Middlesbrough manager Michael Carrick is pleased with certain aspects of how his team have defended so far this season, but still believes things can improve.
Middlesbrough have endured an up and down 2023/24 campaign to date. They started the season with a run of seven games without a win, but since then have lost only once in their next eight league games, including a streak of six wins in a row.
That leaves Carrick’s Boro sat in 12th place in the Championship. Weaknesses at the back haven’t helped their fortunes, leaking 23 goals in 15 games so far including three in the last outing against Plymouth Argyle.
Despite the issues when it comes to conceding goals, Carrick has told Teeside Live that he is pleased with how his defence has improved in recent games.
“We certainly can’t just brush it under the carpet,” he said.
“There are definitely goals that have gone in and you think, ‘That wouldn’t go in every week’. So there is a balance. I think we’ve done a lot of good things of late without the ball and defended as a team an awful lot better. We’re defending our goal and our box an awful lot better.
“But with the goals that are going in, of course, we need to stop some shots. But I don’t think you can concede throughout the season as many goals from outside the box as we have. It’s ultimately down to the quality of the strikes really.”
A season-defining issue?
Middlesbrough were broadly expected to be a promotion contender this season and while their recovery has shown what they’re capable of, the Plymouth Argyle draw displayed the weaknesses the squad still has to contend with. A big reason for their early-season struggles was the number of goals conceded.
So far this season, Boro have lost six games, conceding 14 goals in those fixtures, an average of 2.3 goals per game. Until that improves, then Middlesbrough might struggle to make up the ground they need to. Whilst Carrick seems happy with aspects of how his defence is improving, they still seem to be conceding too many goals.
It would help hugely if the team started to keep more clean sheets, and a good start would be in the upcoming game against top of the Championship Leicester City.
That could prove a tough task given just how strong the Foxes have been, but not conceding a goal against the league leaders would show what Middlesbrough are on the road to matching last season’s achievements of a top six finish. A heavy defeat may leave more questions than answers though, and how the defence is dealt with by the club could be season defining issue.