Last time the Boro were in the Sky Bet Championship, the two holding midfielders were pivotal in Middlesbrough’s success that season and also held some of our stand-out players last season in the Premier League. Although, it’s fair to say we lacked an attacking midfielder last season but do we actually need to buy one?
I believe we already have enough within the midfield positions to not only stay defensively resolute but cause teams a lot of problems when going forward.
The defensive mindset of the Boro midfielders last season was due to managerial decisions and not the players themselves, this made the players look a lesser ability than they are.
Our strongest position going into next season is arguably the central defensive midfield position. Due to the amount of strength in depth in this position which was added when Aitor Karanka was in charge, we are definitely not short of players in this position. First of all, a key player for the upcoming season is Grant Leadbitter.
The 31-year-old is club captain and was short of game time last season due to an injury. His desire and leadership skills are the best we have and would have been key last season if he was able to feature more. His experience in a relatively young side will be a key asset on and off the pitch if we are going to ‘smash the league’ next season.
Adam Clayton quickly established himself as a fan favourite, and his passing range is admirable. Although I do have to question his decision making at times, as his lack of discipline last season cost us in a few games giving away silly free kicks on the edge of the area. Marten De Roon, another defensive midfielder was deployed in a slightly more forward role than he had been used to at Atalanta where he made the most interceptions and tackles in the Serie A.
Therefore, I don’t believe we have seen the best of a player who has left supporters divided. The Dutch man’s quality on the ball may not be as good as other midfielders, however, his hard work, energy and defensive qualities could prove to be vital next season, especially with the Tuesday-Saturday fixtures, we will need exceptionally fit players.
The final defensive minded player is Adam Forshaw. He has been somewhat of a strange player for us since signing for us in 2015 for a rumoured £2 million fee.
Most of his appearances for Boro in the Championship were usually from the bench, rarely did he start. Most supporters probably didn’t think much of him until his last gasp goal against Reading on our route to promotion.
Due to Leadbitter’s injury last season, he appeared in the starting line-up on many occasions last season and was the stand out performer in our first away game of the season against Sunderland.
Although as the season went on, his form seemed to deteriorate and looked more like a youth player playing for the first team, he looked out of his depth. Next season is going to be key for Forshaw if he wants to cement his place in the Boro team, and a step down to the Championship, whilst also getting regular game time in the division may help the 25-year-old develop even further.
Last season, the wide midfield positions were probably the most debated decision by fans as we couldn’t find a solution.
Although in the end, many of us realised it wasn’t so much the players which were lacking attacking qualities but the way Karanka and Steve Agnew set the team up which made it difficult for the wide players to actually get forward.
Firstly, Stewart Downing, his performances last season caused Boro supporters to turn on him. He was the player supporters turned on when times started to get rough, which was completely wrong.
Steve Agnew continued to play him when most supporters were able to see there was something wrong, whether that may be that he was out of depth, or he was played out of position.
I can’t see him getting much game time next season and I believe it would be best for him to leave the club unless Monk believes he can get the best out of him in the attacking midfield position.
Adama Traore has been linked with a move away from the Riverside this summer, but it seems as though Monk is keen to keep the services of the 21-year-old, and I agree with this.
We all know what he can and can’t do, and stepping down a division may help his game develop, as he should see much more of the ball. Carlos De Pena will most likely leave Boro this summer due to the departure of Aitor Karanka. However, I would welcome him to stay at the club, but would most likely be a squad rotation player.
The final position I will be looking at is the central attacking midfield role. Gaston Ramirez starred in that particular role in the Championship and then at the start of the Premier League campaign, however, I do not want him to wear the Boro shirt again, as he not only let Karanka down but the whole of the club down with his attitude.
He was the one player with that added bit of quality going forward who could have made a difference yet decided against helping us. Adlène Guedioura played for Watford in a forward type role and was a star man in their promotion winning team.
His ability at Premier League level has been questioned, but he has proven he can be a valuable player to have at Championship level for both the Hornets and Nottingham Forest.
He wasn’t given much of a chance by many supporters in January when we signed him, but I urge supporters to help him settle into the club because if he was brought in this summer instead of January many supporters would have a smile on their face.
Stewart Downing and Patrick Bamford are also able to be deployed in the attacking midfield position, which shows we have strength in depth in this position. This is the only position I can see Downing playing next season, but wouldn’t be surprised to see added quality in this area of the pitch, especially if we are able to get money for Gaston.
As shown in this article we not only have players with Championship experience but talented attack-minded players no one thought we had. Keeping most of these players will be vital next season, specifically Marten De Roon and Adama Traore as these are the two players with the added quality who are able to make the step up to the Premier League. We also have many attacking talents to look at in the Academy, which is something Monk will look into.