PROJECT Karanka is coming along nicely. The manager is slowly putting together the team he wants. Last season he got respectable results by reorganising the squad he had inherited. Now he has set out to get the specialist he knows have the skill-sets to play in the shape and at the tempo he requires to make his system more potent.
Kike is not only physically strong but he is mobile too, makes intelligent runs off the ball and knows where the goal is. We have only seen him in friendlies but he looks a good fit.
Emilio Nsue – signed today as exclusively revealed on the Untypical Boro twitter (sign up, you know it makes sense – has been playing as a wing-back at Mallorca but Karanka knows him as an attacking wide-right player and occasional frontman from when he was in the Spanish youth set-up. Boro see him as a midfielder. He is fast, direct and can deliver a cross. Again, he knows the system and tempo Karanka will demand and as a free agent looks a great buy. Although obviously, the proof is in the pudding.
Naturally some Boro fans immediately started ssquealing… “oh no, what about Albert. That MUST mean he is being flogged.”. Er, no. Karanka wants to raise the bar this season. He wants two quality players competing for every shirt every week. Nsue will put pressure on Albert to perform. Last term he was 9/10 one week and 5.5/10 the next. There will be none of that next term. Karanka wants 8/10 every week from every player.
Nsue can play as an orthodox right-midfielder, as a winger, on the right of Karanka’s front three, as a wing-back, as a full-back and has even had the odd run-out as a striker. No wonder he is a Football Manager must buy.
So what about the right-back? What about another striker? What about midfield? Wooah… one at a time. Boro are working through a list of targets with several sets of talks going on simultaneously at Rockliffe and across Europe. And while the default is to slate the club at every turn, they deserve praise for the way they have methodically gone about their business this summer. Karanka has given them his list of priority targets and Steve Gibson and Neil Bausor have tried to deliver them as much as possible.
Much of it has been under the radar. With many of the targets being foreign, the tabloids in England have picked up little news of substance and it has been frustrating fans more used to a seas of sloshing snippets to have to watch the same few rumours come and go.
The Gazette have been kept in the loop. Which is nice for us and good for you. The club have been very candid in outlining their ambitions and strategy early on this summer and have been good in letting us know their chief targets. It stops us going on wild goose chases and means we can kill wild speculation quickly and keep readers informed. Which is after all what we are supposed to do. We get to know as deals come close to fruition so we can prepare stories but we are asked to keep names quiet until it is done so as not to alert potential hi-jackers. So it has been frustrating for us too but it has ensured we could shoot down the incorrect stories and be first with the signings as they happen.
And there are more to come. Boro have been locked in talks with a specialist right-back, a highly-rated foreign player at a massive club who is a regular in his international U21 side and who is hungry to step up prove himself in a competitive league. There have been a lot of guesses flying around from the ITK crowd but no-one has mentioned him yet – come on try harder! If that signing comes off it – and it is still in the balance – it will add real balance at the back after several years of patching up in what is a key position in modern football. If it doesn’t they have other equally impressive fall-back targets they are pursuing .
Meanwhile Boro are also in talks for a second striker, another wideman – domestic based – and are considering a second right back as cover. Boro were keen on Adam Clayton too but as the price rose their interest has cooled and that is on a back-burner now while the urgency for a more creative midfielder has eased after Jacob Butterfield’s pre-season and attitude has impressed the boss.
They are also ready to sit down with Chelsea at the back end of this week to discuss a job lot of Chelsea loanees. The logic of that is well known now. We have talked before about why the two teams are a good fit and why Jose is keen.
The delay has been that the Chelsea boss wanted to watch his fringe players closely in pre-season to decide exactly what the next stage of their development should be, There are a group he considers will benefit from Championship pitch-time and my understanding is that Boro will get if not exactly first dibs (the players have to agree too), certainly a very sympathetic hearing . Patrick Bamford is obviously one on that list, as is George Saville, Nate Chalobah and John Swift along with a few others. Watch this space.
Then, when all top priority targets are addressed Boro will reassess the balance and the finances and look to fill any gaps. They will also need to move on a few fringe players that Karanka does not believe have the consistency or mental strength to play a regular part. He has often talked about a group of 23 so there will need to be a bit of trimming.