The two positions Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock will be prioritising in the January transfer window

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Middlesbrough have entered the January transfer window competing for a play-off spot – with manager Neil Warnock keen to strengthen his squad in the next few weeks.

The Teessiders have already made one new addition after bringing in free agent goalkeeper Jordan Archer, a replacement for fellow stopper Dejan Stojanovic who has left on loan.

But, as Warnock has pointed out all season, Boro have one of the thinnest squads in the Championship with just 23 senior players – the joint smallest in the division along with Millwall.

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Back in the summer, Warnock publicly expressed his desire to sign another striker, an area where Boro were left weaker when Ashley Fletcher suffered a hamstring injury back in September.

Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock.Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock.
Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock.

The signing of Duncan Watmore in November has helped ease the burden on fellow forwards Britt Assombalonga and Chuba Akpom, while helping address the Teessiders’ goalscoring struggles.

Watmore, who only signed a short-term contract until the middle of January, has scored five goals in six starts this season so keeping him at the club will be near the top of Boro’s priorities.

If Watmore does stay and Fletcher returns from injury at the end of January, Warnock will have the four forwards he wanted at the start of the campaign.

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During Saturday’s 3-1 win at Wycombe, the Boro boss will have also been encouraged by the performances of Marcus Browne, Marcus Tavernier and Marvin Johnson who operated behind Akpom in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Warnock would still like to sign another winger on loan as his side have predominantly played with natural wide men and a back four in recent weeks.

Tavernier and Johnson will be hard to dislodge based on current form, while full-backs Hayden Coulson and Djed Spence have filled in when asked to play in advanced positions on the flanks.

Yet Warnock wants his wingers to chip in with more goals and assists to keep his side in the promotion hunt. Another more natural goal threat could make all the difference.

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Some would point to the fact that Patrick Roberts was bigged up as the creative spark who Boro would build their attack around this season, yet it simply hasn’t worked out for the Manchester City loanee.

Roberts has made just three starts all season and will be frustrated about his lack of minutes.

Warnock clearly has reservations about the 23-year-old’s ability to track back if deployed out wide, with the playmaker now likely to depart this month.

Looking at other areas of the pitch, Boro appear a little light in the centre of midfield, where George Saville and Sam Morsy have formed the heartbeat of the side over the last few weeks.

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They will be helped when Jonny Howson returns to action later this month, a player Warnock has described as the best midfielder in the Championship.

But, while wanting to improve his wide options, Warnock will also be aware how light his squad are at the back.

Grant Hall’s long-term injury has left Dael Fry and Paddy McNair holding together Boro’s backline, with the latter playing every minute of every league game so far this season.

Warnock has revealed he tried to sign a Premier League centre-back on loan at the start of the season. It’s an area he’s likely to revisit in the next few weeks.

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