Boro v Stoke
Six league wins on the bounce. Seven in all competitions. Unbeaten in eight. Boro are officially back.
In truth, Boro’s latest victory was far from our best performance. Sloppy in possession at times and missing a killer touch at others, Norwich’s feeble final ball and dreadful decision making made life easier for us than it might have been.
However, this was somewhat of a fatigued and patched up Boro XI missing a natural right back, with the recently impressive Barlaser rested and no influential Riley McGree or Darragh Lenihan again.
Norwich 1-2 Boro was a disciplined, gritty and ground out victory of the sort not regularly associated with Carrickball and added to the growing feeling that Boro might just do something this season after all. The ingredients have started to blend and the appetite is building.
The welcome resurgence of Dael Fry - arguably Man of the Match at Norwich - alongside an increasingly solid Paddy McNair has meant that Boro have somehow barely missed Lenihan. Lukas Engel has now found his feet as well in perhaps the most impressive upturn since Chuba. Meanwhile Seny Dieng looks to be the most assured goalkeeper, both between the sticks and with the ball at his feet, that we’ve enjoyed for many a year.
Not so long ago fingers were being directed at Jonathan Woodgate for Boro’s lack of defensive solidity but Boro have conceded just the one consolation goal in their last four now, whilst scoring around two per game during this run.
Long may it continue, and hopefully it will against Stoke City at The Riverside on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.
Following Wednesday night’s 1-0 win at home to Leeds Utd, Stoke find themselves in 17th place in the table, four points and eight places behind Boro. It’s been a tough set of fixtures for The Potters with Southampton (0-1), Leicester (0-2), Sunderland (2-1) and Leeds making up their last four games. At one point Alex Neil may have been targeting a game against Boro as a chance to get some points on the board after such a tough spell but unfortunately for him, Boro have rebooted in time to extend that hellish run.
Despite a summer recruitment drive that saw them splash in the region of £13m on new recruits, injuries have been a major issue for Stoke with Tyrese Campbell, Lewis Baker, Lynden Gooch and Enda Stevens all missing at times among others, though only Campbell and Baker appear to remain out at this point.
With those two longer term absentees it’s perhaps no surprise that Stoke have struggled for goals this season with just fourteen from their thirteen games. That being said, the bulk of their summer spend went on attacking assets Wouter Burger (£4.35m), Ryan Mmaee (£3.5m), Mehdi Léris (£2m) and Nikola Jojic (£1,2m) – nope I’ve never heard of any of them either - for a return of just five goals between them so far. Meanwhile André Vidigal, who came in for just £400k or so, has netted five goals of his own to top their underwhelming scoring charts.
If injuries and a large turnover have been Stoke’s issue, Boro certainly have their own problems with McGree, Lenihan and Forss all doubtful and now Tommy Smith keeping Lewis O’Brien company on the long termers list. Engel came off sore in midweek whilst Hayden Hackney picked up a suspension for a fifth yellow card to add to the headache.
That will almost certainly mean a recall for Dan Barlaser alongside Jonny Howson, whilst Bangura might get a start at left back. Rav van den Berg is likely to continue to fill in at right back though it was good to see Anfernee Dijksteel get some minutes from the bench on Tuesday. Latte Lath missed midweek through illness and could return to the fold though most likely from the bench.
With just one away win all season, Stoke are unfancied in this fixture but I do recall what a difficult match they gave Carrick’s Boro at The Riverside last season, with their pace, physicality and aggression giving us all sort of issues as we scraped a backs-to-the-wall 1-1 draw. That was back in March when Boro were at the peak of their powers having won nine of our previous eleven games, scoring 26 goals along the way.
Are those good times back again? Six league wins on the bounce. Seven in all competitions. Unbeaten in eight.
Great preview Andy hope you took plenty of paracetamol before writing this opener and scratching your head as to whom Boro have left to make up a reasonable team. Hopefully Latte lath is fit and also young Josh.
The defence and midfield would appear to pick themselves but we’re very light on numbers for the bench.
