Britt Assombalonga will be key for Middlesbrough this season but Jonathan Woodgate needs others to step up
It doesn’t take a genius to work out Middlesbrough’s major problem last season.
Despite finishing seventh in the Championship and just one point off the play-offs, only four teams in the second tier scored less goals than Tony Pulis’ side, a stat which new head coach Jonathan Woodgate will be desperate to amend.
Boro netted 49 goals in 46 league games under Pulis in the Welshman’s only full season at the Riverside, that’s 44 less than eventual champions Norwich City who scored 93.
It would be a surprise if Boro don’t improve on last season’s tally, with Woodgate making it clear he wants to play a high-tempo, attacking brand of football.
In Britt Assombalonga he has a proven Championship goalscorer who, despite not always being a regular starter under Pulis, still finished Boro’s top scorer with 14 league goals last term.
The 26-year-old frontman showed exactly what he can offer on Tuesday night by netting a 33-minute hat-trick in a pre-season friendly at Salford.
Yet Boro can’t simply rely on Assombalonga to bolster their attacking output and will need others to contribute if they want to challenge for promotion.
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With Woodgate seemingly set on deploying a 4-3-3 set-up, Boro’s two wider forwards, the likes of Marvin Johnson, Marcus Tavernier and Ashley Fletcher, will need to chip in.
There will also be licence for the side’s midfielders to make more of an impact in the final third, with Paddy McNair, George Saville and Lewis Wing all capable of scoring goals.
“If you’re going for promotion you need goals off every single player in the side,” said Woodgate following the Salford win. “The centre-halves, Ayala can score goals for fun, the full-backs need to chip in, the midfielders need to get eight, ten goals, everyone needs to chip in.”
Boro’s set-piece struggles were also well documented last season, with the side’s towering centre-backs scoring just two goals between them.
The Teessiders have shown signs of improvement this summer after scoring two goals from dead-ball situations at Hartlepool.
But, despite some good deliveries, Woodgate’s side wasted several chances from corners at Salford last time out and still have room for improvement.