Gareth Southgate’s Middlesbrough look al but destined for the drop after a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon. Sanli Tuncay scored their only goal, which was a sublime overhead kick. But the impotence of the Boro’ attack was apparent as they failed to convert one of the many chances they fashioned. With only two wins from their last 24 matches, a win was essential if Middlesbrough were to harbour any hopes of retaining their place in the Premier League especially after losing to relegation rivals and neighbours Newcastle.
In my opinion questions must be asked of manager Gareth Southgate. Is he good enough? Is he tactically aware? And does he have the ability to spot talent in the recession hit transfer market? And does he stunt players’ growth? Maybe it is time to replace the former England man; his tenure must surely be at an end.
This season he has made a fair number of so called ‘blunders’. In the summer a legend of the club, namely Mark Schwarzer, was allowed to leave on a free transfer. His replacement, a young inexperienced player in Ross Turnbull, whose talent may well blossom but has shown a lack of command in his penalty area which can be attributed to the lack of guidance from a more experienced ‘keeper in the dugout.
Stewart Downing’s obvious wish is not to stay with his hometown club, but to move on, to a team that can match his ambitions. Mido earlier in the season was more demanding than Mariah Carey on tour and Marlon King has been accused of sexual assault. These issues have been handled by Southgate but have they been handled well? Or can they be attributed to a club with no leadership in the dressing room?
The transfer of Alfonso Alves has been much maligned over the season and at £12 million he certainly was not a snip. His transfer fee is seen as somewhat of an extravagance, but he has scored shed loads of goals at all of his previous clubs, including Heerenveen where he bagged an incredible 45 goals in 39 appearances. His record at Middlesbrough is tame in comparison, 10 goals in 42 appearances. This only tells half the story, my complaint with Alves is his lack of cutting edge, he wastes a superhuman amount of opportunities to score. Money not so well spent.
Other acquisitions include Marvin Emnes, Didier Digard and Justin Hoyte. Digard to be fair has been a solid buy and is a decent ball winner. Hoyte is a veritable disaster in comparison. He offers little or no width going forward, whilst his defensive skills are in need of urgent attention. This brings me nicely to forgotten man Emnes, costing a princely sum of £3.2 million and has only started two games in the Premier League, this, a player who offered the Dutch U21 side tremendous width down the right, has been criminally underused. The buck stops at the manager’s office.
Not wishing to fully stick the boot in, I will commend Southgate on bringing through some exciting young talent. Adam Johnson, Matthew Bates, Anthony McMahon and David Wheater, who has become an England international under Southgate’s tutelage. These players have all blossomed this season, but they are still developing. I do like the trust placed in these players, they are the future of the club, and credit must go to Southgate.
With these young talents I believe Middlesbrough will return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, should Southgate remain in his job, I feel he needs to build the side round these talents, getting rid of the dead wood and players with a lack of interest in playing for the jersey. This though makes a rather large assumption … Southgate will be in a position to make these decisions.