Boro v Swansea
After a rare full week of rest, Boro take on Swansea City this Saturday at The Riverside in a 3pm kick-off.
Pass and move may traditionally be the Liverpool groove but it was Boro’s men in red who found their rhythm to beat Huddersfield last time out. Boro had over 60% of possession in the first half (seriously!) at the John Smiths Stadium as they beat the host’s press and dominated proceedings with two well worked and superbly taken goals from Duncan Watmore. Not for the first time (or the second, or the third…) the second half was a less convincing affair but Chris Wilder’s men held firm to give him his first win as Boro boss.
It was the first win in six games for stop-start Boro but performances under Wilder have been promising, particularly the teamwork when in possession, and Saturday’s result had been coming. Now sitting in the Championship no-man’s land of twelfth, Boro can perhaps start to look up at what is, yet again, a very tight league table with the four sides immediately above them all within two points.
Swansea are one of those four, one point and three places ahead of Boro. Russell Martin’s men were beaten by Reading in a 2-3 thriller at the weekend to end an eight-game unbeaten home run in all competitions but away from home their form has been more patchy: an identical record to Boro’s albeit conceding a couple more goals.
Scoring goals doesn’t appear to be too much of a problem for Swansea and in Joël Piroe, they have the league’s fourth highest scorer with ten goals. Boro reject Jamie Paterson isn’t too far behind either with eight, and the pair also top their assist charts, making them the Swans to watch.
They’ve struggled defensively, however, with their 26 goals conceded the second worst among the league’s top half. That said, the top three aside, there isn’t a great deal between the rest of the promotion hopefuls in terms of goals for and against, as you might expect in such a competitive division. In fact, the three conceded against Reading possibly skews the picture a little.
What does all this tell us? Perhaps that Swansea are just another bland Championship side, like ourselves and several others, with little to make them stand out from the pack. That said, Swansea are better at home than away this season and there’s a positive vibe around the Boro right now that could make us slight favourites for this one.
Indeed, for XG fans, Swansea are expected to concede 1.8 goals away from home against 1.2 at home for Boro. Boro 2-1 Swansea, then?
If past records are anything to go by, Boro would certainly not be favourites. According to footystats.org (though I’d take Ken’s word over anything on the internet), in our 13 previous meetings, Boro have won only 3 times, with 7 defeats and 3 draws.
With that full week of rest and one or two players back in training, Chris Wilder may have his first selection headaches as Boro boss. Dael Fry may be in contention at the back and Martin Payero was said to be “progressing well” before the Huddersfield trip and is now reported to be back in training. On paper, those two would seem to be first team shoe-ins but perhaps Wilder now has the luxury of easing them back in. It will be interesting to see who emerges as Wilder’s first choice in those areas but elsewhere, the side looks locked in until January at least.
Can consistency of tactics and consistency of selection provide consistency of performance and consistency in results? You get the feeling we’re going to find out with Chris Wilder in charge.
One game at a time though, and let’s hope Boro can pass Swansea off the park and move ahead of them in the table.
"...Can consistency of tactics and consistency of selection provide consistency of performance and consistency in results?..."
Not to mention consistency of quality in thread-opening posts Andy, thank you for starting us all off again with another good piece.
One game at a time is exactly right just now, but realistically looking for small demonstrations of progress on the training field that are brought to the competitive fixture.
Four weeks ago I would have been extremely nervous about the game on Saturday. Now I am a little excited at the prospect and with a newly realistic hope that we will perform well and it would not be a surprise for us to come away with 3 points. As you say, perhaps CW has the luxury now of easing Payero and Fry back into the team. This should mean the bench will be stronger, which actually gives us an opportunity to stamp ourselves more onto a game in the second half than we have been managing.
I must admit that I didn't expect Wilder to be able to change our pattern of play so dramatically and so quickly. It means that even if we lose I can see progress and, frankly, enjoy watching us so much more. (There were little flurries of good play under Warnock.) Swansea will be a good test; inconsistent but talented.
For about 2 years, Tav was pretty much the only player who gave us any sort of drive. Now suddenly it feels like we no longer depend on him. The players also look liberated. Crooks is one of those players who just loves little give and goes. Howson enjoys a chance to run a game. Jones may not have started as a wing back but certainly has potential. Watmore and Sporar clearly enjoy being able to run into spaces. The whole team look like they are playing the type of football they want to play.
It's early days and it feels like a draw is the most likely result but for the first time since Warnock's winning streak I'm looking up rather than down and for the first time since Woodgate's golden month I'm enjoying the football we play. Under Wilder there's a feeling that, for a while at least, things can only get better.
Thanks Andy for another well written, researched and consistently themed starter.
I am looking forward to Saturday’s game and given Swansea’s propensity for scoring I would take a 1-1 score now; that is as long as we play as we did in the first half at Huddersfield and that we see further progress.
