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Galvanised Boro Get Out Of Jail

Posted by on November 1, 2008 8:21 PM | 

BORO got out of jail with a turbo-charged second half that kept the good form and top half place intact. Some timely much needed changes stopped West Ham's right of way through the middle and then a show of power and pace and a flurry of chances in the closing spell had the Riverside rocking and believing it was a game that could have been won.

But let us not kid ourselves: the first half - the first hour - was woeful, it was shapeless, it lacked any zest and in truth Boro could have been dead and buried at the hands of a side that had lost four in a row. Boro were stodgy and wooden in midfield and were being torn apart by the energy and pace of the visitors but worse, they were the architects of their own misfortune. Almost every West Ham attack came after Boro had squandered possession with a sloppy ball at the edge of the visitors box and the goal came from an inexplicable Stewy Downing ball back into the dangerzone when Row Z beckoned.

It showed great collective spirit to come back from the wreckage of a lack-lustre opening period that was as bad as anything this season and left flat-footed Boro chasing shadows and in danger of being overwhelmed.

Credit to Gareth Southgate though for making a string of telling substitutions. It was brave to take crowd icon and key defender David Wheater off at the break and put Justin Hoyte on but it worked. He offered more width and a more natural attacking instinct down the right flank and almost immediately he began to link up with Jeremie Aliadiere, to overlap and to put balls into the box. He also had what was a very marginal offside decision go against him that could have capped off a dramatic arrival from the bench.

Putting Arca on was brave too. His cameo against Manchester City included an opening ten minute spell that was so out of synch with the speed and touch of the rest of the players on the pitch that it was almost that he had won a competition to get on the pitch. That said his arrival against the Hammers galvanised the Boro midfield. Almost his first touch was a 40 crossfield ball that spark an incisive attack and there followed a series of penetrative passes and deft touches that tied a lot of loose ends together. The man he replaced, Didier Digard, has a nice touch and a fine eye for a pass but still looks short of the lightning pace of the Premiership and was several times robbed in key areas or a spectator as an opposition player streaked past.

And Mido did it again. From the moment he arrived on the pitch he monstered the West Ham defence, demanded the ball, won the headers, held it up and pointed and shouted to add urgency to Boro's offence. That he won and then scored the free-kick underlined the impact he had made from the bench and his importance as a Plan B for Boro.

That said it must be pointed out that once again it was Ross Turnbull that made sure the hard work did not go to waste with an incredible stoppage time double save. Boro's discovery of the season is out of contract in the summer and can talk to clubs in January. After watching some of the comedy keeping over the past few weeks there are bound to be envious eyes watching. Southgate, Lambie - get it sorted... now!

Comments (51)

mickymacc wrote...

This good game/bad game cycle is worrying,we need to improve the midfield and possibly the right wing.The one thing every player should give is effort,that was lacking for 60mins today.

Posted by: mickymacc  | November 1, 2008 10:25 PM

Holgate Ender wrote...

I'm not Arca's biggest fan but he changed the game today. It had been woeful but he started finding passes and that encouraged the key players to make more runs.

Before that it had been terrible. We looked like losing, should have won, almost threw it away. Normal day at the Riverside really.

It was important we got something today, keep the run going as some big games coming up. A typical Boro defeat would have seen optimism hit the floor.

Posted by: Holgate Ender  | November 1, 2008 10:59 PM

steve h wrote...

So we've gone from having "a major keeper problem" to "get him on a long term contract" in the space of a dozen games. Looks like Southgate got that one right then.

**AV writes: Absolutely. I refer the honourable gentleman to my "eating humble pie" column in the Gazette a few weeks back.

Posted by: steve h  | November 1, 2008 11:32 PM

Craig B wrote...

Rubbish. Two points dropped against a poor side. Southgate admitted after the game that he though we woudl be flat after midweek - so why not make changes?

Mido should start every game if fit he is the only one that causes problems for defences. And when will Southate drop Downing? The lad needs to find himself. Give Johnson or Emnes a shot.

Posted by: Craig B  | November 1, 2008 11:40 PM

BoroPhil wrote...

Surely now you can all congratulate me on being right about Turnbull?

What a good week for us, 4pts, the return of Arca, goals for Alves and O'Neil, Mido fit again, signs of life from Stewie and 8th place in the league.

It can only get better.

Posted by: BoroPhil  | November 2, 2008 2:03 AM

Shaun Hannon wrote...

Southgate has to play Mido and Alves from the start, week in week out.

Posted by: Shaun Hannon  | November 2, 2008 8:50 AM

tonyblack wrote...

Well to look at the positive side first and its actualy very positive indeed and what it's all about at the end of the day, we have 4 points from 6 which I think is fantastic and points to what can be done.

The major worry for me, which seems to be an age old main and recurring theme, is that we just can't seem to put in the same level of performance over the 90 minutes for any run of games and for me this is purely down to Gareth as he leads the ship. He is the main man who takes the decisions and he is the man who calls the shots and motivates the team. You can't lay the blame anywhere else as this is the managers job and what he is employed to do.

The first half was truly dreadful but the second half was far, far better and full of what for me is the minimum that is to be expected. If we can play like this for both halfs of the game and then do it consistently then I think that we half a good team that can look up instead of looking down.

I'm not talking about skill here. I'm talking about players coming out onto the pitch and giving their all for 90 minutes. Passion. A will to win. An absolute desire to battle and battle and battle no matter what, just like Pogatez does. Teesside Steel is the term we use and if we can just instill this into all the team so that they show it each and every time they step onto any field then I think that the fans will be very happy and that we really will turn the corner and move forwards.

What puzzles me more than anything about Southgate is that his entire career has been build on performing like this, week in, week out and yet he still hasn't been able to transmit it to the team.

Perhaps his main problem has been that he played with many of these players and still finds it hard to step from player / nice guy to manager.

When he finally cracks this and is able to really impose himself and impose exactly what he wants from players whereby they respond, then I think that he will be half way there. Pyscho had this passion and was learning on the job too and I don't think that he was able to transmit his never say die attitude to his teams either.

