George Friend - Is it time to move on?
In recent days the ability of 29-year-old left-back George Friend has been questioned by many supporters, after a poor start to a season which held much promise for the Boro squad.
Friend joined Boro in 2012 for a fee reported to have been £100,000. A microscopic amount compared to fee’s paid to a similar calibre of player in recent years. He was one of a few players which remained in Aitor Karanka’s plans throughout the Spaniard’s stay at the club, in which Friend was pivotal part in the success of a club based on our defensive foundations. But with changes at the club this summer, should Friend keep his place as a main stay in the starting lineup.
Friend’s performances under Aitor Karanka differed from the defensive nature the Spaniard liked his players to have. He was one of a very few amount of players who looked to get forward when given the opportunity. The 29-year-old was one of Boro’s most consistent attacking outlets, usually crossing with his left foot, after passing the ball through an opponent's legs. It’s so predictable, yet his ability to nutmeg an opposition player is magnificent, even if he does try it once too many times a game. Friend wasn’t tested to the limit defensively in the EFL Championship under Karanka, as he usually had Downing or Adomah in front, who more often than not could have been classed as a wing back due to such a deep starting position.
Last season was a disappointing one all round for the club, but George Friend more so than other players. His seasons was disrupted with small injuries, although when he did return to full fitness he didn’t look up to the standard that was required. Whether that was because he wasn’t match fit or he just couldn’t cope with the level of the opposition, he was a weakness for Boro. Due to the quality of opposition we were up against, Friend was unable to push forward as much and therefore lost what was one of his best attributes in the Championship. Being direct.
(Full back comparison - Defensive contribution)
Fabio Da Silva is the man to compete with George Friend for the left full-back position, with the 26-year-old Brazilian featuring in the last 2 games in all competitions. The Ex-Manchester United defender was brought in last summer, and looked to be a back up choice to George Friend. Although, as the season progressed, Fabio became more involved featuring on both the right and left hand side making him an effective squad player, although he was better than both Barragan and Friend in my own opinion. He showed the fans he is able to defend well, whilst also being able to use his samba attacking instinct which helped produce more of a more fluid attack.
Now, Cyrus Christie has been brought into the George Friend discussion because the Irishman has started in the same way many expected Friend to start. Cyrus Christie boasts confidence, pace and athleticism. He has been an influential player when going forward with Boro, whilst also being part of a compact defence, keeping two clean-sheets in the five games so far. Cyrus has been much more positive than Friend, which added on to last year’s dismal season shows me that Aitor Karanka, made a defence which probably didn’t have the best players, play as a unit. Which is why I think he deserves much more credit, but that’s a different story in itself.
(Full back comparison - Attacking contribution)
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Friend has been made to look very ordinary thus far, without playing any exceptional opposition. I don’t think his time is up at the club, but to progress this season, I believe Fabio should get given a chance to play as a fullback in either the 4-2-3-1 system or a 4-3-3. With Christie and Fabio on either side, it would make the team much more balanced, rather than only attacking down the right hand side, which at the moment we are doing. Fabio starred in the cup game, scoring 1 goal and being heavily involved, and also played well when playing slightly out of position, but then going back in at left back for a third of the game at the weekend.