Middlesbrough defender Dani Ayala has shared a blunt verdict on the Teesside outfit’s current predicament, and stated that Jonathan Woodgate’s Boro are nearing a relegation fight, as quoted by Gazette Live.
The Riverside natives have spent much of the past five Championship campaigns fighting for the Premier League promotion places through the automatic spots or Play-Offs, but find themselves 20th in the table after 11 games and just two points above the drop zone this term.
Ayala issued his blunt verdict on Middlesbrough’s situation in the wake of losing 2-1 away to Birmingham City at the weekend, when goals by Fran Villalba and Odin Bailey ensured the points remained solely at St. Andrew’s.
Boro’s Spanish centre-back had pulled the visitors level in the 87th minute, but Woodgate’s side could not hold on to the draw for long as Bailey fired the would-be winner just two minutes later.
El Saucejo-born Ayala has now moved to shift the focus away from his head coach and his tactics, though, as he feels the players were the ones at fault for Boro’s fifth defeat of the campaign, and not the man issuing the orders from the touchline.
“We have to wake up and wake up fast because we are down the bottom and we have to realise that,” he said. “It was a very disappointing performance and a very disappointing result [against Birmingham].
“We didn’t do the basic things right. We have to stop the crosses coming in. We have to be tight in the box. We have to win the second balls. We didn’t start well. We were on the back foot for the whole first half.
“We were better in the second half and we clawed back into the game and scored a goal, and at that point, you have to be solid, you have to make sure you keep hold of that point, but we didn’t do that and we let them score again.
“That was bitterly disappointing. Everyone was hurting in the changing room – but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. I don’t think it was the shape or the tactics, sometimes we have to take responsibility as players. We didn’t do enough.
“There is no point thinking we are going to be in the Play-Offs, we have to realise we are right in a battle now. We have to all do better as players and as a team, and we have to start to pick up points quickly.”
Saturday’s defeat to Birmingham was Middlesbrough’s third in four games, and Boro are now without a win since September 14 when they overcome Reading 1-0 at the Riverside Stadium.
Things do not get any easier for Woodgate and his men after the international break, either, as they host table-topping West Bromwich Albion on October 19, but what better way to start a comeback trail and edge away from the relegation zone than with a win against one of the three Championship sides yet to lose more than once?
Boro will have to improve vastly if they are to stand a chance of taking something from the Baggies, though, as they managed just five shots on goal against Birmingham, hit 26% of their efforts on target against Preston North End and two when at home to Sheffield Wednesday, per WhoScored data.
The defensive lapses Ayala pointed out too also meant he could not bail Boro out of trouble with his equalising goal at St. Andrew’s on Saturday, and Woodgate will have his work cut out improving on aspects at both ends of the pitch before the international break is over.
Has Jonathan Woodgate got what it takes?
Boro fans, are recent games a sign of fundamental issues or just teething problems with your first-team head coach? Let us know in the comments below… Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more Middlesbrough notifications!