The 'four or five' new signings Neil Warnock will be looking to make at Middlesbrough before season opener at Fulham
Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock still wants to make four or five new signings before the start of the 2021/22 season – but what positions will the Boro boss be looking to strengthen?
The Teessiders will start the campaign with a tricky trip to Fulham on Sunday, August 8, yet their squad could still look quite different at that point.
Warnock admitted at the end of last season that a big turnover of players was needed – so the Boro boss will be satisfied to have made progress in the transfer market over recent weeks.
The arrivals of goalkeeper Joe Lumley, winger Sammy Ameobi, striker Uche Ikpeazu and versatile defender Lee Peltier will certainly bolster the Teessiders’ options.
Yet clearly there are still other areas which need to be addressed if Boro are to challenge for promotion this campaign.
Last season Boro paid the price for not having a reliable goalkeeper, as Fulham loanee Marcus Bettinelli made some costly errors as the last line of defence.
Supporters will hope that Lumley provides a more dependable replacement, yet the 26-year-old will need competition between the sticks.
With Dejan Stojanovic expected to leave the club, Warnock will still be looking for a new No 2 after Jordan Archer’s contract wasn’t renewed, while Sol Brynn is pencilled in to leave on loan, allowing him to gain more first-team experience.
The rest of Boro’s rearguard appears fairly solid, with a defensive quartet of Anfernee Dijksteel, Grant Hall, Dael Fry and Marc Bola providing a robust backbone.
Paddy McNair could also play in defence, while new signing Peltier can operate across the backline.
There is perhaps a need for another versatile player who can act as cover, though, especially at left-back, following reports Hayden Coulson could be allowed to leave on loan.
In Jonny Howson and Sam Morsy, Warnock has two capable holding midfielders at his disposal, while McNair may take on a box-to-box midfield role if Fry and Hall can form an established partnership at the back.
George Saville’s departure leaves Boro a man light in the engine room, though, and Argentine midfielder Martin Payero, 22, could act as a direct replacement – if Boro can iron out all the details with South American club Banfield.
Yet clearly Warnock’s biggest priority will be to add more attacking firepower to his squad.
Ameobi’s arrival will offer Boro a natural winger who can run at defenders and hopefully create chances for the side’s striker.
Marcus Tavernier and Duncan Watmore will also hope to contribute in the final third of the pitch, yet Warnock will want to sign at least one more offensive player who can threaten out wide or as an attacking midfielder.
The Boro boss also said he wanted to sign three new strikers at the end of last season, so expect at least another frontman to follow Ikpeazu through the door.
It appears Chuba Akpom will be allowed to depart if an acceptable offer is made, meaning Ikpeazu would be the only recognised centre-forward at the club.
Warnock has also talked about wanting to play with two strikers at times, so clearly there is still work to do in that department.