Monday, 31 October 2016

Defence alert! AFCB have won a corner

While it is not the first time that AFCB have conceded a goal from one of their corners, the Middlesbrough opening goal was a real shock to the system. Eddie Howe has been very specific in previous games at how much he dislikes seeing his side losing the ball when they are trying themselves to score from a corner, it is a pattern of the game that as to be carefully managed, just like other parts of the game.

I'll take nothing away from Gascon Ramirez's goal. It was exceptional from a Middlesbrough point of view, but there was a decision to make for Arter if he should haul him down and while Wilshere had not the legs to chase all the way back, Surman was easily tricked and Simon Francis sold his chance of stopping Ramirez by hurling himself on the ground at the ball. Adam Smith may also wonder whether his racing forward to take the shot was such a wise move now, but you have to try and score if the ball lends itself to a shot, and it was bad luck that it rebounded Middlesbrough's way. There was simply not adequate cover as Smith himself came from the space that Ramirez would eventually exploit so well.


Why is it when Josh King wins AFCB a corner 
I always hear 'oh, no - counter attack' ringing loudly in my ears? 

There has to be a thought though of positioning and re-positioning when a deep lying player decides to come forward and join the attack. It takes another player to assess the situation and just guard against the worst possible outcome. However, AFCB did not seem quite on their game last Saturday and if the response is slow, the outcome is all very predictable in the Premier League - you get punished.


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It was a lesson all right, but one that had been given out before. That was the only thing that disappointed me about going behind. However, the team has been magnificent this season and it is the response now that we should look forward to. They are capable of playing much better than they did against Middlesbrough and they should not have to dig to deep to find those kind of performances that have previously sent us home from Dean Court very content.


The Cherry Chimes' Newsletter is out tomorrow.

Cherry Chimes' November Newsletter brings you the best stories on the blog and the thoughts behind them from last month, plus there is a special Newsletter article entitled: Have AFCB's new signings worked well enough? 

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Did the Spurs point take more out of AFCB mentally than Howe thought?

Eddie Howe admitted that the players weren't where they needed to be for the game against Middlesbrough. The medical stats can tell you only so much and while the team will ave been positive going into the game there was something lacking from AFCB's levels in this defeat and I just wonder if the good run they had been on has taken a lot out of the players mentally and emotionally which made this game just one too many.
AFCB were not quite at the races against Middlesbrough.
The worry was that Howe indicated that the players might have not been up for the game in some respects and there could be valid reasons for this that we don't know about. Certainly several of the players were not at it as the fans like to put it and that is not characteristic of Howe's sides. It was a hard encounter as expected. Boro were without a home win and needed to get clear of the bottom three so they had great incentive, while AFCB's ambitions might have been more low key having come down from the high summit of putting six past Hull City and achieving a draw with Spurs.

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It might not have mattered who AFCB had played last Saturday, they may just have been drained from all that had gone before. One of the ambitions this season was to take points off of the top teams and that was finally achieved, but then to play a side that was geographically a long trip and also a side that needed a different mental approach being nearer the foot of the league, seems to have taken the edge off of what AFCB's players were doing so well. The zippy passing, quickness of thought and eagerness to rip through sides just wasn't really there against Boro.

It is difficult for a manager to understand some times I suppose, specially when training might have looked good. But the very best teams find it difficult some times and the rotation of the squad is the key to often improving matters when the side falls flat. While the subs had been waiting for such a chance it may have come as a bit of a shock to them as well that the side were 2-0 down against a team that couldn't win at home before this game and to lift the team would have needed something special. On the day there was no moment of magic for AFCB, it had been sucked out of them by the Ramirez show before half time.

Premier Talk -  It's romantic but not wise to think of Rooney back at Everton


The Cherry Chimes' Newsletter is out tomorrow.

Cherry Chimes' November Newsletter brings you the best stories on the blog and the thoughts behind them from last month, plus there is a special Newsletter article entitled: Have AFCB's new signings worked well enough? 

To sign up for the newsletter just complete the form below - like all good things it's free:





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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Did AFCB really need a defeat like the Boro game?

