Middlesbrough were relatively quiet in the January transfer window, bringing in just two players in the form of John Obi Mikel and Rajiv van La Parra.

The latter arrived at Middlesbrough on loan from Premier League strugglers Huddersfield Town, but it has not been plain sailing since joining the North-East side.

He is yet to start a Championship game at his new club, and he has not played more than 45 minutes in any competition for Middlesbrough as of yet.

With Pulis’ admission that his Boro side lack width, van La Parra’s admission from the entire matchday squad in recent weeks has come as a surprise to many.

It’s just the way it is,” said Pulis in an interview which appeared on The Hartlepool Mail.

“I think the way we’ve played with a five, it’s most probably not suited him – playing as a wing-back, playing that way.

“He’s worked hard he’s trained well, he’s done everything we’ve wanted him to but I just don’t think he’s fitted into the pattern and that’s nothing to do with him, that’s just the shape of the team. The team’s more important than any individual.”

In recent games, the manager has opted for a 5-3-2 formation, playing George Saville or George Friend as a left wing-back and Jonny Howson as a makeshift right wing-back.

He has substituted natural width for a more unconventional shape, but this seemed to be paying dividend up until last weekend. Boro suffered their first of back-to-back defeats against Brentford, and then against Preston North End, both at The Riverside Stadium.

With two losses on the bounce, Pulis could opt for a different formation, allowing the Terriers loanee to show exactly what he is all about, as Middlesbrough visit Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon.


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Lifelong Boro fan - from the highs of watching Juninho and the Carling Cup victory, to the lows of Gordon Strachan and Lee Dong Gook

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