Boro v Blackpool
I’ve kept off the blog for a day or so because I was really upset at the Blackpool game. There ‘s nothing worse than staying up until 2 in the morning only to see them throw away a game.
I admit to being conflicted about Warnock. I like his apparent honesty and intelligent approach to things but am now asking myself whether it is all a facade. He certainly knows how to ‘play the media’ and has them all eating out of his hand but I wonder whether it is real. Not being local, I don’t pick up the vibrations coming out of the club. What are people saying? Is he liked as a manager by the players and staff? Do people feel that the club is moving forward even if he is just a caretaker for this year? Does he take the sessions or is it really his assistants? Is the club in a good place even if it will take some time for the team to really gel?
Tactically, I wonder whether there is a simple problem that needs fixing. NW and team seem to be obsessed with man marking and other teams seem to be using this as a way to create a mass of space in our midfield that they can move into. I don’t quite follow the tactical logic but the room in front of our defence seems to create all kinds of problems. I was screaming at the screen when Blackpool took that free kick and there was an open line straight through to our six yard box which led straight to their equaliser.
The only positive that I would throw in is the quality of our attacking players. However, he has to play the right ones. Silliki and Sporar have been welcomed as if they are the new messiahs. That’s just not fair to them. They need time to get match fit and accustomed to the rhythms of the team. Jones always looks dangerous and should be an automatic choice. Payero looks top quality and as he is now fit he should be given the chance to start. As to the rest, I’m not sure but surely he has to give a Watmore a chance.
I’m still hopeful but I sense the growing fury on the blog. We need some signs of improvement.
Just before Covid I took my then 10 year old to the Boro to see Luton. Even though we lost and were appalling he thoroughly enjoyed the game and the soaking we got walking back to town during storm Dennis.
It didn't seem to bother him too much, the family area is a great place to take the young ones and get them interested. A far cry from the boys end....
I think you're right about how opposition coaches are discovering how to exploit Warnock's whole team man-marking strategy by drawing the Boro midfield out of position, which then leaves us vulnerable to a quick counter-attack. Whether it's a rigid system or is it possible that Boro players only operate their marking within certain parameters of keeping their shape.
Of course the downside to players man-marking could result in they themselves don't look to find the space in order to allow teammates to pass to them. The stats usually show Boro have less of the ball than the opposition and our passing accuracy has also not been that great either - especially the final ball in the last third.
As to giving other players a chance - well as I've mentioned before we've essentially got ten players fighting over the four attacking positions - players are going to be disappointed, especially given Warnock's penchant for either late token substitutions or enforced changes rather than decisive early ones.
The current shape of 4-2-3-1 means two wide players, a centre-forward and a number-ten type player. That would probably mean Jones on the left, Hernandez on the right, Sporar up front and Tav in behind him. That currently leaves Ikpeazu, Watmore, Siliki, Crooks and Olusanya - with Browne and Ameobi when fit. I suspect Howson and Payero will be the first-choice midfield pairing unless Siliki can demonstrate any defensive attributes at some point.
It looked like a 4-1-4-1 for large parts at the weekend. Howson was very deep for a lot of the game, almost as a third centre-back, with Siliki and Crooks quite high in the first half at least. I'm not sure whether that was the planned shape or whether we got dragged into those positions because of the man-marking - probably the latter because there was large gap between defence and the bulk of midfield that I can't imagine was by design.
I agree that that approach needs to be binned as it's long since been worked out and exploited by the opposition. How easy it is to undo something that's been worked on for quite some time I'm not sure - perhaps having so many new players means it's less ingrained and therefore easier to move away from. Though Warnock might argue that with so many new players, it's not ingrained enough!
One further point while it occurs to me: for all the talk of Warnock being on thin ice across the message boards and phone-ins, I got no sense of that at The Riverside at all. It didn't feel like a crowd that has or was about to turn.
The dust has settled a bit for me now. I was so frustrated coming away from the game yesterday but it passes.
Just a few points:
1. I was dumfounded at how long Siliki was left on the field. He started brightly and showed some good passing, hard running/closing-down and physicality but to my eyes he fell off a cliff around 35 minutes and from then on was second to every ball, consistently passing to the opposition or no-one in particular and sluggishly getting caught in possession. I was expecting him to be withdrawn at half-time and couldn't believe he was still toiling away until the last ten minutes of normal time. That inaction from the bench really hurt us I felt.
