At the start of the Premier League campaign, Middlesbrough looked the best equipped of the new boys to survive a quick return to the Championship.
Fellow new boys, Hull City and Burnley had failed to strengthen significantly and Spanish boss Aitor Karanka was perceived to have done well in the summer transfer market.
However, having watched Boro’s rather tame 3-1 defeat at Everton on Saturday they may well struggle to create enough chances to stay in the top-flight.
Even their goal was rather dubious, as striker Alvaro Negredo appeared to foul Toffees goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg before the Dutchman dropped the ball into his own net.
Life is getting tougher for Boro
The north east side started their Premier League campaign with two draws and a win from their first three Premier League games. However, successive defeats against Crystal Palace and Everton have shown that life in the top-flight is getting tougher for Boro.
The honeymoon period is now over for Aitor Karanka’s men and this season could be a hard slog if they continue to perform like they did at Everton.
Granted the trip to a revitalised Everton under Ronald Koeman was always going to be a difficult one, but the north east side went down to a defeat with a whimper rather than a fight. Boro failed to create anything and did not get a shot on target all game.
Everton played well, but there was a sense that if the Toffees needed to up a gear they could have done, as in the second half they took the foot of the gas and settled for the three goals.
Need to create more
The simple fact is Middlesbrough’s strength in the Championship was always their defensive record. Their record of 31 goals conceded last season was the lowest tally of any team in league football, which is commendable.
However, the team also scored just 63 goals, which was the lowest tally of goals from the Championship’s top six last season. It was their defensive solidarity that Boro’s promotion was built on under former Real Madrid centre-back Aitor Karanka.
Karanka has attempted to put the goals issue right by bringing in Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo, who has the ability to score goals, but he needs decent service to score goals.
The likes of winger Viktor Fischer and Adama Traore also arrived in the summer. Neither started the game against Everton, as Boro attempted to remain compact first and attack second. The remaining compact obviously did not work, as the Toffees were three goals up by half-time.
The trip to Goodison was maybe not the time for being adventurous for Karanka and his team, as they could have come away with a far bigger defeat. They looked bright for the first 20 minutes or so, but as soon as they took the lead Everton burst into action.
Maybe Boro can find more of an attacking threat and play a slightly adventurous style in future games, but it is difficult to see where the goals are going to come from for Karanka’s team.
A fight for survival
No doubt the primary aim of all three of the promoted sides will have been to maintain their Premier League status this season. Middlesbrough are currently odds of 7/2 to be relegated this season. Their odds have shortened since defeats in their last two Premier League outings.
Karanka’s side are exhibiting those two worrying signs of relegation, struggling to score goals and conceding goals, which was their undisputed strong point from last season.
The north east side needs to start creating chances and an attacking threat from somewhere, as at the moment they look to lack creativity. Maybe in time the likes of Traore and Fischer will get their chance to impress in the team.
The two new summer signings have shown flashes of ability in the past. However, for them to be able to create anything they first have to be on the pitch.
I did not believe that Boro would be in the fight for survival this season and they may not be, but all the recent signs point to a long hard fight for survival for the men from the north east.
Can Middlesbrough score enough goals to survive the drop this season?