Eddie Howe said after the Middlesbrough defeat that perhaps the side needed a defeat like that and they perhaps they are not as good as they think they are. Looking at the table you can read it both ways for AFCB. They have 12 points and are in the top 10, but they are also just five points away from the relegation zone. The league is still forming and it's very tight so one win or defeat is having a big impact on fan's perception of how the team is doing, but perhaps Eddie is right in thinking it is unrealistic to believe that AFCB are set to be a permanent fixture in the top half of the table just yet.
Eddie Howe still knows AFCB are far from the finished article.
Of course no team needs a defeat or wants one, but it gives everyone the chance to reassess their performance more critically and to shake up those who thought they were doing all right. The defeat was not a huge mauling, but Howe knows his players were not at their best and that is what will be puzzling him. How can a side that was on the top of their form can fall so far short in the next game? You can put it down to the Premier League I suppose. 

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It is the smalldetails that everybody tries to put right every week on the training ground that should put a side in good stead come match day. Howe and his staff will have plenty of time to assess what was missing against Middlesbrough and I would probably start to be fearing the worst if I was a Sunderland fan, knowing that AFCB will be sharpening their skills for the next game. It may just have been a blip and a week when there was not going to be a buzz about the players for whatever reason, but they will have to get back to finding what they were doing so well in previous games.

Keeping clean sheets and scoring first are great when they come off, but sometimes it takes more of a team to come back from behind and win and against Boro there was not a great flicker of belief that the side were going to do that. They have to be fully prepared now for another fixture against a side that will scrap really hard and the message will be to go and do the damage early to blow away the disappoing memory of the Riverside.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Middlesbrough get their first home win as Cherries stumble 2-0

Match Description
Middlesbrough 2 v 0 AFCB
29 October 2016
Attendance: 29,600

The Cherries had not won away while Boro had not won at home, something had to give. While the Cherries kept Boro relatively quiet in the first half, a corner that broke down at the Middlesbrough end led to the first goal of the game but at the other end of the pitch. Once Adm Smith had seen his shot blocked, it left a big gap for Gaston Ramirez to run into and he made a superb individual run and shot to give Boro the lead. Matters became worse when Stuart Downing made it 2-0 early in the second half. AFCB lose their unbeaten run and Eddie Howe and AFCB will want to put this game quickly behind them. Boro well deserved the win, but the Cherries were a shadow of themselves.

There was just the one change for AFCB's staring line up with Andrew Surman fully recovered from his illness he replaced Dan Gosling in the centre of midfield. Junior Stanislas did not make it into the squad after a late fitness test.

Middlesbrough made two changes with Chambers and Downing coming in for Ayala and de Roon.

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Match Description
AFCB lined up in their blue away kit with Middlesbrough kicking off in their home red and white kit. George Friend went for an early ambitious shot but it was high int the stands. Adam Smith ran straight into trouble in a congested midfield and Boro soon regained possession. Callum Wilson also took his eye off the ball and let a pass go out for a throw.

Josh King was pulled up for a clash of heads with Clayton, but there was no card. Traore was already showing he could pose a threat on the right wing. Barragan decided on a long shot but dragged it well wide of AFCB's goal. Ramirez was next to have a go for Middlesbrough putting his header over.

With 10 minutes gone, AFCB were not quite up to speed. King was showing his strength but Surman was losing out to Ramirez. Wilshere was coming alive and put in a great ball to Wilson that led to AFCB's first corner on 13 minutes. Josh King got a great shot n but Clayton cleared the effort off the line.

AFCB were now getting through the Boro lines with more regularity and penning them in a bit. Gareth Southgate was again in the stands watching Bournemouth two games in a row. Wilshere and Ibe were linking up well and forced another corner on 17 minutes. 

The final ball was proving a problem though. Wilshere was starting to influence things more and more, but Traore was causing problems on the break. Daniels put in a challenge in the box but on Traore, but the Boro winger did not get the decision. A nervy moment for AFCB.

Boro were doing better now and a ball in from Barragan was blocked for a corner just when he had got round the back and was searching for Negredo. Boruc took the catch well from the corner.

