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The Relegation Rumble: Can Gareth Southgate Save Middlesbrough From Relegation?

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate has the “it” quality as a manager. Not “it” in the genius sense like Arsene Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson. Southgate has it in the Raymond Domenech sense where he could strip naked, smear himself with his own fecal matter and reenact the Monty Python Silly Walks skit down the touchline yet still not be fired. Steve Gibson likes Southgate, believes in him. With the Boro on 27 points, and four points from safety, Gibson’s faith could be quite expensive.

Form: Dreadful does not describe Middlesbrough’s form. They have won only one of their last 18 matches in the Premier League, a shocking 2-0 win over Liverpool. During that stretch they dropped 44 points. Opponents shut them out in 11 of the 18 matches. They scored more than one goal once. Viewing their incompetence on paper, it’s really hard for a professional team to have played worse.

Schedule: Middlesbrough has a tough schedule, rife with top team ties and relegation six-pointers. They play Hull City, Fulham, Manchester United and Aston Villa at home. They travel to Bolton, Arsenal, Newcastle and West Ham. Fortunately, this may help. Middlesbrough play to the level of their competition. They have to wins since the end of October, but against Aston Villa and Liverpool. They have draws with Everton and Arsenal, and nearly took points from Manchester United in a 1-0 defeat.

Injuries: The Boro can’t blame their poor play on injuries. Didier Digard is out for the season. Chris Riggott may return from his knee injury sometime this month. The greater issue has been poor performance, punctuated by Aliadiere, Tuncay and £12m Alfonso Alves scoring just 11 goals between them in 72 combined appearances.

Prognosis: Middlesbrough has eight matches, to pick up four points and leap frog over two teams. There’s no doubt of Southgate’s ability to rouse the players for one match, but doing so week after week will likely be too much. If the club does not pick up at least six or seven points from their next three matches against Bolton, Hull City and Fulham, they are as good as relegated.

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  1. Paul Bestall

    April 5, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Middlesborough are down. They need two wins to even get out of the hole they are in at least and hope no-one outside the bottom 3 picks up any points when they do.
    They have a £12 million striker that can’t hit a cows arse with a banjo, a team bereft of confidence and manager who seems completely out of his depth.
    Shame but Gibson’s faith in Southgate is now past it’s sell by date. They haven’t a prayer of promotion with Southgate in charge.

  2. casyo candri

    April 4, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    gareth southgate is not the best of managers. he went straight into being the boro manager, and he has no managerial experience. they need a manager who is not managing now like kevin keegan, glenn hoddle or graeme souness.

  3. LS

    April 4, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Sorry Kartik but I have to disagree. He’s been much too faithful to Alves, especially after the good start that Mido got off to. Mido was scoring goals, playing with energy and was benched. I think this is a case of him realizing he’d make a big mistake signing and was hoping to turn it around. I just don’t know how Alves scored so many goals in the Dutch league, he does not put himself about or chase lost causes like a Ricardo Fuller, etc.

    For me, Southgate has been generally reluctant to make bold tactical/personnel changes or for that matter even small changes. It’s not like he’s not had opportunity or cause in the last 3 months to shake things up. He’s let the slump continue by sticking with the same basic lineup and same formation. He finally tried something new at Stoke last week but I think it’s getting to be too late.

    I absolutely agree with Ty’s progrnosis. The next three games (today’s included) are must wins. So far it doesn’t look good to get three points from the Bolton match either. I’m not optimistic that Boro can pull out of this tailspin.

  4. Kartik

    April 3, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Southgate has been dealt a poor hand by management. The purchase of Alves was his mistake but otherwise I think he’s done okay considering what he’s been given. Boro would be wise to keep him when they do down and hope he can bring them back up next season.

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