Tony Pulis has said throughout the window that he and Boro will not be rushed into transfers.
He realises the need for players to bolster the squad for the coming campaign and has dipped his toes into the market twice this season, capturing goalscoring centre back Aden Flint and the all action Paddy McNair.
Those two were signed on the back of Pulis believing it was the right deal at the right time. If the club feel they are being held to ransom or someone isn’t playing straight then we will walk away. A very admirable approach. However, as the window ticks on, it could leave us in a very precarious situation.
By no means am I saying that we should bow down to the demands of a team or player that are playing games, but we need some movement and soon. So let’s look at who could be leaving.
Even with the injury that was picked up during our abandoned friendly against Sunderland on Friday night, Adama Traore remains of big interest to Wolves who are still monitoring the situation.
It goes without saying that he will be a massive loss. Under Pulis, Traore has gone from frustrating to flourishing. He has found an end product with both assists and goals in the second half of the season, being a massive part of the push for the playoffs.
“Pace, power, athleticism. The man is a tank with an F1 engine.”
– Craig Parr on Adama Traore
Replacing players like that is almost impossible. I have never seen a player as fast with and without the ball as him. Pace, power, athleticism. The man is a tank with an F1 engine. I would not like to see him go. But if he did, I’d want significantly more than the £18 million that has been quoted. This is apparently the release clause that is in his contract but that seriously undervalues him both in talent and worth to the squad.
Next is Patrick Bamford. It has been widely reported that we have agreed a fee with Leeds of £6.75 million.
Bamford has struggled to find a place in Pulis’ side. He was played up front out of necessity when injuries had hit and Assombalonga had lost his confidence. He took his chance with both hands, going on a goalscoring streak at a vital part of the season.
I do get the feeling that with all forwards being fit and available that Bamford would not be top of Pulis’ list. When he received a nasty knock to the head, Britt was straight back in and putting a good shift in for the team and Bamford found himself back on the bench.
Stereotyping or not, Pulis likes a battering ram upfront. A striker with physicality and a powerful presence. But, for me, Bamford has hold up play better than any other forward last season. With his back to goal, he’s comfortable receiving the ball to feet and bringing others in to play – and he is the only player with any creativity in the final 3rd that we have.
His cute touches in and around the box and finishing ability would be missed. Him going to someone in the same division would be double trouble.
Ben Gibson. This has been rumbling for two seasons and we have managed to stave off any interest so far.
If rumours are to be believed, a whole host of Premier League clubs are interested but no firm bids made yet.
Hopefully we can keep hold of him. Gibson isn’t just a good centre back and important part of the squad, but he is big part of the connection with the team and the fans. A local boy done good, the fans love that. He has looked strong alongside Ayala but with the addition of Flint, is this Gibson’s new partner or a replacement?
Another that may be on their way out is Martin Braithwaite. He showed glimpses of his abilities early in the season but then lost interest in the cause and was duly shipped out by Pulis to Bordeaux for the rest of the season.
Pulis recently said that “They are all in my plans, if they stay they stay, if they go they go and we’ve got to look for new players to come in
“I just want players who want to play for Middlesbrough Football Club. It’s a fantastic football club, lovely people around the place, and you want people to be happy, you want people to play for your football club, for the supporters who come and support the team and that is just the way I’ve always been.
“I like to have people who want to be here.
“It’s not for me to have people around who think they are doing you a favour.”
That could be a little dig at Braithwaite or a dig at others also. We shall see.
Rumoured arrivals are Sam Vokes, Martyn Waghorn, Sheyi Ojo, Joe Bryan and Boaz Myhill.
Boaz Myhill is a favourite of Pulis but a keeper isn’t what we need. He is vastly experienced but Randolph is No1, and we have a capable deputy in Dimi so this makes little sense.
Sheyi Ojo is rumoured to be a replacement for Traore. The Liverpool winger enjoyed a successful spell with Fulham last season so has picked up some experience of the business end of a promotion push.
Sam Vokes is a Pulis forward. A big, strapping forward who is dominant in the air. The prices being put around are a bit eye-watering (in excess of £10 million) and could either replace or challenge Britt and Gestede to lead the line.
Martyn Waghorn is another possibility. A striker with a confident touch inside the box and looks to get shots away at any opportunity from distance or tight angles. Again, fees being quoted for his services are £10 million and above.
Joe Bryan has had an up and down season with Bristol City. With Fabio gone, the 24-year-old left back would provide competition for George Friend who needs to recapture his promotion season form.
The players we are linked with, in my opinion, are not addressing all of the weaknesses in the squad. For me, priorities are left back as cover or to challenge George Friend, a right back to replace Shotton, a Number 10 and a left winger.
As I said earlier, George is still our first choice left back but he is a shadow of the player from promotion season. He needs someone to push him and for him to stay injury free and have a capable left winger playing in front of him.
That brings me to the left wing problem. Downing isn’t capable of playing that role as effectively as he has in the past. The pace isn’t there anymore and he doesn’t pose enough of a threat.
All of the onus has been on Traore to make something happen and we are unbalanced by going down the right all the time. Decent wingers are hard to come buy but someone good enough to balance the team would be ideal.
A right back would be of high priority also. Ryan Shotton endured a tough time from fans when first arriving and won over some of his detractors with some performances in the centre of the defence.
But unfortunately at right back, he’s just not good enough. He doesn’t get forward enough and his basic short passing lands his teammates in trouble often, as shown toward the end of last season.
Christie was an attacking force when he was here but neglected his defensive duties and Shotton is the other end of the spectrum.
We need someone who can strike a balance. Someone to be able overlap Traore (if they can keep up) and drag some players away from him to exploit space while being mindful of their defensive duties would be great.
Number 10. We are SCREAMING for a Number 10. Hard work and industry will get you so far but when you come up against a well organised Villa side or against 9 man Wolves who are battening down the hatches, you need a player who can thread the needle and produce a moment of brilliance to change the game.
Tomlin’s pass away at Derby for Bamford’s goal where he took five Derby players out of the game is a moment that springs to mind.
Gaston Ramirez (sorry for swearing) in the promotion season was also a difference maker. It is such an important position that is often seen as a “luxury” but in my opinion it is a necessity.
Traore down the right, a capable winger on the left and a Number 10 pulling the strings. Carnage. They would create space all over for one of our forwards to exploit.
Again, those sorts of players are hard to come by. But do we already have one among our ranks? Harry Chapman took his chance the other day against Rochdale and has impressed for the youth side in previous seasons. Lewis Wing came from non league and has had minutes in preseason. Maybe Pulis could take a chance on either.
Do we know if these are Pulis’ priorities? I don’t know what areas Pulis and his team have focused on but all will become apparent in less than two weeks.
Hopefully we can keep Gibson, Traore and Bamford and we can add to the squad and look forward to the coming campaign. Time will tell.