2. I thought Crooks had another poor game I'm afraid and was equally as bad as SIliki in possession. The game was lost because those two couldn't get a grip in central midfield or string a few passes together and, again, I couldn't believe that we passively left them on field when Jones and Payero could have - and should have - come on much sooner to give us some energy.
3. A word of praise for Peltier. Clearly left-back is not the ideal position for him and as such he offers nothing going forward whatsoever but he was up against Blackpool's best player yesterday and I thought he coped well overall. I could understand why Warnock left him on the left as he wouldn't have wanted to put a less experienced or even more makeshift player up against Josh Bowler. Peltier being right-footed actually helped in that situation as Bowler only wanted to come inside and shoot.
Excellent post. I too wondered why no changes were made earlier in the game.
I think we have a few exciting and technically good players. Now the task is to make them play as a team.
I think we murdered Blackpool in the first 30 min or so and coulldn't understand who we lead only 1-0 at half time.
But it was all dowhill after the first 35 to 40 min until Jones and especially Payero were introdused.
As I feared I will take a month or a few to get the team functioning after being left with a squad that needed 12 additional players. Bleak.
Only good think is that Warnock is good at making a team work and fight. We need to see the new players having a barbeque in Cornwall as well as some older players eating their breakfast.
Up the Boro!
PS. I think Blackpool are a desent side. They beat Fulham, too and have been performing well even their points tally was not very high. And now they beat the mighty Boro on Saturday. They are on the up.
Up the Boro!
Ipswich Town spent more money than Boro in the summer. I think they signed more 12 new players including our Morsy and Coulson (on loan). And they have found out how difficult is to get the new players integrated into a team.
They only got their first win on Saturday. Their record in the League One reads as follows:
Ipswich 7 1 3 3 11 15 GD -4 points 6
I think we need to be patient. It is early season yet. Up the Boro!
Warnock said he was going to play 4-2-3-1 but to be honest I couldn't work out which of Crooks or Siliki was supposed to be partnering Howson in midfield - they both appeared to be too high up the pitch to have a defensive role. Let's see what happens after a full week on the training pitch without a game or international break - though I doubt Warnock will ditch his man-marking system any time soon.
Only good think is that Warnock is good at making a team work and fight. We need to see the new players having a barbeque in Cornwall as well as some older players eating their breakfast.
Forget about blaming breakfast or getting another barbeque fired up - Warnock has now moved onto cake with his latest comments...
"The players are good enough, the technical ability is as good as I’ve had within the team itself. But you just need a few more things to put in your cake to get the right recipe. We’re a bit short of that in one or two areas."
Not sure if it's the icing that he thinks he's missing or even the cherry on top - most appear to be concerned about our soggy bottom or possibly the fact that his soufflé is not rising...
For the second game in a row I thought Crooks was very poor.
With next week's lunchtime kick-off against Reading in mind, I wonder if the match would be on TV but not on the Riverside Live? UTB!
@jarkko. Yes Jarkko it is live on Sky so will not be available via Riverside Live.😎
JAMES PETER GREAVES 1940/2021
Just to interrupt the postings about Warnock and Boro for awhile I’d just like to write a few comments about the late Jimmy Greaves, a player of my generation although I unfortunately never actually saw him play except on television as Boro were a Second Division club during Greavsie’s playing career.
Always known as Jimmy he was born in Manor Green, Essex in February 1940 although raised up in Hainault. He was signed as an apprentice to become one of manager ‘Ted Drake’s Ducklings’ in response to Manchester United’s ‘Busby Babes’. As an apprentice with Chelsea he scored a phenomenal 173 goals in two seasons, before turning professional in the summer of 1957, though still found a summer job with a steel firm to supplement his earnings.
He made a scoring debut in August 1957 against Tottenham in a 1-1 draw ending the season with 22 goals in 37 appearances including 4 goals in a 7-4 win against Portsmouth on Christmas Day and 5 more against Champions Wolverhampton. In the Second season he scored all 5 as Chelsea beat Preston 5-4, although Chelsea were in a relegation battle finishing only 18th. He later became the youngest player to reach a century of goals at the age of 20 years and 290 days. He also became Chelsea’s second highest scorer to Bobby Tambling’s 164.
