Vito Mannone – 6
This almost writes itself week in, week out – no fault for the goals and otherwise a generally tidy performance. Could do nothing about Leadbitters’ expertly converted penalty or Assombalonga’s pinpoint header.
Chris Gunter – 5
Initially played out of position at left back before moving to more familiar ground. Somewhat obviously he played better in his usual position, but generally looks to be lacking in confidence. Did play one decent cross for Smith that was narrowly over, but otherwise…not great.
Liam Moore – 7
Head and shoulders above any other player even with a very sore head (and missing ten minutes of the game due to injury). Possibly the only player to appear with any modicum of desire or passion for the team. Ultimately, he is the captain of the side and shows it in abundance. Given the applause on his return to the field shows how much he is thought of – win, lose or draw.
Tiago Ilori – 6
Looked very comfortable and composed before the tangle of heads with Moore. Until then he showed a lot of the class we know he has. Now, finally, he is being given a run of games – however, he is likely to spend a little while recovering from his head injury.
Paul McShane – 4
Spent most of the time either arguing with the referee, berating Britt Assombalonga or shouting at Gunter. Woefully played as a wing-back in the first half (until the injuries to Moore and Ilori) which can hardly be his fault but still seemed to be chasing the game than controlling it.
Joey van den Berg – 5
After a decent start to the game, he seemed to be a different man after a stiff talking to by the referee. Otherwise, pretty quiet compared to his usual explosive performances.
John Swift – 5
Without being too harsh on Swift as he’s returning from injury, however, he is a shadow of the player that glided and swooned in midfield last season. Some of the old flicks and tricks were there, but none of the confidence.
Liam Kelly – 7
For once, a decent decision by Stam, play Liam as a playmaker! With the freedom to dictate play and pick out passes, Liam started out boldly and gave us a lot of our best moments before heads dropped dreadfully. Full of energy and demanded the ball – if only more of our players wanted the ball as much.
Sone Aluko – 5
Where is he supposed to be playing? After watching Sone since he has signed, it is difficult to see where and what his role actually is. He seems to float around indifferently with no impact or fulfilling any obvious role. Whatever his modus operandi little is working. He’s not alone in that regard.
Roy Beerens – 4
Admittedly, I had to look up the starting XI again to work out who I had missed from midfield. I forgot about Roy. Another lamentable performance from the undroppable man. Whilst van den Berg was largely anonymous, Beerens took this to a whole new level. Provided absolutely nothing of any note bar one cross cum shot that raised the thousandth groan of the game.
Sam Smith – 6
For a debut in a team that is struggling hugely, this was a very decent performance from the fledgling striker. Admittedly, he wasn’t given much on a plate to miss but generally put in a busy and tireless shift. Clearly he has learned much from Yann Kermogant in chasing lost causes and working hard for the team. He might not be what we want right now, but his kind is what we need.
Tyler Blackett – 6
Blackett being Blackett. Skilful, wasteful, awful, brilliant, rinse and repeat.
Mo Barrow – 6
Brought into the fray far too late, as ever. A few searing runs into opposition territory but often crowded out. One day, Mo will be fit. Trust me, it will happen.
Yann Kermorgant – 6
Yay for Yann. Our 35 year old retiring rehabilitated saviour is back! A few lovely headed flicks, generally being a pain in the derriere for the defence too. How we have missed him.
Jaap Stam – 3
Lining up with an initial back four, Jaap managed to play a right back at left back, a centre-half at right back/wing back, and a central defender who could equally play at left back in central defence. Three of out of four positions in the wrong place! There’s no logic in this, whatsoever. Fortunately, out of the misfortune of losing Ilori to injury, order was restored – but why not do this in the first instance? I’ll do it for him. Gunter, Right Back, Ilori, Left Back, Moore and McShane in Central Defence. There. It’s not hard. What on earth was McShane going to do as a Wing-Back? I wish he could talk us through that.
For a manager who sets his teams up to be difficult to beat he is making life so difficult for himself with such mind-boggling decisions. It is also difficult to fathom how a midfield containing Kelly, Swift, Aluko and Beerens produces so little end product. Getting the players to the byline and delivering a cross seems to be a dark art that is now only capable via witchcraft and hypnotism.
The downright denial of his tactics being ‘the problem’ and a lack of pointing any blame at himself is now starkly apparent. The arrogance that Boro (and others) have the temerity to get a goal and hold on for the win is now tedious and galling. Stam plays a dangerous game of poking bear where he dares the owners to sack him as he doesn’t need the job or appear to really care for it now. He may get his wish sooner rather than later.