Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis has admitted his side is weaker now compared to the one that finished last season after failing to fully strenghten after deadline day.
He made the assessment after only one deadline day signing, and three overall this summer when talking to the Northern Echo.
Boro have lost the likes of Adama Traore, Ben Gibson and Patrick Bamford this summer, with all three playing significant roles in the play-off run in last season’s Championship.
Pulis has been able to make three summer signings in Aiden Flint, Paddy McNair and a loan deal for West Ham’s Jordan Hugill.
Having lost Traore, a replacement was sought after on deadline day but after a plethora of targets were shortlisted – none came off.
Boro looked for deals for Everton’s Yannick Bolaise while also seeing two bids for Millwall’s George Saville and Jed Wallace rejected at the 11th-hour on Thursday evening.
Pulis admitted after the 2-2 draw with the Lions on the opening day that his current side would not get promoted and with only Hugill arriving since, his stance would not have changed.
Temporary deals for Bolaise and former loanee Mo Besic could still be on the cards but look unlikely now with the Middlesborough boss having to settle for adding to his side in the loan window if they are to do any business.
Despite their transfer failings, a first win of the season against Sheffield United last Tuesday saw the Riverside club set the early pace at the top of the division.
They host Birmingham today hoping to continue their unbeaten start to the new Championship season.
Tony Pulis is right; Boro are weaker.
He said after the Millwall draw his current side would not get promoted, and he still had five days to do business to rectify that statement.
But he has failed to deliver anything other than the loan signing of West Ham striker Jordan Hugill.
The panic set in late on deadline day when they made a double swoop for Jed Wallace and George Saville but that both bids were swiftly rejected.
It looked like the last throw of the dice as Pulis looked to try and replace talisman Adama Traore, but it was to no avail.
Having lost three key players and the three arriving this summer arguably no better than what they had, the pre-season favourites for promotion could end up struggling to compete at the top end of the division.
The permanent loan window might be closed in England, but teams from the continent could still poach Boro players should clubs be drawn to them.
It is going to be an interesting three weeks to see if Pulis can add to his squad during the loan window before that closes at the end of the month.