One player who must get a mention is Crooks. A player that I have moaned about bit appears to have a mindset amd clear idea of what his role is within the team. He has formed a close partnership with Jones on the right and hopefully one or both of them will be on the scoresheet on Saturday.
Typically excellent opener, Andy, with a very shrewd assessment of the Norwich game.
Stoke appeared to be one of the easiest games in our current run of challenging fixtures, but your caution is well justified.
Alex Neil is a shrewd tactician and wins against two well fancied teams in Sunderland and Leeds in their most recent fixtures mean that Stoke's threat needs to be taken seriously.
In particular Stoke were very successful in their high press against Leeds and this was an impressive rehearsal of what we will see at the Riverside.
I have been very impressed by the young Portugese striker, Vidigal, who is fast and tricky as well as being their top scorer, and the tactic of switching the ball to him on the left from their wide right winger Hoever will certainly keep our right back, whether it is VDB or Dijksteel, on his toes.
To the Boro's advantage is the fact that we have 24 hours more to recover from our midweek efforts, and this may be important in the final quarter of the game, particularly if Latte Lath is available.
I se a tight game with few goals, a repeat, hopefully, of our Birmingham win, 1-0.
But I would not rule out a draw.
Thanks again, Andy. A terrific and well-written piece.
Thanks Len and I completely agree with your additional assessment of Stoke. Ignore the league position, they’ve had injury and integration issues to go with a tough run of games but are strong side with a seasoned manager who has previously shown that he knows how to combat our style.
I think I actually picked them to be the overachievers in Powmills COTS challenge. That isn’t looking great so far but I do expect them to climb.
Boro’s form is strong enough to meet the challenge head on but I think this could be the strongest test we’ve faced during our excellent run.
Boro 1-0 Stoke would do me just fine.
@andy-r - I must have pressed a button by mistake as, originally and before this "edit", I posted a completely blank reply! I had intended to thank AndyR for his Starter. The world is back in its proper place with the A-Team back in position!
I agree: lots of injuries unhelped by Hackney's untimely (!) suspension and Latte Lath's illness. I also follow Len's view. A 1-0 win would do me. No predictions yet, but I hope for a win to continue Boro's winning streak and the general upwards trend. But I realise Stoke might be in a false position and didn't expect that club to be so low in the table. Let's see if there are any developments illness/injury-wise in the next couple of days...
Thank you, Andy, for another brilliant starter. I really appreciated your analysis of Stoke’s signings and their scoring record.
i agree that this is a tougher game than it might appear, especially with our current crop of injuries/ suspensions. Even so, I think we should be able to keep them out at the back, given their dearth of goals, but we can’t of course take anything for granted. I’m sure MC will have warned the lads against complacency.
The remaining fit players should have enough to beat Stoke, though it might need another gritty performance rather than one of style and panache. Any win will do.
Another great opener Andy R, I agree with most that Stoke will be a hard test, especially with the amount of missing player we have. I am so pleased that when I said earlier in the season, (bottom) and people were “questioning” the summer recruitment, to give the young (with potential) signings a chance to adapt to the championship and new country (some), it has “turned out nice again” and long may it continue. I don’t think we have a lot to do in the January transfer window but I am sure the recruitment team, along with the management team, will have the matter in hand.
Come on BORO.
the sun is always shining above the clouds 😉
@exmil - Everything seems so much better when the sun shines...
Middlesbrough will be without Marcus Forss for a number of weeks, Michael Carrick has confirmed, while they are still no closer to getting Darragh Lenihan or Riley McGree back.
Typically coy on giving exact injury news, the Boro boss said Forss' thigh issue would keep him out for a little while, but said it was difficult to give an exact timeframe on potential returns for Lenihan and McGree who are out with Achilles and lower foot issues respectively. Boro are in a bit of an injury crisis currently, with seven players missing Tuesday night's win over Norwich City. Tommy Smith, it has been confirmed, is set to miss the rest of the season with a ruptured Achilles.
