers are on song if we need to get into a 'we'll score one more than you' scenario.

Posted by: John Powls  | November 19, 2008 1:43 PM

'Ignorant' of boroland wrote...

The ' how to solve a problem like Alves' on boro banter is well worth a read.
Bringing Downing inside or getting Taylor to overlap more are talked about as well as the mystery regarding Alves's match day performances.

Posted by: 'Ignorant' of boroland  | November 19, 2008 2:24 PM

Pat Mc, Dubai wrote...

'Ignorant' : "Well I know Alves has it in him but its just a matter of can Southgate get it out?
Tim's suggests "All he needs is time"

I'm sure he will get much better in time, in particluar with respect to adjusting to the physical side of the PL, which I'm convinced is the biggest single aspect that is holding him back.

Alves appears not enjoy the physical battle at all, as though the level of aggression has shocked him and he doesn't know how to cope with it.

Against Everton in the first half his clever movement got him into an identical position to that when he scored against Blackburn. Each time he failed to get in a shot as his marker put an arm across him or baulked him and he was about to pull the trigger.
It was as though he didn't expect the defender to do such a horrible thing. If that was Drogba, Bent, Yak, or dare I say, Shearer, they would have seen the challenge coming and leaned into the defender to fend him off before striking for goal.

As soon as Alves can cope with the physical stuff, aligned with his movement and undoubted finishing ability then he will be a 20 goal a season man in the PL.

Posted by: Pat Mc, Dubai  | November 19, 2008 3:15 PM

John Powls wrote...

Given talk of Boro's need for the athlete/artist midfielder, many of us have raised the name of Stephen Appiah many times.

He's raised it again himself today - and Boro are allegedly one of the clubs watching him in Ghana's international friendly.

He seems desperate to play and put his name in the frame again. That may have tempered the sizeable wage demands that seemed to have kept people away from him to date.

He's a free agent so could sign and play now but his fitness must make it a bit of a punt.

So, you would think a short term contract with the first refusal to go nap in January would seem to suit both parties.

Boro must know him through previous interest they are alleged to have had and through Fenerbahce and Tuncay.

What about it?

Posted by: John Powls  | November 19, 2008 3:58 PM

Richard wrote...

I've just watched Stewart Downing put in probably his best perfomrance in an England shirt.

He's obviously impressed a few of the pundits as well.

I was cheered to receive an unsolicited textv message from a friend (a Spurs supporter) in West Sussex, three-quarters way through the match - just as the studio pundits awarded man of the match to Matthew Upson.

My mate's text said, "Your boy Downing has been our best player".

I agreed with him, but I'd dicouted my own vote because of the danger of local bias! It was great to get "external" objective input like that.

Well played Stewart Downing.

As I replied to my mate, I hope he's got enough in his tank for Saturday's match aganist Bolton!

Posted by: Richard  | November 19, 2008 10:59 PM

Richard wrote...

From Sky Sports website report on the Germany match:

"The Chelsea defender met a chipped free-kick from Downing - who was excellent throughout - to secure a merited success."

This'll be the start of a campaign to get him to Spurs, Villa, Everton, Man City or even Liverpool. (Not that Steve Gibson would sell him to Liverpool, even if they could raise the £25M required!!)

Watch them go for it!

Posted by: Richard  | November 19, 2008 11:47 PM

david connor wrote...

Hello from Kazakhstan once again. I see we have a little debate going regarding the "give us a goal" Alves. What is all of this crap "give him time" and "goals will come" he has been here for quire a while now last season only two good games Chelsea and Man U and a few goals.
This season he has not set the team on fire at all. One "great goal" from a free kick a goal from a penalty. come on a proven goal scorer in a mickey mouse league as I wrote some time ago. At hte present time he is an expensive failure up front. Mind having said the I was at the game against Manchester City and his work rate was very good I was surprised, however, we get all the BORO games over here and there is no consistenct with him. I am sure that if MIDO was fit Southgate may think about giving him a run in the team at least he can score goals from open play, and he can take the hurly burly of the physical defenders. I hope I am wrong but how long do you give some one, he has been here over a year now.

Posted by: david connor  | November 20, 2008 3:23 AM

tim from sa wrote...

John hope you are correct about Apiah a class act when fit.
He is the type of player to get Alves up and running and has the quality to fill the stands and give us a top 7 finish

Posted by: tim from sa  | November 20, 2008 6:39 AM

Zafer  wrote...

I just watched international friendly between Austria and Turkey. Score: 2-4. It was the night of Tuncay. He played superbly with a hat-trick. Thank God, he was replaced by the coach Fatih Terim in the 80th minute for a good applause from the fans before any potential injury. I believe he will also explode against Bolton on Saturday.
Go Tuncay, go Boro!

Posted by: Zafer  | November 20, 2008 8:39 AM

Diablo Rojo (Costa de la Darlingtono) wrote...

"Go Tuncay,"

He's going to Arsenal soon, mate!

Posted by: Diablo Rojo (Costa de la Darlingtono)  | November 20, 2008 11:26 AM

Zafer wrote...


Are you an Arsenal fan and you wish to see him (i.e. Tuncay) play for Arsenal? Well, I have not run into any news anywhere (including Turkish media) about him going to Arsenal this January. Personally, I would rather see him to continue in Boro shirt. I believe with Boro he can become one of the legends of the club if he sticks to it.

Posted by: Zafer  | November 20, 2008 3:46 PM

Forever Dormo wrote...

Zafer, the vast majority of us on this blog agree with you. Tuncay is our player and we don't want him to go anywhere.

Diablo Rojo (Costa da la Darlingtono) is, we suspect from his name, a Manchester United fan from Darlington who likes Spanish holidays. Some might call him a "pot hunter" rather than one who supports his local team. On a grey, cold, rainy North East England day in winter, he keeps us amused with his comments on this blog. It is like this website having its own playful little pet.

Posted by: Forever Dormo  | November 21, 2008 10:11 PM

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