Middlesbrough were promoted to the Premier League last season courtesy of having the best defensive record in the Championship, while they did just enough in attack to win promotion.
Well, last night the side from the north east were relegated from the top-flight after a 3-0 defeat at soon-to-be champions Chelsea.
Relegation has been coming for a while now, simply because Boro just did not have enough of a threat at the top end of the pitch.
Karanka’s defensive approach failed
A few months ago I asked the question in one of my editorials, ‘Will Middlesbrough score enough goals to avoid relegation?’ We had our answer on Monday night. They have simply not had enough of a threat going forward.
The now-departed Aitor Karanka masterminded promotion on a good solid defensive approach. The Spaniard made sure his team were defensively well drilled and it helped them to promotion. There was always going to be a question mark over Boro going forward, though.
Last season my namesake David Nugent was Boro’s top scorer with eight goals in the second tier. It was always going to be difficult for the north east side to score goals in the top-flight.
Karanka attempted to play in the same manner in the top-flight, believing his defensive approach would be enough to keep the team in the Premier League. The Spaniard was wrong.
While Boro’s defence have good for much of the campaign. However, it has been at the cost of any sort of attacking threat, as they have scored a league-low goals tally of 26 goals this season.
Even under Karanka’s temporary replacement Steve Agnew they have struggled for goals. The north east side have failed to score in nine of their last 13 Premier League games, which has contributed majorly to Boro’s demise.
Forward players have been poor in front of goal
Karanka’s attempts at strengthening the Boro attack with the signing of Alvaro Negredo, Adama Traore, Patrick Bamford and Rudy Gestede resulted in just ten goals. Negredo is the club’s top scorer in the Premier League with nine goals. Meanwhile Gestede has scored just once in 15 appearances since joining in January.
Traore has been infuriating at times. He has electric pace and dribbling ability, but his end product is poor. The young winger has made 27 top-flight appearances for Boro this season and produced just one assist.
Bamford has made just six substitute appearances for the north east side since his January arrival at the club. The 23-year-old has proven to be as much use as a chocolate teapot to the two bosses in charge during his short Boro career.
While the strikers have to take a portion of the blame the players behind them should not be let off scot-free either. Negredo is the sort of striker who will thrive on good service. Unfortunately, Boro have lacked creativity this season.
The Boro player with the most assists this season in the top-flight is Negredo with four, while Gaston Ramirez and Stewart Downing have also got three each. Those are not exactly inspiring numbers for a team hoping to stay in the top-flight.
Maybe if the strikers would have had better service they would have scored more goals this season. The likes of Downing and Ramirez have been very able creators in the past, but both have endured inconsistent seasons.
A simple principle of football
Boro host Southampton at the Riverside Stadium in their final home game of the season on Saturday, a game they are odds of 13/5 to win.
Caretaker boss Steve Agnew is likely to be replaced this summer by the north east club. Their campaign will no doubt be a lesson for promoted teams in the future. Boro fell down on the simple principle that if you do not score goals you do not win matches.
It’s not rocket science really. However, two Boro bosses struggled to get the current group of players to find enough goals to keep the north east side in the Premier League.
Who was responsible for Boro’s lack of goals this season?
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