As it stands, I always get the impression that Gareths a bit of a wet, a bit limp. To me, he doesn't seem to have what is needed to actually be a good manager. But of course I could well be wrong.

He's been in the job a long while now and so he's no doubt learned a great deal. But for me what I've just talked about hasn't changed one bit. The age old problem of which Boro walks of the coach is still all too evident all too often.

Hull are a prime example. Are they better than we are? No, I really don't think so and allthough it's very early days they have that Teesside Steel attitude right throughout the team and for me this is what is giving them the success above their weight.

For me we are a better team, with much more experience and a much better club infrastructre that has come from being in this league consistemtly for so long. So if we can just add in this Teesside Steel factor throught the coming seasons then I really can't see any reason why we can't do the same or even better.

Of course by the end of the season a lot can change for Hull. But I think if we had their never say die attitude and if we were where they are now that we would drop less than they will in the league come the end of the season as a result of the things I've highlited.

That's how I see it anyway.

But 4 points from 6? Very good indeed.

TB

Posted by: tonyblack  | November 2, 2008 9:36 AM

Redcar Red wrote...

On the previous blog I said on the morning of the match

"Just hope that we don't do a typical Boro and hand the Hammers an end to their winless streak. We are normally very benevolent to these teams needing to end a record, they have lost four on the trot have scored 1 and conceded 8. Lets hope that we are in a ruthless state of mind when we run out onto the pitch at 3.00pm."

Why oh why are we so predictable, no fight no passion and no ruthlessness for 60 minutes! In fairness to Gareth he changed things and the changes worked, Hoyte for me had his best 45 minutes, Arca showed his experience and was looking like the player he once was before the "Captains Curse". Mido again showed fight, spirit and leadership, if only we could bottle what he has running through his veins and inject it into 5 or 6 others we would be 7 or 8 points better off this year!

Positives:

1. we salvaged something
2. Mido Magnificent
3. Riggot Ruled
4. Turnbull served another shovel sized helping of humble pie to most of us (BoroPhil excluded) yet again.

Negatives:

1. no belief or fighting spirit from the off.........why?
2. absolute shambolic disorganised Park type tactical chaos for 60 mins
3. midfield was awol and ineffective until Arca's arrival
4. our left hand side was shocking, Tayls had a real stinker and this impacted on Stewy and Pogatetz having to cover, Surely Grounds is worth a start!
5. "Can't Score" ran and ran but was largely ineffective and knackered for the last 15 mins
6. "Won't Jump" needs to look to Mido to see what is required to ever make it in the Premiership. Looking smooth and sulky just doesn't cut it. Challenging oppostion defenders is an absolute minimum.
7. Wheats is not a Right Back!
8. We still can't play 2 games in one week and this goes back to Mac's era.

At least we are at the right end of the table but only a few points separate 8th from 18th! If only we could galvanise ourselves we could make a real UEFA cup spot challenge.

Posted by: Redcar Red  | November 2, 2008 10:37 AM

Jarkko wrote...

Where are all those who wanted us to sign a new goalie in the Summer? I think GS earns a big concratulation for taking that 'risk'. We saved around 5 million there...

Mido and Alves up front? No way - it's Tuncay and Mido or Alves. Tuncay is our best player but yesterday he was perhaps a bit tired after along absent with injury.

Boro are the eighth in the League - cannot be much better after a bad batch of results in October. Where will we be aroung Christmas? Top ten to 7th I think.

Up the Boro!

Posted by: Jarkko  | November 2, 2008 10:46 AM

BoroPhil wrote...

I don't think lack of passion was an issue on Saturday, I think as Gareth says, some of them were leggy after Wednesday. Yes, West Ham had a game as well, but they were comfortably beaten at OT, while we were involved in a very physical, high tempo game where players from both sides were out on their feet at the end.

But - Gareth should have recognised that before the match and therefore maybe should have made changes. We had senior players like Adam Johnson, Emnes, Arca, Mido, Hoyte on the bench who hadn't started a game all week and maybe some should have been involved from the start? Gareth probably didn't want to change a winning team, but if that's the case it's possibly a bit naive.

Finally - when we have 1st halfs like that, where we are obviously just waiting for half time, why not make changes beforehand? Be more proactive Gareth!

But as for passion, commitment and never-say-die attitude this week - I don't think you can knock the players one bit.

Posted by: BoroPhil  | November 2, 2008 10:56 AM

John Powls wrote...

OK BoroPhil, you got it right with Turnbull.

I still think we need another keeper in January though.

Turnbull's 'unknown quantity' has blossomed with opportunity.

Jones is a known quantity - and one which is far less than would stack up as a regular Prem goalie.

Jason Steele looks promising but he's definitely 'one for the future' to quote the popular MFC mantra.

Posted by: John Powls  | November 2, 2008 11:30 AM

beamishboro wrote...

That was absolute dross yesterday and another 2 pts thrown away by the tactically inept Southgate.
As for Downing, the sooner he gets on his bike and bu****s off to a "big" club, the better.

Posted by: beamishboro  | November 2, 2008 12:25 PM

Dan Donovan wrote...

Gareth Southgate has made no attempt to hide his satisfaction at four points in two home games this week, and he has every reason to be pleased.

As the gaffer says, we've only lost one in the last five, and that was to Chelsea.

The side have climbed to 8th in the table. With the top five looking set in stone, only Hull and Everton are ahead of us in pursuit of the final European spot. Hull's unbelievable run is unlikely to go on forever, and of the other chasing teams Boro stand out as a team on the up.

The return of Tuncay has been a massive boost, and Julio Arca could have a similar impact. Arca's composure on the ball and Tuncay's link-up play are elements the side has missed badly at times this season.

Southgate has developed a squad with genuine options.
Along with Arca, Mido and Justin Hoyte came off the bench against West Ham, and the three substitutions changed the game.
Hoyte's pace gave us an outlet that David Wheater simply can't provide, and Mido gave us the physical presence that Afonso Alves lacks.

