Which players want to leave Middlesbrough, is Neil Warnock losing the dressing room and how can he solve the problem?
Middlesbrough were beaten 2-1 by QPR at the weekend – prompting some strong comments from manager Neil Warnock after the match.
The Boro boss claimed ‘three or four’ players didn’t want to be at the club and that he knows the players he needs to get rid of during the summer transfer window.
We take a closer look at some of the big questions and talking points from the Riverside:
Who are the players who want to leave?
Warnock didn’t name names after the game on Saturday, yet his team selection in recent weeks has been telling.
The Boro boss has already admitted that Britt Assombalonga, who will be out of contract, will leave this summer, while Ashley Fletcher also looks set to leave the club.
Fletcher hasn’t started a game since he went off injured against Bristol City in February, which is surprising given the side have been crying out for a natural striker this season.
The 25-year-old, who has been sidelined for most of the campaign, was offered a new deal at Boro earlier this year, yet he and his representatives opted to wait until the summer.
Warnock’s comments didn’t reflect well on Djed Spence either, with the Boro boss saying, ‘I think I know now who I have to get out and who I have to keep,’ before highlighting the full-backs error for QPR’s second goal.
Spence has clearly struggled this season and, for me, the 20-year-old needs to leave on loan following such a quick progression into the first team last term.
Is Warnock losing the dressing room?
Warnock’s comments over the last few months have changed significantly and are concerning heading into next season.
Boro’s form since the turn of the year has been hugely disappointing, with the Teessiders winning just seven of 21 league games, drawing three and losing 11.
After what looked like a promising January transfer window, the side have gone backwards, while Warnock is now talking about cliques forming in the dressing room.
There are multiple factors for Boro’s slide, including injuries to key players such as Dael Fry, Anfernee Dijksteel, Marcus Tavernier and Sam Morsy, while I do think the side overachieved in the first half of the campaign.
I wouldn’t say Warnock has lost the dressing room, and many players have spoken positively about the atmosphere at the club and what Warnock has built this campaign.
As the manager has pointed out, Boro do appear to have a core group of players (Jonny Howson, Paddy McNair, Duncan Watmore, Marc Bola, Tavernier, Fry, Dijksteel to name a few) who he can build around.
Yet it’s clear Warnock will need everyone onboard if the side are to succeed next season.
How can Warnock solve the problem?
The next few weeks and months appear crucial for Boro.
As Warnock said at the weekend, the club need to offload players who don’t want to be there and make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction.
If he’s talking about cliques in the dressing room, cliques have the potential to grow which is the last thing Warnock wants.
After such a promising start, this season is finishing with a whimper.
Warnock has to make sure that doesn’t seep into pre-season and the 2021/22 campaign.