Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Buck Stops with Monk. So How Will He Fix Boro's Issues?

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Buck Stops with Monk. So How Will He Fix Boro's Issues?

Article excerpt

Byline: Philip Tallentire comment

UNLESS things improve rapidly, Middlesbrough and their supporters are facing a winter of discontent.

In isolation, Saturday's defeat at Millwall wasn't a disaster. But when it's set alongside several similar setbacks such as the beating at Bristol City, the loss at Leeds and the Derby demolition, then there's clearly a serious issue to address.

And it's an issue that needs to be addressed and resolved quickly because time is tight.

This season's Championship is wide open, which is both a blessing and a curse for Garry Monk.

It's a good thing because, despite their moderate form so far, Boro are just five points adrift of the play-off places.

But it's also a bad thing because teams that have no right being above Monk's men in the table - Cardiff, Bristol City, Sheffield United, Ipswich and Preston, to name five examples - are out-performing them.

There's simply no excuse for those clubs to be higher in the Championship than a Middlesbrough team that was so expensively assembled in the summer and, despite the evidence of recent results, boasts many talented and experienced footballers.

The buck in these situations always stops with the manager.

And it's starting to feel like it's make or break time for Monk.

In his post match interviews he regularly refers to players making the same mistakes time and again and to the team shooting itself in the foot.

He's also bemoaned bad luck on too many occasions for comfort.

Ultimately, though, the problems are for the manager and his coaches to solve.

Is a mistake the fault of the player who makes it or the manager who picks him? Time and again, regular Boro watchers have pointed out flaws in the formation and the tactical approach to games.

Those issues were identified as early as August and yet, four months later, they are still present for all to see. That's a huge concern and, there's no other way of putting it, an indictment on the management and their match strategies.

There are defensive problems, personnel issues in midfield and a diminishing threat up front.

After 22 league fixtures and three Carabao Cup ties the manager STILL doesn't know his best XI and his continued faith in 4-2-3-1 is mystifying given the indifferent results since he reintroduced it back in October.

Players signed for significant fees - Ashley Fletcher, Ryan Shotton and Marvin Johnsson - are rarely involved.

Senior figures like Adam Clayton and, until recently, Grant Leadbitter and Patrick Bamford, have been left out in the cold.

Confidence and belief has been eroded to the extent that when Boro go behind in matches they tend to implode.

There are four games to negotiate over the Christmas and New Year period and, by the time the final whistle blows at Preston on January 1, the transfer window will be open. …

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