The changes lifted the crowd, and that lifted the team. In the last half hour - in stark contrast to the preceding hour - we looked dangerous, and fully deserved the point in the end.

Ross Turnbull has been the other major plus this season, and his double save late on against West Ham was terrific. Southgate must have been particularly satisfied after so much criticism of his decision to not replace Mark Schwarzer in the summer.

There are still some concerns for the Boro boss. Robert Huth keeps getting injured, and Alves and Stewart Downing have hardly hit top form.

Nevertheless, the squad looks capable of coping with these issues. Chris Riggot's re-emergence is a great example of Southgate having faith in his squad players.

There seems to have been a change in the tide of Boro's season. Against Manchester City and West Ham, the late goals went our way, rather than against us. This is an astonishing change from earlier in the season against Spurs, Liverpool and Portsmouth. Southgate deserves great credit for addressing and correcting this issue in such a short period of time.

He is still learning as a manager, but he continues to show a lot of promise. His success is borne out of having intelligence and courage in his convictions.

A lesser man may have started to doubt whether the kids would be alright, and gone back on his well-spun philosophies. Southgate has not done that. He has stuck to his guns and as a result we are sitting in the top half of the table. As the youthful squad learns and develops, it should only get better, regardless of any new additions.

As Boro fans, we can be assured that anyone signed in January will not be stop-gaps or panic buys like we have seen from previous managers. Southgate is calmly and thoughtfully building for what looks like a very bright Boro future.

We have every right to be proud of our team, and optimistic for the future.

Posted by: Dan Donovan  | November 2, 2008 3:02 PM

paul bell wrote...

IF Bolton and/or Newcastle win their next game, the Boro will be only 3 points off a relegation place so lets not get too arrogant about being 8th in the League as it is shaping up to be the closest league (after the big 4 and Villa that is) for years. Relegation could be down to luck and avoiding injuries and anybody could go down outside the top 5.

Posted by: paul bell  | November 2, 2008 3:38 PM

Captain K wrote...

I would view this result as a b*****k dropped. West Ham reeling off 4 straight defeats at home and we were really poor for most the match.

Was telling a mate not to bet on Boro in his accumulator as historically we never win 2 games in succession. Why is this? It seems inevitable every time we win a game that we wont push on.

Reading a lot of optimism from many on this post, but would have to agree with Paul Bell. I think this is going to be one of the closest seasons in Premier history as the gap between say Boro and bottom is not big. The promoted sides are also doing well so no guarantees this time that one will inevitably struggle. There are still loads of games to go i would accept, but my instict tells me this will be a tight season.

Posted by: Captain K  | November 2, 2008 8:19 PM

Mike wrote...

Was it me or did Tuncay drop back more into an attacking midfielder role towards the end of the second half leaving Mido upfront on his own?? It seemed to work though didn't it, it made us create more chances on the break.

It would be nice to see Tuncay play that role more, he could link the play up to Mido and Alves and we would score alot more goals.

Hoyte was brilliant when he came on, a lot better than Wheater in right back. Wheats plays so much better in centre back, but then again Poggy and Riggott have put in some assured performances. Whichever pairing GS chooses to put together it is one that we can trust to do a good job.

I do seem to have my doubts about Andrew Taylor though, we could do with a bit more pace from a left back. I'm hoping the Janruay transfer window can sort that one out.

We could also do with a true centre midfielder, we don't really have a real midfield power house as most of our centre midfielders used to be wingers or left backs (O'Neil and Arca).

Downing had a mixed game for us against West Ham, first hour he was awful and didn't seem to even try to take a player on, when the subs came on he tried harder. We could all see the pace he has until Bellamy tripped him up during our counter attack.

However, I do agree with an earlier post from 'Craig B' about the fact that Johnson and Emnes should be given more of a chance. It would then give Downing an incentive to play better and remind him that he is not the first name on the team sheet. If he has a bad attitude towards that then get him out, he would go for a good price to Spurs or Liverpool.

Some great performances from Turnbull, he's yet again saved us from dropping points. It won't be long before Turnbull is in Capello's thoughts as well. I know he is 23 but can he still represent England Under 21s team? I seem to remember James Milner still playing for the Under 21s when he was a few years older.

Finally, Boro have dropped 7 points from late goals this season, if we hadn't have let them in we would be fourth and on the same amount of points as Manchester United. If only ey...

Posted by: Mike  | November 2, 2008 9:03 PM

Benny Brown wrote...

A great last thirty minutes, but a woeful previous sixty minutes.

Why not play Mido as an attacking midfielder? He is strong a good passer of the ball scores goals and defends well, and has bags of get-up and go that inspires the rest of he team. With Alves and Tuncey up front, Mido behind, I am sure our goals for would soon improve.

Hoyte was a revelation after so many poor games and young Turnbull looks to be the goods. Gareth takes a long time to decide which players are our best selection, remember Tuncey was not one of his picks early on.

Hard luck on Wheater who has done nothing wrong but finds himself maybe on the bench for a few weeks due to circumstances beyond his control.

Gareth must pick Alves and Mido and not replace one with the other, they both bring different skills to the team.

On another subject when is the FA going to provide 1st class Professional Assistant Referees to stop this abundance of mistakes being made in the interpretation of the offside law, officials who decide who will be Champions and who will be relegated.
Their position is too important to be left to this bunch of Amateurs we have officiating at the moment

Posted by: Benny Brown  | November 3, 2008 8:50 AM

Rob wrote...

Am I the only one who is sick to death with Southgate's constantly defending the teams lack of fitness. Once again we get ' the lads were out on their feet' 'they gave everything'. He conveniently forgets that West Ham had a midweek game also but seemed a yard quicker than the Boro throughout.

Still a good point in the end. Now, next up is Villa. They play Newcastle tonight, go to Prague in the UEFA Cup on Thursday, then play the Boro on Sunday. If anyone has the right to moan about tireness it will be O'Neil after that lot.

