It’s thought that Benjamin Disraeli originally coined the phrase ‘there are lies, damn lies and statistics.’ He was obviously trying to suggest that while statistics aren’t necessarily lies they can nevertheless be translated in different ways. And that can certainly be attributed to Middlesbrough’s performances so far this season because if you look at the relative success ratio to date the statistics actually contradict each other.
The first one bandied about by most of the press is that we spent over £40 million on players during the summer. While that may be reasonably accurate, the contradictory fact is that incoming transfer fees negated most of that sum. The second statistic that many pundits keep churning out is that before Cardiff City we had only lost one game in the last nine. Sadly for ‘Boro fans the contradictory statistic of that period is that we only won two. In terms of league points that meant we had earned a mere eleven points from the twenty seven that were available. That is definitely not promotion form.
One of those games, incidentally, was the league cup win (or whatever it’s now called) against Aston Villa and having just returned from a reasonably good performance against Bournemouth in the same competition only to lose 3-1 it is hard to equate the comparisons between our league results and those cup results because the teams are so different. In first team terms, therefore, the constant declaration that this is a new squad trying to knit together that will eventually start to take the league by storm is one which we faithfully cling onto in the hope it actually happens. Sadly, the longer the weeks – and games – go on, the less conviction there is that it is ever going to become reality.
Now I’ve been a constant supporter of Adama Traore this season and still believe that his ability will eventually shine through if he can only harness it into a system that combines his undoubted talent with the kind of teamwork that enables the people alongside him to take full advantage. But if that doesn’t start happening fairly quickly, his services will have to be deemed dispensable because if incidents like the sending off at Aston Villa and the unnecessary tackle against Cardiff continue then he can only be deemed a liability. He played really well at Bournemouth, however, and if he can carry on that sort of performance with the first team over the next few weeks he might just redeem his situation.
Whatever happens, though, we have to start picking up more wins than draws. At the time of writing the saddest statistic of all is that we have four wins, four defeats and five draws, but convert those draws into wins and we’d have another ten points on the board. It doesn’t take a genius to see that under those circumstances we would be in the top two!
Perhaps I’m trying to convince myself that our chance is still alive and there isn’t a great deal of distance between where we are now and potentially being in the play offs or even automatic promotion places. But we all know that things are rapidly going to have to change. I’ve seen enough of many of our new players to suggest that individually they have decided talent. But they have to combine that talent with that of their colleagues to create great teamwork and the consequent results we all hope will follow. If it doesn’t happen in the next month or so we will undoubtedly find ourselves in an impossible position and the season will be relatively dead. I therefore pray that by the time I write my next piece, things will be infinitely more optimistic.
We can only keep our fingers crossed.