King was setting things up with Ibe, but when the ball came back to King he chipped it far too high over the bar. Steve Cook put the ball out for another Boro corner and Arter made a good break with no support. Luckily he won the free kick from Ramirez who picked up a yellow card. King was barging into Friend and gave away a foul the other way. Worse still Adam Smith received a yellow for blocking a cross from Stuart Downing with his arm.

The free kick was taken by Downing and Smith got the header away only for a deflected shot to come back in that Boruc caught well. With 27 minutes gone neither side had really git hold of the game. Wilshere then put a superb ball over the top for King to run onto, off his chest, right foot and he's hit the bar! Greast save I'd also say from Valdes. Got fingers tips to that.

Steve Cook hit a wayward pass straight out. Middlesbrough were not doing much better as Downing passed it straight back to a Bournemouth player. Ibe was chasing back and doing some defending to stop Barragan getting in behind.

Surman played in King over the top and the keeper came out and clobbered King. King is on his back. Valdes was charging out. He should have been booked and a possible penalty missed by the officials there. Ibe and Daniels do some good work in the last third for a corner, but Cook can't get his head to the corner. Surman was just behind and would probably have scored if he had not been put off by Cook in front of him.

AFCB having to defend now and Friend hits the side netting! Josh King shows how good he is at taking a high ball down and gets a corner for AFCB. Adam Smith goes for a shot but it's charged down and Ramirez on the break has gone into the box, cuts inside and he's put it past Boruc. It's 1-0 to Boro. Wilshere and Surman tried to get back but they had committed too many men forward and Gaston Ramirez ran almost the length of the pitch to put Boro ahead on 38 minutes.

The Borro crowd are noisy now and AFCB are having problems paying out from the back as Boro press high. Ibe and Daniels have found space but can't find Wilson in the box. Ibe again. He's beaten everyone to get to the byline but his chip still can't find Wilson. After has a blast from miles out but it's high in the stands. Great skill by Ibe just before that but the final ball is certainly his weakness.

A one added minute board goes up. Adam Smith goes on a run but his shot hits a defender.

Half time stats

AFCB Possession 56%, Shots 7, on target 2, corners 4, fouls 3, passes 242
Boro Possession 44%, Shots 6, on target 1, corners 2, fouls 2, passes 191

Second Half
The Cherries start the second half pushing Boro back. They are doubling up on Ibe. Steve Cook punts another poor pass out of play. Wilshere then fouls Clayton on half way. Daniels finds his way forward blocked. The Cherries are running out of ideas in the last third today.

Downing wins a corner as Boro mount an attack. Ramirez then wins a second corner. Boruc then tries a quick throw to Ibe, but just can't find him. This is a poor start to the second half. Arter does he chasing down. Daniels then puts in a poor cross.

Traore picks out Negredo who heads down for Downing and it's 2-0. A close decision but Traore was onside and AFCB are up against it now. Some 56 minutes gone.

Eddie Howe needs to change things up here. It's a double change. Afobe and Fraser to come on and Wilson and Ibe are going off on 60 minutes.

Daniels puts Afobe straight in but he only finds the legs of Victor Valdes who makes the save! Negredo is trough now and tries to slip it under Boruc but there is no power in the shot.

Boro now make a sub as the first goalscorer Ramirez is subbed for Leadbitter on 64 minutes to make his return to the side. Fraser has put in first cross but it's easy for the Boro keeper. At the other end Negredo hits a poor shot over the bar.

Wilshere picks out Daniels. Daniels beats his man beautifully, and another, and a third in the box but he has tried to pick out another Bournemouth player and the chance has gone! Adam Smith is then fouled for a free kick chance on the edge of the box. Arter puts it well over the bar.

Smith and Afobe try and bundle their way through the Boro defence but nothing doing. Surman next has a shot blocked before King wins a corner. It goes short and Wilshere gets another corner that Arter hooks up and it bounces out deflected - another corner though

Gosling has come on for Harry Arter on 73 minutes. Boro are just leaving Negredo up top on his own. Surman is struggling but play goes on and Downing shoots wide. Surman is holding the back of his right leg and he's left the field, AFCB having already used their three subs. Traore on the break is just stopped by Steve Cook in the box.