At least Soutgate can't use his tiredness excuse next week. What an opportunity to beat Villa and really move on, but which team will he send out? The one that is beaten before it sets foot on the field i.e. Chelsea/Cardiff or one with a belief that they can win? This game will show what sort of motivator Southgate is.

Posted by: Rob  | November 3, 2008 8:58 AM

'Ignorant' of boroland wrote...

Whats the bets Newcastle get something out of the game later on? Even if they dont our faliure to pick up or hold on to more wins is keeping us too close to the bottom 3.

Small squad size exposed again. Everyone could see that the subs should have started as Man City game on Wednesday was a fight to the last. Those subs should have started and 3 other prem quality fresh subs should have come on late into the match to keep the pressure up.

We got out of jail but we should not have committed the crime of playing tired legs.
Gareth, we need a quality left back. I also think this would benefit Stewy, having some quality behind him will bring the best out of him- look at the way Hoyte and Aliadiere overlap and attack

If Hoyte is injured we should not have to play Wheater out of possition!

We also need another central midfeilder who can pick out a pass and has a good touch, someone from Brazil would be good. Fabio Rockenback anyone?

Posted by: 'Ignorant' of boroland  | November 3, 2008 9:33 AM

Jarkko wrote...

Re: Captain K & Paul Bell

Of course you are right that this season will be a close affair as GS keeps telling us. But let's think positively - we ARE 8th in the league after all.

Let's enjoy a glass that is half full. Besides our Boro kids can only get better with experience. Cheers!

Up the Boro!

Posted by: Jarkko  | November 3, 2008 10:29 AM

David Morrison wrote...

We were awful on Saturday full stop. We didnt get going looked lazy and where sloppy in posession when we had it in good areas. West ham arent a good side however with Bellamys pace and Neill at the back they caused us way to many problems.

For a few weeks now i have been asking why Downing is never substituted or left on the bench and Jinky given a chance. Surely now it is time downing was given a rest and maybe got himself away sumwhere warm to sort his head out.

He hasnt looked the same player as last year he is costing the team goals and the pass to Poggy for West Hams goal was truly awfull and shows his concentration isnt 100% right now. Downing is class he is one of our best players but why continue to play a player that is struggling?

Southgate has said that players will be played on form and not reputation so surely now its time to give him a rest. Jinky deserves his chance and maybe it will put the chants to rest if he comes in a dosnt produce the goods.

Saturday showed me as well that we lack a leader in the middle of the park, some one who goes round and gets players going. There was a break in play for about two mins when Aliadiere went down and not one player went round to get everyone up and ready to go again. players where spread out looking bemused and i dont think its a good sign.

Anyway not a bad week with 4 points from 6 but i think we should have pressed West Ham and looked to get at them from the start and asked more questions.

Good but can do better I think

COME ON BORO!

Posted by: David Morrison  | November 3, 2008 10:45 AM

Nigel wrote...

Three good results in a week have showed that GS has what it takes to motivate the team and get them focused after the Chelsea beating, just as he did last year after Cardiff.

Add to that what has proved to be his correct decision regarding his keepers and his astute subsitutions during the West Ham game, he is proving to be a more than capable manager.

We are now past the magic ten game mark, sitting eighth in the table, which bodes well for the rest of the season. I suspect where we finish will depend on keeping the key players fit, Tuncay is certainly key and having options in midfield such as Arca will be important.

I for one am enjoying the fact that we've had a good start to the season, which has given us potential to finish in the top ten come May, and hopefully keep us away fro mthe dog fight in the bottom third, but the league is very tight and a couple of bad results could change things quickly.

However there is an opportunity for Boro this season to achieve a high position, outside of the big four and Villa I can't see a better team than Boro, fingers crossed!

Posted by: Nigel  | November 3, 2008 12:18 PM

Ian Gill wrote...

Pleased with three matches unbeaten, 8th in the table. Cant argue with that.

One quibble with Gate in that they found it difficult to get up for Saturday after the high of Wednesday. We were playing a team who had lost four on the bounce. But that is the level of most of the premiership, unable to put a string of back to back victories.

A challenge now for the Boro. We have a week off to get knocks and bruises sorted and to work on the training ground. Villa are away in the UEFA cup on Thursday night. By Gates reckoning they should be leggy. I dont disagree, it is the perfect chance to get something out of an away match. If we dont get into them from the off and try and run their legs off it will be a shocker. Dont sit back whilst they run off the stiffness.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | November 3, 2008 4:03 PM

'Ignorant' of boroland wrote...

And there you have it, a few of us on here called it ,Newcastle played well held the ball and passed well and leave us 3 points off 19th spot as well as in 8th.
We now must put together a solid run to put some breathing space in for when injuries/suspensions halt our progress again.

Posted by: 'Ignorant' of boroland  | November 3, 2008 10:49 PM

Forever Dormo wrote...

A point on Saturday is better than it looked like being for most of the game. West Ham were a struggling team, but that is "typical Boro". Two wins on the trot would be almost unheard of in this locality.

I agree with Ian Gill at 4.03pm. If we are "leggy" after two games in quick succession, let's see if the same explanation holds true for Villa. I have a nagging doubt they will come out breathing fire after the "polite discussion" from their manager after the Newcastle game tonight and after any European excursion they have in store in the neext few days. Hope I'm wrong though.

Hey! We are still eighth in the League. It might not stay that way, but it's better than being ninth, tenth, eleventh etc. The League looks a little more interesting than usual this year. Last year one team was virtually dead by now, and we knew which two teams would be at the top at the end of the season. We might get a bit of excitement this year, and NO I don't expect us to go down (which is an early expression of belief).

Football! It's better than Stanford's 20/20 for $20M - by a million miles! Mind you, a good Test against the Aussies next summer ....that might be different.

Posted by: Forever Dormo  | November 3, 2008 11:50 PM

Benny Brown wrote...

