The mood has certainly changed at Middlesbrough since the start of the season.
Jonathan Woodgate was appointed last summer after the departure of Tony Pulis, the hometown boy who’d earned his chops coaching at the club and was promising to bring in a new, more attractive style of football.
But with two thirds of the season gone, results are poor and that pretty football is only sporadic, at best. After a good spell around Christmas, Boro have gone seven games without a win, and in the last two games have only taken a point from games against Wigan and Luton, two teams who look nailed on to be relegated.
On the Totally Football League Show this week, the panel discussed what might be going wrong at the Riverside.
“Woodgate is definitely under a bit of pressure,” said Adrian Clarke. “Your keeper is a big player: I’m not saying their woes are all down to their goalkeeper, but when they decided to sell Darren Randolph and put in young Aynsley Pears – it was a big gamble. They brought in Dejan Stavanovic, but he’s not had a chance to shine yet. That [selling Randolph] was a big moment in their season.
“It just feels like Woodgate is searching at the moment: he’s no closer to knowing what his best formation is, what his best team is. He’s got strikers that dip in and out of the side regularly, which I don’t think is great for their confidence. They’re in a state of flux at the moment: I don’t think they’re going to go down, but they do need to find that identity. They certainly haven’t played in the way Woodgate promised they would play: the need for results has usurped that really.
“Mixed messages seems to be the problem: he keeps changing the front two, he keeps changing tactics from one game to the next. I know it’s good to be versatile sometimes, but sometimes footballers just want to know where they stand, and I’m not wholly sure the dressing room – certainly the forwards – know what the pecking order is.”
Sam Parkin chipped in: “They ended with four strikers on the pitch on Saturday and they didn’t come up with a shot on target between them. He left Ravel Morrison on the bench – Adrian spoke about a decent performance from him the other week, but they’ve been lacking in creativity, and they’ve only scored 33 goals in 34 games – only Wigan have scored fewer. There are problems at both ends of the pitch.
“They are more expansive than they have been previously, but how long he cling onto the “I’m a Teesider, I’m a Boro boy” thing – it seems to come out quite a lot.”
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