Fraser is fouled by Leadbitter but no card is given. 10 minutes to go. Fraser wins a corner as AFCB just look for a foothold in the game.

Wilshere chips the ball into the box and Afobe heads on for King with his back to goal but he shoots over. Fraser puts in another cross and it's off the top of the bar. Smith puts in another cross that is only half cleared. Smith finally blasts it over from distance.

Boro sub Negredo for Rhodes to get a few minutes. Wilshere has to make a last minute tackle on Traore to stop him scoring. Wilshere is having to play deep now as AFCB are down to 10 men.

Adam Smith is fouled by Forshaw and it's in shooting distance. Four minutes of added time go up. A few appeals for hands but noting is given. Fraser now goes down and it's a booking for Gibson. The ball in from Smith is right on Afobe but he's headed it over!

Boro make their last sub - Traore for Fischer. Gosling blocks a shot from Leadbitter. That's it.

Summary
Eddie Howe will be angry about Boro's first goal as it was given from an AFCB attacking position. The Cherries created half chances but that wicked finishing that was seen against Hull City was not on show here in the first half. The appetite for the game looked lacking from the start from AFCb and they had trouble picking up the pace. The work rate was just down two or three percent and that's too much at this level. So there is still no away win for AFCB.

Finally, I just hope that Andrew Surman is okay. It was maybe asking too much for him to play 90 minutes today and as it turned out he needed o come off early.

Middlesbrough
Valdes, Barragan, Gibson, Chambers, Friend, Traore (Fischer 92), Clayton, Forshaw
Ramirez (Leadbitter 63), Negrado (Rhods 84), Downing

Middlesbrough Subs
Fabio, Bernardo, Leadbitter, Rhodes, Fischer, Guzan, NugentAFCB
Boruc, A Smith, Francis, S Cook, Daniels, King, Arter (Gosling 73), Surman, Wilshere, Ibe (Fraser 60), Wilson (Afobe 60)

AFCB Subs
Federici, Mings, Aké, Gosling, Fraser, Gradel, Afobe. 

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 6, A Smith 6, Francis 6, S Cook 6, Daniels 6, King 7, Arter 7 (Gosling 6), Surman 6, Wilshere 7, Ibe 6 (Fraser 5), Wilson 5 (Afobe 5) 

Referee: Stuart Attwell could have used more cards and Victor Valdes owes him a drink. 4/10

AFCB seek elusive away win at Middlesbrough

The pressure is all on Middlesbrough today. They'll know that if they don't perform they are likely to fall into the bottom three and that is pressure. AFCB need to play their normal game in many respects, but having not won away from home it must be a game that Eddie Howe needs to improvement from if the Cherries are to consider themselves as a permanent top 10 side.
Who will be quick out of the traps today?
While it may seem unexpected that AFCB are starting to challenge at the better end of the table, they can't afford to forget that it has been more difficult to get results away from some so far. The Watford match was a really determined effort to get the three points but the Cherries could not finish off the Hornets and I expect Middlesbrough to be just as determined. It has been characteristic of AFCB to get ahead in a couple of these away games and yet not keep the opposition out. But I feel the performances of Artur Boruc have rubbed off on the back four who have been working hard to get the blocks in and make those clearances. So if AFCB can get ahead there should be more reason to believe that they can then stop a Middlesbrough side, who have netted just three times at home, from scoring.

For AFCB to get Middlesbrough heading backwards though, they'll need to start picking up their finishing. It may seem strange to say that after a 6-1 win and a draw against high flying Spurs, but Josh King has not scored in two games and Junior Stanislas has been injured and these are two of the players that have been catalysts for the strong start that the Cherries have made this season. Max Gradel too is only just returning after injury and Andrew Surman has missed his first game in more than a season. So there is some fragility about the known performance levels that we can expect from the players.
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It may come down to the finishing of one of the subs like Benik Afobe or Ryan Fraser to see if AFCB can steel the points and while Josh King and Dan Gosling has scored having come on from the bench, there are one of two who are still looking to make a real impact from the bench when they get their chance. UTCIAD!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Middlesbrough may just have turned the corner

