Four ways in which Leo Percovich could shake up his Middlesbrough side against Birmingham

by 24britishtvOct. 5, 2022, 9:01 p.m. 16
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MIDDLESBROUGH take on Birmingham City this evening, with Leo Percovich in caretaker charge after Chris Wilder was sacked on Monday.

Boro start the evening in the Championship relegation zone, having won just two of their opening 11 league games.

What might Percovich and the rest of his temporary coaching team do to try to shake things up?

Wilder was wedded to the 3-5-2 formation that served him so well during his time at Sheffield United, but his attempt to introduce overlapping centre-halves didn’t really work and Boro have been defensively fragile for the majority of the season.

Might Percovich rip up Wilder’s tactical template and go to a flat back four? It seems unlikely given the options available to him and the fact that Boro also spent most of their time playing with a back five under Wilder’s predecessor, Neil Warnock.

However, that does not mean there will not be changes. Under Warnock, Boro were at their best when Dael Fry played between Anfernee Dijksteel and Paddy McNair. It would mean dropping two of Wilder’s key summer signings – Darragh Lenihan and Matt Clarke – but might Percovich go back to the central-defensive line-up that served Boro so well last season?

This one seems like a bit of a no-brainer. Wilder’s decision to drop both Ryan Giles and Isaiah Jones to the substitutes’ bench at Coventry on Saturday felt like the act of a manager desperately scrambling around for a solution to the problems that have been engulfing his team.

His surprise move did not work, as highlighted by the second-half reshuffle that saw both Jones and Giles come off the bench before the hour mark.

While they were unable to claw back the deficit created by Viktor Gyokeres’ 17th-minute strike, Boro improved in the final half-hour.

Jones can't play this evening as he is suspended - but Giles will surely be part of Percovich's stareting team.

Like Lenihan and Clarke, Alex Mowatt is another summer signing who has not really made the desired impact during his Boro career so far.

He started at Coventry on Saturday, getting the nod ahead of Riley McGree, but didn’t really offer anything to an unproductive Boro attack.

McGree replaced him in the 74th minute of the weekend game, and if Percovich goes with a midfield three this evening, there has to be a good chance that the Australian will be part of it, alongside Jonny Howson and Matt Crooks.

Wilder repeatedly bemoaned the lack of attacking options within his squad, but there are two summer signings champing at the bit for a chance to prove themselves that he repeatedly overlooked.

Matthew Hoppe’s lack of experience will probably continue to count against him, but Marcus Forss is a Finland international who has played in the Premier League, and who spent the second half of last season gaining experience in the Championship with Hull City.

Marcus Forss has not seen a lot of action this season

Forss has not started a game since the August defeat to Reading, but might tonight’s game be an ideal opportunity to restore him to the starting side?

Alternatively, Percovich could promote Chuba Akpom to the line-up, with the striker having been a second-half substitute against Coventry. Akpom was in decent form before picking up an injury after scoring twice against Sheffield United – he could well start alongside Rodrigo Muniz this evening.

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