Where Sammy Ameobi's arrival from Nottingham Forest leaves Middlesbrough in the transfer market as Neil Warnock eyes more deals
Two down, six or seven more to go. Middlesbrough are making gradual inroads into their summer recruitment drive – but the next few weeks are set to be crucial for the Teessiders and manager Neil Warnock.
The capture of Sammy Ameobi on a free transfer looks like a shrewd piece of business, following the arrival of goalkeeper Joe Lumley in May.
Those additions will fill two of the positions Warnock spoke about at the end of last season, when the Boro boss admitted he wanted to bring in around ‘eight or nine’ new players, including three strikers, this summer.
Landing those forward targets remains the obvious priority. Boro were the Championship’s lowest scorers in the top ten last season. It’s an area which cost them as their play-off push petered out.
After returning to Rockliffe, Warnock said the club remain in talks with a handful of targets as the squad prepare to start their pre-season training schedule this week.
The sooner Boro can bring in at least one forward the better. With a Championship opener against Fulham just over a month away on August 7, work on players’ fitness, tactics and the team dynamic start now.
Even if Boro can sign two capable strikers at Championship level, you’d think they would have a decent shot at a top six finish.
Defensively the Teessiders looked relatively solid for most of last season, and with the likes of Dael Fry, Grant Hall, Paddy McNair, Jonny Howson and Sam Morsy, plus the addition of Lumley in goal, Warnock has a strong defensive base to build on.
Of course Boro will also need to add more creativity to their ranks to supply the strikers they hope to bring in. That’s where the likes of Ameobi need to step up.
The 29-year-old is clearly a player who can open up defences with a piece of skill or direct run, even if he hasn’t produced that consistently over the years.
Following the player's arrival, Warnock spoke about Ameobi’s ability to hurt opponents and the problems he can cause in the final third of the pitch.
Boro missed players like that last season, and while Neeskens Kebano and Yannick Bolasie were fun to watch while on loan in the second half of the campaign, they are unlikely to return this summer.
Interestingly, Warnock has also said Boro are in talks with midfield players too. You would think he means attacking midfielders who are capable of contributing with goals and assists, rather than the defensive type.
Boro desperately missed Marcus Tavernier when the playmaker was out injured last term and, while this is bound to be a big season for the 22-year-old, it feels like Boro need an additional threat in that area.
Ameobi’s arrival will give Warnock another option on the flanks, yet the departures of Bolasie, Kebano, Marvin Johnson and Nathanial Mendez-Laing, whose future remains unclear, still leaves room for more arrivals in wide areas.
Warnock will also feel he needs cover at centre-back, which would allow Nathan Wood to leave on loan, and in goal to challenge Lumley.
Still, Boro’s attacking shortcomings remain the priority this summer.
The next few weeks will be crucial to address the imbalance.