How’s the season gone for Middlesbrough so far?
In a word, frustrating. A lot of money has been spent refining and improving the Middlesbrough FC squad since last year’s relegation from the Premier League and it just hasn’t clicked.
At times ‘Boro look like a good side but can’t seem to string more than a couple of wins together as well as dropping silly points at home in the final throws of certain games (Villa, Cardiff, and Fulham games particularly stung).
Perhaps a Premier League hangover is still there but more importantly, our transfer business in the summer was very poor considering the outlay. Martin Braithwaite signed for nearly £10m has jumped ship to Bordeaux to save his World Cup hopes, Fletcher (£7m from West Ham) is now on loan at Sunderland, Cyrus Christie (£3m from Derby) has gone to Fulham after only six months.
What do you make of new manager Tony Pulis? Has he improved the side?
I wasn’t wholly convinced by Gary Monk at the time and he failed to stamp any structure or character on the team with his brand of bland tiki-taka.
Some fans weren’t all that excited about Pulis either but I felt he’d be a good remedy for the club, someone who’s an experienced Premier League manager who will get the basics right.
Already (as you’d expect) we’re looking more threatening from corners, the team shape in general looks more robust with Shotton coming in at right back and a reinvigorated George Friend at left back.
The attack is still an issue, Gustede seems to be Pulis’ favoured No.9 and top scorer Assombalonga is left more often than not on the bench. To put it in perspective, after Braithwaite’s departure to Bordeaux our centre-half Daniel Ayala is our next top scorer.
Who is the dangerman that Reading fans should be wary on Saturday?
One of the players that seems to have really responded to Tony Pulis is Adama Traore and it’s hard to look past him in terms of a dangerman.
Adama when he first arrived was a bit of an enigma, the lad is built and runs like an Olympic sprinter but his end product to start with was simply woeful. Now, he’s currently enjoying his best football in a Boro shirt adding assists and even a goal to his name recently.
When he’s in full flight he can blow away any player in the world for pace (as Bellerin found out last season), so Reading will have to be very structured on their left flank.
Any weaknesses in this ‘Boro side that Reading should look to exploit?
This season by and large we’ve been very slow starters, so if you can get at Boro quickly and perhaps even knick a goal early doors the natives in the Riverside will get very restless.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
Reading’s form recently has been pretty poor and Boro’s has been mixed, I’m going for a slightly biased (and perhaps deluded) prediction and of a tight 1-0 win to Boro.