Forgot to mention Arca, only on for a cameo performance but all class and just what Boro need in the mid field, he has creative skills and is a strong tackler full of enthusiasm for the fight. My previous suggestion about playing Mido in the mid field, I can just see him developing in to a Patrick Viera style of inspirational player. The problem then is to who to leave out of the mid field,I would go for Aliadiere, Mido, Arca,and O-Neill, with Mido playing in the more attacking position. Stewert Downing would also come in to the reckoning along with Shawkie and Johnson, not a bad back up situation. The team must also learn how to serve Alves, not with the high ball with his back to goal but with the short one two for him to use his undoubted speed to round the defender, he has proved that he can put the ball in the back of the net when given clear shots at goal. We can not expect him to be a workhorse running up and down the field chasing opponents but to remain near to the opponents penalty at area, and not be expected to be in his own penalty area defending. We may not see much of him during the game but given the chances he will score. Remember Jimmy Grieves that's how he played invisible for 85 minutes then pop up with the winner time and again.

Posted by: Benny Brown  | November 4, 2008 12:05 AM

James Emmerson wrote...

Nigel wrote...

"Three good results in a week have showed that GS has what it takes to motivate the team and get them focused after the Chelsea beating, just as he did last year after Cardiff."

It seems that we are dividing into two clear camps here and these kind of comments are definitely NOT the camp I am in.

I do not see how throwing away points at Blackburn, being unbelievably fortunate to beat City (how bad was their finishing?)and playing poorly for too much of the West Ham game can give anything but massive cause for concern.

Our keeper has been head and shoulders man-of-the-match for the last two games and that says everything. Boro have shown time and again that they are extremely vulnerable in the closing minutes of games, they were almost done again on Saturday, and nothing is being done to sort this out!

If we count five points out of nine as cause for celebration, as Nigel and others do, I would suggest this is misplaced. Five points out of every nine available would be, but Boro under GS have only shown inconsistency - which he seems to tolerate - and have never come close to achieving this kind of performance.

His management is now under the microscope big-time. As others have said, we are three points away from 19th! Villa are a sitting duck, there for the taking on Sunday, but it's a fair bit that the best Boro will manage is a point.

Posted by: James Emmerson  | November 4, 2008 8:34 AM

Scoredraw wrote...

The anti Downing comments are depressing. He's not playing well (neither is Taylor) but he's the best left sided midfield player in England.

I'm a real fan of Stewart's - I'd love to see him make his mark for England as a Boro player but he may need to move to another club. I would if I was him. It wouldnt surprise me if Capello recommended him to one of his former clubs.

Downing has balance, touch and brains. He's calm got a great range of passing and he's brave. Downings critic should be careful they may get what they wish for ( Aaron Lennon ? Duff ? ...)

Aliadiare is the problem. He postures too much for my liking particularly when supposedly closing down opponents. He seems immune from criticism how he gets selected in front of Alves - Mido - Tuncay is beyond me.

I think he's a good player but I suspect Gareth sees it as his responsibility to give him a sustained run to see the best of Aliadare. I don't think you can be that indulgent in this league. I cant see why he hasn't been rested to give others a chance.

Nice to see Turnbull doing well - the first time in 10 years we have a chance of winning points because of our goalkeeper

Posted by: Scoredraw  | November 4, 2008 9:16 AM

John Powls wrote...

McMahon back to Sheff Wed? How does that work, then.

Recalled in a panic a couple of weeks ago after all the other right backs succumbed to injury - but he couldn't play because he was suspended.

Now he can play again because he's finished his suspension he's on his way back to Sheffield.

That means, presumably, that Boro didn't get a proportion of his wages paid by The Owls when he was suspended.

AV - was this some sort of stipulation in the loan deal contract with Sheff Wed or has someone at Boro taken leave of their senses?

In any event, now that he's gone back, expect a Rockliffe (new collective noun) of injuries to Hoyte, Wheats and John Johnson!

Benny Brown - Mido as Viera? I'll leave that one alone.

Arca - a class cameo? My doctor advises not to let my blood pressure get too high - that's why I won't pick this one up either and why I only move at the speed Arca does. If he could do what he does at about double the speed in terms of thought and movement and confined the pirouettes to the opposition half then you'd be talking class.

I do agree though, that Alves isn't getting the service that would ideally suit him so we aren't seeing the best of him yet.

I also agree that he is an out and out striker and there's no way you're going to see a shift out of him. It's not what he does.

But, I think there is a difference between constantly making the runs and being in the right place and not getting the service to what Alves is putting in at present.

When he's not scoring - and that's been most games this season - he's a passenger.

Whilst Spurs and other teams in the 60's might have been able to accommodate Greaves because, though he may have been invisible for ages he did score very regularly. If he hadn't he wouldn't have been in the side.

There are very, very few Prem. sides nowadays who could afford to or would accommodate a passenger on the off-chance he might score every now and again. Boro aren't one of them.

I think there are a few ways that the service to Alves could be improved before we get to January and Gate has the opportunity to get the proper creative midfielder that we've been identifying the need for for two seasons at least.

You may believe Arca is one such way - we'd have to differ. But Stewie could come inside one and do that role in the current 4-4-2/4-3-3.

Or, we could do what Chelski do so successfully and set out 4-1-4-1 with a forward midfield four of Stewie, Tuncay (in a free/in the hole role), O'Neil and Aliadiere/Emnes with Digard behind the four protecting the back four but also looking for the 'quarter-back pass'.

Alves can then play loan striker but we would reach him and supply him along the deck not as you can do with Mido and mix it up with service in the air.

Posted by: John Powls  | November 4, 2008 9:22 AM

Ian Gill wrote...

Delighted as I am over the start I have no intention to have custard, ice creanm or double cream with humble pie over Turnbull.

I am over the moon he has done well but three things stood out in our deliberations before the window closed.

1. the need for a relatively experienced keeper.

2. the sale of Young was a poor decision.

3. the disposal of so many midfield players without any ready made replacements.

All three were gambles that didnt need to be made without breaking the bank. I am not knocking the football we have played at times or the direction the club wants to take, I am a Boro fan and if I could see 11 of our own playing and doing well in the premiership would be delighted.

It is not a case of for us or agin us as Lambie describes it, it is simply that we didnt need to take those gambles.

