Middlesbrough FC transfer Q&A: Potential signings, Darren Randolph departure and contract situation assessed

We’re over halfway through the January transfer window, with in and outgoings still expected at Middlesbrough.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th January 2020, 6:51 pm
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate is hopeful the club can make more signings this month.

We’re over halfway through the January transfer window, with in and outgoings still expected at Middlesbrough.

The Teessiders have already completed two signings this month, after Lukas Nmecha and Patrick Roberts arrived on loan from Manchester City, while Darren Randolph has completed his transfer to West Ham.

But what next?

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Our Boro writer Joe Nicholson has tackled the main issues, as well as what to expect come February 1.

How many more signings will Boro make this month?

Woodgate said on Tuesday he’s hopeful the club can make a couple more signings before the end of January.

As we’ve seen, loan signing appear to be the most viable option and Financial Fair Play regulations have been mentioned on multiple occasions.

If Boro do make any permanent signings they are likely to be players who are playing at a lower level, like we saw in the summer.

Obviously, those deals represent more of a gamble, and recent arrivals Marcus Browne, Marc Bola and Anfernee Dijksteel have all struggled to make the step up from League One.

All three are still under the age of 24 and could become decent players but need more time to develop.

Which areas do Boro need to strengthen?

The stats suggest Boro’s problems have been up front this season – only Wigan Athletic have scored less goals in the Championship this season.

Yet the arrival of Nmecha and return of Rudy Gestede means the Teessiders will have four capable strikers on their books when Britt Assombalonga returns to fitness. Ashley Fletcher has also been in excellent form recently.

The addition of Roberts is also an exciting one, and while Boro could still benefit from another playmaker, the priority must be bolstering their defensive options.

With Daniel Ayala set to miss the next four weeks and Ryan Shotton still sidelined, a new centre-back should be at the top of Woodgate’s shopping list.

Jonny Howson, Paddy McNair and Dael Fry have been excellent in a back three recently but if any of them become unavailable Boro will have a real problem.

McNair is also better suited to a central midfield role so signing a new centre-half would strengthen two areas of the pitch.

The other area where Boro appear short is in the wing-back positions, given the success since the Teessiders’ change of system.

Academy graduates Djed Spence, 19, and Hayden Coulson, 21, have made a big difference on the flanks, and Woodgate revealed this week that the pair’s running stats were off the charts.

Coulson was rested at Tottenham this week as Marvin Johnson coming in on the left, yet Boro’s lack of options on the right meant Spence had to start.

Another option on the right would allow Woodgate to rotate and protect his young players.

Will any more players depart this month following Darren Randolph’s exit?

Woodgate has said Boro don’t need to sell players this month, so unless someone wants to leave, the Teessiders should be able to keep their prized assets.

Goalkeeper Darren Randolph departed on good terms after receiving another chance to play in the Premier League for West Ham.

Britt Assombalonga has also been linked with a move away but is still recovering from an ankle injury which has caused him to miss over a month of action.

Like Randolph, a Premier League offer may prove tempting, yet the striker has looked more at ease this season and has a good relationship with Woodgate.

Staying with strikers, teenager Stephen Walker is expected to leave on loan and is likely to move to a League Two club this month.

Will Aynsley Pears be Boro’s No 1 keeper now Randolph has left?

He’s certainly taken his chance this season.

Reports have suggested Boro are looking at a replacement for Randolph with Swiss keeper Dejan Stojanovic reportedly on the Teessiders’ radar.

If the club do sign a new stopper, Pears will at least be competing for the No 1 jersey given his performances this season.

The 21-year-old has shown he’s more than capable at Championship level and could be Boro’s first-choice goalkeeper for years to come.

Competition for places will only help though.

Will we see any progress in terms of contracts this month?

A total of seven Boro players are out of contract in the summer – which is obviously slightly concerning for Woodgate.

Jonny Howson, Daniel Ayala, Ryan Shotton, Adam Clayton, Marvin Johnson, Rudy Gestede and Marvin Johnson are among the players who are into the final six months of their current deals.

Of the seven, tying down Howson, 31, and Ayala, 29, should be at the top of Boro’s agenda.

Woodgate has previously said he’s confident a deal for Howson will be completed while Ayala is also keen to stay.

Of the other five, it may depend how the rest of the season pans out and what funds are available.

After a difficult spell, Clayton’s performances have improved significantly in recent weeks, yet the 31-year-old will be one of the higher earners at the club after signing a new deal while Boro were in the Premier League.

Friend has obviously been an excellent servant for the club but has barely featured due to injury this season.