Anyone who has been following the transfer window with a minimum degree of regularity would be aware of the impact Middlesbrough have made this summer. After a belated wait of seven years they have come storming back into the top-flight and by the looks of it are determined to ensure their stay is not a short one.
Aitor Karanka managed to work his magic over the squad and having been under Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid as an assistant coach, seems to have learnt the tricks of the trade well.
The former Valencia man has ensured the team do not stagnate and though unsettling the core would not be ideal, he recognises the gulf in class in the Championship and Premier League. The quality of his signings point to the fact he plans to draft them into the first eleven thereby signalling an end to a good number of players from the line-up which ensured promotion.
Boro have already completed deals for big name players such as Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes and have signed Marten De Roon for £12m. They have also made the signing of Gaston Ramirez permanent. These players are expected to slot straightaway into the starting 11 along with Antonio Barragan and their other recruits Viktor Fischer and Espinosa will challenge for their position in the squad. But much to the chagrin of Boro supporters, the imminent arrival of Neven Subotic seems to have hit a roadblock with a failed medical being listed as one of the reasons.
Karanka has been given the name ‘Teeside Tinkerman’ by the supporters for his frequent rotations in the team but he insists his selection process is validated and there are multiple factors which have to be taken into consideration while picking a starting eleven.
“I always pick the best XI and the best eleven players in my head is the XI I put on the pitch. Fans have their best XI but they don’t know how the players are training, how they are in terms of injuries or pains. It’s difficult for people to understand a lot of things, but I have to manage it and sometimes when one player is not confident or I can feel he is not confident on the training ground, I have to choose the best XI.”
While he is expected to continue his rotation policy to an extent, he will have taken into consideration the success enjoyed by another similar team Leicester, by sticking to a settled line-up.
Middlesbrough will line-up in Karanka’s favourite 4-2-3-1 formation.
Victor Valdes is likely to start in goal. Antonio Barragan is expected to slot in as the right-back with a central defensive partnership of Espinosa and Daniel Ayala with George Friend at left-back. The midfield double-pivot will most likely consist of De Roon and Leadbitter. The Gaffer will have a tough choice here with Adam Clayton likely to be selected in the long run if the veteran captain is found out by the frantic nature of the Premier League. Negredo will lead the line with a probable triumvirate of Fischer, Gaston Ramirez and Downing behind him.