Cannon Fodder

As a Boro fan it was natural to be filled with a sense of foreboding when Crystal Palace appointed Sam Allardyce as manager in December, when only 1 point above the relegation zone.

Cannon Fodder

Having lost 8 of their previous 10 games under Pardew, Palace were in free fall and looked likely for the drop, so it was a shrewd piece of business to appoint a manager with a 100% international record.

More important than his rather brief sojourn as England manager, is Allardyce’s experience of managing teams in a relegation battle, and digging them out of a hole, if your team is in trouble then Sam is your man.

Palace only picked up 1 point in Sam’s first 5 games in charge, but have recorded a rather startling 18 points from their last 9 games, and they are 4th in points scored in the league from their last 6 games.

In contrast, their last opponents Arsenal are a club in crisis, picking up only 13 points in their last 10 games, a lowly 12th in points scored from their last 6 and having lost their last 4 Premier League away fixtures.

After the game, Allardyce said Palace’s players “were aware of how to beat Arsenal”, and tried to “keep them playing sideways, then use the space behind the full-backs”.

This result leaves Arsenal 7 points off the top 4 place Arsenal have managed 20 straight seasons in a row, and has heaped further pressure on Wenger’s position as manager for a club he has served so well for so long.

So can Steve Agnew replicate big Sam by unlocking Arsenal and revive Boro fans’ survival hopes? Downing suggested “more twists and turns” to come after the Burnley game, but we are fast running out of time.

Boro missed a fantastic opportunity to pick up points against Swansea, Hull and Burnley in their last 3 outings, but to be fair to Steve Agnew he has only had 4 games in full charge at the club to try to change our fortunes.

Against Burnley, Agnew opted to play 3 centre backs, and it’s good to see him trying different options after a season of rigidity where changes in games were seemingly made far too late to make a difference.

When Allardyce won promotion with Notts County from Division Three in the 90s, he did so with a 3 man defence. As a manager you have to identify the best way of utilising the players you are given and keep an open mind.

A lack of open mindedness and flexibility may well have been Karanka’s downfall, plus a killer instinct to throw caution to the wind when a game is there for the taking. Leicester at home this season springs to mind.

So Agnew looks to be more flexible, but simple as it sounds, scoring goals is what he needs to find a way to change if Boro are to have any chance of survival, 5 goals in our last 12 league fixtures is an extremely poor return.

He needs to quickly find out how to best deploy the team to create more chances for our strikers, as our front line will need much more ammunition if Arsenal are going to be cannon fodder on Monday night.

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