Well, that wasn’t in the script was it? An away day defeat on the opening day at Wolves it was though, the familiar feel of a goalless Boro display, however this wasn’t exactly the sort of defeat we’d become accustomed to last season.
There’s the valid argument that if Dani Ayala hadn’t temporarily forgotten who he was playing for then we could’ve come away with a very creditable draw. Away at one of the sides who could well be challenging this season, that’s not a result to be sniffed at.
Unfortunately for the travelling support Ayala did misplace his pass in a rather dangerous area, allowing one of Wolves’ new signings, Leo Bonatini, to gleefully accept the greatest of gifts and slot home what proved to be the winner.
If only Martin Braithwaite and nodded it straight rather than let it glance off his head. If only Britt Assombalonga had buried his one on one in the second half.
If, buts & maybe’s are generally the bedrock of most post-match inquests, especially in defeat, but I’m not even sure I want to get into such talk. It was the opening day, the first game, one of 46 in a marathon of a season. There’s no concern over here. If anything, the opening day is almost a free hit. Yes, ok, I realise that there’s much to be said about getting off to a good start, but did anyone see Newcastle’s last season? (Of course you did, I laughed too).
The importance of winning the first game in any season is overblown in my opinion. This isn’t me feigning total apathy towards Saturday’s loss. Don’t get me wrong, I hate it when Boro lose and the weekend’s game was no different, yet it’s just one loss. Fair enough, in ten games time if we’ve lost more than we’ve won then perhaps it’ll be more difficult for me to spin such a situation positively, but we’re just one game in.
It’s all about perspective. New manager trying to bed in his new signings, along with a system that they’re still getting used to – the same could also be said for Wolves too.
It’s only because they were handed a goal on a plate that they came away with all three points – fine margins. These things even themselves out though over the course of a season, so expect us to be the lucky recipients of such presents from time to time too.
Still some tinkering to come
Garry Monk hasn’t even fully assembled his squad yet either. We’re a defender light; some added competition for Ben Gibson (if he stays) and Ayala is definitely needed. Dael Fry has shown himself to be more than capable, but it would be unrealistic to think we can get by with just the 19-year-old as back up.
The much talked about ‘No.10’ role needs addressing given Gaston Ramirez finally moved on. We have options right now to fill that slot, but none of them would really see themselves as the long term solution there.
Adama Traore’s absence from the squad on Saturday might have no bearing on his Boro future whatsoever, but there are doubts about whether he’s got one on Teesside. A wide man, an out and out winger has been talked about all summer, so it’s hard to see us ending the Transfer Window without bringing at least one in. The squad still has some tinkering to come, so I’m not expecting to see the first 11 that’ll prove to be the most regular suddenly appear in the next game or two, it’s going to take time.
I’m sure Monk would’ve probably appreciated more friendly games than the five he had to try various things, plus the fact that Boro received a bye in the League Cup might have actually come as a disappointment too. A quick return to action in this week’s Carabao Cup would’ve possibly given him more chance to experiment, without disrespecting the competition course, but instead the former Leeds boss will have to settle for a week on the training pitches of Rockliffe.
Optimism but no walk in the park
However, without underestimating newly promoted Sheffield United, there’s a big chance on Saturday to get points on the board. The first home game of the season always holds plenty of excitement, plus the added attention from the TV cameras gives Monk a chance to get his team firing in front of the nation.
With the promise of more new faces to come in it’ll be difficult to predict his starting line-up, yet with the options Boro possess we must surely have too much for The Blades.
For the time being though, it’s important to make sure we don’t let the Wolves result skew the picture – we’re going to be challenging. A defeat on its own does not define a season. But the loss at the weekend only just serves up a timely reminder that, despite the optimism and fanfare of new signings, this league isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Any fan that thinks so, whether we’ve spent this, that or whatever, clearly has a short memory.