Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough were tipped as the pre-season favourites for promotion to the Premier League, yet haven’t made the best of starts to the new Championship campaign.
The North East outfit were relegated from the top-flight last term following a disastrous season under a combination of Aitor Karanka and Steve Agnew, with Boro finishing the campaign 12 points adrift of safety having won just five of their 38 league games.
Yet optimism was restored over the summer following the appointment of former Leeds boss Monk, alongside several high profile signings like Britt Assombalonga, Martin Braithwaite, and Jonny Howson, but they suffered defeat in their first match back in the second tier, going down 1-0 at Wolves.
That loss may highlight to the Middlesbrough manager that further reinforcements are needed to take the club back to the top tier, and one man who has officially made his way to the Riverside Stadium this afternoon is Chelsea midfielder Lewis Baker.
The 22-year-old has made just one first team appearance for the Blues and, like many young players at Stamford Bridge, continues to struggle to force his way into Antonio Conte’s reckoning, and as such another loan spell is forthcoming for the England Under-21 international.
And Monk’s Boro have got a deal done for the midfielder ahead of Championship rivals Birmingham and Reading, and there’s little doubt that Baker’s arrival will seriously enhance their promotion hopes.
And that’s because Baker has proven to be an excellent attacker in the last few years, and has the necessarily quality to cause Championship defences no end of problems.
Although his first two loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and then MK Dons weren’t overly fruitful, the Englishman has come into his own in the last two seasons at Vitesse, with 20 goals and 11 assists in 73 games for the club.
His first season saw him play his way into things at the Eredivisie outfit, bagging five times in 31 league matches, yet it was last season where he really proved himself to be a wonderful attacker with 15 goals and seven assists in all competitions, in turn helping the club to a fifth place finish in the league, and to victory in the Dutch Cup.
Last season appears to be the season in which Baker announced himself on the big stage, and if he can recreate that form in the heart of Monk’s midfield, Middlesbrough are going to create numerous opportunities, and with Assombalonga, Braithwaite, and Ashley Fletcher up top, they will score several goals.
Arguably, Baker showed enough promise to earn a loan move to a Premier League club this season, which itself is indicative of how highly he is regarded, and how well Boro have done to secure his services.
It’s a move that will no doubt enhance their prospects of an immediate return to the Premier League.