According to former British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli there are, ‘lies, damned lies, and statistics’ – a phrase he used to describe the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments.
In the case of ‘Boro’s season to date, however, the statistics certainly do not lie and a paltry one win from the last seven home league games speaks volumes for the work that has to be done in January. An even more damning statistic is that those seven games reaped just four home goals with seven being scored by the opposition.
There has been a great deal of pride in the number of clean sheets ‘Boro have managed to keep over the start of this season but those seven results are a greater comment on the paucity of the attack than they are on the ability of the defence.
Perhaps the best example was the home game against Tony Mowbray’s Blackburn Rovers where – having gone down to ten men with a completely needless free kick and sending off (Mo Besic had what seemed like about twenty minutes to move the ball on and dallied until it was taken from him then stupidly pulled his man backwards by the shirt) we still had great chances and absolutely blew them.
The Assombalonga goal was a beauty but his miss with only the keeper to beat was something I would have been ashamed of, never mind a supposed professional striker. Much is also made of the work Jordan Hugill does in keeping hold of the ball and bringing in the rest of the team but what good is that when he’s your only striker and isn’t getting fast enough back-up for it to count.
There has been a lot of talk about the January window and how we have to keep as close to the top as we can until then, but why? I find it difficult to name anyone who would not only be both available and willing to come to Middlesbrough in January, but who would also be able to make the required impression.
The situation worsens when you realise that whatever reinforcements come in they are still going to have to play in a negative set-up with a lone striker up front. But, as I’ve said before, all that is Tony Pulis’ problem and how he handles it will be the catalyst for either a great season or a hugely disappointing one. Since this is the start of a new year if not a new season I can only wish all you ‘boro fans a very happy outcome to the January window.
Perhaps the only really exciting aspect of the season to date is that – at the time of writing anyway – we are still in the league cup (or whatever else they like to call it) with a real potential of achieving another semi final place. Having played the kids previously, however, it will be interesting to see what the attitude to the Burton Albion quarter final will be. Whatever way Pulis handles it, though, we’ll never have a better chance of a semi final spot and it just can’t be frittered away. Looking at the remaining teams it was a dream draw for us and knowing the way the top clubs dilute their teams for these sort of games it’s inadvisable to write us off for a final spot at this stage either. But things simply have to change and unless we start converting the few chances we get the season will fade to nothing.
It’s up to you Tony, but I for one am not holding my breath with anticipation when January 1st comes and the window opens. Let’s hope I’m wrong. In the meantime may we wish you all a very happy and successful 2019.