During “that spell” not that long ago Thomas Christiansen came under immense pressure, and let’s be honest that’s football. If it had been two or three games it wouldn’t have happened but it was a long, and painful run. The international break came at the right time because if Middlesbrough had been straight after Brentford, the chances are we wouldn’t have won that game. TC used the two week break very well, and we’re reaping the rewards.
Footballers, coaches, owners, referees…fans, everyone within the world of football comes under criticism at some stage and this was the case when things began to go wrong for Christiansen and the players. Christiansen was getting it the worst, his team selections came under scrutiny, his substitutions were going wrong and everything just seemed to be against him on the pitch. Coaches get praise when they do well so they have to expect questions when things aren’t. We came back after the two week break and we looked like a new team when Garry Monk and Boro came to Elland Road, in all honesty it was the perfect game for us to respond. The fans were pumped up more than normal with the return of Monk and the players responded so well.
During the break it gave the new set-piece coach the chance to work with the team and I was sceptical that it would make much of a difference but it certainly has. Two goals in the last three games have come direct from a set-piece and we look very dangerous every time the ball comes into the box and the likes of Jansson and Cooper are up from the back. What I liked about the Boro game was that Thomas Christiansen said they targeted the full-backs getting caught out and both the goals came from us doing that, Alioski and Hernandez both scoring with runs into the back post. The second half against Queens Park Rangers was fantastic and we cruised through the game at Barnsley without having to get out of first gear.
There was a question that was being asked that was most worrying during those defeats. Has Christiansen lost some of the players? The likes of Pontus Jansson and Eunan O’Kane were having dreadful games but since the break kit showed that he certainly hasn’t lost any of the players, and they are all 100% behind him. Jansson has stepped up, and others have come into form, Kemar Roofe, Gjanni Alioski, Liam Cooper and Luke Ayling all raising their game massively. It shows how well others are doing that Samu Saiz is going through a tough patch and we are still winning games. Since the break we have beaten Boro, Barnsley, Queens Park Rangers and Norwich, lost to Wolves and drawn with Villa, not a bad return at all. Next up Hull City, Burton and Birmingham before Forest, so a huge chance to really kick on.