Written by Tom Flight
It’s been a tense month on Teesside. A bad performance and result against West Brom could have seen the atmosphere turn toxic. Aitor Karanka was not shy in showing his frustration in Boro’s failure to secure a number of prospects in this transfer window. The players at least showed that they are behind the boss, for now, with a tenacious display last night. Unfortunately the performance exposed the areas Boro really needed to fill. Karanka knows that his team simply needs to create more chances. In shots on target this season, going into last night’s game, Middlesbrough were at the bottom of the league with 53 total. The team above them is Sunderland who had 66 (needless to say Middlesbrough have also scored by far the fewest goals). They have scored just one goal from open play in the month of January, and are slipping closer and closer to the relegation zone. Unless Boro start finding ways to score more goals they will be relegated.
Boro responded well to an early goal from James Morrison (ironically an transfer target in the summer that failed to materialise), when Negredo earned a penalty, which he slotted away nicely. Traore dazzled again on the right, the West Brom defence were never close to getting a tackle in, but Traore’s overall contribution to the game was minimal. His exceptional skill and pace needs to be utilised better, not indulged. Negredo worked tirelessly up front (ridiculously, his work-rate has been criticized by a number of fans), but despite spirited performances from Adam Forshaw and Martin De Roon going forward, neither are the type of players you can rely onto to create chances.
Middlesbrough are also simply awful from dead-ball situations. They are the only team I’ve ever watched where a throw-in would be more useful than a corner. In contrast, the Baggies with Chris Brunt (a product of the Boro academy) threatened every time a dead-ball opportunity was presented in the Boro half. For a team that creates so little, Boro must be better from corners and free-kicks.
And Boro do have one dead-ball specialist who was absent from today’s squad, Gaston Ramirez. Ramirez handed in a transfer request this month, and was close to signing with relegation rivals Leicester. Karanka seemed happy to let him go when it looked like Bojan and Jese Rodriguez looked like they were heading to Teesside, but when those moves fell through holding onto Ramirez feels almost like a signing in itself. Some fans are worried whether Ramirez will be up for it at Boro since he stated that he wants to leave, but it is vital that he gives everything for the club, who rejuvenated his flagging career a year ago, to keep Boro up. Then in the summer he can go where he wants.
The usual concerns remain, but there’s still no need to press the panic button. Yet.
Boro fans, do you agree with these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Paul Hudson