Middlesbrough are building a strong team spirit under Tony Pulis but need reinforcements in the loan window

Turn the clock back 12 months and Middlesbrough were in the middle of a transfer frenzy.

Friday, 10th August 2018, 10:52 am
Updated Monday, 13th August 2018, 10:40 am
Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis.

In came Britt Assombalonga for a club-record fee, closely followed by Martin Braithwaite and Ashley Fletcher, not forgetting the signings of Cyrus Christie, who was sold in January, and Marvin Johnson, who barely played towards the end of last season.

Overall, Boro spent over £50million on new players last summer.

The result: an unbalanced squad without an identity, leading to Gary Monk's sacking just two days before Christmas.

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This year, Boro adopted a different transfer strategy under Tony Pulis, trimming their squad to create a sense of unity, as well as providing a pathway into the first team for those in a highly-rated youth academy.

There has already been evidence of that, with Lewis Wing and Marcus Tavernier stepping up during pre-season.

Still, there's no getting away from the fact Boro look like a weaker side compared to the one which finished last season, following the sales of Patrick Bamford, Ben Gibson and Adama Traore.

Boro have also lost Mo Besic, who was arguably the side's best central midfielder last season, after a permanent move on deadline day collapsed.

There was no doubt Boro needed replacements for their prized assets which didn't come.

Pulis missed out on Yannick Bolasie, who could have filled the void vacated by Traore, and the squad still appears particularly light in wide areas.

That includes at full-back, following the sale of Fabio Da Silva, explaining why Boro were linked with late moves for Everton's Cuco Martina and West Ham's Sam Byram.

Yet, Boro failed to get a single signing over the line on deadline day and will surely look towards the loan market, which closes on August 31, to beef up the squad.

Boro's bench on the opening day of the season included three players who hadn't started a first-team game, the inexperienced Tavernier and Johnson, who has played just eight minutes under Pulis.

As it turned out, the introduction of Wing, Tavernier and Fletcher changed the game, but, as Pulis has pointed out, these players need to be used sparingly and not left to carry the burden over a 46-game season.

Boro did make a couple of shrewd acquisitions in Aden Flint, Paddy McNair and Jordan Hugill (on a season-long loan from West Ham), even if the aforementioned departures seemingly make them weaker.

Still, Boro's promotion credentials won't completely depend on big-name signings or talented individuals - more about the balance and effectiveness of the team.

Boro produced an accomplished performance against Sheffield United on Tuesday night, which Pulis will hope is a sign of things to come.

Even so, Boro will need to acquire more reinforcements before the loan window shuts to cope with a long and gruelling season.