No Deadline Daze: Boro Did Good Business Early

You may have been left slightly underwhelmed by the final day. You may be frustrated that Boro didn’t sign a Galactico after all the tabloid title tattle. The sole deadline day arrival was former Barcelona winger Adam Traore from Aston Villa.

But Boro have had a shrewd and successful transfer window: they have signed 11 senior players, have got value for money and, in the main, got them in early.

Look at the crazed closing hours trolley dash at the soccer supermarket and the hyper-inflated prices for average players you have barely heard of and think how much Boro saved by doing their business early.

1Traore

Prices in the past few weeks have doubled… trebled? Quadrupled? Certainly rocketed beyond reason as clubs throw the mountains of cash from their new TV deal around like drunken sailors on shore leave.

There was no record shattering final splurge for Boro and that may leave some supporters anxious, especially who think last gasp, over the odds panic buys are a sign of strength rather than bad planning.

But although they never pushed the hysterical android scoop-bot Jim White into over-drive, the Hurworth hierarchy can be quietly satisfied at their recruitment over summer as a whole.  They drew up a list of realistic targets with the skill sets they wanted and got them at what now look like bargain prices. Alavaro Negredo, Gaston Ramirez, Viktor Fischer, Antonio Barragan, Bernardo Espinosa, Adama Traore and Victor Valdes have arrived at Boro for a collective price of less than the £10m Burnley paid for Jeff Hendrick.

In fact, only Dutch anchorman Marten de Roon, a £10.8m buy from Serie A side Atalanta, cost serious money – and that looks like loose change now as the league’s billion pound barrier was shattered.

That doesn’t mean the club have scrimped. Boro were among the six lowest net spenders (not that is a bad thing) but there has been a massive investment in wages as the club look to compete in the big league.

And the real bottom line is that Boro have come out of the window looking stronger in every department than last season.

They were already a solid team, well organised with a functional system that everyone understood and worked hard to apply.  Now they have brought in players that suit the shape and can hopefully make it more effective – and trimmed a lot of players who were never going to cut it at the higher level.

And the two significant departures who may have still had hopes of playing a role – Adam Reach and Albert Adomah – both brought hefty fees. Reach, who hasn’t played for Boro for a year,  cost Sheff Wed a £5m initial payment with clauses that could take it up to £7m. Adomah, who rejected a new deal at Boro last week and has only a year left on his contract, went for a reported down payment of £3.5m with clauses that could push the final figure above £5m. And isn’t the sort you could force to stay and play. That’s Good business.

1Albert

However flat you feel at not being centre-stage on the Jim White show, over the summer as a whole, the manager has increased his strength in depth and tactical options while raising the level of competition and quality in the group. And they have had most of the squad together for a long pre-season to integrate new faces with the veterans of the promotion campaign.

Yes, you can nit-pick over the failure to make a marquee signing as Boro have done after previous promotions. We may be short of that one quality attacking midfield player that would complete the jigsaw. But the landscape has changed. Competition for that quality is far more intense. It is not easy to get every player you want. Every team in the Premier League can compete on fees and wages – hence the crazy money spent in the past 72 hours. And you can’t buy someone for the sake of it.

Building the perfect Premier League squad may take more than one window.

So Boro deserve credit for doing the bulk of their work early and under the radar. And while we will only be able to really judge the new signings once the heat is on, on the face of it Boro look stronger across the board.

It is easy to criticise Victor Valdes or Brad Guzan for conceding on their debuts; keepers are sitting ducks for snipers. But there is no question that the current group being used, those two plus Dimi Konstantopoulos, is better than the Dimi, Tomas Mejias and Michael Agazzi unit in the squad last season.

And the defence has been beefed up too. Calum Chambers is an England international, Antonio Barragan has looked excellent in three roles, Fabio can play in both full-back slots and Bernardo Espinosa is winning rave reviews for his displays in the reserves as he battles back to full fitness.

Throw in Ben Gibson, Dani Ayala and George Friend from last term’s rigid rearguard and that is a mean looking back-line.

Ditto the engine room: Marten de Roon was the top tackler in Serie A last season with Atalanta and adding him to the mix of what was already a an industrious and effective unit is a is big plus for Karanka.

Further forward Boro have signed Viktor Fischer and Adama Traore for wide roles in place of Albert Adomah (neither Adam Reach nor Muzzy Carayol were active squad members last season) and brought back Gaston Ramirez on a free in the No.10 role.  That department may seem a bit light on numbers and an injury could cause problems while the widemen who have come in are ‘unproven’ – or ‘projects’ to use the Teesside codeword – but they come highly rated and hungry and with something to prove and if they live up to their potential they could have a big role to play in what will be a challenging season.

And they will be fighting for places along with Stewart Downing and Cristhian Stuani as well as possibly Fabio and Emilio Nsue while Adam Forshaw, Downing and at a push David Nugent can slot in at No. 10. There are options.

1Negredo

Up front the arrival of ‘the Beast’ Alvaro Negredo from Valencia adds penalty box physicality and a deft touch (for a big man) to the intelligent movement of Jordan Rhodes – yet to be unleashed in the Premier League – and the nous and work rate of David Nugent.

