After weeks of speculation about who will be the man to take over from Tony Pulis at Middlesbrough, it looks as if chairman Steve Gibson is now ready to give Jonathan Woodgate his first taste of management.
According to The Guardian, the 39-year-old is expected to be announced as the Smoggies’ new boss in the coming days with the club currently in the process of putting together his coaching staff.
Having worked under Pulis as Boro’s first-team coach last season, Woodgate would have witnessed first-hand both the strengths and the weaknesses that the current crop of players possess, something of which should help him when it comes to recruitment this summer.
If the former England international can bring in some exciting new additions to the Riverside between now and August, there is no reason why he cannot lead his side to a top-six finish in the Championship next season at the very least.
Keeping this in mind, here are three areas that we think Woodgate needs to fix in order for the Smoggies to have the best chance of achieving success in the second tier…
He needs to add some real width
Whereas Boro boasted the joint-best defensive record in terms of goals conceded in the Championship last season with Sheffield United (41), a sincere lack of creativity going forward was ultimately the overriding reason for why they missed out on the play-offs.
With stalwart Stewart Downing scheduled to leave the club when his current deal expires, it is imperative that Woodgate targets bringing in at least two wide players who have the ability to stretch the play and provide consistent service for the likes of Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher.
A replacement for John Obi Mikel is a must
A mainstay in the Smoggies’ starting eleven since arriving at the club in January, it looked as if John Obi Mikel was on a one-man crusade to get the club back into the Premier League as he delivered a number of inspiring performances.
Yet with Boro running out of steam at the most crucial stage of the season, the Nigerian ultimately fell short in his goal and is now looking for a new club having failed to agree new terms with the Championship side.
Given the outstanding levels of consistency shown by Mikel, it is vital that Woodgate finds a suitable replacement for him this summer, even if it does mean that he has to splash the cash as a failure to do so could lead to his club finding it hard to compete in the second tier next year.
A different type of striker could help unlock defences
Although Britt Assombalonga didn’t exactly struggle for goals last season, it is fair to say that the forward’s supporting cast were relatively toothless in comparison.
With Ashley Fletcher struggling for consistency throughout the campaign and Rudy Gestede being virtually anonymous, it may be worth Woodgate looking into bringing a different type of striker to the Riverside Stadium.
Whereas the aforementioned trio all possess a superb amount of physicality, Boro could find the key to unlocking defences by bringing in a shorter, more pacy player whose skill-set could help form the basis of a fruitful partnership next season.