Re­hearsal goes well

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - SPORT -

BORO’S dress re­hearsal went just about as well as could be hoped.

They edged a tight, rel­a­tively en­ter­tain­ing game against topflight Ger­man op­po­si­tion Augs­burg 2-1 at the week­end with­out pick­ing any in­juries of note.

What’s more, six of the club’s new sign­ings made their River­side de­buts, five as starters, and most will be pleased with their after­noon’s ef­forts.

The big­gest sur­prise of the after­noon was Boro’s fluid for­ma­tion.

In his pre­vi­ous four friendlies since tak­ing charge, Garry Monk had de­ployed a pretty strict 4-2-3-1.

But, against Augs­burg, the team lined-up in a 4-1-2-3 for­ma­tion that switched to 4-3-3, 3-4-3 and to a 4-1-2-1-2 mid­field di­a­mond de­pend­ing on the cir­cum­stances.

From the stands it looked like a fluid, flex­i­ble, shapeshift­ing, evo­lu­tion­ary life form and, con­sid­er­ing it was the first time Monk had used the sys­tem at Boro, worked sur­pris­ingly well.

At the back, Adam Clay­ton at times ac­tu­ally dropped into cen­tral de­fence to make up a de­fen­sive trio, sit­ting between Ben Gib­son and Dani Ayala.

That en­abled full backs Cyrus Christie and Ge­orge Friend to push up and cre­ate a mid­field four ei­ther side of Jonny How­son and Marten de Roon.

Fur­ther for­ward, Britt As­som­ba­longa, Martin Braith­waite and Pa­trick Bam­ford linked up in a mo­bile front line.

All three el­e­ments took turns on the left, right and in the mid­dle, though it was Braith­waite who looked the most com­fort­able with the con­stant tac­ti­cal tran­si­tions.

The Dane was hugely ef­fec­tive when he dropped into the hole, ef­fec­tively op­er­at­ing as a No10. He hit sev­eral killer passes, made ex­plo­sive breaks into the box and was a con­stant threat.

When the mid­field di­a­mond took shape, Braith­waite op­er­ated at the tip, leav­ing As­som­ba­longa and Bam­ford as the two strik­ers.

But he was just as com­fort­able as one of three up top.

Of course, for­ma­tions are all well and good, but the ulti- mate aim is to win foot­ball matches by scor­ing at one end and keep­ing things tight at the other.

De­fen­sively, Boro at times were a tad rusty and Augs­burg’s opener was a poor goal to con­cede.

There were other scrappy mo­ments at the back, though that’s un­der­stand­able as a new unit beds in. Skip­per Ben Gib­son was im­pe­ri­ous but Dani Ayala looks like he needs a cou­ple more games un­der his belt to redis­cover his top form.

The full-backs, for their part, both looked to get for­ward and Boro will cause op­pos­ing sides plenty of prob­lems down the flanks when Friend and Christie are in full flow.

The ques­tion now is which sys­tem will the man­ager use at Wolves on Satur­day?

Monk may be re­luc­tant to re­vert to 4-2-3-1 be­cause the at­tack­ing play­ers he cur­rently has at his dis­posal have ap­peared to strug­gle to flour­ish in that sys­tem through­out pre­sea­son.

They looked much more com­fort­able with the var­i­ous for­ma­tions used against Augs­burg.

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