It’s been a difficult 2020 for Middlesbrough as the hover perilously close to the relegation zone.
After a tough start to the campaign, the Teessiders enjoyed a resurgence in December last year but have since gone a run of nine matches without a victory in all competitions.
That patch stretches all the way back to New Years Day when Jonathan Woodgate’s side recorded a 2-0 win over Preston North End.
As a result, Middlesbrough sit just six points above the drop zone with 13 games remaining.
In our latest FLW Six Pointer, we look it the Teessiders’ slump in more detail and whether Middlesbrough can truly consider themselves as candidates to be relegated.
Firstly, how bad has this poor run of form actually been?
“While a run of nine games without a win doesn’t look good there has to be a bit of perspective.
“Two of those results were against Tottenham Hotspur, while four of the remaining seven games ended in a draw.
“That means that it’s been far from a disastrous run of form, however the dropped points have certainly stopped Middlesbrough from being able to pull away from that cluster of teams in the bottom quarter of the league.”
Who has to take the majority of the blame for these disappointing results?
“It’s hard to pin the blame on any one person for the lack of recent form.
“While Jonathan Woodgate has received some criticism for questionable tactical choices in recent fixtures, it’d be unfair to pin the blame solely for the lack of form.
“In truth, it has been injuries that have hampered the recent form most.
“Defensive injuries to Daniel Ayala, George Friend and Ryan Shotton – combined with injuries to the likes of Patrick Roberts and Britt Assombalonga have really disrupted the list of players available which certainly made it difficult for Woodgate to find a winning formula.
“Combine that with helping several new arrivals to integrate and you see the frustrating task that the Middlesbrough boss has had to handle.”
Who have Middlesbrough missed the most through injury?
“Injuries have certainly played their part with a number of key players missing for long spells over the last couple of months, most notably that of Patrick Roberts.
“While defensive injuries have stolen the bulk of the headlines, the hamstring injury that he picked up against Birmingham City seemed to rob the team of any real creativity which has meant that creating clear-cut chances has been difficult.
“Add that to the lack of potency in attack and you begin to see why Middlesbrough have failed to turn one point into three on so many occasions.”
Are supporters losing patience with Jonathan Woodgate?
“It’s only natural that the manager of a club without a win in nine attracts some criticism from supporters, but I think that’s as far as it’s gone.
“I wouldn’t exactly say that Jonathan Woodgate is a universally popular figure around Teesside, but for the majority of fans there’s a degree of sympathy and understanding for the job that he’s been tasked with at the Riverside Stadium.
“Building a team after losing several key players and blooding youngsters into the first team squad is a difficult task, and on the whole Woodgate has done a good job to get results when it matters.
“This season was always going to be one with consolidation in mind, and as long as Middlesbrough stay firmly away from relegation danger I think it’ll be seen as a job well done under difficult circumstances by Jonathan Woodgate.”
What needs to change at Middlesbrough?
“Quite simply, Middlesbrough need to get a win.
“We’ve heard all too often about how well the team has played, and how the team deserved more from a game, but points deserved is not a column on the Championship table.
“With players starting to return from injury it’s about getting them fully match sharp as soon as possible so that they’re ready for some big games that are coming up.
“It’s also about getting new signings such as Harold Moukoudi and Ravel Morrison integrated with the squad soon so that they are fully understanding what is expected of them from Jonathan Woodgate.
“Everything is there for Middlesbrough to get the job done, it’s now just a case putting the pieces of the jigsaw together with Woodgate picking his best XI and his best formation and sticking with it for the rest of the season.”
Finally, can you see Middlesbrough being relegated from the Championship?
“Six points above the drop zone with 13 games left doesn’t look good, but I’m not overly worried about Middlesbrough’s survival hopes.
“While the Teessiders have slipped up against relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic and Luton Town in the last week, you can certainly see that the side are capable of picking up a handful of wins between now and the end of the season.
“To a certain extent, this season is now just about Jonathan Woodgate muddling through and ensuring that those wins come before the nerves really start to set in.
“There are certainly three worse teams than Middlesbrough in the Championship, and I have every confidence that the Teessiders have enough wins in them to at least maintain the six-point buffer that they have on the drop zone.
“Woodgate also has plenty of leaders and experience in his squad, and if he can use that to his advantage then Middlesbrough will be all-but safe from the threat of relegation.”