Spurs vs Middlesbrough is up next at White Hart Lane so we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Aitor Karanka’s team.
Middlesbrough have had an imbalanced season. Impressively strong at the back, but they’ve lacked a real cutting edge up front to put chances in the net. On the road, six draws from eleven Premier League away days tell much of the story. However, there is much more ahead of Spurs vs Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Strength: counter attack
Playing a counter attacking style has seen Middlesbrough being tough to break down defensively this season. However, they also have speed to get out on the break.
The blazing Adama Traore is one of the fastest players in the Premier League. With the ball at his feet, he can also pull off some mazy and jinking dribbles. On the opposite side, Cristhian Stuani is no slouch and has an eye for goal, along with stealthy movement.
Striker Alvaro Negredo linchpins Karanka’s counter-attack. The big man is not only adept at winning aerial duels, but also has great feet and vision. He is able to bring others quickly in to play and spot the gaps, which makes him key to getting the counter attack moving.
Aitor Karanka uses this by having the first ball out often up to Negredo so that Traore and Stuani can run off him. It works well. However, the only issue is that Negredo can get left behind after having set the other two running. This often sees their best and most potent finisher not in the box when the chances come. It’s a major reason why Middlesbrough has scored the fewest goals in the Premier League.
Strength: Right side attack
Middlesbrough’s favoured side of attack is often down the right. The speedy Adama Traore prefers this flank. He is equally a threat to equally run by his man as he is to put the ball in to the box. In tandem with Traore, Antonio Barragan or Callum Chambers also provide crossing support. Barragan has completed the most crosses of any Boro player from open play, so watch out for him.
Alvaro Negredo is frequently the target with his power in the air. However, the wide forward cutting in from the other flank is equally as dangerous. This is where the stealthy movement of Cristhian Stuani frequently comes in to play.
Traore and Barragan against our left side will be a key area to watch during Spurs vs Middlesbrough this weekend. The selection of players on our left without the speedy Danny Rose will be integral to stopping the Boro attack.
Weakness: Right side of defence
With Middlesbrough’s attack favouring the right, they can often get caught out on this side of the pitch in defence. The right side of their back four around Barragan and his right-sided centre back is rife for exposing.
West Ham were the most recent team to highlight this. The Hammers won 3-1 in their Premier League clash with Middlesbrough. They scored two of their three goals from attacking the right side as well as creating a host of other chances.
Andy Carroll’s second goal of the game isn’t shown as it came from Michail Antonio’s shot being saved. However, Lanzini’s penetrating run and pass from the right set up Antonio.
Middlesbrough creates and concedes chances down their right so the battle down this side will be pivotal to deciding the outcome.
Weakness: centre back pairing
Middlesbrough have also conceded goals through their centre back pairing due to poor spacing.
Aitor Karanka has had to use combinations of Callum Chambers, Ben Gibson, Daniel Ayala and Bernardo Espinosa. This, especially when he has to switch the usual Gibson and Espinosa partnership, can see them on different wavelengths.
Man Utd were the last team to beat Middlesbrough on their travels. The Red Devils reverted away from their usual crossing based attack and went straight through the centre backs.
This saw Zlatan and co create a host of chances until they scored twice in the dying minutes to win the game.
Mauricio Pochettino likes us to overload the centre of the pitch with our plethora of players cutting inside. His use of the 3-4-2-1 formation sees us heavily do this with Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli off Harry Kane in attack. Going this way again will get these there players in the middle of the pitch from where they can expose the centre back partnership.
Key match-up: Adama Traore vs Ben Davies
With Danny Rose injured, Ben Davies will have his work cut out covering Adama Traore. This would be another reason to go to a back three. It gives Davies a higher staring position at wingback to force Traore towards his own goal. Davies would also have more help inside from a third central defender.
Spurs vs Middlesbrough outlook
After a bore draw with Sunderland, Mauricio Pochettino will be keen for us to get back to goal scoring ways. However, our visitors are not the best team to do that against. Premier League games involving Middlesbrough away from home have seen just 20 goals this season, the fewest in the division.
Middlesbrough have been tough to score against and so this could be an afternoon where patience will be a virtue. An early goal will go a long way to unsettling Karanka’s counter attacking team and to knock them out of their game plan. Conversely, we may have to rely on our stamina and belief to play until the final whistle for another late winning goal.
Spurs vs Middlesbrough prediction: Spurs 1-0 Middlesbrough.