PART 1: Have Boro already got enough at the back to bounce straight back up?

Many Middlesbrough supporters are expecting an exciting transfer window this summer, with many signings expected but also plenty of players leaving.

Since the appointment of Gary Monk just a few weeks ago, we have unsurprisingly been linked with many Leeds United players, but whether these rumours are true or not is to be seen.

Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes have already left, along with others but nothing we haven’t expected so far. But I believe we already have a squad which is capable of gaining promotion, even without signing anyone.

Our defence has been the focal point in our side since the day Aitor Karanka was appointed, and have an exceptional defence for Championship level.

I’ll start off with our current full-back situation. Fabio Da Silva, Antonio Barragan, George Friend and James Husband are our full backs going into the 2017/18 season. George Friend, as we all know can prove to be a very influential player at this level due to his athleticism and skill on the ball.

He picked up a few niggling injuries last season, which kept him out of the team for a while and struggled to return to full fitness. Fabio was one of Boro’s stand out players in our disappointing Premier League campaign. He is able to feature on both sides, and may not have the pace that Friend has, however his samba like skill and technique is superb, whilst also being a very able defender.

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Antonio Barragan and James Husband both featured last season in the Premier League and would get into most Championship starting XI’s. Barragan was disliked by a lot of Boro supporters due to his foul throw in’s and lack of pace, yet I believe he is a good defender.

We haven’t seen much of Husband in a Boro shirt, but he could prove to be a bit-part player next season with games coming thick and fast.

Our centre-back positions are most definitely covered, even if Ben Gibson does leave. Daniel Ayala was arguably the best defender in the Sky Bet Championship the season Boro were promoted and looks set to stay at the Riverside this season.

Due to injuries last season he wasn’t able to play as much as he may have wanted yet I believe he held his own in the Premier League and didn’t look out of place in the games in which he did feature. His distribution and height are two of his best assets, and with Garry Monk liking a ball playing centre-back I can see Ayala being a regular in the Boro side.

There isn’t much needed to say about Ben Gibson, as every Boro fan knows he is quality. However, like some centre-backs in the modern game (David Luiz, Phil Jones and Wilfred Ndidi – former CB) they have thrived playing just in front of the back four.

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Gibson was able to beat players at ease last season, driving forward with the ball on several occasions and I believe playing in the defensive midfield position would allow Gibson to still make use of his defensive ability, but also allow him to drive forward with the ball more often. Okay, maybe I did have a little bit say about Gibson…

Our other centre-backs include Bernardo Espinosa and Dael Fry. Fry has recently been part of the England Under 20 squad which won the World Cup in South Korea.

Not bad to put on your CV. He has proven in the few games played under Aitor Karanka and his England youth appearances he has a lot of potential and is highly rated by a lot of people. I can’t see Fry as a regular in the heart of our defence next season but is definitely a very good squad player to have in our side.

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Espinosa was exposed last season due to a lack of pace, but having just come back from a long-term injury didn’t help the situation. Spanish journalist Guillem Balague reminded compared Espinosa with John Terry, a no-nonsense type defender. Again, If Gibson stay’s I can’t see the Colombian featuring a lot but is a more than a suitable replacement.

Last of all, probably the most talked about position so far this transfer window, the Goalkeeper.

Brad Guzan and Victor Valdes have already departed, and with the future uncertain for Tomas Meijas we may end up with just two senior keepers. Dimi looks set to sign a new contract with the club, whilst youngster Connor Ripley returns from his loan spell with Oldham.

The 24-year-old was the standout goalkeeper in League 1 last season and most supporters would be more than happy if we had signed him, never mind him already being a part of our youth system.

I believe Ripley will be our new number one next season, due to Monk’s insistence to put faith into his youngsters. Dimi will most probably be our cup keeper, but will also act a role model for Ripley who will be able to learn a lot from the experienced keeper when training with him every day.

At the moment, I don’t believe we need any new additions in our defence, as we have plenty of cover in each position. Although if Gibson does eventually leave, I would see Kyle Bartley as a replacement for him, and knowing Garry Monk’s system already, it wouldn’t take long for him to fit in at the Riverside.

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