Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
In the first month of Middlesbrough’s campaign, they posed a serious threat from set pieces and long throws.
In the following two months, their main threat came from their ability to steal the ball in the opposing half and transition quickly.
Although they deserve credit for being able to score those types of goals, questions can be asked of the sustainability of their attacking output.
Firstly, Boro have not bagged a single set piece goal since August.
Secondly, the trick of scoring quickly after the turnover of possession, as we saw in their away wins at Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich, relies largely on the opposition giving the ball away in a dangerous area.
Unlike Wolves and Fulham, who won promotion last season, Middlesbrough do not have the ability to score goals through long spells of possession, which is arguably the most sustainable form.
I pity anyone that has a season ticket this year… I know we are top and shouldn't moan but the level of football is appalling, no creativity, pace or flow in any of our play #Boro
— Andrew (@wheatmann5477) October 23, 2018
They create next to nothing in a proactive sense and that is reflected in the fact that they have failed to score six times in their last 11 matches; only Bolton have done so more often in the same timeframe.
Wigan Athletic, who have lost their last three Championship matches, would be happy with a point on their trip to Teesside.
After 23 years of being under the Whelan family’s ownership, the club are now under the guidance of Hong Kong consortium IEC, with former Everton boss Joe Royle among various people handed off-field roles.
The future of current manager Paul Cook is, perhaps, not quite as certain as it might have been had David Sharpe – the man who appointed him – remained chairman, so the Liverpudlian will not want the first game the new board see to be a fourth straight defeat.
For that reason, we could see a pragmatic approach from the Latics, who need to tighten up in wide areas after shaky displays against Sheffield United and Leeds.
Last time out, midfielder Shaun MacDonald returned to the match-day squad for the first time this season following injury and his presence could help.
Plus, they have a goalkeeper in Christian Walton who has shown on various occasions that he is capable of a wonder-show.
Middlesbrough have failed to score in 38% of their games while Wigan have kept a clean sheet in 31% of their encounters, which suggests approximately a 35% chance of the West Lancashire outfit shutting out their hosts.
The 15/4 available on Middlesbrough To Score – No implies a probability of just 21%, so value can be found.
Middlesbrough to score – No 15/4