Friday, 8 November 2013

If It Ain't Broke...

Last week, at Ewood Park, we learned that Mark Venus wasn't Boro's saviour after all. But then, we never really expected him to be.

What is of concern is that once again, we have no idea where this team is going.

No longer spurred on by the sad failure of a local hero and more than 20,000 loyal supporters, Boro failed to pressurise Blackburn Doncaster-style and went home empty handed.

That was disappointing.

But what was worse was seeing the superb all out attacking formula that worked to perfection against Doncaster replaced by a "safety first" defensive approach, the sort that is more about gaining a point rather than dropping two.

And so, the question remains. Veno is a good coach and organiser who has fostered team spirit and restored leadership, to an extent. But is he the right man for Boro? His defensive line-up, in addition to his midweek claim that the Boro squad was not capable of a promotion challenge, both ruffled feathers and suggests that he lacks vision. That he is capable of stabilising the club, but no more; something that will cut no dice with too many of the Boro faithful.

With Blackburn so close to Boro in the table last week, was there really a need to restore Jozsef Varga to the Boro starting XI so soon, regardless of his effectiveness as a holding midfielder? Moving Grant Leadbitter to the right nullified his anchorman credentials and forced Richie Smallwood to readjust to an unfamiliar midfield partner.

Dropping Muzzy Carayol left us overreliant on the in-form Albert Adomah; if he didn't have an off day, which Marvin Emnes certainly did, it is quite possible that Blackburn boss Gary Bowyer studied the Doncaster win and worked hard to nullify the Adomah threat, thus exposing a Typical Boro weakness: once the team finds a reliable source of attacks (see: Juninho, Paul Merson, Stewart Downing, Adam Johnson and so on), the opposition eventually finds us out by cutting off his supply.

Furthermore, Veno's decision to play two attacking presences down the left flank made Boro more vulnerable. And while Friend possesses a certain flair, he's not the Championship Franck Queudrue that he seemingly aspires to be. Veno had the right idea by playing Ben Gibson on the left as defensive cover for Adomah (Mick McCarthy used a similarly effective tactic with Ian Harte and Kevin Kilbane while in charge of Ireland); watching him go back on his own logic was baffling.

Fans will argue that we did not concede until after Varga was substituted for Carayol, but it is probable that had we been set up to play a more penetrative attacking or at least counter-attacking game earlier, then the concession might not have mattered. Yes, it would have been more fraught with risk, in a manner worthy of Tony Mowbray's inconsistent 2012-13 brigade; but when on top of their game Mogga's Men were genuinely classy. Recall last year's game at the same venue where two superb Lukas Jutkiewicz strikes rendered a late Blackburn goal irrelevant. Sometimes, it's tempting to argue that consistency is overrated.

To declare that the squad is "not good enough" for promotion is undeniably going too far. Reading, after all, won just four of their first fifteen games in 2011-12 and finished as champions.

Cynics might also argue that Veno is minimising a potential backlash against him should anything else go wrong.

But a closer look reveals a ring of truth in his words - perhaps it is not the strength of the squad that's problematic, but the structure. It's full of promise and potential, to be sure, but who plays, where and at who's expense? For example, Jacob Butterfield can offer a lot in midfield, but at the expense of a revitalized Smallwood; and that's just one of numerous unanswered questions.

Let's hope that at least some of them are answered when we've finished playing Watford.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would like to know what you mean by 'if it ain't broke'. We are shattered to pieces!