In Jonathon Woodgate’s debut fixture as Middlesbrough manager, he will travel to last season’s League One champions, Luton Town.
Woodgate will need to learn from his predecessor, Tony Pulis, and implement a style that is enjoyable for Middlesbrough supporters to watch. Despite the lack of grand signings to bolster his squad, he does have attacking talent at his disposal, while also having an experienced defensive unit.
With this, there are ways he can spoil Luton’s homecoming party, here’s three…
The attacking prowess of Britt Assombalonga administers fear into his opposition. His quickness to react, range of finishing and surprisingly good ability to head the ball for an 5’8 striker will worry Luton. In addition, his sharp dribbles will cause constant problems as they will not want to give Middlesbrough the opportunity to send their tall defenders forward for a freekick.
In the past two season, he has contributed to a goal every 2.9 games – a vastly impressive figure for a player that has spent his whole Boro career under defensive coach Tony Pulis. As Woodgate will look to change the team style to a more attacking outfit, this could unleash the 26-year-old to be a more terrifying prospect than he already is.
A strength Luton will possess is energy and momentum. They will want to carry on the devastating form they produced last campaign. However, during preseason, Woodgate has spoke of his desire to use his teams energy levels.
The Boro manager said: “I want them to play with high energy, I want them to press, I want to commit bodies forward and that’s what we were like [in the preseason friendly].”
This proposal could seriously hamper Luton’s chances as they will want to use the atmosphere’s power to fuel their drive to win the game. Nonetheless, if Woodgate’s side can match it, then the contest will likely shift to the away side’s favour.
To thwart Luton’s attacking effectiveness, Middlesbrough will need to continue to be a defensively resolute team. While Boro became tasteless towards Pulis’ defensive philosophy, their experienced defenders – George Friend, Ryan Shotton and Daniel Ayala – will need to use the lessons they learned under their former manager.
After all, Boro successfully became the joint-best defence in the league last season with 41 goals conceded. Nevertheless, this will be hugely impacted by the new defensive system Woodgate will employ under his high energy philosophy. If he is able ploy it correctly, it should reduce the influence striker James Collins has on the fixture.