Jimmy then signed for AC Milan on a three year contract for the equivalent of £140 per week. However he became homesick especially for London, and only served one year of his contract before signing for Tottenham for £99,999 as Spurs manager didn’t want to put pressure on him as being Britain’s first £100,000 player. Greavsie stayed with Spurs for 9 seasons scoring 259 goals in 367 appearances before eventually signing for West Ham as part-exchange in Martin Peters’ transfer to White Hart Lane. Jimmy then scored twice on his Hammers debut in a 5-1 win against Manchester City at Maine Road. However by then he wasn’t really fit and took to drinking heavily and in fact became an alcoholic for about 10 years. He scored only 13 times in 40 matches before ending his career at non-league Barnet scoring 25 times in 64 appearances.
He scored a career total of 447 goals as a professional with his 5 clubs plus another 44 international goals for England in his 57 appearances making him the 4th highest goalscorer for his country. Twice he scored 4 goals for England - against Northern Ireland in 1963, and against Norway in 1966. He also scored 3 hat tricks - against Luxembourg in 1960, against Scotland in 1961, against Peru in 1962, and against Northern Ireland in 1964. Although a member of England’s World Cup squad in 1966 he was injured in one of the group matches, but although fit for the final Geoff Hurst had replaced him and Alf Ramsey didn’t wish to change a winning team. For Jimmy that must have been a big disappointment as initially Cup Winners medals were awarded to only those eleven players who played in the Final. Later he was awarded a medal but he had fallen on hard times and sold it I believe to an FA history museum.
He started his journalistic career in 1979, and was a co-presenter of several ITV sports programmes where he met ex-Liverpool striker Ian St John and they teamed up together in the ‘Saints and Greavsie’ successful Saturday lunch time show on ITV from 1985 to 1992 before the advent of the Premiership subsequently renamed the Premier League.
I watched highlights of the Chelsea v Spurs match but was a little disappointed that a minute’s applause was chosen for Jimmy Greaves instead of a one minute silence. After all he had placed for both clubs in his long career and Jimmy deserved the poignancy of a quiet moment of respect for such a fine footballer.
May he rest in peace now having suffered a couple of strokes
The thing that irritates is the total lack of any underhand tactics, or tricks from this man, he is a one trick pony, Once his selected team is on the pitch it will not be changed until we are in big trouble. Any one of his heroes having a stinker will be left on until too late. He loves omitting any player on song, then bringing them on three minutes from time. We have no idea how to get the better of a team playing superior football. An example this weekend, Chelsea, under the cosh at half time, listen to their manager being interviewed, ' I had a discussion with the team and we decided that we had to go out there and get possession, move it up field pressure them, challenge them physically all over the pitch, get the ball into their box and follow it in and force it over the line, give them no rest.' They won the match. We were leading a poor side and watched them do just that to us as our manager argued over throw ins on the halfway line, good or what?
Ipswich signed 19 players during the window. They have new cashed up American owners and the ex Bristol City CEO so Morsy is getting higher pay than he was at Boro. I lived there for 10 years and all of my wife's family still live there so keep tabs on what is going on. There has been rumblings about the manager signing lots of players who he used to manage. Wonder where I have heard that before.
Blackpool seemed to start the match aware of their poor position and thinking they were up against a good team and had to prevent us playing. I can't remember ever seeing a goalkeeper so involved in outfield play before, just to keep possession away from us. I think their manager soon realised that they could actually win so he told the players to change tactics and in the 2nd half they started attacking at speed and immediately caused us problems. In recent years I have thought that our "strong defense" seems to work only if we play with 2 defensive midfielders at a cost to our attack.
The new players we have brought in may turn out to be skillful attacking midfielders and forwards once they are used to playing together but I am surprised that we failed to bring in defensive cover. Have we repeated the mistake (at a lower cost) when Monk came in and just bought whoever was available without an overall plan? We don't seem to be building the hard to beat team that I thought was Warnock's starting point so I wonder how much he was involved in the arrivals.
