Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

After a Year of Flux, the Framework of Aitor Karanka's First Choice Team Is Now Starting to Emerge; Talking Point

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

After a Year of Flux, the Framework of Aitor Karanka's First Choice Team Is Now Starting to Emerge; Talking Point

Article excerpt

THE framework of Aitor Karanka's team has long been fixed.

Now the first choice component parts are gradually starting to emerge too.

We started the season with very few first team fixtures but now we can probably see six or seven.

Back in August only Dimi Konstantopoulos, Dani Ayala, George Friend and the central midfield pairing came pre-printed on the teamsheet - and even then many fans expected Adam Forshaw to force his way into contention for one of those berths.

But every every other shirt was up for grabs.

Albert Adomah played almost every minute of the opening phase of this term but even he was far from cemented in place with so much of the summer shopping in wide areas.

A terrace meme has grown up that casts the boss as "the Teesside Tinkerman" with jokes about playing the new left winger at right-back and pushing Dimi up front.

Throughout last term selecting the team in advance was a brainbusting exercise in futility.

It was impossible to second guess Aitor. Very rarely was the Gazette predicted starting team right.

Now, while there is still stiff competition and some shuffling to deal with specific opposition threats, a predictable team is starting to evolve.

Now we can generally call nine or 10 of the starting line-up.

As the new signings gradually become instilled with "the methodology and philosophy"they are slowly nailed down shirts. By design. And by merit.

Against Leeds there were six changes from the midweek win over Wolves - Dimi, Ayala, Stuani, Clayton, Downing and Nugent - but their were only two from the side that started the last league game at Forest.

The team is starting to take shape.

We know now that tireless David Nugent will be starting up front unless he is injured or suspended except in specific matches where a particular tactical conundrum must be solved.

And on recent showings it would be very hard to disagree with that.

We know too that Cristhian Stuani is the favoured option on the right of the attacking three.

And while he is yet to get fully up to speed or get to completely to grips with the nuances of the Championship he has more then shown he is a great operator in that role with a shrewd sense of timing when it comes to cutting into the box to add bodies and firepower in and around the box. …

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