Plus, don’t forget Boro have been successful in the other crucial aspect of the summer signing scrum: they have held on to all their core players – and signed a host of them up to extended new deals: Gibbo, George, Forshaw and Fry have signed already and Adam Clayton can’t be far behind. Albert opted not to join that group.  Over the summer Boro have given short shrift to inquiries for a host of player. They are not a selling club.

Remember the dark fears back in May that the big boys would harvest the promotion team, lure away our heroes. The tabloids were full of stories: Gibson to Everton; Ayala to Newcastle; Rhodes to every ambitious Championship side with a war chest that big clubs were coveting George and Clayts. None of them have left. That is a signing success too.

Of course, Boro are not the finished article. They will still be well short of the high quality bar set by the elite clubs and will also be behind middling clubs who are four, five, six, seven years ahead of Boro in terms of investment in the squad.

But they have strengthened in every department, brought in quality and options and have given themselves a fighting chance to not just survive but flourish.

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367 thoughts on “No Deadline Daze: Boro Did Good Business Early

  1. Ah, mistakes, mistakes, where would we be without them? Summation of the team with two victories from twenty four. Lots of hurry and scurry, a good understanding that it was a high ball into the box or it was nothing, and so it proved, that fact that it was a pitiable blunder followed by a non challenge, ‘ ill stand aside, whilst you put in a cross at your leisure’, sums it all up.
    we settled down and calmly worked ourselves level, then we missed the sitter of sitters just on half time. Still we had all the second half to get a winner as we had control, and they were used to getting tonked. What could possibly go wrong?
    it took two minutes to reinvigorate the opposition, how? By giving them a free gift to put them into the lead, that put hope in their hearts.
    we then panicked, really started to run like headless chickens, whilst they started to panic how to hang on to a very rare three points?
    friend made his final error late on when he had the ball at his feet ten yards outside the box with the whole stadium screaming at him to ‘ get inside the box’ he slowed down, cue idiot defender hurls himself at him and completely takes him out, on the line of the penalty area.
    the ref duly puts the ball on the line, which leaves us with a delightful mini penalty, a rocket shot, possible goal or deflection? Fraid not, we chose to cross the ball, end of.

  2. Today served as a reality check to us all IMO. Palace at home is a game that every side in the PL targets as a must win game and certainly a draw as a minimum kind of game. Boro weren’t that unlucky today, make those kind of errors in this league and you will be punished.

    The form of Friend is a big concern. Junazji had him on toast in the Sunderland game and he played a key role for both Palace goals today. There are certain players that excel in the Championship but just can’t cut it in the PL (Cameron Jerome for example). Friend could well be one of them.

    We have taken 5 points from 4 games against Stoke, Sunderland, WBA and Palace. That is a fairly poor return against those teams. We should be looking to win those home games and avoid defeat in the away games if we are to survive. An average of one goal scored per game is also a worry. Clean sheets are not going to be as plentiful in the PL which means that with that average, we’re struggling to pick up wins. Much for AK and co to ponder over the next week.

  3. Preposterous!!

    How many games did stuani actually play last season in the championship?

    I think you will find he was generally behind Albert in the pecking order. I think it is better to base your judgement of a player based on an entire season rather than one strike in a single game.

    Im amazed at the fact people justify his inclusion on the right because he gets in the box and can play as a second striker. Oh, he’ll never beat a man or get a decent cross in but that doesn’t matter because he’ll score a few goals coming in on the back post. IT’S NOT ENOUGH!!

    If his strengths are heading the ball and attacking the back post play him as a flipping striker where he’ll be far higher up the field and actually get in those positions ten times more often. Not as a make shift right winger where his talents are very rarely utilised.

    I’m not meaning to criticise stuani as a player. I like him. I think from what I’ve seen he’d be a right handful as a centre forward but I will not and never will be convinced that he can play where he’s being played now. He very rarely performed there last season in the championship and to ask him to now do it in the premiership is an even bigger ask.

    I also think 5 points from the four games we’ve had is now below the level we need to reach to stay up. I wouldn’t have taken it before the start so let’s start getting realistic and take off our rose tinted specs. I’m not saying throw the baby out with the bath water but there is a point when it is right to criticise or at least question some selections and tactics rather than just saying isn’t it great to be in the premiership and oh my aren’t we doing well just getting here. 10+ signings and for me the team we had out at the start of the match was (with projects) probably no stronger than the team we had for most of last year.

  4. Hi Paul, I did base my judgement on last season too, but thanks for checking. I though he was effective last season too (36 appearance, 7 goals since you ask – not bad), admittedly more so before xmas but he was obviously saving himself for the last game!

    He certainly scored some crucial goals along the way (Brentford home, Ipswich away, Brighton home and away, Sheff Wed home) and was one of many who contributed to our successful season. Adomah played 43 and scored 6 for info.

    I also think you illiustrate my point – in his system he does effectively play as a striker most of the time – he comes inside while we attack and the full back pushes on to give the width. He isn’t a conventional winger. That isn’t the system we play.

    I reckon 5 is about par – I wouldn’t have taken it either but I’m happy enough. What’s pleased me more than the points is our overall performances, we’ve more than competed against established Premiership teams. Could have easily won all four.

    1. Fine margins and individual perspective Phil. We could also have conceivably drawn the Sunderland game, lost at WBA and be sat here with 2 points. