The 'eight or nine' players Middlesbrough need to sign this transfer window as Neil Warnock's big task is highlighted
Neil Warnock said at the end of last season he wanted to sign around eight or nine new players this summer – and clearly the Middlesbrough boss has a big job on his hands.
While Boro appear to have a strong core of players, there are clearly gaps which will need to be addressed if the Teessiders are to mount a serious promotion challenge.
We take a closer look at the key areas Warnock will want to strengthen ahead of the 2020/21 campaign, while assessing each position:
Boro moved quickly to secure the services of Joe Lumley, who will officially join the club at the start of July when his contract at QPR expires.
Lumley will hope to establish himself as the club’s No 1 keeper but will need competition between the sticks.
Dejan Stojanovic is still contracted to Boro until 2023 but was loaned out to German club St. Pauli in the second half of this season.
The Bundesliga 2 club wanted to make the move permanent, which would appear to suit all parties as Warnock clearly didn’t fancy Stojanovic as a No. 1 option.
That would leave Boro looking for another goalkeeper, which could allow 20-year-old Sol Brynn to leave on loan.
An area where Boro do appear pretty strong.
The improvements made by Anfernee Dijksteel and Marc Bola last season were hugely impressive, and you’d think they would be Warnock’s first-choice options for the 2021/22 campaign.
Darnell Fisher made a solid start to his Boro career after arriving from Preston in January and should provide competition on the right.
After a frustrating campaign, it’s less clear what the future holds for Djed Spence, who has been linked with a move away from the Riverside this summer.
Hayden Coulson could provide cover for Bola at left-back, yet Warnock doesn’t seem comfortable playing him in that position.
Perhaps Boro need someone who can play at centre-back and left-back to bolster their defensive options.
If Boro play with a back four, Paddy McNair could be allowed to move into midfield.
Warnock has said he prefers McNair at the back, yet the partnership between Dael Fry and Grant Hall looked like an accomplished one last season.
Nathan Wood, 18, would probably benefit from another loan move after spending time at Crewe in League One.
Boro would have to bring in cover first, though, so it appears at least one additional central defender is needed.
Boro do appear well stocked in this area of the pitch.
You will struggle to find better options in the holding midfield position than Jonny Howson and Sam Morsy at Championship level, while George Saville can operate in more of a box-to-box role.
As previously mentioned, McNair can step into midfield, while Lewis Wing will return from a loan spell at Rotherham and provide a more attacking option.
Connor Malley, 21, and Hayden Hackney, 18, could be allowed to leave on loan, or in Hackney’s case continue to develop with the under-23 side.
If they are loaned out, it’ll be important that they join a club where they can play regularly.
Attacking midfield / Wide players
Clearly an area which needs some serious work.
It feels as if Boro need another option in the No 10 role if Marcus Tavernier isn’t available – they missed the 22-year-old’s presence towards the end of last season.
Duncan Watmore could also operate as a supporting striker, but was often required to move into other positions last term due to a lack of options.
Marcus Browne won’t be fit until around October time as he continues to recover from an ACL injury he suffered in January.
While Warnock’s priority is to sign more strikers for next season, the Boro boss will also want wingers who can contribute with goals and assists.
Following the departures of Yannick Bolasie, Neeskens Kebano, Marvin Johnson and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing - although the latter could come back into Warnock’s plans - it appears Boro need at least three new creative players to strengthen their forward line.
Hopefully there are more options available when the season kicks off in August.
Warnock said at the end of last season he wants to sign three new strikers this summer, while there is also uncertainty around Chuba Akpom’s future.
Akpom didn’t appear to suit Boro’s system after joining the club last summer and clearly Warnock wants to sign more imposing options, similar to Cardiff striker Kieffer Moore who the Teessiders previously missed out on.
Stephen Walker’s latest loan spell at Crewe didn’t result in as much game time as Boro would have hoped, and the 20-year-old will now be assessing his next move carefully.
Coburn, 18, made an impressive impact at the end of last season but clearly still needs more time to develop before he becomes a first-team regular.
Evidently there is plenty of work for Warnock and Boro’s recruitment team.
On the face of it, Boro need back-up in the goalkeeping department and at centre-back, ideally someone who can cover at left-back.
They also need a couple of new wide players and an attacking midfielder, as well as three new strikers to solve their goalscoring woes.
With the transfer window set to reopen on June 9, it’s set to be a busy few months at the Riverside.