Middlesbrough have the tools to take the 2015/16 Championship by storm next season
Considering that Stewart Downing was one of West Ham’s stand-out performers last season, the winger’s decision to leave London and return to his native north-east to play for Middlesbrough raised a few eyebrows.
After all, Downing turned out for England as recently as last November, although this move isn’t just a sentimental one for the former Liverpool man.
Middlesbrough are a club with ambition and money ahead of the new campaign. Having lost in the play-off final against Norwich last May, Aitor Karanka is now looking to come back even stronger and it might be a simple case of adding a few more to the “goals for” column.
At the time of writing, Boro are odds-on to land the signature of Jordan Rhodes which would give the Teeside club a proven sharp-shooter at this level, with Christian Stuani also arriving this summer after thoroughly impressing with Espanyol last term.
“We need to score goals, this is the fifth game (in pre-season) and we’ve scored just three goals,” Karanka said after a goalless draw against Doncaster.
“Last season was the same. While teams who got promoted scored 80 or 90 goals, we scored 50 or 60, so the difference is the goals and this season we’re having the same problem. We have to improve and score more goals.”
Even so, there is lots to like defensively about this team, with centre-half Ben Gibson one of the team’s stand-out performers last season and that helped them keep more clean sheets and concede fewer goals than anyone else.
But can the “goals for” column be bolstered now that Patrick Bamford has headed to Crystal Palace from Chelsea? Stuani should certainly help in that department and Rhodes would almost guarantee 25 more goals, with the striker angling for a move away.
Obviously the Championship is an unpredictable division and Derby County’s big spending has caught the eye, with Chris Martin and Darren Bent likely to be filling the onion bag regularly.
Thomas Ince has also made a permanent move to the iPro Stadium, although Paul Clement is something of an unknown after arriving from Real Madrid in the summer and we’d rather get with Middlesbrough each-way.
Middlesbrough e/w @ 6/1 with bet365
All odds were correct at time of posting.