Cyrus Christie - The modern full back who has changed Boro’s defensive nature
Cyrus Christie was one of the least thought about transfers this summer, due to the influx of attacking quality brought in by Garry Monk.
From the outside, this looked a strange buy, as the Republic of Ireland international had become somewhat of a fringe player at Derby last season. After suffering an injury, he was forced down the pecking order and after a rotational role at the back end of last season, Derby fans weren’t bothered to see him go, and seemed strangely happy to get a few million for the right back. This was most probably the reason behind a lot of Boro supporters believing this was “A strange one”.
Yet, We haven’t been blessed with fantastic right back’s over the years, this position becoming the very position we struggled to occupate. Barragan, who to be fair to the Spaniard was average defensively last season, he just couldn’t take a throw in, pretty laughable looking back really. Before him, Emilio Nsue a fan favourite. For me, he will always be remembered for his whole squad Instagram posts in numerous airports in Spain rather than his football, although his attempted rainbow flick in the 90th minute when trying to hold on to a lead does come to mind. The closest we have come to a solid full back, was Tomas Kalas, and was a key member of the squad when we were promoted. However, we would have only been able to get a loan, whereas we need a player, like George, who is a main stay in the side for years to come.
But why is Christie good enough to become Boro’s best right back in a long time when he can’t make the Derby starting 11?
Our style of play. At Derby, he was used as a traditional full back, whose priority is to defend, which isn’t one of Cyrus’s strengths even though he is a defender. He was relied heavily on when going forward, whilst also having to track back and sit back into the defensive shape, whereas at Boro Monk has set up a team to get the best out of every player on the pitch, which is why I believe Christie will carry on his tremendous start to the season.
How does Cyrus Christie fit into Boro’s shape?
First of all, Boro have set up in all 4 league games so far with a 4-3-3 system, or a 4-1-2-1-2 for all you Fifa fans. Christie deployed in what on paper looks like a traditional back four. When under pressure, with the opposition on the ball for a lengthy amount of time, this is exactly what it is. Christie operates defensively, the same as he had done at Derby. However, this changes when the opposition counters. Adam Clayton sit’s in to act as a third centre back, which gives the full backs freedom to push forward, whilst having a lesser defensive responsibility, as we will still have three back at all times.
When going forward in possession of the ball, Christie (and Friend) push higher up, and changes Boro’s attacking shape to a 3-4-3, as Clayton drops into the centre of defence, whilst the full backs act as wingers, which is why Monk has decided against playing traditional wingers so far. Christie, as proven so far has the pace and skill to cause problems when forward, and is also able to provide from the right. In previous years, George Friend has always looked the most attacking full back, and always willing to push forward at any given chance, however the addition of Christie has shown that Friend, in my own opinion isn’t as good going forward as we thought, and maybe looked brilliant because of the lack of quality on the right hand side.
Christie is one of Boro’s summer signings who have allowed Garry Monk to transform what was a defensive unit, into a much more attacking outlet. This is still taking time, unsurprisingly. It took a long time for Aitor to transform into a defensively resolute side, so it’s going to take time to return to a fluid attacking style. Christie may not be the best defender at the club, but his pace and athleticism will help him out in that department, whilst also being a driving force when going forward. I would now turn to George Friend on the left hand side to step up his game, and try to get involved when going forward much more.