Monday, 9 April 2012

It's Easy To See Where The Problem Lies

The look on my face as a certain Matty all but Fry-ed (sic) any hopes we had of a late promotion charge was less like one of disappointment and more like one of resignation. A shrug of the shoulders, as if to say, "What's new? This is Boro we're talking about here." It was only in the immediate aftermath of the final whistle that the realities of the scoreline sank in, summing up this game - and indeed, the two matches prior to it.

Not for the first time in the Riverside era, a thin squad and loss of key men at the most inappropriate times has cost us dearly. For George Boateng in 2004/05 and 2005/06, read Nicky Bailey, Rhys Williams and Matthew Bates this season.

Not for the first time in the Riverside era, we have been mugged and made to pay for either not taking chances or sloppy defensive mistakes. And instead of taking collective responsibility, as we should be doing, we look at the biggest teams and think - they seem to be getting away with it, so why must we suffer?

Not for the first time in the Riverside era, we have been forced to sell or let go key players who might have been able to make a significant difference. Emerson, Mark Viduka, Lee Cattermole, Leroy Lita, Andrew Taylor. The list is endless.

Not for the first time in the Riverside era, on days when we have been expected to perform, we have frozen. The Cardiff debacle of two days ago was almost an exact replica of that horror of an FA Cup quarter-final that we'd rather not think about.

Not for the first time in the Riverside era, we signed a striker who was expensive (by our standards) and yet failed to deliver the goals we were looking for despite a "proven record". In terms of work rate, he can't be faulted, but in terms of goals, Lukas Jutkiewicz is looking like a cut-price Afonso Alves. And it's goals that count.

Yes, goals.

We have five capable forwards at the club - Jutkiewicz, Marvin Emnes, Scott McDonald, Curtis Main and Bart Ogbeche - yet they have scored a mere twenty-eight goals between them.

Truthfully, most, apart from the unproven Main (who reminds me more of Danny Graham), remind me of Typical Boro strikers - the kind that are not reliably consistent at the top level of any league they're playing in. They're the sort that either fade by Christmas, or around then (Yakubu, Beck in 1997/98), pick and choose their games (Tuncay, Viduka), are moody and potentially disruptive influences (Ravanelli, Boksic, Viduka, Yakubu, Mido), are unlucky with injuries (Christie, Viduka), are enigmatic (Ricard, Job, Maccarone, Nemeth), or are simply not up to it (Beck for the most part, Ricketts, Alves, Dong Gook Lee, Aliadiere, etc, etc.).

Whereas our "rivals" in the top five (and I use that term loosely, as we are slipping further and further away from the play-off places by the day) can command goal differences of +15 minimum (Southampton's is +36!!), ours is 0. That seems to say it all.

But, of course, it's not just about scoring goals - it's about scoring them at the right time. When it matters most. We can talk about that record-breaking 8-1 trouncing of Manchester City at the Riverside 'til infinitum, but the bottom line is this - it was City who got into Europe. It was City who got a massive cash injection. And it is City who are now challenging for the Premier League title. Boro? We merely made a disappointing season look a lot better than it actually was. Before long, three proven midfielders, our player of the season and the Riverside's best goalkeeper had all been allowed to leave - and we suffered accordingly for it.

How ironic it is that I am lamenting our inability to find an end product, when a mere three and a half months ago I was warning Bates, Williams and Emnes about deserting the Moggalution for teams with no end product. A Moggalution that, as I worryingly noted in a recent blog post, seems to have been derailed completely now. At least the Ipswich game gave us hope... which, as we later found, turned out to be false. 4 points from the last 24 has left the season in very real danger of petering out altogether.

It would, of course, be ridiculous to suggest that Mogga should go as a result of this. But what happened to the spark, the inventiveness and drive he gave us in his first season and slightly beyond? It appears long gone.  The team appear to be drained of ideas, self-belief and a spine - the very things that the Moggalution was built on.

As Boro legend Craig Hignett rightly put it on Twitter, the team has "forgotten how to win".

Mathematically, we can still make the play-offs.

Theoretically, would you want to bet on it?


Jim said...

Realistically would you want to? We are simply not good enough to compete in the premier league. If by any quirk of fate we were to be promoted, we would be a laughing stock. Our players are not skilful enough. They lack commitment, passion, strength and aggression. Our tactics and strategy are at least questionable.
What is to be done? I wish I had an answer. As my brother commented three seasons ago, "Our club is dying."

Anonymous said...

It's funny you say this, Jim, because I had the exact same feeling about Wolves when I watched them take on Arsenal at Molineux last night. They just do not have enough gifted footballers to compete at Premier League level, as much as we'd like them to. It appears that the same is true of Boro.

But we may be proven wrong yet. Who knows?