Hayden Hackney picked up a fifth yellow of the season at Carrow Road meaning he will miss the weekend clash with Stoke City, having earlier taken a whack to the knee in that one. Lukas Engel was taken off in that game with a groin strain too, but Carrick confirmed both players are fine, while Emmanuel Latte Lath has been back involved too after missing out through illness.
Offering a mixed injury update, the Boro boss said: "Tommy's is a big blow for us. He’ll be missing for most of the season, if not maybe all of it. There’s not much more to say apart from that we’ll do all we can to support him and try to get him back as quickly as we can.
"It’s been one of those times really, in terms of losing a few and losing boys for longer than we would have hoped for, but that’s football really. You’ve got to deal with it – we’ll back Tommy and support him, and get him back when we can.
“Manu is good. He’s had a couple of days to rest and recover and shake off the illness that he unfortunately had, and now he’s fine. Lukas got a knock but he’s fine, and Hayden’s okay too.
“Marcus is going to be out for a number of weeks, unfortunately, with his thigh. Darragh and Riley won’t be available for this weekend either, but there’s not really a timescale for either of them. "With Darragh, we’re still doing a bit of investigating and assessing. He’s got a problem that’s affecting his Achilles and his ankle. It seems to be related.
“Riley’s got one of those injuries with his foot where it’s a little bit day by day and step by step. We’re having to take it as it comes a bit, so the timeframe is not easy to give on that one."
Great Headliner Andy with the Stoke transfer information. It would be interesting to see a list of each teams purchases/loans and the accompanying fees. I believe Coventry spent a little of their Gyokeres cash, but at this time it has not done them a lot of good.
Unfortunately, I think that our high press maybe catching us up some, with the number of injuries sustained. O'Brien, Smith, long term, Forss, Lenihan and McGree, possibly some weeks? Clarke, is he fit to play in the first team, probably, but maybe not as a starter. I also worry about VDB playing three matches every 8 days.
Some injuries have been unlucky, O'Brien a poor tackle, but the others, possibly down to exertion late in the game? Forss does not help himself sometimes as he dashes about as though he has something to prove.
So, a final score prediction is difficult to give, as many have said, given the injuries. I do not think the staring line up will be any easier to spell out.
I think a draw would be a good result.
Great opener as ever Andy, thank you.
I agree with both your and Len’s assessments of the opposition and given our threadbare squad we will do well to take all three points.
If we can’t win then we must not lose, as keeping the non losing run going is vital and it would be good if it continued up to the next international break; we have to lose sometime but not yet please. 😎
Michael Carrick says coaching Middlesbrough's youthful squad this season has been a joy, with their desire to improve encapsulated by the extra work many are putting in together on the training pitches.
The average age of Boro's squad deliberately dropped during the summer transfer window as the club added 12 new signings, many of whom are at similar stages of their careers with what would commonly be viewed as their prime years ahead of them.
That potentially impacted Boro's early season form as they went seven league games without a win early on while players adapted to their new surroundings and gelled as a team. But Carrick has been left really encouraged by the character shown to turn the season around, and also the desire within the group to improve.
That is perhaps no better encapsulated lately than by Morgan Rogers and Sammy Silvera who have both scored important match-winning goals in Boro's last two, as the winning run stretched to seven in all competitions - just two shy of equalling the club's all-time record. They were two summer signings who initially struggled, but who have both stayed hungry and taken their chances when they came after dropping out of the team initially.
On the balance of when to pick such players, when to maybe take them out, and how they're working together to improve, Carrick said: “Part of football is having different experiences. Part of my job is to find the right balance and help them to be as good as they can be.
"Judging what is best for each individual when they first arrive is a big part of it. Sometimes that’s a lot of football, sometimes that’s not so much football and freshening them up for when they can have a big impact, which we have to judge the timing of. We’re here to support them ultimately.
"We’re not putting the weight of the world on their shoulders, it’s a game of football that we want them to enjoy and go and do what they’re good at. They’re here because they are good at it. If they’re here and they’re not very good at it, then there is a bit of a weight there. But what we ask of them is what they can do and what they know.
