MIDDLESBROUGH'S lengthy injury list means a large bulk of Michael Carrick's team picks itself for Saturday's trip to Leeds United but the head coach has one welcome dilemma - who to play up-front.

After a run of 10 league starts on the bounce, Josh Coburn has dropped to the bench for the last couple of games, with summer signing Emmanuel Latte Lath coming into the starting XI.

There are two factors behind that decision. One is Carrick's caution with Coburn, with the head coach stressing the importance of closely managing the workload of the Bedale-born striker. But there's also the variety that Latte Lath brings.

The two strikers are very different, which, says Carrick, was a "deliberate" decision in the summer transfer window - ensuring the boss has the attacking tools to cope with different challenges and hurt teams in different ways.

"There is no hiding from the fact they’re different players in what they bring and that’s fantastic for us to have the options," said Carrick.

"It was a deliberate decision to make that call. And who knows, they can maybe play together as well if we go down that route at some point. It’s good to have those options."

That's an interesting prospect but at Elland Road on Saturday it'll almost certainly be one or the other rather than both playing as a pair.

Latte Lath has four goals to his name all in all competitions this season and although he didn't get on the scoresheet in the rout of Preston in midweek, he did make his presence felt with speed and movement throughout.

The Ivorian is unpredictable and while Carrick and his coaches will work on polishing certain aspects of the striker's game, what they don't want to do is rob the 24-year-old of his strengths and what makes him effective.

“We bring players to the club because of what they can do," explained the head coach.

"Of course, we have a way of playing and a structure to it, but I also talk a lot about the element of freedom and expression. As long as it’s within the structure and you’re working for the team, everyone is different and you don’t want to mould everyone to play in the exact same way.

"Manu is what he is - he’s sharp, he’s unpredictable, he’s quick, in and around the box he can finish with both feet and he’s scored with his head too. He brings all of that for us, and he’s different to Josh, who is what he is and brings something different.

"He’s terrific at what he does as well. There is always that balance of bringing players in for a reason, but also shaping them a little bit to help them fit in. Then you start to grow wavelengths and connections with your teammates.

"Jonny (Howson) created a good chance for Manu (against Preston) where Jonny went through the middle and played it through, Manu got down the side, and that’s his game. There is that element of playing to each other’s strengths within the system. Sometimes that takes time, but I am sure Manu will do well and score goals for us."


As for Coburn, the fact he's dropped to the bench in the last couple of games is simply a case of Carrick looking after the 20-year-old, even though the Boro boss knows his young striker is desperate to play.

This is Coburn's first full season as a leading first team regular at this level, so Carrick will carefully manage his workload over the course of the campaign.

He said: “I think it’s a big responsibility for me and the staff to look after the younger players like Josh and manage their work loads. "We can’t expect too much of them all time. Sometimes they might get a little frustrated about that, and rightly so. They want to play and they don’t see the other side of it.

"But we do need to look after them and protect them. It is a lot to be playing week in week out. When we talk about the more experienced boys in the group, learning that side of it is all part of that. That lands on our toes to manage that, because it’s not just this week, next week etc, it runs right through to May and we need everyone, especially at the moment, to carry us through."