Tuesday 23 January 2018

Karanka laments Boro naivety as relegation dog-fight looms

Middlesbrough's Spanish manager Aitor Karanka speaks with his captain, Middlesbrough's English defender George Friend. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images
Middlesbrough's Spanish manager Aitor Karanka speaks with his captain, Middlesbrough's English defender George Friend. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images

Luke Edwards

There is always a risk the thrill of promotion will be quickly supplanted by the fear and loathing of relegation.

Middlesbrough 0 Watford 1

That is precisely what is happening to Middlesbrough as they slipped to a third successive home defeat against Watford. Something is not working for Aitor Karanka and Boro are now fourth from bottom in the table, staying out of the drop zone only on goal difference. After a solid start on their return to the top flight, they have taken two points from the last 18 and have not won at home since April 12.

Troy Deeney of Watford is chased down by Daniel Ayala of Middlesbrough. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Troy Deeney of Watford is chased down by Daniel Ayala of Middlesbrough. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Karanka always said their only objective this season was to avoid an immediate return to the Championship. While he may have privately expected more from his players, they are finding their new surrounding increasingly uncomfortable.

"They made it impossible for us to play," said Karanka (pictured). "We played well for 35 or 45 minutes, but didn't score. After they scored they made it impossible for us. I don't know how many times they went to the floor and every time the ball went out of play, they took ages.

"They are much more experienced than us, they have played many more games than us in the Premier League, but it is only October and we have plenty of time to learn, to work and improve."

Boro lost the game to a spectacular strike from Watford's Jose Holebas, but their turgid attacking play is a cause for concern.

Their highest profile summer signing Alvaro Negredo looks slow and is hopelessly isolated, mainly because those playing behind him also lack the pace to get up alongside the Spaniard.

Watford, who barely threatened all afternoon, won it with a great strike from Holebas. The Greek stole the ball from Cristhian Stuani and lashed a shot inside Victor Valdes' near post from 20 yards.(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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