It has been an exceptional start to the season for Middlesbrough, equalling a club record run of ten games unbeaten at the start of a league campaign. It was only achieved once before in the club’s history back in 1910. It’s the clubs 3rd season in the championship and there seems to be a real determination in the side to not let this season go to waste and come May, to be up there in the mix with something to play for.
Tony Mowbray has deployed a fluid 3-5-2 formation in a majority of games so far this season. Helping three centre-backs are the wing backs Justin Hoyte and Joe Bennett, who have plenty of pace to get up and down the flanks. Nicky Bailey stays deep organising the team, covering for his teammates when they drift out of position. Goalkeeper Carl Ikeme – on loan from Wolves – hasn’t put a foot wrong, doing a great job covering for Jason Steele, who is coming back from a wrist injury he did in pre season.
The formation suits Middlesbrough away from home more. The wing backs get forward and Barry Robson regularly bursts forward from midfield. With the two forwards Scott McDonald and Marvin Emnes, there is a lot of pace in the team to counter attack to good effect. Middlesbrough have played some great attacking football so far this season enabling Nicky Bailey and young Boro and England U21 player Joe Bennett to score their first goals for club away at Burnley.
At home, and using the same formation, the team have struggled at times to break down the opposition and depending on the opposition, Boro may need to tweak it at times. The last two home games against two of the better teams in the championship, Ipswich and Leicester have both finished in 0-0 draws. Both games were entertaining with some attacking football and could have gone either way with both sides having good chances to nick the win. Although a win would have been ideal, it was important that the team didn’t lose these two games and looked solid at the back, thus extending the run of consecutive cleansheets to 5. These are games that Boro would have lost last season, which goes to show the big improvements that Mowbray has brought on his return to Middlesbrough.
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