I am starting to think that my Saturday travel highlight will again be the evening meal followed by a large glass of wine rather than the match!
We don’t agree that often 🙂 but I think that you have a real point here about inflexibility although it does help when you have Kante to bring on as a second half substitute.
We now have impact players on the bench and they have to be given a chance to have an impact. All of our substitutions happen too late and this may be his natural conservatism in consideration of possible injuries. It’s a shame that the 5 substitutes rule didn’t stay because it would suit us.
Anyway, for me one of the biggest pluses from last week was the impact of Jones and Payero. They both looked really up for it and the difference was noticeable. I see them making a dynamite combination on the left hand side. It would be a real disappointment if they don’t get the chance to start against Reading. With the early kickoff on Sky, I can watch it on Beinsport here in Oz with a 9.30 pm kickoff. That’s a real luxury.
I’m also a big fan of Crooks but am now undecided as to where he is best used. However, having these positive problems is a better situation to be in.
Let’s hope that an empty week with no matches gives the chance to establish some patterns. This squad has quality but we haven’t really seen it yet as a combination. That is the challenge. Buying good players is a good start - and I think that we are doing that - but now we are asking the management team to actually turn them into a strong team.
Interesting article on Teesside Live about "Xg" conceded for us. I don't think the article says what it thinks it says. In short it notes that we have one of the lowest xgs against which means that, according to the computer, we should be conceding very few goals. In theory this means that we are defensively strong because we are preventing teams from getting scoring opportunities against us.
We have conceded many more goals in real life than the computer thinks. So clearly we are defensively weaker in real life than predicted.
Now it could be that the xg metric is not actually very good. That's probably part of it. What xg measures is how easy it is to score from a certain position. For example, if you have a penalty then your xg from that is something like 0.8 goals (because you will fail to score some penalties.) What our xg against is saying is that opponents find it easier to score against us in real life than in a computer. Like any equation, you balance it out and then what it says is that we don't defend against chances as well as we should.
What this all means is that if your real goals conceded is significantly higher than your expected goals conceded then your defensive ability is significantly weaker than the "normal" which is used to model xg.
When Teesside Live says that this is puzzling what they are missing is the easy interpretation. If your team concedes more goal than their xg then your team is defensively weaker than the normal team.
Which is all a long way round of saying "we're poor defensively" and we have been all through 2021. That makes our transfers this season even more puzzling.
Spence, Morsy and Coulson may or may not end up being good enough for a championship team chasing the playoffs but you would expect us to upgrade them rather than swapping them for a bunch of attacking midfielders and wingers. Maybe eventually this will all work out but it doesn't take a computer to see that we have hardly kept any clean sheets in 9 months so solving our defensive failings ought to be a priority.
Interesting as it is to ponder over stats, I think we shouldn't get too concerned with that statistical anomaly - OK the modelling of xG (expected goals) differs depending on which company is doing the model, where they essentially compare the variables of a shot on goal with various parameters such as:
Location of shooter: How far was it from the goal and at what angle on the pitch?
Body part: Was it a header or off the shooter's foot?
Type of pass: Was it from a through ball, cross, set piece, etc?
Type of attack: Was it from an established possession? Was it off a rebound? Did the defense have time to get in position? Did it follow a dribble?
Every shot is then compared to thousands of shots on a database with similar characteristics to calculate the probability that this shot will result in a goal.
The article says that Boro's actual conceded goals per game is 1.25 (10 over 8 games), whereas the expected goals conceded (xG) is only 1.09. In reality, that only means Boro have conceded 10 instead of the expected 9 goals - so we've basically conceded a goal we shouldn't have - maybe it was Hall's own-goal.
Interestingly, I noted that these models don't take into account the quality of the player themselves when calculating the probabilities, which I suspect has far more bearing on whether a goal is scored or conceded at Championship level.
I think it's a case of maybe giving coaches information that may not be as useful as they think to add to all the other metrics such as passing accuracy and km ran etc. Maybe the obvious is staring them in face when judging their team but unless it can be measured does it count?
I agree. Small numbers and potentially meaningless given that quality of player doesn't seem to factor into it.