Bear in mind the fat lady hasnt even started thinking about what to wear for her finale. My view is that a solid mid table is what we will get and clear of relegation.

What we cant do is continue being outpassed and so open in midfield because the stats dont lie, if you keep stepping off the pavement with your eyes closed you will get run over.

But we are in 8th and its great, lets keep it up but wanting to do better isnt a crime. Looking at what you have or havent done and thinking should or shouldnt have done that doesnt mean you are a chicken runner. Thinking this is what I would like us to do, these are the areas we could improve on isnt half empty.

I will be at Villa hoping we run them off their leggy legs, my son is moving into an apartment with his girlfriend following his return from USA, it will need diplomatic moves of some substance for him to get a passout.

A parting thought, it is going to be an interesting season as those near the bottom gather points, the promoted clubs have had decent starts, there is no Derby or Sunderland pulling away at the bottom. Forty points (maybe more) may well be needed to stay up.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | November 4, 2008 9:47 AM

stockton red wrote...

James Emmerson, I'm obviously on a different planet to you as a lot of what you say is off the mark.

1" Unbelievably lucky to beat City". Dont agree- whilst I'd agree it was our night I thought the overall performance was decent.

2"Turnbull man of the match on Saturday"- again I have to disagree. He made a blinding double save in injury time but if you analyse the rest of the game he had about 2 saves to make.

3." Villa are a sitting duck on Sunday There for the taking" - are you living in the real world?? This team finished in the UEFA cup places last term, is widely acknowledged to be the only possible challenger to break the big four stranglehold, ha six points more than us, spent £40 million in the summer strengthening the team etc etc. How anybody can come out with such a remark is beyond me.

Nobody is trying to say everything in the garden is rosy because it is'nt. It's not all black though and in fact is the same shade of grey that covers about 14 teams.

Posted by: stockton red  | November 4, 2008 10:20 AM

Nigel wrote...

James Emmerson - we're in two different camps, is this 'I'm a celebrity get me out of here!'? I don't think our views are a million miles apart, I simply make the point that after 11 games we're eighth. I would have taken that at the start of the season wouldn't you?

If we maintain the form of the first 11 games throughout the season then we'll end up just shy of 48 points, which I guess would put us around 11th ish. However having got off to a solid start we have an opportunity to push hard without the fear of being in the dog fight at the bottom.

For sure next Sunday is a good time to play Villa, they played last night and got a beating, they're at it again on Thursday. So they'll have played twice inthetime we will have had to prepare, as Ian Gill states we need to get stuck in right from the off, there's an opportunity for three points but I'd be happy with a draw from the team lying fifth.

Posted by: Nigel  | November 4, 2008 10:38 AM

John Powls wrote...

James Emmerson

It's in the nature of these things that a glass half full is also half empty and vice versa.

That about sums up Boro's season and Gate's management of it. What will determine whether this make or break season is make or break is still to come.

As many have pointed out the tolerances are small - the spread of points between positions 6 and 20 show this.

There are reasons for both optimism and pessimism going forward but so long as the concentration is on attaining 40 points as the first target as soon as possible then achieving a realistic mid-table finish should be achievable.

A lot will depend on getting the right one or two players in the window. Though they won't have a full effect until March-ish they could make the difference bewteen a comfortable finish looking up the table and the other thing.

The occasional foot-in-mouth disease outburst about Europe (see Stewie before the West Ham game, for example) needs to be stamped on until 40 points has been got.

I have to take issue with you on Villa. Despite two away games in a week before they face us at their place they can't be characterised as any sort of lame duck.

Their resources, the way they are coached and managed and their home following will see to it that they are a tough challenge.

A point at Villa Park would be a very good outcome for Boro.

Posted by: John Powls  | November 4, 2008 10:44 AM

BoroPhil wrote...

'Villa, a sitting duck, there for the taking'

Ahahahahaha! Good one!

A point at Villa would be marvellous, though I admit playing them after a European game could be fortunate for us, though I would expect them to rest players for the european game after they won their first match in that competition.

Posted by: BoroPhil  | November 4, 2008 11:51 AM

John Powls wrote...

Further to the goalie thing:-

I responded to BoroPhil above (November 2nd, 11.30 a.m.) about where I think things stand.

What was un-nerving was to have confirmed today by Gate in the Gazette what I had suspected in the pre-season - that he and Stephen Pears rated Brad Jones as their number one and Turnbull as 'not sure about'.

The latter is fair, given Turbull's lack of experience and is much what most of us were saying then (BoroPhil excepted!) but the former tells me that
Gate and Stephen Pears' judgement about goalies is suspect.

Gate says that everyone is asking him why he isn't signing 'them' to new contracts now when - only a little while ago - people were asking him why he would sign either of 'them'.

Well, maybe that is the case in relation to Turnbull but I never heard or read even any of the greatest sceptics saying that Turnbull should be let go.

But whoever it is that is telling Gate that he has to renew Brad Jones' contract please own up. I can honestly say that I've never heard or read anyone advance that argument.

Posted by: John Powls  | November 4, 2008 11:57 AM

jc wrote...

Ian Gill - boy, you've got it in for Arca, haven't you?

He had an excellent game on Saturday, changing the game more than Hoyte and as much or more than Mido. I'll concede that when he plays badly he can be a bit of a liability, and he played badly quite a lot last season. But, when he's good, he has a composure and vision that neither Digard nor O'Neil has yet shown.

I agree with you, and I've said it plenty before, that we need a new creative midfielder, preferably with a bit of experience, because, as you say, we are often being outpassed in midfield. I assumed, like many, that when we got rid of Rocky we'd be replacing him with someone better. Going to have to wait a while for that, though, as I doubt there will be much available in our price bracket in January.

Scoredraw - I disagree about Aliadiere - I've been impressed with how much he closes down and how often he wins the ball back for us. It's not something you expect your wingers to do - I would struggle to recall the last time Stewie won the ball in a tackle... count the number of times they each win possession next game and compare, I think you might change your mind about him.