Given the length of time both Fry and Payero have been absent then gradual introduction has to be the way forward and I would expect them to be on the bench but given a run out for 20/30 mins depending on the state of the game and assuming no one else is injured.
CoB let’s have back to back wins to put even bigger smiles on our faces and more hope in our hearts. 😎
You touched on some players enjoying the way they've been asked to play by Wilder. I think it's a really important point.
There's a general feeling in football that playing entertaining football comes at the expense of results but I've never really bought into that. Surely if the players are continually being asked to man mark, keep their shape and surrender possession meaning they're constantly running after their opponents, it must be a drain for the players and about as much fun to play as it is to watch.
We all know in life outside of football that a happy team produces better results. Yes, wins sustain you and keep confidence high but playing good football must be more engaging for the squad and can lead to better long term results.
So forget the days off and the pally man management, lets have intense training to get the players up to speed playing some proper football. I want them to enjoy their Saturdays and their Tuesday evenings on the field, not the sessions (or lack of) in between.
A great opener Andy very well researched and well written. You’ve set the bar high for me to follow you now !
interesting stats that you have quoted and makes for good reading.
I must confess that I’m really enjoying the football under Wilder and its what we have all been craving for these past few years.
I don’t expect any changes from the team that started on Saturday as there are no injury issues. Peltier is out for a month apparently and if we are in a winning position in the second half then Fry might get a run out and give Sol Bamba’s legs a rest !
Payero may also get a substitute role instead of Tav late on and it’s funny that Tavernier is looking like the weakest link in the midfield at present. He does do a lot of running and a lot of his chasing back to help the defence out have proven to be very timely. I do wonder if Tav has had his head turned by the reports that Leeds are interested in signing him? He supported the club as a boy and comes from that area so we’ll what happens in January.
I know it’s early days but the impact that Wilder and his staff have had on the players and performances in such a short time is nothing short of astonishing! It was also nice to see Wilder give Leo a big hug at the end of the game the other day to let him know he’s considered one of his own staff. Good man management that!
My forecast for the game on Saturday ?
A foam hands 3 0 !!!
Thanks all for the very kind comments.
OFB - your previews are always informative and very prompt too. We’ve got this working nicely between us after your bit of pre-season organisation.
It’s not a closed shop though - if anyone wants to write one, just stick your hand up!
I am worried that you’ve gone for 3-0 though, Bob!
Typical Boro would probably burst our bubble and lose this. I’ll take any win with some more good football please.
Top work Andy, it's seems almost surreal having a feeling that Saturday could be not only enjoyable but actually end in victory.
Very untypical Boro!
It seems to me that CW has got a grip of the players. And not before time. We have had a string of shameful attempts at running a club, without the slightest sign of skill at buying, selling, coaching, tactics, or any other of the myriad talents required. When he sat down before the press and quietly demolished the players, for their stupid attempt to grand stand their way through the second half and never mind the result. I was smiling happily because I knew then that we had finally got ourselves a manager
I’m just checking in to find out what’s going on. Has everyone been issued with foam hands to protect us from the new variant?
I’ve never seen such positivity on here and it’s definitely making me smile in a hopeful way. Long may it (and our upturn in fortunes) continue.
Another great Headliner from Andy, thank you. Both you and OFB are a joy to read.
I cannot help but still feel a little cautious at the improvement Mr Wilder and Staff have made in the short time they have been here.
However one win, irrespective to its quality, does not guarantee an upward climb. Consistency as Andy touched on several times is key. There will downs as well as ups. If the curve is always going up, then we are progressing.
3 0 I thought that might some Diasborians stop and think “is he serious?” Or “has he been at the Malbec early in the day?”
So the answer is Yes and No” “Yes I think that we could win 3 0” and “No I haven’t been at the vino tinto!”
I agree with you it’s exciting times !
Oh and I agree with Andy if anyone fancies having a go at doing the leader post just let one of us know so we don’t duplicate the preview. All are welcome because this site is for everyone!
Smashing opener, Andy. Informative and perceptive. Thanks for the time and trouble you've taken. We are lucky on here to have so many perceptive commentators.
Top work Andy, it's seems almost surreal having a feeling that Saturday could be not only enjoyable but actually end in victory.
Very untypical Boro!
Has someone seen Anthony Vickers around here lately? UBT!
He posted on Twitter how Boro kept pressing and how good their energy levels were.
He’s also promoting his new book.
MATCH OFFICIALS SATURDAY
Andy Davies will be the referee when Swansea City travel to take on Middlesbrough on Saturday (3pm).
The Hampshire official will be taking charge of Swansea for the second time this season, having had the whistle for their victory at Coventry last month.
Davies, who has officiated in the EFL since 2012, will be assisted by Richard Wild and Andrew Dallison, while Anthony Backhouse will be the fourth official.
