There are teams that are successful and then there are the rest.
What do the successful teams have apart from the rest?
Well money is going to be the first answer that comes to mind, and theres no denying nowadays that it is a big part of the game, however its not the only reason teams are successful, leagues are littered with teams that have spent big on players and still achieved little (relegated even).
As a Boro fan, watching Middlesbrough get relegated with Ravanelli, Juninho, Emerson and the like was heartbreaking.
Each football season brings the phrase “too good to go down” but still many of these ‘too good’ teams find themselves plying their trade in a lower league the following season.
In the Premier League, recent Champions (your Chelsea’s, City’s and United’s) all have money to spend, but putting that to one side, what else gives them their edge. Well a mixture of tactics and foundations is the possible answer.
These are teams that can perform at both ends of the pitch, granted City were more attack minded and Chelsea more defensive, but both their defence and their attack were the focus of their performances, City can set out to attack knowing their defence will perform when called upon, whereas Chelsea could sit back, Mourinho style, knowing they had the likes of Didier Drogba ready to do his bit.
Then there are the next level of teams, those in and around the top six, your Liverpool’s, Arsenal’s and Tottenham’s. They are up there but never quite achieve the next level.
These are teams that seem to have their focus on attack, never quite getting it totally right in the defensive department, but their force in attack keeps them there or thereabouts.
That leaves the rest, who, because of the attacking prowess of the successful clubs, seem to develop a fear of relegation and a survival instinct kicks in. All their emphasis gets channelled into their defences, “lets not concede”, “we need to stay in the game”, goals become hard to come by and the team develops a boring football tag.
The Premier League is an attacking league, teams need to go into a game with goals in mind, that is how you survive in the Premier League, by putting the ball in the net, not keeping it out of your own, Develop a solid defence on top of that and you may even be successful, but first and foremost get your attacking options right.
The Championship is a different animal in the sense that you only need to be great at one end to stand a chance of success. Yes Wolves spent money, but they were solid at both ends of the pitch which ultimately gave them the title and probably the best chance of survival in the top flight with the right investment.
Then there were the rest – Cardiff were promoted with that ‘boring/negative’ tag, scoring the least goals in the top six, 68 (barring Middlesbrough, 67) but conceding the least (39), a rather Karanka like approach to getting the job done from Neil Warnock.
Then there was Fulham, whose cavalier approach in attack and free flowing football got them to a playoff final and almost automatic promotion, however they were partial to shipping some unnecessary goals.
This brings us to Middlesbrough, who as previously mentioned were the lowest scorers in the top six and who lacked creativity for a lot of the season. Another season built on the defensive philosophy of staying in the game and not conceding.
And how did that work out last time the club were promoted?
As we all know, an immediate return to the Championship based on the thinking of a solid foundation could help you survive in the top flight.
The Premier League is first and foremost suited to attacking teams, its an entertainment industry with a world wide audience, who will spend their money on the merchandise of the clubs that entertain them the most, lining the already full pockets of the successful clubs to even further reinforce their defences to compliment their attacking superstars.
Which brings me to the point.
Wolves will have a chance if they invest wisely, Cardiff will struggle with their Karanka like belief in foundation first, Fulham will have a better chance of survival than Villa based on their attacking philosophy, leaving Middlesbrough and Tony Pulis to decide wether to stick with a defensive outlook or an attacking one.
There is only one answer, it has to be to get this team attacking, get them creating more chances, concentrate on getting the best players you can into your front four. The defensive philosophy may get you up, but it wont keep you there, and while Boro persist with their back four instead of their front four, their DM’s instead of their AM’s, then the string on the yo-yo that keeps us going up and down will start to wear thin and eventually break.
Middlesbrough need to be promoted with an attacking team if they want to survive, not a defensive one.
2018/19 is the time to rip up the 6 or 7 man defensive template and start again.