"Sometimes it evolves over time and that’s form. As I’ve said before, you might lose form and go through a tricky spell after being at a club for years and you need to just come out of the team a little bit. But there’s a lot more than just game to game, there’s the big factor of looking after each individual closely and assessing where they’re at personally.
"Where are they in their career? Are they okay? What help do they need? It’s part of it that I really enjoy and try to make time to do that. I feel like we get the benefit as a team from being like that. We’ve got a big portion of our group that are at similar stages of their careers and kind of bouncing off each other in training. It’s great to see.
"They’re out there working on extra things together after the sessions and pushing each other on. It’s fantastic to see and hopefully they’ll all benefit from that. I’ve loved seeing them all develop in different ways and different times. And over the course of the season, as I keep saying, the boys can all have different impacts at different times.
"That’s shown over the last couple of weeks. Players will play more minutes at different times of the season, depending on numerous factors. That’s just how it is. Things can change quickly in football and it’s my job to pick the right players at the right time, doing what’s best for them as well as what’s right for me and for the team."
In recent weeks, a couple of Boro players have given examples of the above. After his winning goal against Birmingham, Rogers discussed how he was doing a lot of work on watching and analysing football, particularly players in his possession, to assess how he can best impact games from his position when he does get on.
And having had to work hard after initially joining to build his match sharpness after missing a portion of pre-season through injury, Sam Greenwood admitted after his goal at Norwich City on Tuesday that finishing is a big thing he's been working hard on lately, knowing that he has to be clinical with chances that come his way.
I know exactly what you mean. The pattern seems to have been established by repetition in training to the point that everyone knows what to do and when not to take the risk. It was apparent also in the last few minutes of the Norwich game when they established triangles down the right wing and just kept the ball.
I'm not sure about injuries. Maybe people played hurt in past times which made them less efficient or lengthened their recovery time.
I wonder if Carrick is pulling the wool over Stoke's eyes with news of McGree not being available. He does have Greenwood to play that position on the left that comes into the space behind the centre forward. However, the whole squad does feel like an elastic band being pulled tighter and I'll be very glad if we can squeeze out another win in a tight game.
Thanks for posting that article on Carrick and player development. It is one of the best things I’ve read from any manager anywhere. Carrick not only obviously loves working with players to improve them, he’s also extremely good at it. It’s been quite staggering seeing the improvement in 4 young players - Rogers, Greenwood, Engel and Silvera - all of whom I was ready to write off as a waste of money, like many other fans, no doubt. The development is clear to see in others, too: - McGree is twice the player he was under Wilder; Hackney goes from strength to strength; look at how Isaiah has been supported and is now back to somewhere near his best; and most successfully of all, how can we forget the outstanding use and development of Akpom last season?
How lucky are we to have Michael Carrick, who must be one of the best young coaches around? His management of his players is outstanding. Let us hope he is prepared to stick with us for the long haul, once he’s taken us, very soon, back to the promised land!
Very interesting post, Peter. I hadn’t noticed it creeping up on me, but you’re dead right: I’m quite relaxed now and no longer worried about our playing out from the back, often in triangles. It used to be rule 1 in the coaching manual - DO NOT, under any circumstances, pass the ball across your own penalty area - but we do it all the time now! And you’re right - the players know what to do, how and when to do it, and where exactly their teammate expecting the pass will be. It’s another great example of Carrick’s very fine coaching.
Your mention of Charlton’s Champions’ line-up brought back a ton of happy memories. Is it my imagination, or did he tend to stick very largely to the same starting team for virtually every game? That line-up seems to me in retrospect to have been very consistent. Of course, in those days, when ‘men were men’, Harold Shepherdson (was he still there with Jack?) used to run on with his magic sponge and give the injured lad a quick soaking. ‘Get up lad, it’s only a broken toe. Run it off.’ None of this two physios-ease him back in gently- sports science-five minutes drink break-namby-pamby nonsense!!
