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Defeat to Manchester City shows why Middlesbrough are in real trouble

Tuesday 14th March 2017
On Saturday Middlesbrough was knocked out of the FA Cup at the Riverside by Manchester City, but the nature of the defeat is what will leave the Teesside faithful worried that Aitor Karanka cannot turn their fortunes around.

After a solid start to the season, Middlesbrough has slipped into the relegation zone. However, it is the manner of performances that will worry the fans.

That FA Cup Match

On Saturday Middlesbrough faced Man City in the FA Cup quarter-finals, one victory away from a date at Wembley. It should have been an opportunity to forget their recent league struggles. Unfortunately, it was the exact opposite, it highlighted why they are in huge danger of relegation.

Middlesbrough set up shop defensively, but despite this, Manchester City's stars were allowed more space than they could have dreamt of.

Adama Traore and Cristhian Stuani acted as wide men to support the lone striker, who for the majority of the game was Alvaro Negredo. However, the Spanish forward was in a no win situation.  The times he was able to hold the ball up or win a flick-on, there would be no one within 20 yards of him.

They also weren't helped by the three in central midfield. All good ball players, but all always looked for the safe option. Across the team, they looked like a side who lake creativity and it was only in the final twenty minutes when Gaston Ramirez came on that something changed.

Is this down to the players or Karanka himself? When a team is set up to defend, they will always struggle to create chances, but this is happening every week for Middlesbrough.

One player who caught my attention during the match was Adama Traore. On paper, he should be the one to offer that something different, able to create a chance out of nothing. However, he looked like a loose cannon who struggled to realise his role within a team. On numerous occasions, he picked up the ball in his own half but turned down an easy pass. Traore has pace to burn, but this was not utilised at all against City.

The visitors took the lead in the third minute and Middlesbrough never looked like getting back into it. For the whole 90 minutes the home side managed to create two chances and if City's finishing had been better it could have been five or six.

With Middlesbrough's setup, they would hope to limit the number of chances that the opposition could create. However, it was the exact opposite, with City getting behind them on numerous occasions. The second goal scored by Aguero was shambolic defending with Silva and Sane being allowed the freedom of the Riverside to set up a tap-in for the Argentine.

Future Games

Boro still has City to play again, as well as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. However, a three-game run of fixtures against Swansea, Hull and Burnley could be the deciding factor.

It is likely Middlesbrough will need to pick up points against some of the top sides if they are to avoid going straight back down to the championship. If they play like they did on Saturday they won't survive.

Middlesbrough fans have already turned on Karanka, but it surely too late in the season to change manager now. Will Boro stay up? If they don't change something the answer is surely no.
Simon Hahn

Lifelong sufferer following Darlington FC from League Two to the Northern League. Freelance Sports and data journalist. Living for 3pm on Saturday.

Total articles: 143

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