Team of the Month
Left midfield: Neeskens Kebano (Fulham) - 7.92 rating
With a rating of 7.92, Fulham winger Kebano is the WhoScored.com Championship player of the month. Kebano had a direct hand in five goals in November, scoring three times, while only Bournemouth's Jaidon Anthony and Peterborough's Siriki Dembele (both six) created more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities than the 29-year-old (four) to help nail down the left wing spot in the side.
Crooks, Jones and Watmore made Whoscored team of the week for last weekend with Watmore having highest rating for all players at 9.0. In their team for October McNair Crooks and Bamba were in the team. Saturdays ref had our away games at Hull and Derby this season and he sent Sam Morsy off last season against Luton. He is an ex professional player.
It’s now confirmed that Graeme Lee (Boro’s U23 coach and a former Pools player) has been appointed manager of Hartlepool United. Also that Sol Bamba is being sponsored by Redcar Athletic FC although I’m not sure what that exactly entails.
Thanks for the starter Andy. I hope Wilder gets his entertaining attacking style of football to result in a home win this time. I have given up trying to watch away matches on "unofficial" sites as my security kept warning that it had blocked an attempted hack so I have just seen a couple of minutes of the Huddersfield match though the goals were well worth seeing and the assists from Jones and Crooks. We need to have that so far elusive run of wins to move within reach of the playoffs and stop my normal look at the teams below us. Hopefully we will again play a fast attacking game that will get through Swansea's defence and we need to get a 2 goal lead to avoid a repeat of the Millwall and Preston results though OFB's 3 - 0 would reduce my worries.
Good to read about players coming back from injuries so that we have a stronger squad. It will be interesting to find out who we are prepared to let leave and can bring in next month. Based on current form/injuries I don't know who we could (and want to) sell for substantial fees. Unless that happens we will have to look for loans to stay within Fair Play rules. When Morsy left I was surprised that Warnock said Morsy would be paid more by Ipswich than we could give so we unless we get a fair amount of transfer money in we don't seem to have much leeway.
Playing with numbers.
I watched Newcastle on Hesgoal.com last night and thought they were lucky to draw against a lively Norwich City and so that’s 14 games without a win.
Clearly they’ve no chance of staying in the Premiership- or have they?
Well, in their remaining 24 games, to achieve 40 points to have a chance of staying up, they would need eg 8 wins, 9 draws and and 7 losses. That would be an incredible performance.
Thinking of Boro , to achieve a top 6 or above with say 75 points , would require another 49 points in the remaining 26 games.
No chance ? , as it would require say 13 wins, 10 draws and just 3 defeats .
That sounds a bit less difficult than Newcastle but, in my opinion, just about impossible.
On a different subject, on I alone in not rating Spence?
I acknowledge that he’s got pace and an ability to run past an opponent but how many goal chances does he create? and how reliable is how when having to defend?
I would rather have a solid type defender who can support an attacking player in front on him. Just a view.
Philip of Huddersfield
ps The local paper here in Huddersfield really slated Huddersfield Town’s performance against Boro - ratings 3 or 4 and the comment that it was their worst performance since the second game of the season losing 5-1 against Fulham.
Those who are wanting Lewis Wing recalled in January should read this:
As I have stated, more than once before, Lewis Wing is a division 1 player at best but maybe not even that, leave him there.
Come on BORO.
@exmil just read that exmil...he is getting pelters from the fans and has been very poor in games lately. Do I want him back. No!
ive watched Lewis Wing for a few years from Northern League to Championship.
He is capable of some delightful passing and terrific goals but seems to have lost his way these past two years.
Personally I would like him to come back in January and see if Wilder can rejuvenate him because I think there is a good player in there
I wasn’t expecting Lewis Wing to come back in January but if it’s not working for him at Sheff Wed then he may as well. Perhaps Wilder’s way of playing will suit him - he certainly got some League One standard players playing very nicely at Sheff Utd, if Wing is indeed only that standard.
The other point on this is that James Lea Siliki has equally done nothing for us and not even come off the bench for Wilder so far, so perhaps sending him back and recalling Wing could he a good move for all parties.
it will be interesting to see what CW can do with someone w so ho scored lots of goals at a lower level. All prolific scorers have done it at all levels so it will be interesting.
@original-fat-bob. Wing, Spence and Coulson, one man’s meat whilst another man’s poison.
Given the tightness in finances it would be good if CW can get all three performing to the level which they have previously shown and either force their way back into the team or at least be able to put pressure on the present incumbents from the bench. 😎
It would be interesting to know the full basis of the “loans deals” that brought Sporar, Hernandez and especially Siliki to the Boro.
When they first arrived I am sure permanent deals were included within the loan for one or maybe two of them. Of course that may have been On Promotion?.
Sporar is playing well, Hernandez possibly the jury is out here and then there is Siliki. He had not played very much in the two seasons before he came to us, so what did the recruitment staff see to convince them?
Bringing back Wing, Coulson and Spence would require two registration spots. Plus CW will have one or two players under consideration I am sure, especially if we can get within 4/5 points of sixth place.