After missing out on promotion last season, Aitor Karanka and Steve Gibson set about getting Middlesbrough back into the Premier League with a number of big money additions, but is this season their best chance of returning to the Premier League?
The Teessiders were the best defensive side in the division last season and the only thing that let them down was their quality at the other end of the pitch, they scored 68 goals in the league which doesn’t sound too bad until you compare it with those that won promotion.
Bournemouth scored 98, Watford 91 and Norwich – who beat Aitor Karanka’s men in the play-off final – scored 88. All of them scored considerably more goals than Boro and their quality in the attacking third was the priority area of improvement for the manager this summer.
They did just that spending £13m on attacking players. Stewart Downing arrived for £5.5m, Cristhian Stuani for £3.6m, David Nugent for £4m and Carlos De Pena for another £3m.
These eye-catching additions made Boro the pre-season favourites, along with Derby, for the title. Also, they have like-for-like replacements in every position and the quality that they possess is clear to see.
The signs from their opening 12 games are mostly positive. While they are goal-less in their last three games, Boro’s attacking play has been terrific this season.
Their attack has been much more energetic when pressing with the tireless Nugent chasing down every ball, paired with constant interchanging between the three attacking midfielders to bamboozle opposition defences.
Patrick Bamford aside, Boro didn’t really have anyone to take the few chances that they created but now they have added that extra quality in the final third which means that they now take most of their chances.
Adding players with the quality like Downing and Stuani, as well as having a young, talented manager in Karanka, represents Middlesbrough’s best opportunity to win promotion back to the top flight since their relegation back in 2009.
Managing those expectations is another matter and it is something that they have struggled to do in the past but with the strength in depth that the squad possesses, Teesside expects a return to the Premier League this time around and come May, Middlesbrough should be preparing for a season back in the top flight.
Middlesbrough fans…Do you agree? Is this Boro’s best chance of promotion? Let us know what you think in the comments below!