Having lined up with one striker and five central midfielders in the starting line-up for the Championship trip to Derby County on Monday night, Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis surprised a lot of people by going with an attacking XI against Peterborough United in the third round of the FA Cup at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday.
Well, Pulis has always been known as a conservative manager who doesn’t take too many attacking risks on a football pitch, and it has been no different with Boro this season as he looks to lead the club back to the Premier League.
The 60-year-old prefers his teams to be solid and to grind out results, and that is shown by the fact that the Teesside outfit lie in fifth place in the Championship standings right now having scored 28 goals and conceded 18 times in their 26 league fixtures to date.
However, Pulis ditched the 4-5-1 system that started at the Pride Park Stadium and switched to more of a 3-4-1-2 against the Posh, although it became a 4-3-3 in the second half with the score goalless at the break.
The Welshman obviously hasn’t felt players like Lewis Wing, Marcus Tavernier, Ashley Fletcher, Rudy Gestede and Britt Assombalonga are good enough to start regularly for Boro, but he was certainly proved wrong at the weekend – in the final 45 minutes, at least.
Assombalonga, Wing and Fletcher all got on the score-sheet – with the latter in particular shining in a slightly deeper role – while Gestede produced the assist and Tavernier played a key role in the fourth goal.
Pulis said following the goalless draw at home to Rotherham United in October that his team weren’t good enough in the final third, but out of the aforementioned players only Assombalonga was named in the starting line-up.
Boro clearly have the quality and depth in attack to go out and take the game to the opposition – something the fans want to see – and while their manager may argue that they were facing League One opposition at the weekend, there is no doubt he has put some pressure on himself to name a more attacking team in the future.
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