Where Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate wants George Saville to play this season
Middlesbrough head coach Jonathan Woodgate believes midfielder George Saville still has a big part to play this season – despite the player’s lack of game time in the Championship.
The 26-year-old joined the Teessiders from Millwall, Boro’s opponents this weekend, last summer but has struggled to nail down a first-team spot.
Last season, Saville, who scored 10 league goals for Millwall in the 2017/18 campaign, was played in several different positions, including as a holding midfielder and as a wing-back.
Yet, according to Woodgate, the player’s best position is clear.
“He's an eight, he's not a holder, he's an eight,” said the Boro boss. “How many holders do you see scoring 10 goals, so that tells you it all. If you look at his stats at Millwall he played in a two but he was the one who always got box-to-box.
“He's a box-to-box player who will get you goals.”
“He played all over (last season) maybe because of the squad imbalance from our team. With the centre-halves getting injured he had to play wing-back or he had to play in a holding role or an advanced role. He's a clever enough player to do that, George.”
“He's been really good, really good. I had a chat with him the other day and just told him to keep on going.”
The problem Saville has as an attacking midfielder is that Boro are already well stocked in that area, with Paddy McNair, Lewis Wing and Jonny Howson all fighting for places.
Even so, Woodgate is pleased to have competition for places, especially after missing out on transfer targets this summer.
“I know more or less my best team I’d say but it’s early days,” added Woodgate.
“Lewis Wing didn’t play in August last year and now he is a mainstay in the team. Players who aren’t playing now need to use Lewis as an example, look at where he was in August, not playing. Paddy McNair didn’t even play last season and now he is one of our best players.”
“Those on the outside need to keep pushing to make those changes, the Savilles, Johnsons, Rudys, they are giving me food for thought.”