Jonathan Woodgate explains why he dropped Middlesbrough's wing-back system and Djed Spence's omission at Brentford and Wigan

Jonathan Woodgate has defended his decision to change Middlesbrough’s shape for recent games against Brentford and Wigan.
Middlesbrough defender Djed Spence.Middlesbrough defender Djed Spence.
Middlesbrough defender Djed Spence.

The Teessiders have found success operating with wing-backs for large parts of the season, yet Woodgate opted to play a flat back four at Griffin Park and the DW Stadium.

In both games right wing-back Djed Spence, 19, was dropped to the bench after a run of 10 straight starts in all competitions.

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Hayden Coulson, 21, has also impressed at left wing-back after breaking into the first team this campaign, yet Woodgate says he’s trying to manage his squad - especially the younger players.

The Boro boss also pointed out that he changed formation multiple times during the Teessiders’ four-match winning run (against Stoke, Huddersfield, West Brom and Preston) over the festive period.

“When we had the run, the four we won, we played four different formations,” said the Boro boss. “We might have played wing-backs but we might have played four at times, and even variations of the three at the back. We went to West Brom and played 4-2-3-1.

“I need to find a way to win. At times we haven’t got the squad to go and match a team, we have to try to find a way to win.

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“It’s not just Coulson it’s Marvin Johnson as well. He has played a lot of games, I think more than Coulson. You can’t discount Marvin.”

When asked about Spence’s omission ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Luton, Woodgate said: ”Djed as well, look at how many games he had played on the spin.

“These are young players who need to be protected. Djed has had a rest now. He should be ready to go if selected. He can play in a couple of formations too.

“I have to look at the stats and I want them to play all season but you have to think about the levels they have reached.

“They normally play for the 23s when they play sometimes once every 10 days or two weeks. I have to be mindful of that. I thought that was the right decision to make.”