Firstly this isn't an attack on Tony Mowbray. What it is hopefully is a little dose of realism to where we actually are compared to last season. Now I appreciate that when Mogga took over we were languishing towards the bottom of the league but the recent spell of results we have had is similar to Strachan's poor start, so I feel it fair to compare them currently.
Here's a few stats with regards to our recent form and what is was last season with 4 games to go:
Last season at this stage in the season we had 50 points and were in 18th position.
This season we have 63 points and are in 8th position.
Mowbray won the last 4 games of the season against Hull, Coventry, Cardiff and Doncaster (who all finished 11th, 18th, 4th and 21st respectively) which pushed us up to our final position of 12th.
Our last 6 games form at this point last season was P6 W2 D3 L1 F12 A12 Pts 9
And this season our last 6 games for is P6 W0 D4 L2 F7 A6 Pts 4
In the league at this point last season we had scored 56 goals and conceded 65 (-9) and this season we have scored 48 and conceded 48 (0).
Players who have left under Mowbray:
Players who arrived under Mowbray:
What really can we deduce?
It is obvious that we our defence has got better. Even with the loss of David Wheater and the loan of Stephen McManus we have conceded less goals. Credit to the manager.
Recently our lack of goals has cost us. This is also clear from the comparisons above and it also coincides with the departure of Lita and Boyd. Boyd was not prolific but Lita did chip in with goals. Scott McDonald has been injured this season which will be partly to blame but Jutkiewicz who has been the lead striker of late hasn't really produced the goods (2 goals & 2 assists in the league from 13 starts and 2 sub appearances). It has been a longstanding problem at Middlesbrough since the departure of Viduka, Yakubu and Hasselbaink.
Last season we were very gun ho and I remember not worrying if we conceded as we would usually score our way out of trouble. This season we are very lacklustre going forward. I think part of this is a much more defensive mindset from the midfielders and this frustrating 'split striker' tactic that is employed. Also the manager does not seem to like throwing players forward, maybe putting 3 up front or allowing midfielders to bomb on. My memories from home games this season is sitting a little too deep.
We have obviously performed better this season compared to last season. In four games time though this may be very different as we had gained another 12 points last season in those final games which will drag this seasons performance down. Goals have been a problem, mainly due to not finding a natural and consistent goal scorer. The managers tactics have contributed to this, particularly at home. We seem to have had midfielders sat on the bench and not included and a lack of strikers who can score for the majority of the season. This will need to be addressed.
I do think that playing to a half empty stadium has a slight effect on the team but not as much as to make a considerable difference to cause the slumps at home that we have seen this season. I think this has more to do with the fact that Mowbray has played more expansive and attacking formations away from home earlier on this season, in particular utilising wingbacks with 3 centrebacks.
This is the hard part! For the rest of the season we need to put emphasis on scoring goals. More attack minded formations, utilisation of players who may be a threat up front such as Emnes, McDonald and Ogbeche. Ogbeche needs to start some games or be brought on earlier. Jutkiewicz has had his chance and not produced. I would involve Martin rather than him been benched.
We need a quicker response to now the game is panning out with regards to substitutions. If we concede and we need to win get another striker on, maybe for a defender. Take some risks, if we are going to get beat let's have a go. Our goal difference is less than our competitors so it doesn't matter if we get beat 2-1 or 4-1... We need to have a go at teams.
For next season if we fail to get promoted we need desperately to find a striker who will score 15+ goals a season. We also need to get some cover at the back, and bring some creativity into midfield. Maybe we only need a tinker, 3-4 players out and the same in, we certainly don't need a massive makeover to challenge for the playoffs again. It can be done on a budget. Robson will be going, that frees up wages for a start. Bates will be out of contract and injured so a replacement will be needed. We need to keep Rhys Williams at all costs.
It's still possible this season to reach the playoffs. Fingers crossed!! Come on Boro!!