Neil Warnock's tactical options plus what next for Hayden Coulson following Ipswich Town links?: Key questions ahead of Middlesbrough's meeting with Plymouth Argyle

Middlesbrough are preparing for their final pre-season friendly in the South West – with Neil Warnock’s side set to face Plymouth Argyle – and there are plenty of questions ahead of the match.

By Joe Nicholson
Friday, 23rd July 2021, 12:45 pm

The Teessiders beat non-league side Tavistock AFC last time out and will be looking to build some momentum ahead of their opening Championship fixture at Fulham on August 8.

Here are some things to look out for against Plymouth.

What system will Boro play?

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Middlebrough boss Neil Warnock.

Last season, Boro started the season playing with a back three and wing-backs – a formation which brought success in the early weeks of the campaign.

After using a 4-3-3 system against Bishop Aukland and Saltash United at the start of pre-season, Warnock switched to a 3-4-3 set-up against Tavistock on Wednesday and the side looked comfortable after the change of shape.

The Boro boss wants his side to be flexible and will no doubt change his team’s structure depending on the opposition.

It will be interesting to see if Wednesday’s performance prompts Warnock to persevere with the back three, when Hayden Coulson and Djed Spence started as the wing-backs.

Where will Matt Crooks fit in?

Boro have completed their fifth signing of the summer following Crooks’ arrival from Rotherham on a three-year deal.

The 27-year-old is predominantly a central midfielder but can play in a variety of positions.

Warnock has said he wants Crooks, who is available for the Plymouth game, to provide a goal threat and believes the player can score between 10-15 times this season.

That implies Boro’s new signing could play in the No 10 position or as an attacking midfielder, a role Lewis Wing and Marcus Tavernier have occupied so far in pre-season.

Crooks has also played as a centre-forward for Rotherham and is a handful in the penalty area at a height of 6 ft 4.

Can Coulson impress again?

The 23-year-old has been heavily linked with a move to Ipswich, but took his opportunity against Tavistock.

Coulson scored twice in the 7-0 win and looked more comfortable in his natural wing-back role.

And with Marc Bola still unlikely to feature against Plymouth following an injury setback, there is a position to be filled on the left side of defence.

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