Whilst the big story from Sunday’s premier league action was that Conte’s Chelsea had leapfrogged Liverpool into top spot, it must be remembered that Middlesbrough now lie only 3 points above the rejuvenated Sunderland in 19th and have only 1 win to their name in their last 10 league games. Whilst they have picked up respectable draws at City and Arsenal over recent weeks, there are growing concerns over whether Karanka’s men have the fire power to avoid the drop.
During yesterdays defeat to the Blue’s whilst they were defensively solid for the majority of the match, bar the crucial Diego Costa goal, they offered very little in terms of an attacking sense. Main striker Alvaro Negredo, like he has done over recent weeks, cut a lonesome figure up front. Other than his late chance which was denied by Courtois, the Spaniard barely had a sniff spending the evening cut-off from his team-mates. However, despite his lack of service, Negredo does his self no favours. Whilst he may complain that he is restricted to one or two chances a game, when it comes to converting these chances into goals, he rarely succeeds. You only have to look at his opposite number during yesterday’s match. Costa was equally if not more frustrated than Negredo during the first 30 minutes but when he got his one chance on the 42nd minute, he made no mistake. Whereas when it came to Negredo in the 78th, some may say it was a harder chance, he saw his shot cannon back out off the hands of Courtois. With only one league goal to his name this season, that coming on the opening day, it’s clear that he hasn’t had the impact he and those associated with the club had hoped.
Negredo has only managed 1 league goal since the opening day of the season
On the other hand, even though Negredo has struggled to hit the ground running in his maiden season with the club, he isn’t helped by his teams inability to support him. Middlesbrough’s record is as good as any when it comes to keeping teams out with only 13 goals conceded since the start of the season. However, this record is stifled by the fact that along with Hull they are the lowest scorers in the league with only 10 netted so far. During their meeting with Chelsea, even after going a goal down, there seemed a reluctance throughout the team to attack. Their first meaningful attack didn’t arrive till the 78th minute with the Negredo shot but other than that there was little to excite their fans. The fans certainly couldn’t fault the application and determination of the players but as the game went on you could feel the frustration growing with each passing minute.
Of course Middlesbrough’s fate this season will not be decided in games against teams like Chelsea. One thing you can say is that Karanka’s team always give themselves a chance as they are so tough to break-down. We saw that against City and even though it didn’t happen for them yesterday, they remained in the game till the last minute. If they can keep it this tight at the back and add goals up the other end, they will begin to rocket up the league. However, until that day happens they will continue to remain near to the relegation zone.