@peter-surtees I think Willie Maddren didn't train much between the matches. His knee was playing tricks and finally he retired early.
I have seen some of the old players a few years back. They hardly were able to walk anymore. So I guess they played when slightly injured in those days. With the pace of the modern football, teams need a big squad to manage the season through.
Up the Boro!
PS. @Andy Thank you again for a great opener. Loved it.
Elsewhere, Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali has been banned from football for ten months after admitting breaches of betting regulations, according to reports from Italy.
That would rule the 23-year-old, a £53m summer signing from AC Milan, out of the remainder of the Magpies’ season and Italy’s Euro 2024 finals campaign, should they qualify.
I think there should be some regular training for youn players on rules and behaviour. This should be done regularly, for example twice a year. Like all companies do in modern world about ethics, bribery, etc. Remember also that these guys are mostly young with a lot of monet and time to spend.
And this included the Boro, too. Up the Boro!
Yes shep was still there but he looked after all the juniors and the trialLIST.
. Jimmy headridge, jimmy greenhalgh and the assistant manager who I can’t remember! Were the guys,with the magic sponge and Ron? Who used to lay the kits out ….
i was one of the three officials that Shep used to use for all his trial matches. A good fee, tea and sandwiches and cakes. A real gent!
In the promotion season (73-4) we used 22 players in total. Stuart Boam and David Armstrong being the only ever presents. Including the above 2 nine players played 38 games or more. So as you say avery settled side. Eight players played 7 matches or less as starters. Two players Malcolm Poskett and Harry Charlton only made appearances as subs. I hadn't realised that Tony Mcandrew made his debut that season as a replacement in one match for Graeme Souness who I assume was suspended. I think that the cuurent run of consecutive wins has only been bettered by that team who won nine on the bounce. Another interesting stat we only used a substitute in 24 games. Only one sub at that time.
The assistant to Jack was Ian Mcfarlane who was manager at Carlisle befor coming to the Boro.
I feel as though the assistant manager who used to sit next to Jack Charlton on the bench was Ian MacFarlane, but I can't find anything to back that up. Is that another false memory?
Sorry, you got there before me. So not a false memory then. Maybe there's still hope.
MacFarlane managed Carlisle United from 1 January 1970 to 1 June 1972. Notable signings he made for Carlisle include John Gorman in September 1970 and Stanley Bowles in October 1971. He was caretaker manager of Sunderland from 18 October 1976 to 1 December 1976 for 7 games (2 wins, 1 draw, 4 losses. He was succeeded by Jimmy Adamson. He then managed Leicester City for 5 games in 1978 as caretaker manager, losing 4 and winning once. As an assistant manager, he won the Football League Cup with Manchester City.
He died on 17 June 2019, aged 86.
Very interesting stats about the use of substitutes in the 73/74 season.
Thanks, Gents! I enjoyed his morning's read of the latest posts.
Charlton's Champions was as good a team as there has ever been in England's 2nd tier and I think followed that up by finishing 6th in the First Division the next season. As good as any team in my lifetime? Well, if it wasn't the best, it can't be far off. Souness and Armstrong would be confident of getting into virtually any team at any time, and a younger/fit Murdoch, too. The others in the team, if not stars, were handy players. Obviously Hickton was then towards the end of his career but must rank as one Boro's best pound-for-pound bargains and most consistent goal-scorers.
I agree I am feeling rather less worried than a year ago about Boro's defence passing the ball around at the back but that may have a lot to do with the keeper who, this season is a marked improvement on the overpaid and over-confident "custodian" we had between the sticks last season. Still, it would be sensible not to take outrageous risks just for the sake of it. If the occasion calls for just kicking the ball out of the penalty area then I, for one, would not be critical if that is what the defender actually does.
And @clive-hurren, whilst accepting the first couple of months this season did test the belief a little, I also think Michael Carrick is showing signs of being one of the best young football coaches around. Obviously managers/coaches have trainers etc working under them, and I suppose some of the credit must be shared with them. No doubt those staff members devise the training routines and exercises used every week but the coach/manager determines the style of play and objectives for the squad. I believe that the best coach/managers improve the players in their squads so we can perhaps judge those managers on how much progress their players make.
