Tony Pulis shows he can adapt but still wants more Middlesbrough signings before deadline

Tony Pulis has a lingering reputation as a certain type of manager, the type whose sides are difficult to beat and can nick a game from the odd set-piece.

Sunday, 26th August 2018, 10:24 am
Updated Sunday, 26th August 2018, 10:25 am
Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis.

Friday night's 1-0 victory over West Brom, courtesy of Daniel Ayala's stoppage-time winner, may fit that description, but the Boro boss has been forced to adapt to maintain his side's unbeaten start to the season.

The Teessiders lost some key players this summer, including speedy wideman Adama Traore, leaving them short of pace on the flanks.

Boro have been linked with several wingers since, including Huddersfield’s Rajiv van la Parra, West Brom’s Matt Phillips and Liverpool’s Sheyi Ojo, while they missed out on Crystal Palace's Yannick Bolasie, who instead joined Aston Villa.

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As a result, Pulis has adopted a more unorthodox 3-5-2 formation, with George Friend and Ryan Shotton operating as wing-backs - a tactic which worked a treat against the Baggies.

West Brom had scored seven goals in their last two league games before travelling to the Riverside, but their attacking quartet of Dwight Gale, Jay Rodriguez, Harvey Barnes and Phillips were blunted.

Boro won the ball back quickly, with the energetic midfield trio of Jonny Howson, Stewart Downing and Adam Clayton setting the tone.

At half-time, Boro should have been out of sight after squandering several clear-cut chances.

In the past, Pulis has been criticised for his pragmatic and mundane tactics, but, in the opening 45 minutes, Boro moved the ball with a zip, with Martin Braithwaite flourishing in a deeper role behind the striker.

Boro have started quickly in most games this season, taking an early lead before dropping off to preserve their advantage.

They did exactly the same in the second half on Friday, albeit with the game still goalless.

At that point it was glaringly obvious Boro are still short of an offensive outlet, the type who can relieve some pressure by dribbling the ball out of defence.

And with the loan market still open until the end of the month, Pulis remains hopeful of adding to his squad.

“If we can’t add wide players next week then we will push on," he said

"We will try our best to get the players in and they will be better than what we have got, players have a bit between their teeth."

Boro completed the signing of Mo Besic on Thursday, and the Bosnian midfielder did feature as a second-half substitute.

“Mo Besic has been through it a little, he looked drained today but involved in the goal and I am pleased for him," added Pulis.

"I wanted to get him on the park. Mo is a good player."

The Boro boss also said he "wouldn’t be adverse" to sticking with the system which has seen Boro take 13 points from a possible 15.

Boro sit second in the Championship after five games, with Leeds boasting a better goal difference.

Even so, Pulis knows there are still areas where his squad can be improved, which he will work hard to rectify in the next few days.

If not, the Boro boss has shown he can adapt.