Monday, October 3, 2022

Why Middlesbrough Are Struggling So Much Under Monk And How They Can Change That

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Josh Barker
Middlesbrough FC correspondent for The 4th Official.

After being relegated from the Premier League last season, Middlesbrough had some serious rebuilding to do. On paper, they looked to have done that. They signed an experienced manager in Garry Monk. They signed a proven goal scorer in Britt Assombalonga, as well as a host of other exciting players like Martin Braithwaite.

So, after the summer window, Middlesbrough’s squad looked like they would and should take the Championship by storm. However, that has not been the case. Middlesbrough are currently 10th in the Championship. They’ve also put in two back to back poor performances at home to Brentford and Norwich. But with such a good squad why are Middlesbrough struggling so much? Here are a few reasons why and how Boro can change that.

The Karanka Effect

The first of the problems is perhaps that their previous manager, Aitor Karanka, made them, at least defensively, look better than they actually are. During Karanka’s time at Boro, he was very much focused on defending. Boro kept the most clean sheets in the Championship for two seasons in a row under him. Then in the Premier League, Boro had one of the best defences outside the top six when Karanka was in charge.

So, because he was so focused on defending he could have made players such as Ben Gibson look better than they actually are. This has meant under Monk, Boro have not been great defensively. They’ve conceded nine in 11, something that would not have been acceptable under Aitor Karanka.

Furthermore, as Monk is not so strict with his defensive side of the game, Boro’s defence has been somewhat exposed and people are realising it was more Karanka that helped them keep so many clean sheets rather than just the quality of their defence.

Lack Of A Natural Playmaker

Another reason why Boro are not doing great this season is that they still do not have a natural playmaker. Granted, Lewis Baker has tried his best but he doesn’t have the ability of a Gaston Ramirez type player to pick out those key passes that Boro would need to score goals.

Boro’s lack of creativity was evident again vs Brentford and Norwich. They managed just one shot on goal vs Norwich and then three against a poor Brentford side. Furthermore, while Boro have a host of good attacking players like Adama Traore, Marvin Johnson, Martin Braithwaite and Britt Assombalonga, if nobody is pulling the strings and creating good chances then these players, especially Britt, are very isolated and will struggle.

While Boro did not create much under Karanka, they did keep clean sheets. So, they didn’t need to go out and score three or four a game. Under Monk, however, Boro seem to have traded out their solid defence and in return are still stuck with a poor attack that doesn’t create enough.

Too Many Cooks (Systems) Spoiling The Broth

The third reason Middlesbrough are struggling so much this season is because Monk is playing too many systems and players. While it is good to have depth and give other players a chance, playing too many different formations and players is meaning Boro are not gelling and in turn are playing poorly.

Just look at all the formations they have played already this season. In 11 league games they have played a 4-2-3-1, 4-1-2-3, 4-1-2-1-2, 3-5-2 and 4-4-2. This is simply too many formations to be playing within such a short space of time. This has certainly shown as Boro are very much a team without an identity under Garry Monk.

However, there are several things Middlesbrough can do to get back on track. The first and probably the most obvious is for Monk to pick a system and stick with it. Middlesbrough have probably used the 4-2-3-1 the most this season. So, if Monk wants to play with that, he needs to use it every game in order for the players to get used to the system and who they will be playing with.

Another thing Boro could do to get back on track is to bring back Grant Leadbitter and Patrick Bamford. Leadbitter especially is certainly someone who should be playing every week. Firstly, because he is Boro’s captain and brings the leadership that Boro needs. Secondly, because the Clayton Leadbitter partnership is one that has served Boro well in the past. And finally because when Leadbitter has played this season, Boro haven’t lost which shows how key he is to the side. Bamford is also someone who started the season well for Boro and created a fair few chances. But he too has been left out in recent weeks. Therefore, it is perhaps time he re-entered the starting eleven as a regular.

The final thing Middlesbrough could do is sign a true CAM. Admittedly they can’t address this issues till January now. But given how much Boro are struggling to create chances, they do need to sign a good number 10 in the winter window.

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