14th February 2014
Clean sheets are brilliant, but without finding the net the club will not be getting promoted
Blunt Boro need to get their shooting boots on quickly to get the season back on track.
No goals in four games… the stats aren’t great no matter how you look at them.
Yes, clean sheets are brilliant – but if you don’t score you can’t win.
You can spin three goalless draws as good defending as a unit, building from the back and putting down a platform for next year all you want.
But at the end of the day Boro have taken three points from a possible nine and have drifted away from the play-offs.
And that’s because they have stopped scoring goals.
Against Blackburn they did well
They dominated the game for long spells, they played some good football and they created loads of chances.
But they didn’t score the goals they needed and that is starting to become a bit of a bad habit now.
And one of the reasons for that is because they aren’t getting bodies into the box.
Mustapha Carayol had a fantastic game.
He was direct, had showed his pace and a few tricks to get past his man and he put three or four very good balls across the face of goal, exactly what you want from a wideman.
But almost every time Danny Graham was the only Boro player in the box.
If you are going to take advantage of a good wing play like that – especially if you only have one striker up top – you need to get your midfielders in and around the box so they can get on the end of it or profit from any rebounds or mistakes.
But what struck me was that whenever we broke down the flank and played the ball into the dangerzone Graham was there – usually outnumbered – and maybe Grant Leadbitter was just arriving on the edge of the box but the rest of the midfield were miles away.
And we’ve seen that time after time this season.
That’s the problem. That’s why Boro are struggling to get goals in games they are bossing.
Look at Chelsea. Not that I am saying Boro are in the same universe as them – but we are trying to play the same style with the same managerial approach and philosophy.
But when Chelsea get the ball in the box they have two or three midfielders arriving to support the front man.
They are buzzing all over the danger area so they have options and can make it count.
The way they play the system causes problems for a defence.
It is hard to contain three or four attacking midfielders darting about.
But Boro’s midfield don’t do that. You don’t see Dean Whitehead or Nathaniel Chalobah sprinting in at the far post for a cross.
For me it is because they are too cautious.
None of the central midfielders are really attacking players by instinct and you need that. All three of them are holding players.
They know that if they bomb on and the attack breaks down then there are huge spaces in midfield left uncovered and Boro are now geared more defensively and they don’t want that.
We see them racing back to cover gaps and track runners and get back 30 or 40 yards to help the defence.
But we don’t see the same energy and determination when they need to help the attack.
Until that changes the onus will be on the frontman and the two wingers to get the goals and we can’t afford to rely on that. Everyone has to chip in.
The middle man in the three behind the striker is the important role in this system.
He need to link up the midfield with the striker and get up alongside him really quickly to support and feed off him.
We have struggled to find someone to do that.
Marvin Emnes, Jacob Butterfield, Leadbitter have all been tried and not quite managed it as they are either not strong enough, or direct enough or creative enough.
Maybe we will see more when Lee Tomlin is bedded in.
He looks like he could play that role and by the time he is available Danny Graham will have had a few more games under his belt and may be a bit sharper in and around the box.
Maybe Graham will get off the mark at Watford as strikers tend to do well at former clubs, and that will give a spring in his step just as Tomlin arrives in the team.
As an ex striker myself and an attacking minded person, I still crave for us to play two up front. Some people in the modern game will have you believe, that it is old fashioned and a thing of the past. Well in the Premier League Manchester City and Liverpool for me are the two most attractive sides and both are reaping the rewards with their attacking minded flair, goals galore and of course formation.
Looking at the top six teams in the Championship, the majority of them play two up top, whether they are playing at home or away. They have also had their fair share of clean sheets.
Karanka has taken the plaudits for our defensive qualities and displays, these are well deserved.He must also be held responsible for our strike force firing blanks.
In his sixteen games in charge, I have yet to see the Spaniard change and play two up front,irrespective of opposition, home advantage or conditions
He chops and changes the clientele but never the formation, its as if it is set in stone.
For me that’s dangerous, every manager and team must be able to adapt to different styles and formations and have a plan B.
As yet I have not witnessed it.
The way things are looking at this minute we are in limbo, not going up and not going down.
The last time the Boro started with a dual strike force was when Mark Venus was in charge, we scored four and kept a clean sheet.
At the end of the day good players can adapt to any style, shape or formation and be successful.
The onus seems to be on not getting beaten. I am afraid this mentality won’t bring the missing thousands back.
We won’t get to the play-offs with 16 goalless draws.
It’s interesting to see us bring in yet another goal keeper, of course Shay Given returns after the Leeds game, we seem to have a fixation with goal keepers.As it stands at this minute we have six, we are well stocked at centre back and right back but only have one left back,George Friend, bizarre.
Good luck to Karanka and the team tomorrow down at Watford, hopefully we can break the barren run and bring back a positive result.
You can listen to me every night on the Three Legends on Community Voice radio on 104.5fm, online via Koast Radio or my website. And don’t forget you can call me on 01642 688104 to join in on Bernie Does Boro, the alternative post-match phone-in. It’s on straight after the Watford game on Saturday between 5pm and 6.30pm.