However it was the comments of Aitor Karanka post-match which appear to have caused the biggest stir. It’s no secret that the Boro faithful have become disgruntled at times with Karanka’s unwillingness to waiver from his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation with many wanting to see 2 strikers playing up front- particularly with the quality at his disposal and our league positioning near the top of the pile.
So was Karanka’s post- match comments about the fans being pleased with the defeat a misrepresentation or a subtle dig at his critics?
Although many have argued against the infamous 4-2-3-1 formation- there is no denying it’s long term success since Aitor Karanka took over with the club languishing just above the relegation zone, but with stability and organisation being the top priority- the system has certainly given the team a strong foundation to build and grow into one of the league’s leading performers. And with our defence consistently being the best in the English football pyramid- it is undoubtedly a huge risk to upset the balance of what has largely been a winning recipe.
The concerns of the fans are however completely justified with our lone striker appearing to be somewhat isolated in recent games. And this sparks the debate over who the best combination of attacking players within the team. With Jordan Rhodes being the natural choice to lead the line due to his undoubted pedigree- who should be the supporting cast around him?
David Nugent has been an effective member of the attacking unit this season with his tireless performances making a big contribution to the team- however without having that lethal presence up front it appears to be the case that he could have the biggest impact playing in and around Rhodes up front- providing energy and work rate around our new number 9. With this energy comes the need for creativity and this seemingly creates the competition between the likes of Downing, Adomah and Gaston Ramirez for a starting place, and with Stuani also being a player who can undoubtedly make a contribution if utilised in the correct position.
Karanka’s frustration is completely understandable however as the man in charge and the person who has completely turned the clubs fortunes around it is important that he sticks to an approach which has brought this success to date- albeit while ensuring that the team is offering enough in terms of pace, quality and creativity to get the club over the line.
In my opinion it would be foolish to play around too much with the formation at this stage of the season, although a flexibility in how to utilise our attacking targets could make all the difference in unlocking these increasingly tight defences as we approach the business end of the season.