For context, I looked at footystats for last season.
XG against for last season was 1.13 and we actually conceded 1.15 goals per match so our record on the pitch was bang in line with our performance in the computer. But, looking at matches from January, we conceded 36 goals in the last 25 games for an average of 1.44 goals conceded per game. This is a *huge* drop off. I have no way of calculating the XG against for just the second half of the season but it looks remarkably like we were conceding more goals than we ought to have been.
Again this is simply a spreadsheet way of saying something we can all see: we haven't functioned well as a defensive unit since the turn of the year. Obviously the question is why.
Some of it may be the constant churn of buying attacking players and trying to find a working formation has destabilised the defence. In theory that would be solved by settling on the best attacking line up and formation.
The other may be that the man-marking system Warnock employs no longer works in the championship. The average championship player is so much faster, fitter and more technically capable than even 5 years ago that they are no much more able to play around man marking. Now that the other teams have had a year to see how to beat us, most teams can. If this is the case, it's not just about getting the players to focus better or whether Warnock rants at an assistant, it's a tactical set up that sends us out at a disadvantage.
Personally, I think that time has overtaken Warnock. What he was best at—creating great team spirit and sending scrappy underdogs out to bully other teams into submission with strength and pace—is no longer enough for promotion. Whether or not he can adapt and find a pattern that suits out players is an open question. He's smarter and more of a student of football than people give him credit for but this feels like it's going to be a season too far for him.
I imagine that the Blackburn goal against us (I think it was) where they won the ball high up and the lad cracked it in from distance, as well as the Grant Hall own goal, were quite low percentage chances that ended up in the back of our net. Against that, Blackpool had a couple of chances that they should have scored from earlier in the game.
I imagine a decent proportion of the XG anomaly in the second half of last season was down to how badly Marcus Bettinelli performed, with the ball finding it's way past him in the way it statistically rarely should.
I take the Gazette's point and it's a good thing that we're conceding relatively fewer big chances but it counts for nothing if those low percentage chances keep finding their way in. Some of those lower percentage chances will be down to a very good strike such as the Blackburn one but I suspect a number of others are down to switching off.
Having witnessed the game at the weekend, plus Warnock's breakfast comments, I'm wondering if there's a fitness problem at the club. Certainly we've a number of new players who haven't played a great deal of regular football in recent seasons and our record in the second half of games so far is scored 2, conceded 6 (in the first half it's scored 4, conceded 1).
Maybe Warnock's pre-season recipe of cosy friendlies and bonding-session barbecues hasn't got us up to speed.
Ref to Dani Ayala. Nice to to see him score for Blackburn at the weekend. A favourite player of mine when he played for Middlesbrough. His wife reportedly said she would tell the real reason for him leaving the club. She hasn't yet as far as I know. Perhaps our own OFB has info ?
Any stat that showed we on average essentially needed to score 2 goals (if the opposition score 1.44) to even get a point since January probably explains why we ended up in mid table - especially if you consider scoring goals was not the team's strong point or indeed has ever been associated with a Neil Warnock team.
The problem this season is it doesn't look like defensively Boro are going to be a mean one and it seems the plethora of attacking options may indeed need to score at least 2 goals per game to win games. At least it could be good to watch but if that's the strategy we would be better off with Mogga back in charge as he at least believed in that kind of strategy.
It seems unlikely that a team man-marking the opposition is one that will ever be fully attack focused - plus as you say, that tactic appears to leave us more vulnerable to being over-run defensively if the opposition sets traps to exploit that somewhat one-dimensional approach.
Can Neil Warnock see the risks and adapt? Perhaps it's too much to ask for a 72-year old looking to sign off with one last hurrah to find a new methodology. Ok, confidence and team spirit are those unmeasurables that he used in the past to get his teams over the line but maybe the game has moved on to favouring coaches and players who read the game and alter tactics during the game to overcome opponents. You can't surprise the opposition by being predictable - though often it looks like it's our own players that are being surprised by Warnock's tactics!
He has no words - speechless at my comment!
You took the words right out of my mouth
My most interesting stat is that after a wee dram of highland park 10’years old single malt it certainly helps me sleep and forget about the Boro
Night Diasborians 😀