He has refused to change tactics to help his side stay in the Premier League. Now it appears Aitor Karanka has been the victim of a tactical shift from his club chairman.
The Spaniard today left Middlesbrough Football Club, no doubt with Steve Gibson having lost faith in his ability to keep Boro in the Premier League.
Despite the wailings of some fans who seem to think that Karanka is owed a job for life for what he has achieved at the club, it was an inevitable move – and the only one that can keep the club in the Premier League.
Under Karanka Boro were sleepwalking towards relegation. This wake-up call is what the players need. Performances were drab, wholly down to Karanka’s safety-first approach to setting up team, and the manager himself has grown more and more stubborn with regards to his thinking with each passing abject display and the mounting criticism that comes with it.
In fairness, such a parting of the ways seemed inevitable. It is hard to say where the slide began. Relations have been fractious for a year, ever since Karanka’s week-long stayaway last March as the pressure of a stumbling promotion push got to all at the club.
Differences were patched over and promotion secured, but the air was never fully cleared: Karanka’s outbursts this season can attest to that. He has attacked the fans, questioned the transfer failings and criticised the players, in apparently Mourinho-esque deflection tactics, but the performances in press conferences have come against a backdrop of increasingly abject performances on the pitch – and it is those and those alone that will have shaped Steve Gibson’s decision.
Middlesbrough have scored three goals in nine games and find themselves three points adrift of safety. And while the turnaround at the club under Karanka has been impressive and history will treat him kindly, there are more pressing stories that need to be told – namely Boro’s great escape.
In truth, it is hard to know whether Middlesbrough do have the quality in their ranks to avoid the drop, but you’d like to think that the new manager will be able to turn Victor Valdes, Ben Gibson, Marten de Roon, Gaston Ramirez and Alvaro Negredo into the spine of strong team – that is both defensively sound and, crucially, capable of scoring goals and winning games.
As to who that man might be, I think Gibson should turn to Nigel Pearson, a former Middlesbrough captain and man who began the Leicester fairytale with their great escape two years ago. He is not lacking a stubborn streak, and has had run-ins with people in the games, but he knows how to bring out the best in players, a trait that Karanka has not displayed for a while.
We can only watch and wait to see who is the new man in the hotseat. But for now, I will say, Aitor, I’m glad you’ve gone, but i’m glad we had you, and i will let you have the final (Twitter) word.
“I’d like to thank @Boro for a wonderful opportunity and the players, staff and all the people at the club who I have worked with.
“I’d also like to thank the fans for their support. This club will always hold a special place for me.
“I wish everyone connected with Middlesbrough Football Club the very best for the future. Up The Boro!”