Middlesbrough FC transfer Q&A: What fans can expect for the rest of the January window
Middlesbrough have had a busy start to the January transfer window, yet in and outgoings are still expected at the Riverside before the end of the month.
In this week’s transfer window Q&A, our Boro writer Joe Nicholson takes a closer look at what fans can expect in the next few weeks and which areas of the squad still needs strengthening.
Will Middlesbrough make any more signings this month?
Jonathan Woodgate will certainly hope to make more signings this month as his overall squad remains thin.
The arrivals of Patrick Roberts and Lukas Nmecha on loan from Manchester City may have boosted Boro’s numbers, yet summer arrivals Marc Bola and Marcus Browne are also expected to leave on loan.
Loan deals appear the most likely outcome given the club’s financial limitations and Financial Fair Play regulations.
It’s not out of the question that Boro will make a permanent signing this month but, as we saw in the summer, they will probably have to gamble on someone who is less well known.
At the start of the season, the Teessiders signed three outfield players who were playing in League One last season and all three have struggled to adapt.
As we saw with Derby last season, the loan market can allow clubs to sign players who have played at a higher level – like Roberts and Nmecha who already have first-team experience in the SPL and Championship respectively.
With Darren Randolph set to leave the club, can we expect any more outgoings?
Woodgate has said Boro don’t need to sell players this month and will hope he can keep hold of his prized assets.
We’re led to believe Randolph’s imminent departure is because the player wanted another crack at Premier League football – rather than the club needed to sell.
There will also be speculation about other high-profile players, yet it should be noted the atmosphere around Rockliffe has remained positive, even when Boro weren’t getting results.
Britt Assombalonga was a player who attracted interest in the summer, and the striker’s recent ankle issue has led to some conspiracy theories.
Woodgate has insisted the striker’s injury is genuine after a hefty challenge during December’s 1-0 win over Charlton.
The Boro boss has also repeatedly backed his top scorer this season and the pair appear to have a good relationship.
Like with Randolph, though, a move to the Premier League could prove tempting should the opportunity arise.
As previously mentioned, we can expect both Browne and Bola to be loaned out this month, while other younger players may be allowed to follow.
Where do Boro still need to strengthen?
Boro have struggled for goals this season, yet the arrival of Nmecha and Rudy Gestede’s return from injury means that Woodgate now has four senior strikers available.
The glaring area the squad appears short is at the back, especially if Daniel Ayala’s ankle injury is serious.
Against Tottenham last time out, Boro’s back three contained two natural midfielder in Jonny Howson and Paddy McNair and, as well as the pair did, another injury or suspension would leave a big problem.
After signing two young players under the age of 23, it now looks like Boro need more experience to find the right balance - especially with Randolph on his way out.
Former defender Ben Gibson seems like an obvious fit due to the player’s lack of game time at Burnley.
Whether the 26-year-old would be willing to drop back down to the Championship remains to be seen though.
As well as another central defender, Boro would also benefit from more options in wide areas.
Young full-backs Djed Spence and Hayden Coulson have helped turn Boro’s fortunes by providing pace and energy on the flanks, yet the pair remain inexperienced at Championship level.
Another player who can operate as a winger or in a wing-back position would allow Woodgate to rotate his side without significantly reducing opportunities.
How big a loss will Darren Randolph be?
Obviously losing last season’s player of the year will come as a blow, yet Boro have coped without their first-choice goalkeeper for over a month now.
Aynsley Pears has stepped up to the plate in recent weeks and has kept seven of the club’s nine clean sheets in the Championship this season.
It would be a far bigger concern if the Teessiders were to lose someone like Ayala or Howson this month - two players who will be out of contract in the summer.
If Boro can reinvest the Randolph cash to offer the aforementioned players new deals, it would surely be money well spent.
Some may think Boro are being ripped off by the Hammers, who are set to pay around £4million for Randolph.
However, it should be remembered the keeper has less than 18 months left on his contract at the Riverside.
What shouldn’t be underestimated is Randolph’s influence behind the scenes, though, and both Woodgate and Pears have praised the stopper’s influence.
Losing a mentor with international experience wouldn’t be ideal for 21-year-old Pears, yet the young keeper has demonstrated vast potential in recent months.