QPR v Middlesbrough: Michael Carrick's men need run of form after tactical tweak pays dividends

Tactics were the talk of the town after Middlesbrough’s midweek win over Norwich City.

Back-to-back defeats had left Boro in dire need of a victory, with their faint play-off hopes in danger of fading away almost entirely.

They secured the win they needed, capitalising on a numerical advantage created by Borja Sainz’s dismissal to seal a 3-1 victory.

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A formation tweak caught the eye of supporters, who saw head coach Michael Carrick opt for three central defenders in a back five. Paddy McNair, Rav van den Berg and Matt Clarke were deployed in the middle, flanked by Luke Ayling and Lukas Engel.

Michael Carrick led Middlesbrough to a midweek victory. Image: Nathan Stirk/Getty ImagesMichael Carrick led Middlesbrough to a midweek victory. Image: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Michael Carrick led Middlesbrough to a midweek victory. Image: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

It was a move that appeared to give Middlesbrough a stronger defensive structure, while not stifling their build-up play from the back.

Speaking after the win, Carrick played down the impact of the change but did reference the need for flexibility.

He said: "In possession, it didn’t change anything with what we do. It didn’t change anything from what we have been doing in terms of how we’ve been building up, and the shape we’ve been building up with. There’s no difference with that.

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"It was really out of position where things were maybe slightly different. They put a lot of bodies in their top line and really make a front four. They have a diamond at the back, and often six across their top line, so with a back four, it’s not easy to deal with.

"We didn’t actually deal with it particularly well in certain parts, but it gave us a platform to play from. It’s something we know we can do. We’ve done it enough, the boys know it, and it’s nice to be adaptable."

Carrick now faces a classic stick-or-twist dilemma as he prepares his side for a trip to Queens Park Rangers.

The R’s have underwhelmed for the vast majority of the campaign but have blossomed in recent weeks, finding form at a crucial stage of the season.

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One defeat in nine games is hardly relegation form and they are no longer a side getting opponents licking their lips.

For Middlesbrough, putting together a run of their own has arguably never been more important. They are 10 points adrift of the play-offs with just 11 games left to play.

Carrick’s men do know a thing or two about embarking on runs having won six on the bounce after a dismal start to the campaign.

A repeat of that run as crunch time approaches could potentially revive a season in danger of petering out.