For the first time in a few years, Middlesbrough seem to have some genuine ambition in their bid for promotion to the Premier League. The appointment of Spaniard Aitor Karanka is an eye opening contrast to the last manager, Tony Mowbray. A local man, who made his name as Middlesbrough inspirational captain in the late 1980s.
While it was every Boro fans burning ambition to see Tony Mowbray do well and achieve his goals. His position became untenable after the dire run of results during 2013. For the previous two season it had appeared that Middlesbrough were well on course for promotion, only to freeze in the business end of the season.
What Aitor Karanka brings is a fresh new approach. The Spanish influence has been extremely successful in English football recently, most notably at Swansea and Brighton. In which both clubs are enjoying their best years. Karanka also brings links, with Jose Mourinho being a massive one. Middlesbrough now have the potential to have a close link with Chelsea, which could see them have top pick on any players Chelsea choose to loan out.
The club has also managed to build links with Atletico Madrid recently, with the youth squads visiting Madrid to train with Atletico and contest friendlies. That link will surely only tighten with a Spaniard at the helm. Toughing their players up in the English game may come as an interest to Atletico, who will be ultimately looking to sell them on for high fees once they make grade.
Currently looking at the Middlesbrough squad, they have a foundation that Aitor Karanka can work on. The squad can be utilised, in a similar way to Real Madrid. With counter attacking football as their main philosophy. Mustapha Carayol and Albert Adomah are exactly the type of players to build a game-plan of devastating wing play.
New signing Jacob Butterfield who is yet to make a real impression due to lack in first team opportunities. Has already shown in the short time he’s been at Middlesbrough, that he can potentially work effectively as a number ten. Much more forward thinking that the rest of the midfield, the former Barnsley player has been very influential when he’s been on the pitch.
Spanish journalist, Guillem Balague believes Karanka will take the traditional Spanish route of possession based football: “If you predict, you have in mind the clubs he played for. He will like offensive football and demand his players keep possession, but really, we are guessing.”
Possession football is always desirable, but it will take patience. Tony Mowbray had attempted to implement a possession based style on Middlesbrough but, at times, the players lacked the necessary concentration to make it work effectively. The hope with Karanka is that he can improve their technique and make them believe in themselves a bit more.
The biggest pull with Aitor Karanka is his background. As a Basque, he knows the value of local pride that is massive in the Teesside area. The academy at Middlesbrough has suffered a set back in recent years with Gordon Strachan almost abandoning it and Tony Mowbray unwilling to put his faith into academy players.
There is a hugely talented set of players coming through the academy, who have impressed whenever they have appeared for the first team. Many of them have made appearances for England youth teams and they all have the ability to play at the highest level if given the chance.
Aitor Karanka is the perfect man to piece this all together. The club working within a network of top clubs to make use of players and sell players from the prestigious academy. All to achieve the goal of Premier Leaue promotion.