Aitor Karanka has found his best team
Even the most optimistic Middlesbrough fan would have predicted a battering from Arsenal on Saturday as the Gunners looked to continue their impressive start to the season.
The coupon-busting 0-0 draw at the Emirates provides Middlesbrough with a valuable point and a much needed injection of confidence in the players and fans.
In a difficult couple of months which see Middlesbrough face the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Champions Leicester City, a home game against Bournemouth presents the most realistic opportunity to pick up a much needed three points. Last weekend’s performance against Arsenal shows that Middlesbrough are more than capable of getting results against the bigger teams in the league but it’s the home games against teams in the bottom half of the table where victories are vital to a successful survival campaign.
The hard fought point against Arsenal will have no doubt improved confidence and spirits amongst the squad and judging my the Gibson snapchat takeover this is definitely the case. But what will lessons will Karanka have learned as he prepares his team for this weekend’s home tie against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth who have established themselves in the Premier League since promotion.
The biggest plus point from last weekend was the impact of Adama Traore as he got his long awaited first start for the club. His brief cameos in previous games gave fans just a small glimpse of his potential and what he is capable of. His substitute appearance against Tottenham lifted the crowd as he provided a much needed injection of pace and attacking intent. On Saturday he proved that he isn’t just an impact player who can run fast. For the entire 90 minutes he was a real threat and provided the team with a much needed outlet. Not only did he use his pace and power, but he also showed that he does have a footballing brain to play a through ball to Negredo towards the end of the game who really should have done better.
Karanka’s teams are a built on a solid defensive foundation to stop teams from scoring. The problem so far this season is that the attacking players have not proved any real creativity going forward with Stuani and Downing not really providing much out wide. With Adama, Middlesbrough really do have a player which can turn Karanka’s system into something which is solid yet dynamic and clinical going forward. He performed his defensive duties well, tracked back whenever was required and was a vital part of Boro’s solid defensive unit. The biggest lesson for Karanka, and is has been a long time coming, is that Adama needs to be given a run in the team and should be a definite starter against Bournemouth. I think we’ll need to accept he may not perform every game but with his presence on the pitch the opposition defenders will always have something to worry about.
Regardless of your thoughts on Karanka’s tactics so far this season, it can't be disputed that his entire set-up against Arsenal was perfect. It wasn't the two up front that many sections of fans have been craving but rather a slight variation on his tried and tested 4231.
The CAM was sacrificed for an extra midfielder with De Roon, Clayton and Forshaw providing a solid and formidable trio. With Ramirez and Traore providing the width, Middlesbrough had a team which was solid whilst also providing a threat going forward. Everything looked liked it clicked. The dilemma for AK is whether it stick with this formation or revert to the 4231.
The formation and team used on Saturday will be more than capable of beating Bournemouth and if I were Karanka I'd be inclined to start the same 11 in what is already a crucial game. The only change I would consider would be Rhodes for Negredo. Although the Spanish striker did well to lead the line, his poor form in front of goal may open the opportunity for Rhodes to get a rare start.