The season was a disaster but there’s no time to dwell and Boro must start to rebuild
Back in the Premier League after seven long years in the Championship, few expected Middlesbrough to be preparing for life in the second tier after just a season back in the top flight.
A team with fantastic potential at the start of the season, some high profile signings and a highly-rated, young manager looked like they could build on the success they had in the previous campaign.
Fast forward nine months and the team looks disjointed, noises from the dressing room are that the squad wasn’t united, key players didn’t perform and the highly-rated manager was replaced with a rookie boss who, although he is well regarded by Steve Gibson, has looked out of his depth.
Going into the summer, the chairman has come out and said that things at the club need to change and has shown a steely determination to get Boro back into the top flight at the first time of asking.
The teams success next season depends massively on decision made by Gibson this summer. Firstly, the team needs a manager.
Every fan has their own opinion on who should come in with a new name being the bookies' favourite every week but ultimately, the decision is down to the chairman and he will have a clear idea of who he wants in charge.
His post-Southampton interview suggested that he has a boss in mind but he just needs to go out and get his man. No one needs to tell Gibson that this decision needs to be made as soon as possible.
The squad needs massive improvement and investment if Boro are going to bounce back at the first attempt, and a new manager is going to be crucial to the recruitment.
A new boss brings a new system, a new way of thinking and in order to be a success, they will need the right players. We saw last season how a poor transfer window can have a detrimental impact the sides season, and Gibson and company will know this better than anyone else.
There are a number of clubs in the Championship who will spend big this season to achieve promotion, and there are some like Derby and Aston Villa who have spent in previous seasons and have strong squads already.
In an ideal world, Boro would move out some of the high earners and unwanted players such as Victor Valdes and Gaston Ramirez before recruiting, but given the quality needed in the team, they don’t have time to wait for these players to move on.
The whole squad needs improvement this summer. Conor Ripley and Tomas Mejias are likely to be the only goalkeepers if Dimi isn’t handed a new deal. The full-back positions lack strength in depth, the centre of defence could need improvement if Ben Gibson moves on.
Central midfield lacks a creative, forward-thinking player and if Marten de Roon leaves, the club will have lost the only central midfielder who can be a goal threat.
Boro are desperately short on the wings. Adama Traore is a threat but has little to no end product, Stewart Downing is becoming more unpopular with fans by the week, Viktor Fischer has shown signs of class but question marks remain over whether he’ll be here next season. The only other players to have played on the wings are Patrick Bamford and Cristhian Stuani, who are both strikers.
Upfront the side are missing a top striker. Bamford, Stuani and Rudy Gestede have all shown they can score goals at that level, but there’s a consensus that another forward is needed. Last season’s two promoted sides, Newcastle and Brighton, had a striker that scored whenever they were on the pitch in Dwight Gayle and Glenn Murray and that’s what Boro need. Especially as goals rarely come from elsewhere in the team.
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Ultimately though, Boro need to find the togetherness and unity that Aitor Karanka instilled in his players. Losing that cost Boro dearly last season and getting that back as soon as possible is crucial.
Its going to be a busy summer for Boro and although the 2016/17 season has just finished, work has to begin immediately if they are going to be competing for promotion.