4-2-3-1 was a favoured formation of Middlesbrough in the 2015/16 season when they were promoted. However, last season Boro played a variety of formations. These included five at the back, three at the back and the most often used 4-3-3 with three defensive midfielders. After having limited success with these new formations, it seems smart to switch back to the 4-2-3-1 which worked so well for Boro last time they were in the Championship.
GK: Connor Ripley
With Victor Valdes and Brad Guzan both departing Boro over the summer, the goalkeeper spot at Boro is wide open. Ripley spent last season on loan at struggling League One Oldham. In that time he managed to keep 18 clean sheets. This was the most in League One last season. It was also a joint club record for Oldham Athletic. Boro’s only other current keeper is Dimi Konstantopoulos who’s current contract expires this summer but rumour does suggest he will be handed a new contract by Boro keeping him at the club next season.
However, as Dimi is now 38 and had little game time last season, should Boro now not be looking to the future and to 24-year-old Ripley who had an excellent season with Oldham?
Middlesbrough are currently somewhat limited for right backs at the moment. Callum Chambers has gone back to Arsenal and Nsue left Boro in January. This leaves Antonio Barragan as the only actual right back at the club. But as Barragan proved for much of last season, no right back is probably better than having him. He is constantly lazy. He also as a professional footballer is still unable to grasp the concept of how to take a correct throw in as he managed to perform at least six or seven foul throws last season. Something which should not be happening to any professional footballer.
Fabio, on the other hand, despite being a left back primarily can play right back. He is also generally a hard worker and is even able to take a throw correctly. Fabio played eight games at right back last season in which he did pretty well in all of them. He also has Championship experience as he played nearly 70 games for Cardiff.
CB: Daniel Ayala
Ayala was a slight outcast this past season playing just 14 league games for Boro partly due to injuries and suspensions. Despite this, Ayala could once again be a huge part of the Boro defence next season. Ben Gibson looks set to be leaving Boro and Callum Chambers had returned to Arsenal. This means Boro need to replace them immediately. Hopefully for Ayala and Boro fans, he will be given the chance and hopefully, he can get back to his best like in the 2015/16 season when he was a rock in Boro’s defence allowing them to win promotion.
CB: Kyle Bartley
Kyle Bartley is currently top of Garry Monk’s watch list. The defender spent last season playing under Monk at Leeds United. Since then Bartley has returned to parent club Swansea City. However, as Bartley is unlikely to feature at Swansea, a move to Middlesbrough could be very likely. Bartley is certainly an impressive Championship centre-back. He played 45 games last season, scoring six goals and helping Leeds to earn 15 clean sheets, their highest total since the 2004/5 season.
LB: George Friend
Friend has been a fan favourite at Boro for some years now. His work ethic is outstanding and he always gives it 110%. Burnley have been linked with a move for Friend. But as he is an integral part of Boro’s squad they are unlikely to let him go.
CDM: Adam Clayton
Clayton, like Friend, is a fan favourite due to his passion and work ethic. He gave it his best in the Premier League. But more importantly now Middlesbrough will want to keep hold of him because of how well he did in the Championship with Boro. Especially in the 2015/16 season when he was named in the Championship team of the year. Clayton also recently signed a new contract keeping him at the club till 2021.
CDM: Adam Forshaw
Forshaw had a great start to the Premier League campaign. But he did fall out of favour a bit as the season went on. However, Forshaw has shown his quality and is a well established Championship midfielder. Furthermore, as Marten De Roon looks to be leaving in the summer, Forshaw would be his natural replacement.
RM: Patrick Bamford
Bamford would be a great choice as Boro’s right midfielder next season. Because for one thing, Adama Traore looks likely to be leaving to join West Ham. Also, last time Bamford was at Boro he played the majority of his games at right mid in a 4-2-3-1. This was his most effective position and lead to him being Middlesbrough’s top scorer that season. He also won Championship player of the year.
Boro do still have Stuani who can play right midfield. Although he does go missing in many games meaning if Boro can rebuild Bamford’s confidence over pre-season he should probably be the main choice due to his impressive season he had in the Championship with Boro as a primarily right mid.
CAM: Stewart Downing
This is one most Boro fans will probably groan at. At the moment though, Downing is currently Boro’s best CAM. Yes, Gaston Ramirez is still at the club but the chance of him staying is very small. The only other real option would be Callum Cooke who has no Championship experience meaning Downing is probably the best choice right now.
Despite this, it is clear the CAM is a position Boro do need to strengthen over the summer.
LM: Viktor Fischer
Fischer has had little playing time at Boro but could really light up the Championship. Last season Fischer got the same amount of assists as Boro’s other left winger Downing despite playing only 439 Premier League minutes compared to Downing’s 2,212. This shows Fischer does have some potential and if given the chance could be a real hand full for Championship defenders.
ST: Britt Assombalonga
As it stands Assombalonga is not currently a Boro player. However, he has been heavily linked with a move to Teesside. Garry Monk is also a big fan of the striker. Assombalonga is a proven Championship goalscorer. He scored 14 in 32 games this season and 15 in 29 games in the 2014/15 season. Admittedly he does have some injury problems but if Boro can keep him fit he could easily score 20 plus goals next season.