Certainly Aitor Karanka will be hoping that the point that his team won at Arsenal is a sign that Boro are starting to get to grips with the Premier League. It may have surprised many that Middlesbrough could go to the Emirates and get a result like that, but it has been at home where they can look to for the reason why they don't sit higher than 17th in the table.
Middlesbrough were well beaten last time they played AFCB in the Championship.
Adama Traore was the man that impressed the most in midfield as Middlesbrough came close to taking all three points at Arsenal. But more impressive for me was how organised the team was as a whole. They set up to hit Arsenal on the break and very nearly caused them a serious problem and an away win would not have been a fluke. Karanka called his player's performance at the Emirates "amazing" and that suggests that they will be boosted by the result.

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The main factor which Aitor Karanka still has to rectify is the goalscoring. Middlesbrough managed 4 shots on target against Arsenal but Alvaro Negredo still looks short of his best, while Nugent, Downing and Rhodes look like extras that have not been invited to the party.  Against Bournemouth Karanka is likely to play two up front and that may also be pleasing for Eddie Howe to see if it creates more space in midfield.

Middlesbrough might have struggled at home but they only lost 1-2 to Spurs and Crystal Palace at home so expect a tight contest. A draw looks a strong possibility, but the Cherries must look to put as much distance as they can between teams like Middlesbrough and themselves if they want to avoid a difficult season.

Junior Stanislas faces a late fitness test for AFCB and Jack Wilshere has tweeted that he has lost some loved ones this week which may mean he opts out of the squad. Andrew Surman is expected back in AFCB's starting 11. A score draw perhaps this weekend?

Middlesbrough Home Form
DLLL

AFCB Away Form
LDLD

Rival Lines: Boro are short of creative players, says For the Love of Boro

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Middlesbrough v AFCB

Blogger Interview: For the Love of Boro
Twitter @4TheLoveOfBoro 

I had a bit of a shock when I looked up the For the Love of Boro before the match this week. We have written a few rival lines with James Stevenson who writes for the blog, but there had been no new articles there since February. I wondered if the Love of Boro had been fading, but James was quick to reply and tell me that he has been hard at work in the Northeast and his job has prevented him from being able to report back from games, so the blog has taken a back seat. But fear not, the Love of Boro is still strong and he is tweeting his thoughts after most games.
CC: Home form has been tripping Boro up it seems, is there any reason why it hasn't quite happened for you at home yet?

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…

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CC: Middlesbrough lead the stats for tackles last time I looked, but have they got the talent to create enough chances for the forwards, as you were second bottom to Burnley in shots before last weekend's match with Arsenal?

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.

CC: I really enjoyed the chat with James, he really knows his stuff on the Boro and I don't think we;d get a better insight into how the team is playing at the moment. It is a pity that his site is not quite up to date at the moment, but you can still read much about Middlesbrough's last few seasons on the For the Love of Boro website.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Consistency is now the message for the AFCB players

Eddie Howe called for consistency after the match against Spurs. While the Cherries now have 12 points and are three points ahead of the point a game stat, they are at the start of the campaign with a knowledge that they can live with the best sides only when they play at their very best.

A slight drop off in performance levels would soon bring about a downfall and it is important to keep driving for more when the relegation zone is only three defeats away. Having now been in the Premier League for a season and a quarter,  I do see a change in mentality from the side when it comes up against the most talented sides. AFCB do have to work harder against these top teams, but they are also now able to play their usual game. Eddie Howe will be most pleased that the side did impose itself on Spurs rather than just react.
AFCB players after another valuable point against Spurs.
AFCB battled for the ball as well. There has been a tendency in the past to stand off and just hold the shape when being pushed back, but in the second half there was a carefully carried out plan to get players forward quickly when Spurs had the ball robbed from them. Max Gradel almost got through on one occasion at the end, but just did not have the legs to make a telling pass or get a shot away. It was that last bit of magic that was just missing against Spurs.
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The point was grounded in doing the simple thing swell. Marking up and chasing down players was a must and the space was always cut down as soon as Spurs tried to get in behind. I do think that AFCB's centre-back pairing of Steve Cook and Simon Francis are improving massively on what they could offer in that first game against Man Utd. There is confidence flowing through the team now and another clean sheet is something to be proud of, but we need to see that defensive control every week. AFCB are now fourth in the clean sheet stakes, behind Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea.

