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Working hard to keep the batteries going and the keeper conundrum; A second glance.

Byline: ANTHONY VICKERS anthony.vickers@trinitymirror.com @untypicalboro

NOW the dust from Sunderland has settled we are taking a second glance at some themes you raised in your post-match analysis on Twitter.

It will be a regular post-match feature so feel free to flag up issues you think may have been missed in the immediate aftermath. Tweet me using the hashtag #SecondGlance.

Batteries running low late on LOTS of people were concerned that Boro looked to be running on empty in the last 10 or 15 minutes.

And that was the second game running. Against Stoke there was a marked drain of energy and intensity in the closing stages with Negredo in particular looking like he had just finished the Olympic triathlon and few others not far behind.

That is a short-term worry because Boro have stepped up to a higher level of athleticism and they will have to adapt quickly.

Tired players make mistakes as concentration wanes, reactions slow and energy levels dip.

In the Premier League not only are players generally fitter and faster but they are also better prepared with a strong team of nutritionists and conditioning coaches behind them.

Last season, according to OPTA, the top 10 busiest players ran an average of over 11km per game.

Bournemouth's Dan Gosling was top with 11.92km while Spurs were the most dynamic team. They had three players in the top 10 - Alli, Eriksson and Lamela - and as a team clocked up 117.7km per game.

And crucially, they players are not just faster and fitter, they move the ball around quicker and more accurately than in the Championship and that is far more demanding to play against. It takes experience and quite a few Boro players lack that.

This season that will be a massive weekly challenge. Especially with the better teams still to come.

But Boro are aware of the problem and are working hard to bridge the energy gap but are - literally - not yet fully up to speed.

Some players are behind on pitch time.

Negredo didn't play much at Valencia, Gaston Ramirez and Cristhian Stuani are a couple of weeks behind after international duty (and in Ramirez's case being unable to play in England pending international clearance.) But it will come. Experience of playing games will help. And so will the timetable. There are far fewer midweek games in the Premier League and that means more time to prepare and recover which will be useful as Boro ramp up the pace on the pitch.

The keeper conundrum IF Dimi Konstantopoulos plays at Fulham - or Tomas Mejias - it would be three keepers used in successive games.

Plenty of fans have raised questions about the No 1 jersey.

Many have already decided that Brad Guzan and Victor Valdes are not up to the job and want Dimi reinstated.

To be fair many of them decided that before either had pulled the gloves on and distrust of whoever plays in goal is deep in the DNA. Even Mark Schwarzer got stick. The only keepers who seem widely popular have been those here on loan.

It is a position in flux but the summer signings suggest the boss and his team have decided that Dimi, 37, is not one for the future and no matter how spectacular his stats last term, he is not their man to step up to the Premier League.

Dimi has been superb for Boro and is rightly lauded but all keepers make mistakes and he was no exception.

So Aitor Karanka has brought in two keepers with top flight experience. That may be harsh on the popular Greek shotstopper but it is done now and there is little to be gained from weekly muttering.

As permanent signings it is a more concrete challenge for Dimi than when Jamal Blackman or Michael Agazzi arrived on loan.

The manager will expect his two new men to compete for the starting line-up.

So far the new pretenders for the No 1 shirt have had solid but not spectacular debuts marred by the odd error - but with keepers errors are costly and rarely forgotten.

Mejias was superb at Manchester City and United last season but for some he is forever labelled butterfingers from his debut.

Valdes got a finger to the free-kick equaliser against Stoke and was bullied at corners and that has coloured the view of some but he was swiftly off his line to clear when Arnautovic burst through, made a superb flying save and, importantly, his distribution was excellent with a string of long balls forward finding the feet of Negredo and Ramirez.

He looks like the first choice and would have played at Sunderland but for a knock in training.

Deputy Guzan made one superb save before a loose parry for the Sunderland goal and then a fumble that gave some flashbacks to Brad Jones at his finest.

But he has played 170 odd games in the Premier League - and kept Shay Given out of the Villa team - so he is no mug.

All players, not just keepers, need time to bed in. One game each is probably not enough evidence to write them off.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 23, 2016
Words:862
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