How to prise open a compact defence has dominated the tactical narrative in many Middlesbrough games.
For all of Boro’s passing and movement, combination play hasn’t been the aspect of attacking where Boro have been rewarded.
Faced with congested central areas and little space behind defensive backlines, attacks have been regularly forced into wider areas. As such, there has to be focus on accurate deliveries into the penalty area and Boro’s success rate of 24% is about average.
Wolves (28%) demonstrating the effectiveness of delivering teasing crosses from deeper wide areas by creating goalscoring chances from 49% of their successful crosses.
Other strategies used to overcome the defensive block have included driving runs from Adama Traore or trying to encourage opponents to press high in order to play through them.
When attacking strategies have failed, set-pieces have provided a source of success. Boro’s set-piece takers have routinely proved their worth with goals scored directly from – or as a result of – set-pieces.
The ability to execute in the moments that matter will no doubt continue to bring reward as Tony Pulis is one to utilise them to great effect.
Set-pieces can illuminate defensive frailties, raising questions around opposition positioning, communication and ability to make first-contact when defending balls into the box, which could be exploited from open play later in the game.
With defenders anxious not to concede space behind them, pockets of space can be found outside of the box. Accurate shooting from distance has been lacking from Boro in recent seasons – Only four teams in last seasons Championship scoring less than Boro from outside of the box.
With set-pieces featuring significantly, it is no surprise that headers have played a key role in the way Boro’s goals have been scored – Only Aston Villa (17) scored more headed goals than Boro (16) last season.
Dani Ayala demonstrating his anticipation, timing and physical qualities to make first contact from set pieces.
With many opponents eager to retreat to a deep- block when possession is lost, accurate longer passes whilst defences are disorganised could prove effective rather than Boro’s recent short passing approach, and Pulis is one who could implement this.
Quick passes into space proved effective in England’s first half against Tunisia, with Jordan Henderson and Kieran Trippier releasing England’s attacking unit on a number of occasions. Imagine Traore running onto a well played ball rather than just running with it from deep.
All in all I expect to see something different from Boro next season added to the qualities they already possess and if so promotion should surely beckon with the right signings. #UTB