AFCB have the intensity to trouble any side

Earlier in the season, AFCB were accused of losing some of their intensity. Their was no one saying that though after their display against Spurs. AFCB are best when they get after sides and this was a match when Edie Howe was well aware that that could not just sit back and soak up the pressure.

I heard from one pf the pundits after the match that Bournemouth did a Spurs on Spurs. They hounded and harried the likes of Dier and Vertonghen at the back and to stop Spurs playing out from the back was very impressive, but even at half time the possession was well in Spurs' hands at 60.1 per cent and this was extended to 62 per cent on 90 minutes. AFCB did compete and they did stop Spurs from having many shots on target, apart from a few outside the box and one or two when Lamela and Rose tried to score from acute angles in the box.
High intensity game is rewarding the Cherries.
Strangely AFCB only had the one shot on target though, so as an offensive force they were not able to exert as much pressure on the Tottenham goal as might have been thought by those watching the game at the time. Hugo Lloris was not that busy. But where AFCB did well was in drawing fouls and a lot of that came on players like Adam Smith and Dan Gosling deciding to run at Spurs, rather than just look for the first off-load pass. Turning defence into a fast attack is where Spurs had to be careful against Bournemouth, as when they did not get that early tackle in there was a good chance that King or Wilson would eventually get a run on goal. Therefore, the midfield scrap was truly intense and it's no surprise that Harry Arter was the fulcrum of most of AFCB's good work, as he was in his element in putting in crunching tackles and using his strength to get his foot in.

The side also went in groups to attack Spurs players on the ball and Lloris was forced to clear long on several occasions. These are all things that Howe has learnt since the last time AFCB played Spurs and even if they did not have Harry Kane to hit long, it was evident that Dier and Dambele were often choosing to go long just to avoid getting caught in the Harry Arter road block in midfield. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Surman's rest may be good for AFCB long term

Feeling unwell and drained of energy, there was only a few moments to get a glimpse of Andrew Surman on Saturday as he tried to do a warm up for the game against Spurs. Sadly, he did not feel right and made the decision to pull out of the squad which means he broke his Premier League length of unbroken starts that stretched back 46 games.
Andrew Surman will be looking to get back in contention for the trip to Middlesbrough.
It was an unusual midfield then for the Cherries with Dan Gosling and Harry Arter pairing up to hold up the top performers in a Spurs side that were unbeaten in 2016/17. Surman would have been very keen to continue his run, but it was better for him that he decided to make the best decision he could for the team. Having played so many games, it may in fact be of benefit for AFCB and even Surman to be able to have a weekend when he has not been involved in playing 90 minutes. He has been such a great servant for the club and if it gives him more energy for the coming games it could have been a small blessing. It also gave Dan Gosling the chance to get some quality minutes on the pitch, which could come in handy for him if he is to fill in again at some point.

Surman has been described as the metronome of the side and with him sitting out this game I was worried that the tempo might slip. I needn't have been concerned as AFCB went right after Spurs and the high energy displayed would have been asking a lot of Surman if he did not feel 100 per cent. While it may seem that players get a long time to recover from games, there is a high pressure on them to perform week in and week out and the body does need recovery time. The strength on AFCB's squad though is now being seen. Some may criticise that not everyone is getting games, but we have seen that players like Dan Gosling can come in and do a job when a regular like Andrew Surman has to withdraw.

Simon Francis is another player that played every game last season and has played all nine Premier League game this season so he will move ahead of Surman on that stat. Charlie Daniels is also just one game behind Francis having missed one match last season. Some of the secret of AFCB's success has surely been the consistency of the player selection and it seems to be in attack and on the wings that the side has seen the most need to rest players.

AFCB are now at home in Premier League

Well I said I'd say more about the home form after the last two games. While the thrashing of Hull City was remarkable it was the draw with Spurs that gives fans a real belief that the Cherries are making great strides now in the Premier League.

