Long read: Why Middlesbrough weren't desperate to sign players on deadline day

The thing about the transfer window is it always leaves you wanting more.

Friday, 9th August 2019, 11:58 am
Updated Friday, 9th August 2019, 12:59 pm
Middlesbrough head coach Jonathan Woodgate only wanted to sign players who were right for the club this summer.

One more attacking midfielder, another striker who can act as back-up, a central defender to sure up the backline.

Middlesbrough head coach Jonathan Woodgate didn’t get all his targets this summer after admitting he wanted one more signing on the final day of the summer window.

That arrival didn’t come, yet Woodgate seemed fairly relaxed during Wednesday’s press conference, insisting he is happy with the squad at his disposal.

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On the face of it, the Teessiders do still appear a little light in some areas ahead of a non-stop Championship campaign. However, when you break it down, Woodgate does have at least two options for every position.

One of Boro’s recent problems has been their lack of pace and width in the final third, a key area in Woodgate’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.

In his impressive 60-minute cameo against St-Etienne in pre-season, pacey midfielder Marcus Browne looked like the type of player Boro were crying out for last term, following the 21-year-old’s arrival from West Ham earlier this month.

The return of Marvin Johnson, who has been given a fresh start under Woodgate, also feels like a new signing following the winger’s impressive pre-season performances and his display at Luton a week ago.

Throw into the mix Ashley Fletcher, who operated out wide at Kenilworth Road, as well as Marcus Tavernier, and maybe Boro aren’t as short as people think on the flanks.

In truth, Boro’s first-choice starting XI looks pretty strong and the problems will come if anything happens to star striker Britt Assombalonga or the squad’s first-choice defenders.

The Teessiders sold towering centre-back Aden Flint to Cardiff midway through the window and didn’t replace him, yet Woodgate still has options.

Dael Fry and Daniel Ayala both played regularly in the heart of defence last season, while captain George Friend and Ryan Shotton can also operate centrally.

Anfernee Dijksteel looks set to become Boro’s No 1 right-back after signing from Charlton, while Jonny Howson occupied the position during pre-season and at Luton last week.

On the left, Marc Bola’s arrival from Blackpool has strengthened a potentially vulnerable area, as has the emergence of academy graduate Hayden Coulson who was one of the club’s standout performers in pre-season.

You may not be convinced by all those options but, at the very least, there is competition for places.

Further forward, Boro could possibly use a bit of extra pace in central midfield or creativity in the final third, yet, as shown by last week’s action-packed draw at Luton, the Teessiders are more than capable going forward.

Woodgate has made it clear he isn’t just thinking about the here and now or a short-term fix. “I’ve got to look after this football club.” he said in Wednesday’s presser.

The Teessiders could have easily made a slapdash, last-minute signing to bulk up the squad but that isn’t part of the club’s new philosophy.

In the past Boro have spent huge amounts of money on players who were supposedly proven at Championship level, yet it’s fair to say the results have been mixed.

This summer the club have taken a different approach, bringing in three outfield players, Browne, Bola and Dijksteel, all under the age of 23, who will only improve and increase in value.

Some may argue Boro’s new strategy and Woodgate’s appointment was the cheap option in an age where you need to spend money to reach the Premier League.

But just look at where that has left Boro in the past – trying to balance the books after dishing out big-money contracts to unreliable players.

They don’t want that situation again, and Woodgate would much rather hand opportunities to a promising academy player rather than spending money on a stopgap.

Woodgate’s passion for his hometown club has never been in doubt and, while that is no guarantee of success, it should help restore the eroded connection with the club’s supporters following last season’s malaise.

Boro’s new head coach cares about the club, and, when the TV cameras were turned off after Wednesday’s press conference, he even named a future Middlesbrough starting XI consisting of Boro’s young prospects.

The aspect of time is a key component, though, and Boro fans will have to think of the long-term vision if the club aren’t competing for a top-two spot come the turn of the year.

A lot of experienced players have left the Riverside this summer, Flint, Stewart Downing, Dimi Konstantopulos and John Obi Mikel to name a few, as Boro have stripped back their squad to pave the way for new blood.

Besides, spending money isn’t always the solution, look at Norwich and Sheffield United last season, after the pair locked out the Championship’s automatic promotion spots by recording two of the lowest net spend totals in the second tier.

Overall, this summer’s transfer window may seem a bit underwhelming for Boro fans, with no big name signings to get the pulses racing.

The transfer window will always leave you wanting more, yet Boro fans may have to be patient to reap the rewards of this summer’s business.