Middlesbrough v AFCB
Blogger Interview: For the Love of Boro
FTLOB: Personally, I don’t think there is. Currently we have won one game from our first nine and that was against struggling Sunderland. Not ideal and our record so far could, possibly should, be better. First game against Stoke we started brightly and should have seen it out, failing to take our chances. Against Crystal Palace we made defensive errors but apart from their goals we still did enough to get at least a point in my opinion. Spurs we were outclassed until the second half when we realised we shouldn’t be showing them so much respect. By which time it was too late. While our last home game against Watford (which was dreadful) neither team deserved to win. But they nicked a goal with a great strike and went on to win. They didn’t look like hurting us until they scored. Cutting out the mistakes and showing more attacking intent both at home and away is what needs to happen. It’s a shame we haven’t got a victory yet at home considering we have had some winnable games, which makes this weekend even more important for us.
CC: Like Eddie Howe last season, Karanka has come under pressure to change Boro's style, but does Aitor Karanka only know one way of playing?
FTLOB: He has his own philosophy, as most managers do. One that ultimately proved successful in the Championship last season. Even if at times it was still brought into question. But he got us back up into the premier league which was the most important thing. Having a strong base in our defence to build upon from last season I thought, as I’m sure most Boro fans did, that Karanka would look to expand his philosophy to bring a more attacking side to our game. The signings of Alvaro Negredo, Victor Fischer and Adama Traore all hinted at such. So far I am yet to see that. A good defence will only get you so far. Football is about winning games and that means you need to score goals. I think it is clear for all to see why we don’t score many goals. Karanka has a lot to answer for there.
CC: Are Boro fans generally realistic about what Aitor Karanka can do this season and will they stick behind him and the team or are there already some discontented voices?
FTLOB: Before the season started, when we made signings of the calibre of Negredo and Victor Valdes there was a sense of optimism that we could not only stay up but thrive and be a mid-table side as soon as this season. But I think fans are becoming more realistic. To stay in the premier league is the aim, anything more is a bonus. It’s only the stubbornness of Karanka not to grab a game by the scruff of it’s neck that ultimately frustrates. The point at Arsenal last weekend has hopefully boosted everyone. But how long will it last? Who knows…
FTLOB: Yes we have quite a few who like a tackle! Antonio Barragan leads the way for tackles this season and has probably been our most impressive summer acquisition so far. As for creating chances. We have talent to create the chances. Whether we have enough is the big question. The other is why do we not take our chances? We’ve been asking that for years! Fischer and Traore are young and while they have potential, can’t be relied upon. Selling Albert Adomah who, while he had never played in the premier league was an experienced player and knew how Karanka likes to play, was disappointing. But his replacement Traore is beginning to impress. Even so creative reinforcements with some top flight experience wouldn’t go a miss in January.
CC: Christian Stuani has been a plus point do you think he needed time to settle on Teesside?
FTLOB: He started really well for us when we signed him last season. But then the goals dried up for a long time mid-season. However, he still finished the season as our top goal scorer in all competitions even with that drought. He is an interesting player because you often don’t see too much of him and then he goes and bags a goal from nowhere. One of those players who is always in the right place at the right time and seems to have a knack for scoring important goals. Has been a shrewd and sometimes undervalued signing by Karanka in my opinion.
CC: Which was the better buy, striker Alvaro Negredo or keeper Victor Valdes?
FTLOB: Good question. Most would say Negredo and I’d say Negredo too. He just needs the service to score goals. As for Valdes I’m concerned that his best days are behind him. But he produced his best display yet for us against Arsenak last week and with it his first clean sheet. So maybe I’m wrong. I hope so.
CC: How big a miss has captain Grant Leadbitter been?
FTLOB: If were we still in the Championship I would say a massive miss. But Adam Clayton was arguably our best player last season and new signing Marten De Roon cost us around £12 million so big things are expected from him. However, the emergence of Adam Forshaw has been the big plus for us so far. He has made it almost impossible for Karanka to leave him out. Personally, I feel vindicated because I felt last season he deserved a chance and it was only because Leadbitter was captain that he didn’t get in the team. But he got the opportunity after 15 minutes of the first game of the season when De Roon went off injured against Stoke and hasn’t looked back.
CC: What do you make of how the team played in your last game against Arsenal?
FTLOB: Very impressed. No one expected us to get anything out of the game let alone almost win it! With the chances we had we probably should have won it too. We saw the same defensive solidity that we’d become accustomed to last season for the first time in the premier league and Karanka finally unleashed Traore who had been pushing for a start with his cameos from the bench recently. I hope he starts again on Saturday. His speed is unbelievable!
CC: You play Bournemouth in and amongst probably the hardest run of fixtures you could get, but does that make it a must win game?
FTLOB: Considering we have yet to register a home win this season I think it does. We play Man City away, Chelsea home and Leicester away next month so it is vital we pick up three points on Saturday.
CC: What changes do you hope to see in the Middlesbrough line up to play AFCB?
FTLOB: None. The changes that needed to be made were made for last weekend’s game at Arsenal and it was our best display of the season so far. It’s hard to argue against being unchanged. But Karanka can be unpredictable. Whether of not to give Traore his first home start is the big call. He deserves it after his performance last week. I think fans will be disappointed if he doesn’t start.
CC: Is there a Bournemouth player that you would like to see come to Middlesbrough?
FTLOB: Might seem an obvious choice but can’t see how I can go for anyone else. Callum Wilson is a goal scorer. Something we are missing is a player who will put the ball in the back of the net more often than not. He probably wouldn’t fit our system. Karanka preferring a big strong centre forward. But if I had to choose one player from your side it would be Wilson.