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Karl Watson’s Big Mouth – Playing the Blues
Karl Watson
looks back at a weekend of woe for Middlesbrough

Saturday's clash with Chelsea had been a boxing match, the referee would have
had no option but to stop the fight after the first round. Even after the
opening ninety seconds, it had ‘home thumping' written all over it.

Just ten seconds in, Chelsea had already carved the ball out wide to Flourent
Malouda who was taking on Andrew Taylor. Even after this short space of time,
it was clear that this was a vastly improved Chelsea side and we would have no
answers against them.

Our full backs looked vulnerable, our fans looked nervous but for Chelsea,
Middlesbrough were just another mediocre side they would have to defeat on
route to a possible title.

The first half was woeful from Boro's point of view and any hopes we had of
salvaging anything in the second half were diminished in seconds. Belletti's
wonder goal – which correctly received a round of applause from the home fans –
signalled the end of the game and perhaps the Holgate end should have unveiled
a huge white flag because it was clear we were in need of surrender.

However, this scenario changes little with respect to Middlesbrough's season.
Of course it would have been nice to have caused a massive shock but perhaps
our next game carries greater importance.

It is difficult to take any positives from the Chelsea game. Were there even any
at all?

Every team throughout their campaign is likely to encounter various amounts of
injuries. However, with Middlesbrough, it has now got to the stage whereby our
entire campaign rests upon who is lying on our injury table.

We are severely lacking in genuine quality. In previous seasons some of our
‘slackers' such as Mark Viduka, Yakubu, and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink may not
have worked as hard as their team-mates but they did ooze class and it was due
to the likes of the above that we were able to turn over sides such as
Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal at home.

However, Saturday suggested that our current crop of eleven do not boast
genuine quality and those who do, are unable to play at present.

We are desperately in need of Julio Arca. Gary O'Neil and Mohammed Shawky just
don't have enough quality to turn a game for Boro. And as for Tuncay, he lets
his football boots do the talking.

The sooner Blackburn comes our way, the better.

We need to get the bad taste of Chelsea out of our mouths and build upon the
away win at Wigan.

Last season at Ewood Park, Middlesbrough should have come away with three
points. We created numerous chances and should have never thrown away our hard
earned lead.

And perhaps this is the only positive we can take from the Chelsea game, the
fact that we do have a winnable game a week after.

Blackburn's home form is rather hit and miss since Mark Hughes's departure to
Manchester City but in truth, both Paul Ince and Gareth Southgate will be
looking to get something from this game.

With Roque Santa Cruz doubtful and with his strike partner Benny McCarthy still
nursing a long term injury, Blackburn's fire power has been majorly restricted.
However, the likes of Jason Roberts are likely to give David Wheater or Emanuel
Pogatetz a very tough ninety minutes and we should not be underestimating him.

I feel Blackburn are more likely to bludgeon their way through Boro. I do not
see this being the prettiest game of either side's campaigns and I'm sure a
draw would suit both sides.

Blackburn will present a tricky, physical battle and with Shawky and O'Neil as
our starting central midfield partnership, Boro look too lightweight to
compete. This gives us a major headache before the game has even began.

Although Mido gives Boro a good outlet in the air, Christopher Samba will head
balls away all day long so playing the long ball will not reap any rewards for

Blackburn, however, are likely to do this. Roberts is good in the air and is
also very nifty when it comes to holding the ball up therefore Blackburn are
likely to use a mixture of long ball and passing on the floor to break the Boro

Although Blackburn are not gifted with flair, they do and will work very hard
and Boro will have to play with a lot more enthusiasm than they did against

I didn't think Southgate's formation did any favours for Boro against Chelsea
and using Aliadiere down the right hand side is more likely to cause Rovers
problems than using him behind Mido.

In the heat of the Credit Crunch, the £13million paid for Afonso Alves looks a
very hefty price, especially as Southgate seems reluctant to play him for
ninety minutes. This seems bizarre and Alves simply needs to get goals – the
only way this is possible is to be played consistently. If he is to play
against Blackburn – which he should – then we will have a good amount of pace
to worry Blackburn.

However, one player who really worries me is Stewart Downing. It seems like he
can do no right for club or country and I wonder whether or not Stewart is
contemplating a fresh start with a new club. His performances have been
worrying and statistics show that when he's in good form, Middlesbrough get

Adam Johnson is breathing down his neck and really deserves to be playing week
in, week out. His attitude has impressed me a lot and he looked like the only
player in red against Chelsea who wasn't frightened of the quality of the
opposition and he looked to take on Chelsea's fullbacks.

I feel now is the time for Downing to be dropped. I feel Southgate has an issue
dropping some of our bigger names. Some would suggest that not playing Alves
contradicts this theory but the fact that Alves is a new signing gives
Southgate a good excuse.

Gareth admits he got it wrong by promising Massimo Maccarone first team
football and I'm worried that Gareth is trying to prevent possible drama in the
Boro dressing room by not dropping Downing.

If Downing is dropped it may just prove to be the last straw for our winger
from Pally Park but football isn't amount warm hugs on a Monday morning after a
bad result. It's about delivering on the day and working together to grind out

I feel Didier Digard has done well so far but is struggling to cement a first
team slot. Southgate has no issues of dropping a player like Digard because he
is a new signing.

It is clear that Keith Lamb and Steve Gibson look at Downing as more than just
a good footballer. He represents Boro's academy and he is deemed to be our best
player. Causing a drama within the football club is not what Southgate wants
nor needs and this would be a possible repercussion if Downing was to be left
out of the first eleven.

Maybe we need to see a Boro without Downing to show how valuable he is to us?

Of course, we all want to see our strongest eleven take to the field but surely
this must be on merit and not reputation. I feel the likes of Downing and
O'Neil have not been significant enough for us this season but their off field
problems are keeping them in the side.

The Middlesbrough side against Chelsea lacked so much more than quality and
this needs to be addressed against Blackburn.

Perhaps the news of the Credit Crunch has only just reached our players and
they are worried that their millions may not be safe after all.

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Article title: Karl Watson’s Big Mouth – Playing the Blues

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