After a torrid start to the 2021/22 season, Championship side Middlesbrough will be desperate to get their season back on track at home to Peterborough United this weekend.
Winning just three of their 11 opening games of the campaign, Neil Warnock’s men currently sit in 15th place despite bringing in 12 recruits during the summer in their quest to challenge for the top six.
This target felt like the next natural step after finishing 10th last term, although they currently seem like a million miles away from reaching their goal of breaking into the play-offs after failing to gain any real consistency in 2021/22 so far.
Have Middlesbrough had a higher or lower average attendance compared to these 23 sides this season?
There is still plenty of time to turn things around though – and after beating Sheffield United comfortably last month – this will give them some much-needed confidence despite losing against relegation-threatened Hull City in the previous match.
In fairness, these two contrasting results sum up the Championship, but manager Warnock is a man under pressure regardless of this and will need to improve his side’s form in their upcoming set of games before the next international break in November if he wants to keep his job on Teesside.
There are plenty of dilemmas he will need to contend with in the short-term though, with Peterborough United coming to the Riverside Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
We have selected just two things he needs to weigh up ahead of this one.
Worth taking a risk on Dael Fry if he’s fit?
Dael Fry is undoubtedly one of Middlesbrough’s most talented players and it would be a huge boost if they were to have him back fit and available in time for this weekend’s clash with Darren Ferguson’s men.
As per Teesside Live, he is currently a ‘doubt’ alongside fellow centre-back Grant Hall, a position in which they are currently facing an injury crisis with Paddy McNair potentially being forced back into defence.
In a normal situation against a team they are expected to beat, Neil Warnock may not have opted to risk him, but they are currently facing a crisis at the back and his job is currently on the line after some poor results earlier in the campaign.
In the end, the risk of aggravating the injury may be too high to take, especially with how crucial he is to the first team. But the dilemma remains nonetheless.
Tavernier to follow in his brother’s footsteps?
With their injuries in defence and Uche Ikepazu potentially ready to step up and be that third man up top with Duncan Watmore and Andraz Sporar, it makes you wonder whether Boro will mitigate the effects of their lack of defensive options and go with a back four.
This could leave Marcus Tavernier not as a wing-back, but as an orthodox full-back who will be expected to carry out his defensive duties with distinction. The potential availability of Fry could leave Warnock with him and Sol Bamba in the centre, Marc Bola at left-back and Tavernier on the right.
That would allow Paddy McNair to remain in midfield alongside Jonny Howson and Matt Crooks, with Ikpeazu, Watmore and Sporar as narrow forwards up top.
Crooks would be the furthest man forward in midfield supplying chances to the forwards – and you could definitely see something like this working.
Many people would worry about the lack of width, but Tavernier and Bola should be able to do a sufficient job down their respective wings. There would certainly be no shortage of threat going forward with the three up top either.
With this, is the 22-year-old set to follow in his brother James’ footsteps in becoming an orthodox right-back, albeit temporarily?