Going 'toe-to-toe' as people say with the big boys is something that AFCB have been striving for. You can say the Everton home win was a big step as well in that direction, but the home form is certainly going to bring AFCB far more points than last season if they can keep it up. There has not been a great change in the way the team has played against other sides at Dean Court, but the need to dominate at home has really gotten through to the players. The real work has come since the League Cup defeat against Preston North End. That match was a bad night for the squad and it resonated through the club.
AFCB are really enjoying the home games.
It is staggering that 10 of AFCB's 12 points have come from home games as they have not played that poorly away from Dean Court. Getting away wins has not been a major obstacle though for AFCB in recent years. They have a good opportunity now against improving Middlesbrough and Stoke City in November to up their away performances before taking on Arsenal. 

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The home match against Sunderland will have a different pressure on the players though as they will be expected to go and get the three points against a team already fighting for its Premier League survival. AFCB will need to take the same attitude into that game as they did when they took on Hull City. Playing Spurs was very different as AFCB did not have the ball for large spells of the game, but they dug in and even came back towards the end of the second half. That new resilience against a top four side is just as satisfying as seeing the side slot their chances away as they did against Hull City.

It is the games against Arsenal and Liverpool in a month's time though that will be another guide to whether AFCB can really slug it our with the big boys. At the moment though the only focus should be on points accumulation and getting to those games in as good a shape as possible. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Gosling was well up to the task of stepping in for Surman

Dan Gosling has been waiting since the Preston game to get another crack at a midfield start, and his sudden inclusion in the starting line up against Spurs did not seem to weaken the side at all. Whether that says more of what Gosling has to offer or not, I believe he is a player that has a wise head and is very good to turn to when their is a bit of an emergency.
Dan Gosling created the best chance of the
Spurs game for AFCB, crossing for Charlie Daniels.

Eddie Howe could have turned to Nathan Aké on Saturday to cover for Andrew Surman, but it was Gosling that has the real intent in his game to get forward in support. He is one of those box-to-box players that was needed against a very quick passing Spurs who had, I admit, destroyed AFCB last season. In such matches last season, AFCB had looked to smother the opposition with five across midfield, but then it was more like a line of five. Now,  AFCB seem to play the one up, with three close in behind, and the two central midfielders lying deeper, which still allows the wing backs to get forward and push teams back. Gosling was key in getting as many tackles in as he could to then give the ball to forward runners.



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I'm glad it is Eddie Howe that has to decide between the central midfield players as to who is best to play, as Gosling must be knocking on that door fairly regularly and yet Surman has always been the man that has been picked ahead of him. While I think Dan Gosling offers more in terms of a goal threat, it is Surman that does a lot of the dirty work for the team in winning the ball back much of the time. I imagine Surman will be back in place for the next match, but I hope Eddie Howe heaps a lot of praise on Gosling privately for his performance against Spurs, as it was strong and worthy of special mention considering his late call up into the team on Saturday.

Charlie Daniels came close to earning Cherries a huge win

Who would have thought that Charlie Daniels would be the player that would come closest to getting a winner against Spurs? Considering that Charlie opened the scoring against Hull City as well, there is a case for opposition sides being a bit wary of Charlie as he strides into the box.
Charlie keeps getting into great scoring positions.
Charlie might not be the best finisher in the team but when he hits a shot it stays hit. Against Spurs it may have been better for him to have tried to dink his shot to beat Hugo Lloris. Still Charlie was yet again getting into a position where he could make the difference for AFCB and possibly get a goal which is great to see. While AFCB tend to get defenders forward they have started to get a good balance where they don't over commit. The speed of some of the players like Adam Smith, Simon Francis and Steve Cook is often underrated, but these defenders can put on a turn of pace to get back and cover when moves break down.

It is also notable that the defenders are getting in on the goal act these days. While Charlie has lost his penalty kick duties to Junior Stanislas, I wonder who might have taken a spot kick against Spurs if one had come along with Junior not on the pitch. I'm not sure Callum Wilson would have stood in the way of Charlie if he had grabbed the ball. Goal scoring might not be the main reason why Charlie is picked every week, but it is pleasing that so many of the defenders are adaptable and can strike the ball well.

