In honour of the Stoptober – an NHS scheme to try to help people quit their bad habits and addictions, including smoking and drinking – I am looking at some bad habits that Middlesbrough seem to be falling into early in the season.
As Garry Monk has only been in charge on Teesside for three months, these are not major worries at the minute.
They could, however, become harmful in times to come and may bite him later in his tenure.
This has come under the spotlight more following Boro’s previous league games, namely against QPR and Norwich, but has been a lingering worry from the terraces all season long.
Middlesbrough have scored the first goal in just three of their first ten games, and in those matches against Sheffield United, Burton and Bolton, they were the only team to score.
— TheGoodTheBadTheBoro (@GoodBadBoro) September 9, 2017
From my personal experience of watching Boro in the Championship for most of the last decade, I can see no downside to starting games fast and putting as much pressure as possible on the opposition for at least the first 20 minutes of matches.
Yes in the top flight, better teams may pick you apart as you begin to tire later in matches. Monk, however, has the advantage of being one of – if not the – best teams in the league.
Boro can go into games and make teams worry about what they have to offer. It shouldn’t be the other way around.
I would love to see Middlesbrough come out of the gates much faster, like they did when Aitor Karanka’s regime was at its peak.
Killing games off.
Unlike the previous point, this point has seemingly been something that the Teesside team has had troubles with for eternity.
Bitten fingernails and one-goal-lead anxiety seem to be in the genetics of Smoggies today.
Monk’s side has more than enough fire power to be able to kill off most teams in the division, but for some reason this has not happened yet.
This can be seen by comparing Boro’s games to the sides around them.
Middlesbrough beat Burton Albion 2-0 in the first Tuesday-night game of the season, thanks to two goals from Britt Assombalonga.
This was a solid result, until you look at Monk’s former team and see that Leeds – with a new manager and without Chris Wood – put five past the Brewers less than a month later.
Even Aston Villa, a team who couldn’t score past Boro in 180 minutes over the past two weeks, managed to double number of goals that were scored at the Riverside – winning 4-0 at Burton on Tuesday.
Middlesbrough have scored the joint least amount of goals out of teams in the top nine.
Ultimately, time will tell if these habits turn into addictions that could have a negative impact on Middlesbrough’s quest for promotion.
It has been a decent start to the season for Boro, and while many fans were hoping to be less than eight points from the top of the table by October, Monk still has time to find a way to get wins consistently.
He will be given time too, as fans know the history with Steve Gibson. Should Monk prove unable to kick these bad habits, he could be the one to get the boot.
If anybody wishes to know more about the actual Stoptober, the links to the NHS website are here.