Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

A Different Ball Game

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

A Different Ball Game

Article excerpt

Byline: By Eric Paylor

Former England boss Graham Taylor this week offered Boro a ray of hope for their Arsenal return - by insisting it won't be as bad next time.

Taylor, who attended Saturday's Highbury hiding as a pundit for Radio Five Live, is back again on Tuesday for the Carling Cup semi-final first leg.

And, in offering Boro some sympathy for this nightmare opening to the four meetings with the Gunners, Taylor reckons the worst might be behind them.

He said: "I'm going to see the next match for Radio Five Live, and I do expect to see a different game.

"For starters, it will be a completely different Arsenal side then.

"That doesn't mean that it won't be a tough game, but they met an Arsenal side on Saturday which produced an absolutely superb all-round team performance.

"Vieira was majestic in midfield; he ran the show. And we all know about Henry. It was extremely difficult to try to handle Arsenal on that form."

Boro have received some criticism for playing with five men in midfield, though on previous away form they would have expected to be much tighter.

Taylor, who left Aston Villa last summer following a second stint as manager, said: "If you set out to play 4-5-1 then it's important that you provide enough support for the front players. But Middlesbrough couldn't get enough of the ball.

"It's one thing to try to stop Arsenal, but it's another thing being able to do it, because they're such a good side."

He added: "You can tell from the league table that Boro haven't been putting the ball in the net enough, yet that's the most important thing in football.

"You can get as many clean sheets as you like, but it might not win you games.

There's always a chance of a thumping and now this will be a test of character for the Middlesbrough players, to see how they react to this defeat."

As long as Boro's attitude is right, Taylor believes that the place in the Carling Cup Final is still very much up for grabs.

He said: "I saw Arsenal win at West Brom in the quarter-finals with what I would call their reserve side.

That doesn't mean we are talking about a weak side.

"Players like Keown, Kanu, Wiltord and Parlour have all got vast experience.

"So I expect Arsene Wenger to play an experienced side next week, even though it will be different.

"If Middlesbrough go there and win, then they may still feel that they have not got it back following two defeats in the league.

"But what they should consider is that the semi-final of the Carling Cup is very, very important for a club like Middlesbrough.

"Let's be honest, for the majority of clubs in the Premiership, the only competitions they can win are the cup competitions.

"If Middlesbrough were to go on and win the Carling Cup, it would be a massive achievement for the club. …

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