At present Charlie has scored four times in the Premier League in 46 games which is almost one in 10 games and he has made six assists in those matches, but the record he'll probably be most keen on extending is the 10 clean sheets

Monday, 24 October 2016

Jack Wilshere does the distance

Jack Wilshere has been a great addition to AFCB. He might not have scored but he has given the side an extra level of aspiration. The players want to be as good as him and are happy to see him get back to his best with the side which is benefiting their own game. A good Jack Wilshere is a Premier League player that is consistently getting in the face of opponents and riding challenges, but an excellent Jack Wilshere is dominating games and that's where Eddie Howe wants to get him to.

Jack is getting the match time he wanted now.
The first step has been to integrate him into the team and he is already starting to find the same tempo as those around him. At times Jack stands still and is almost admiring what is taking place without trying to push the need for being given the ball, but I want him to take the ball now and create. He has watched and learnt the strengths and weaknesses of this AFCB side and he can take it further by pushing the passes that open up teams. He very nearly did that last Saturday with Callum Wilson aiming to break free of his markers. It will happen soon in one of these games as Jack is looking to make this next step. 

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Having played 90 minutes for the first time in two years, he is starting to get the feeling back that he can extend himself more in games and once he can focus on the game rather than worrying whether he can last 90 minutes I think the old Jack Wilshere will return. Coming to Bournemouth was a fabulous move not only for AFCB but also for Jack. I only feel that come next May Jack will be torn about where he can play his best football. Perhaps Arsenal is not where he can return to make a fresh start - at least Jamie Redknap is of that opinion along with me. That does not mean that AFCB is his level or where he will see his future, but it will be at AFCB where Jack learns a great deal about what he can still achieve in the game. 

I only hope Jack enjoys his time at Bournemouth and finds that the coaching he is getting is the best he can be offered at this stage of his career. Sometimes football is not just about winning but on getting players back on track and a happy Jack is something that we all want to see as it is the way to him regaining the best football he can produce. 


Premier Talk - Even the smaller teams want points in the Premier League

Do we all appreciate how good Harry Arter really is?

There was only one man who was running the show against Spurs and that was AFCB's number Eight. Harry Arter is ensuring that he makes the most of every minute he spends on the pitch these days, and he is energised with a passion that is so intense that it blows me away at times. I only hope that AFCB fans appreciate how good he is, as I'm starting to agree with Jack Wilshere who says he is among the best centre midfielders that he has ever played with.
Harry Arter may still think he would be better to change
international camps and on his performances I'm sure Gareth Southgate
and the FA would welcome him.
The amount of times the fans sing Harry's song is a fairly good indication that AFCB fans do indeed know how special Harry is. Against Spurs he was a real pest for Wanyama, Ali and Lamela, he just buzzed around them for 90 minutes and didn't give them a break. It was a magnificent effort, not just because he walked out of Dean Court last week on crutches, but because he walked off the pitch having out shone players that have been international stars for a few years in some cases. It's like Harry Arter owns Dean Court - it's his patch. 

We know that when Harry isn't playing that the team doesn't usually perform as well and he has become the player that I believe most of the team look to now for inspiration. Even Simon Francis was not spared a Harry Arter anger look in the first half against Spurs, when the captain slipped him a pass that was only ever destined for the touchline. Arter demands high standards of himself more than anyone else, but he has forged really strong links with his team-mates on and off the field with the things he has been through and I think this special bond is part of what makes him demand even more of himself come match days.

There has been lots of discussion over Arter's future in the Republic of Ireland squad and, as he has not yet played a competitive game for them, he may still decide that he can opt to play for England instead. It is intriguing that Gareth Southgate was at Dean Court on Saturday and will have noted who was the best player on the park. If Harry does not feel wanted by the Republic of Ireland he has a big decision to make. 
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So Harry, if your reading this. The fans at AFCB really do appreciate not only what you have done in the past to get the team to the Premier League, but also how you seem to keep finding another level to take your game to. I still think Wanyama might want to check on Spur's training pitch this week that Harry Arter is not anywhere near by, because he certainly saw enough of him on Saturday.
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