Catfished: Gary Monk committed an act of self-flagellation on Saturday in front of a Riverside Stadium that once again had plenty of empty seats. Out went a formation that had appeared to be functioning after a clunky start and a player who had performed; in came a return to 4-4-2 (in the first half at least), with zero recognised wingers. The result – a punch drunk performance that left a Preston team not expected to push the promotion contenders pondering how they only picked up one point.
We’re only 5 games in, so there’s plenty of time for improvement. But the weekends display raised some serious questions for Monk to answer:
Monk’s version of 4-3-3 was beginning to fire after a slow start. The front 3 were linking well, Christie was raiding down the right and despite the result at Forest we created enough chances to take home a point.
Then against Scunthorpe, a return to 4-2-3-1 with a turbo Traore and flying Fabio the pick of the bunch. So would Monk return to a 4-3-3 v PNE or would one of the malfunctioning three in midfield be dropped to allow our wingers to be unleashed? Neither. Monk bizarrely opted for a 4-4-2, without an out and out winger. Boro struggled. If it ain’t broke…
More to come! 🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/nKGQ0TXTel
— The Good The Bad The Boro ⚽️🔴⚪️ (@GoodBadBoro) August 23, 2017
The introduction of Patrick Bamford from the bench on the opening game of the season transformed a stodgy looking Boro attack. Midfield was linked with attack and chances began to flow. Since then, Bamford has been arguably Boro’s best player. His reward on Saturday – dropped. The result – similar to that first half at Wolves. Bamford must be wondering what he has done to Monk to justify such treatment, especially when the likes of Howson, who has had an uninspiring start, are untouchable so far.
If after Tuesday you told me that Fabio would start against PNE I would have been happy. Friend has failed to meet his high standards of his last season in the Championship and the Brazilian offers a better attacking output from full back, which has been key to life under Monk thus far.
But starting at left wing, with Traore, who was one of our best performers when introduced at Forest and at Scunthorpe, left on the bench? Nonsensical. Traore now wants out and apparently refused to take a place on the bench on Saturday. I don’t blame him. If I had performed like he had only to have a full back and Baker start ahead of me on the wing I’d want out too.
Ask any Boro fan what the priority was in the transfer market at the beginning of the summer and almost all would have said creative midfielders, preferably with pace. Overloaded up front and in central midfield, we still lack creativity and wide players. Traore wants out, Downing’s future up in the air and although Baker has arrived he hasn’t yet shown that he could match the impact of the man he replaced, Ramirez. The Boro squad at present looks like it has been put together more by accident than design.
Monk will be given time and more money by Gibson, as he should. . But just as there have been some positives, there are also areas of concern. Monk needs to use that time to decide how and who he wants to play, because at the minute players and fans alike could not tell you. Perhaps our friends from Elland Road have catfished, or rather Monkfished us.
What do you think Boro fans? Drop a comment below!