After weeks of rumours and negotiations, Britt Assombalonga has finally joined Middlesbrough. Assombalonga has reportedly cost Middlesbrough a sum in the region of £14 million. This is a club record fee, the previous being Afonso Alves for £12.7 million in 2007.
The signing of a striker as good as Assombalonga is extremely important to Middlesbrough. It’s no secret that Middlesbrough have struggled to score goals in the past. They scored just 27 goals in the Premier League last season, the lowest in the league. This shows Boro desperately needed to strengthen their attacking threat and the signing of Assombalonga will certainly do that.
But just how good is Assombalonga and what will he bring to Middlesbrough?
Britt Assombalonga’s biggest strength is most defiantly his finishing. In total, Assombalonga has played 68 Championship games for Nottingham Forest, scoring 30 goals. At almost a goal every other game, it is a very impressive record.
Also, last season Britt managed just 20 starts. However, in those 20 starts, he scored 14 goals. A goal to start ratio any striker would be proud of. As well as showing he can score goals, Assombalonga is also extremely clinical. This is demonstrated when looking at his shots per game. On average last season, the forward had 1.8 shots per game. Considering he scored in nearly every game he started last season, it shows that Assombalonga needs very few shots to find the back of the net, sometimes less than two a game to score a goal.
Assombalonga is also a strong forward who likes to dribble with the ball and challenge in the air for the ball.
While Assombalonga does look to be a great clinical forward. He does have some weaknesses. For example, his passing. Last season Assombalonga managed just one assist for Forest which shows he isn’t the best at passing and creating chances for other players.
This is further demonstrated when looking at his key passes per game. Typically he manages 0.4 key passes per game, a worrying low stat. He also averages just 11.3 passes per game showing Assombalonga is much better suited to being the one to receive the ball in the six-yard box, rather than the one creating chances for his side.
Assombalonga’s passing is further exposed when comparing him to Middlesbrough’s Ruddy Gestede. On average, when playing in the Championship, Gestede creates 0.8 key passes per game, double that of Assombalonga. Gestede also generally manages 14.1 passes per game. Around three more than Assombalonga. This shows that Assombalonga’s passing could do with some serious work. Because his passing stats are considerably worse than that of Ruddy Gestede’s who isn’t even the greatest striker.
Another problem Middlesbrough could find with Assombalonga is that he struggles to hold up the ball. Both Monk and Middlesbrough generally favour the 4-2-3-1 formation meaning Assombalonga would be playing up top on his own. This would require him to hold up the ball and pass it off to the likes of Braithwaite, Bamford and Traore. However, last season Assombalonga was dispossessed around 1.5 times per game. Once again, compared to Gestede Britt’s stat is twice as bad with Gestede being dispossessed just 0.7 times per game last season. Therefore, if Boro wants to play Assombalonga up front on his own, he seriously needs to improve his passing and hold up play.
The fee Middlesbrough are reportedly paying for Britt Assombalonga is £14 million. Not only is this one of the biggest transfers in Championship history, it is also a club record fee. Middlesbrough’s previous record signing being Afonso Alves in 2007 for around £12.7 million. Therefore, as Middlesbrough are breaking their transfer record for him, it’s safe to assume he will play most games in the Championship next season.
Furthermore, Assombalonga is a proven Championship goal scorer. As mentioned earlier he scored 14 goals from 20 starts last season. So, as he has proved himself in the Championship as a goal scorer Middlesbrough will certainly want to play him up front. While new signing Martin Braithwaite may provide some competition for the striker spot, it is likely Braithwaite will play out on the left next season. A position Boro are lacking in and a position Braithwaite is well versed in.
Assombalonga will no doubt bag in goals for Middlesbrough next season when fit. A major problem Middlesbrough will face, however, is keeping him fit. Assombalonga is very injury prone. On February 12th, 2015, he injured his knee. This kept him out until April 17th, 2016, meaning he missed 430 days out with just one injury.
More recently, Assombalonga’s injury problems have made him miss games last season. As referred to earlier he made just 20 starts last season. This was not because he wasn’t good enough. This was simply because he was out injured. In total he missed 14 Championship games last season through injury meaning he made just 32 appearances for Nottingham Forrest. 12 of those coming off the bench. Because once again, he wasn’t fit enough to start all 32 games he was available for.
If Assombalonga is hit with similar injuries next season, Middlesbrough could be in serious trouble. Because he is likely to be their main source of goals next season. But if he misses half the season through injury, it’s hard to see Middlesbrough winning the Championship next season.
(Stats from WhoScored.com)