Eddie Howe is clearly a very good coach. If things continue as they have been at Boro for the last couple of months, people in football not necessarily connected with Boro might start talking about Carrick in the way they have been talking about Eddie Howe. It might be difficult to hold onto Carrick in those circumstances if Boro remains in the Championship (eg if Boro, after a very dodgy start to the season, nevertheless had a good season and perhaps finished a close third, almost hauling back the top 2 who currently seem out of reach, but failed to go up via the play-offs). As we know, the play-offs are a complete lottery. Let's hope that scenario doesn't play out.
Middlesbrough won't be tempted to look towards the free agents market during their injury crisis, with Michael Carrick happy with the squad assembled over the summer.
Boro currently have six players out injured, at least four of whom are going to be long-term absentees. While it is currently uncertain exactly how much longer Darragh Lenihan and Riley McGree will be out for, Carrick confirmed on Thursday that Marcus Forss will be out for a number of weeks.
That adds to Sonny Finch and Lewis OBrien who are not expected back before the turn of the year after undergoing surgery earlier this month. Perhaps the biggest blow, however, was news earlier this week that Tommy Smith had ruptured his Achilles which is expected to end his season.
While options are clearly depleted right now, Carrick sees no need to dip into the free-agent market. He said: “We won’t be looking to sign any free agents at this stage. Injuries are part of football and we’re just going through an unfortunate stage right now.
"I smile about it, but it’s a wry smile really because we don’t want to lose anyone. But that’s football and at some point you’re always going to have to take injuries and lads are going to suffer injuries or illness or whatever it may be. But that’s why we’ve got the squad that we have.
"The boys have shown over the past couple of weeks the impact that the whole group can have at certain times. That’s been epitomised by Morgan [Rogers] and Sammy [Silvera] coming off the bench and scoring winners in the last two games. That’s great to see for me and everyone will have their moments over the course of the season. That’s just how it is and why we’ve got the squad that we’ve got.”
While Carrick's options are depleted by injuries, the advantage of the work done in the summer transfer window to bring 12 new players to the club means the squad does have depth. There were at least two players for every position before injuries, and they are also blessed to have numerous players who can comfortably operate in numerous roles.
Given Smith's injury keeps him out for the season, that would be the most likely scenario to lead a club to look towards free agents. But at right-back Boro have been boosted by the return of Anfernee Dijksteel, while Rav van den Berg has played the role with confidence throughout the campaign. Players like Paddy McNair, Jonny Howson, Isaiah Jones and Hayden Coulson would all be capable of playing there if needed too.
Not sure whether Carrick is expressing his own views above or telling us what the club's policy will be regarding any free agent, or other signings in January.
A major concern surely has to be the impact the African cup of Nations in January and February may have on player availability come the New Year, and so far I have seen absolutely no coverage in the media on the implications this may have for the Boro, and future recruitment
I haven't checked but I assume that at the very least Latte Lath may be an absentee for this period, and if that is the case we will be down to one young and inexperienced striker for two whole months at the most wearing time of the season. And that is assuming that Coburn remains fully fit
That is precisely the reason why we should have at least three or preferably four strikers available to see us through the wear and tear of a normal Championship season. It is a problem that has lain at the root of of the personnel difficulties of the last two managers, and it remains no nearer to being solved
I also think the view that the Summer "projects" are now starting to come good may be somewhat premature, if it is based on the somewhat flimsy evidence of the late goals scored by Rogers and Silvera in the last two games.
Welcome and well-taken as both goals were they scarcely provide a compelling argument that either player is yet ready for elevation to a first eleven place.
Greenwood has certainly stepped up to the mark, and VDB looks like a good long-term prospect (though probably not as a full-back). But the likeliest explanation for our amazing reversal of fortune since our historically bad start to the season is that so many of the players already on our books are playing so well, rather than that there has been a dramatic improvement in our younger Summer signings.