Monday, February 6, 2023

Middlesbrough Manager Wants To Get Rid Of These Two Stars: Is The Move Justified?

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Josh Barker
Middlesbrough FC correspondent for The 4th Official.

After being officially appointed Middlesbrough manager on June 9th, Garry Monk seems to have settled into the role and is now looking at changing the personnel in his squad. The first two players Monk looks to be getting rid of are Stewart Downing and Viktor Fischer.

However, with Boro’s already limited attacking options should Monk be getting rid of Downing and Fischer?

Stewart Downing

Hometown hero Stewart Downing returned to Boro in July of 2015 in hopes of guiding them back to the Premier League. Downing arrived from West Ham for a fee of £6.72 million.

The winger had started his career at Middlesbrough and had been one of their best players. But due to Middlesbrough being relegated in 2009, Downing moved to Aston Villa in order to get Premier League football. Since then he has enjoyed spells at Liverpool and West Ham. So, because of his Premier League quality, he was greeted with a hero’s welcome when he returned to the Riverside to play in the Championship.

However, that welcome quickly turned sour. In the 2015/16 season, Middlesbrough were still in the Championship. Downing played 45 of Boro’s league games that season. In those 45 games, he managed to rack up just three goals and five assists. For a player who is supposed to be of Premier League standard, this was less than adequate. Some fans did still favour Downing and some said that the Championship was not his style of play. Maybe that was true and maybe he would prove himself in the Premier League.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. Middlesbrough did win promotion in the 2015/16 season. However, Stewart Downing had little to do with that. What earned Boro their promotion was more to do with a rock solid defence, Gaston Ramirez and Jordan Rhodes’s crucial goals rather than Downing pulling his weight.

But as Middlesbrough were back in the Premier League, Downing could now show how good he was. However, what Boro fans got was one goal and three assists in 30 league games. This was a terrible stat for someone of Downing’s supposed quality.

Granted he was not helped for much of the season by Karanka’s negative system. But still, when Downing did attack he was slow, lazy and often didn’t look like he cared. In fact, when George Friend played at left back behind Downing he looked like a better left winger than Downing did.

Overall, Monk’s decision to get rid of Downing is completely justified. He put in poor performances in the Championship and the Premier League and so Monk would be better off signing a new face. Also, Steve Gibson has said he would like to add ‘pace and flair’ to the squad. Stewart Downing has little pace. Furthermore, what flair he did possess seems to have left him. This means he does not fit what Boro need or want. Thus he is now surplus to requirements.

Viktor Fischer

Unlike Stewart Downing, Monk’s apparent desire to get rid of Fischer may be a bit harsh. Viktor Fischer signed for Boro last summer from Dutch giants Ajax for £4.25 million. Since joining Middlesbrough though, Fischer has struggled for game time. Fischer made just 13 appearances in the league last season. He also only started six of those games. The other seven he normally came on after the 75th minute.

In those few appearances, he managed three assists. Not the greatest but when you compare it to Stewart Downing, the other player Monk wants to sell, it’s not bad. Downing and Fischer both earned three assists but Downing did that in 30 appearances, usually as a starter compared to Fischer’s 13 appearances over half of which were as a sub.

Therefore, it seems harsh of Monk to want rid of Fischer when he made just 13 appearances last season and still managed the same number of assists as Downing.

Furthermore, as alluded to earlier, Stewart Downing has played in the Championship with Boro. In that time he was less than effective which gives Monk an idea of how he would do this season. Fischer, on the other hand, has never played in the Championship. So as Fischer has never played in the Championship Monk does not know how well he will do. The Championship in many ways is a step down from the Premier League and given enough playing time Fischer could be a really effective winger for Boro next season.

Finally, as referred to earlier Steve Gibson wants players with pace and flair. Fischer is not the fastest, although he’s faster than Downing, he does possess flair and could cause some Championship defenders real problems if given the chance. Overall, Monk may be acting too hastily in wanting to sell Fischer and should give him a chance next season.

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