Posted by: jc  | November 4, 2008 1:00 PM

james emmerson wrote...

stockton red wrote...

James I'm obviously on a different planet to you as a lot of what you say is off the mark." Villa are a sitting duck on Sunday There for the taking" - are you living in the real world?? This team finished in the UEFA cup places last term, is widely acknowledged to be the only possible challenger to break the big four stranglehold, ha six points more than us, spent £40 million in the summer strengthening the team etc etc. How anybody can come out with such a remark is beyond me.

BoroPhil wrote...
'Villa, a sitting duck, there for the taking' Ahahahahaha! Good one! A point at Villa would be marvellous."

Thanks for the responses gents.
Stockton Red & BoroPhil - I appreciate where you are coming from but your responses are the kind of things I would expect GS to be coming out with in the dressing room as well. And if Boro are ever going to break through, it's this kind of mentality that needs shaking up big style.

Villa ARE there for the taking: they will be on their third game in 6 days, they've won three times at home this season (same as Boro) scoring just 9 times. Boro should have demolished them at Villa Pk last season and their style and shape isn't a whole lot different now - so why shouldn't we be going planning and preparing and expecting for three points? Will GS be instilling this into the players?

I suspect we will end up celebrating a point (again) but with the league so tight, BoroPhil, I don't see how a point is so marvellous.

John Powls wrote...
What will determine whether this make or break season is make or break is still to come.

I partly agree John. My benchmark has always been how long it takes a side to accrue 10 wins. Ideally this should be achieved before Christmas, but with Boro on only four wins thus far that looks way too ambitious.

We both know how Boro typically have a poor Christmas & New Year, lapsing into freefall before a late surge into life. I feel 2008-09 has already become 'break' rather than 'make' and that what we've seen so far - inconsistency, points chucked away etc - backs that up.


Posted by: james emmerson  | November 4, 2008 1:17 PM

Nigel wrote...

JP - I read Stewies we need to aim for Europe bit with raised eyebrows also. Having thought about it I believe his message is to be read between the lines. He I think has stated that one day it will betime for him to move on, Gs has stated he believes a turn over of players is healthy and we have Jinky waiting in the wings (excuse the pun). My feeling is Stewie will leave in the Summer because he wants regular European football and quotes in the Gazette about Boro needing to qulify for Europe is him tee-ing us up for the off. The timing might suit all concerned in fact.

Posted by: Nigel  | November 4, 2008 1:22 PM

Ian Gill wrote...

Villa wont be sitting ducks that is for certain.

What we do know is that they have had a very busy week playing Monday and Thursday. Plus travelling back from Prague Thursday night or Friday morning. They are professional and will be prepared correctly.

BUT we must try and exploit any opportunity we can. We must start at a high tempo, rattle cages, give them no time to settle into a pattern of play that suits them.

We must not come out of Villa Park thinking what a stodgy first half where we keep them quiet but dont create anything only to lose in the second half. That would be criminal. If they are better than us so be it, if they are fitter than us then we should be ashamed.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | November 4, 2008 1:35 PM

BoroPhil wrote...

James,

I agree there is an opportunity on Sunday, it could well be a good time to play them, and I hope we do indeed go there looking for a win.

However, Villa are in the group that has broken away from the rest, have made a good start, and a point there would be a good result I reckon.

Posted by: BoroPhil  | November 4, 2008 1:40 PM

jiffy wrote...

Lets put it really into perspective.

11 games 8th place - i see an awful lot of I would have settled for that comments on here.

But how about 11 games in 3 points off 2nd bottom? How does that feel?

It looks like there isn't a Derby this season propping up the rest all season -

2 weeks ago it looked like Spurs and Newcastle just might but while Boro fans are happy with 5 points this week Newcastle won both home games and Spurs took 7 points. Both look like they have what it takes under new leadership to survive. If anyone looks totally under-equipped for the Premier league just now then it would be West Brom.

The relegation battle starts at 7th - Everton have looked shocking all season and recent results have not been down to better performances - just the good fortune of back-to-back games against Bolton and Fulham.

5 points better off than Everton, Hull sit in 6th and I would suggest are highly unlikely to maintain that gap so the relegation battle is from 6th downwards.

Posted by: jiffy  | November 4, 2008 1:50 PM

Ian Gill wrote...

jc

Mistaken indentity over the Arca posts I'm afraid.

I guess you must be referring to John Powls comments but as we tend to agree about him I suppose I will take the cuff round the ear for next time.

Our Argentinian land crab scuttles around to great effect but has Tippy Tappy lapses. He sometimes tries things in the wrong areas of the pitch. The good thing is he hasnt lost any pace, like Sheringham he never had any to lose.

He is not the athletic holding player we need nor the pacy midfield goal scorer we crave.

He is a good squad player, has some great touches and embellish a team playing well. Dont know if he would be my first name on the team sheet

Posted by: Ian Gill  | November 4, 2008 2:32 PM

John Powls wrote...

Nigel

On Stewie's comments, I agree with your take on that entirely.

I have commented on it sparingly because I don't want self-fulfilling prophesies getting any more momentum than they've already got.

In fact - and sadly, I think Stewie will go in January. He's a prime target then, not just because of his quality but also because he's not cup tied for any team in Europe.

I don't believe Johnno is anywhere near ready to replace him - and I don't know if he'll ever be. A journo somewhat cruelly referred to him as Stewie's Mini-Me recently. Unnecessary but you knew what he meant.

When he's had the few opportunties for Boro his performances haven't been put where his mouth has sometimes been.

It's interesting that he hasn't been mouthing off recently about wanting his place or he's off.

You do just wonder if Gate has shown him the Dave Allen's draft press release that reveals the whopping fee for Stewie but that Gate feels it doesn't need to be spent because Johnno and Porritt have to have the chance.

Posted by: John Powls  | November 4, 2008 2:36 PM

Smoggy In Exile wrote...

I agree entirely with the comments of Ian Gill et al about it being a good time to play Villa, however, this is Boro!

