It was dull, lacklustre and simply not good enough from Aitor Karanka’s side, and with it has come constant debate about how Boro can get a much-needed win.
Boro were the better side in the opening 45 minutes, despite not posing any real threat to the Watford goal, but they never looked like getting anything from the game after Jose Holebas gave the Hornets the lead.
Anyone who has been on any social media platform after the game will have seen fans arguing with each other about what the team should do next time out, with some even questioning the future of the manager.
It’s highly unlikely that Karanka will leave the club anytime soon, and rightly so. Boro were a club that looked destined for League One when he took over in November 2013, and now they’re a Premier League side again.
And yes, he has been backed massively by Steve Gibson, but just think of all the players that he has improved in his time at the Riverside.
Daniel Ayala was a bipolar defender who could do something brilliant one minute, and stupid the next. Ben Gibson was similar. George Friend developed into arguably the best left-back in the Championship under Karanka’s guidance. We all know where Dimi was before he arrived. And even the recently departed Albert Adomah added some consistency and some awareness to his game.
He got the club to the Premier League, and he deserves a fair crack at keeping them there.
The main talking point post-match is the system, something which has been talked about for three years now.
A lot of people are adamant that 4-2-3-1 simply doesn’t work and that we must go to 4-4-2, or 4-3-3, or any other formation they can think of.
In my opinion, the system does work if the side has the right personnel. Some of the world’s most successful team use it so to right off the whole thing seems odd.
Having punished myself and watched the match back, it seems that the players simply aren’t doing enough to win the game, whether that is a lack of quality or confidence is another matter.
The system requires two wingmen to get at the full-backs and whip the ball in for the front man. Stewart Downing has made a career of doing this but the form of George Friend means he has to perform more defensive duties than before. Cristhian Stuani, on the other hand, doesn’t do this and it would be better to play Adama Traore or Emilio Nsue in that position.
Before the season began, all us Boro fans were more than excited for the potentially dangerous partnership of Gaston Ramirez and Alvaro Negredo, but both have failed to make a significant impact since the first day of the season. Having said that, Negredo was a better option than Rhodes for the Watford match as the latter would have struggled massively against the physical Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl.
However, while I do think that Boro should stick with 4-2-3-1, but change the roles and personnel, one thing Aitor Karanka must use more effectively is his substitutions.
He’s a cautious coach and we all know that, but Boro fans would arguably been happier if they’d conceded a second goal going for the remaining 35 minutes than waiting until the 88th minute to bring on another striker.
Aitor Karanka doesn’t look like he’s going to change his formation any time soon, but if Boro are going to start winning some games, then those on the pitch have to do more to make it click.