I literally cannot remember a time when I've seen us start a match at 100miles an hour and get stuck in since the Carling Cup Final! And I actually "missed" the start of that match as the landlord in the pub I was in down Hull way didn't turn the TV over until 7mins in!

Point is, we never do that. There are plenty of teams who get stuck in from the off, but they seem to be managed by the likes of Tony Pulis, Phil Parkinson etc - proper red in the face shouting types. Where as we have GS and his interesting range of waistcoats (which he seems to have abandoned this season?).

Although I would LOVE to see different I fully expect the summary of the first half to be "a scrappy start with neither goalkeeper seriously tested", followed up by the usual nail biting last 10mins.

How I would love to see us come out, with Arca in the middle, zip the balls about and get Stuey, Tuncay and Ali running all over, with a goal or two in the first 30mins thrown in. But... I just can't see it.

Posted by: Smoggy In Exile  | November 4, 2008 3:18 PM

John Powls wrote...

By the way, having looked it up on Wikipedia, a 'Rockliffe' of injuries is a very flexibly defined collective noun.

Variously it can be:

Any set of injuries to the same or different players that are said to be sited in one limb, joint, ligament or muscle but after a prolonged period of ineffective treatment are discovered to be sited in quite another.

(This is particularly acute when the non-effected sites have actually been operated on)

Any set of injuries that keep any one player on the sidelines for months at a time and effect the same limb, joint, ligament or muscle endlessly with repeated break downs every time a return to action is threatened but are held not to be recurrences.

Any set of injuries that occurs mysteriously between games on the training field and only become apparent to the fans when the decimated team is announced forty-five minutes before kick off.

Or

Any set of injuries that removes all the options to fill a certain position on the field. This is often seen in conjunction with Square Peg Syndrome or Playing On Loan In The Championship By Proxy.

This is the full set in Wiki-world now - but you may be able to add others.

Posted by: John Powls  | November 4, 2008 3:47 PM

David Morrison wrote...

Just looked at the squad for tonights reserve game against Wigan - no Arca, no Emnes and no Jinky.

i definintly feel that Arca should have a 45 minute run out to get some game time under his belt and also Jinky and big Marve havnt played nearly enough football to be classed as match fit.

Squad players who arnt playing should surely be in the reserves to keep up to fitness and keep the competative aspect as opposed to just training. Narks me that these stars declare themselves fit then dont turn out in the reserves to prove it.

Arca has had about 70 mins football since returning with only 45 in the reserves. Surely 45 in the ressies tonite would give him a better chance of being up to speed for saturday or at least getting somewhere near match fit. Reserve football will be poor but at least its competetive football.

i think it a chance missed to give some a boost fitness and confidence wise.

COME ON BORO!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: David Morrison  | November 4, 2008 3:58 PM

stockton red wrote...

James Emmerson-if you think Villa are sitting ducks then I would suggest you get down to your local bookmakers.They are 11 to 8 on whereas we are 9/2 against to win the match.

Posted by: stockton red  | November 4, 2008 5:28 PM

Clive Hurren wrote...

jc

I can't agree with you about Aliadiere. A talented player - absolutely - good pace, a good dribble and a good work ethic, no doubt - but a tackler? Hardly.

He may close people down as you say, but I've yet to see him win a 50-50 ball. He just seems to get knocked off it too easily. And heading the ball is hardly his forte, either! Not that Stewy's any different, mind!

Posted by: Clive Hurren  | November 4, 2008 5:50 PM

jc wrote...

Ian - my apologies - you and JP seem to be interchangable in my confused brain! It was John Powls' comment I was referring to of course.

You are right about Arca's lack of pace and sometimes getting caught on the ball; which is why, I think, he plays his best games when we're are pushing forward and his worst when he's scuttling around near his own box.

However, in an attacking team, with pace elsewhere, what's needed most from a central midfielder is vision and tippytappaciousness. You and JP can't deny he had a big impact on Saturday, surely?

Clive - all I can say is to watch Aliadiere more closely. The reason I've noticed his tackling particularly is that I never expect him to succeed, yet he has surprised me often this season - sticking a foot in, or using what strength he has.

He's not exactly built like Mido, and when he goes down with a knock it always looks like he's never going to get back up again, but he is definitely a willing battler and, as I say, surprisingly effective.

Posted by: jc  | November 4, 2008 8:27 PM

Ian Gill wrote...

Richard

Many moons ago I read an article in The Daily Telegraph by Graham Taylor talking about the 10 game test.

I posted about it on the old message boards to be greeted by a hail of abuse from fellow posters. What does turnip head know, what a load of rubbish!!!!

Now we have articles elsewhere (by JP and myself), the Gazette with AV, Uncle Eric et al on a panel, suddenly it becomes the accepted norm.

Poor old Graham Taylor has been ignored. Plagiarism is alive and well. But in the midst of such myopia I will stand by Taylor. Some of us acknowledge
he isnt a dumbo, those who dont are unfair to a decent bloke. But where are the acknowledgements from professional journalists?

Hey ho!

**AV writes: Taylor has a fantastic managerial record bar one job (an impossible one) and has gone on to become the best, most incisive and most accessible radio pundit of then all. He is also a decent and approachable bloke. The media rat pack who hounded him out of England are idiots to a man.

Posted by: Ian Gill  | November 4, 2008 9:57 PM

jc wrote...

Just to back up my impression of our French tough-tackling (*ahem*) winger-cum-striker, and because I am quite sad, I checked out some Opta stats - here's how he compares to Stewie (as a direct comparison) and Tuncay, who we all knows runs around lots and gets his foot in pretty well too:

Aliadiere, versus West Ham - 3 tackles, 100% success
Season (11 games) - 30 tackles, 60% success
Aerial success - 68%

Downing, versus West Ham - 0 tackles
Season (11 games) - 10 tackles, 60% success
Aerial success - 25%

Tuncay, versus West Ham - 2 tackles, 100% success
Season (6 games) - 12 tackles, 100% success
Aerial success - 62%

And, as some wise man once said, statistics never lie!

Posted by: jc  | November 4, 2008 10:25 PM

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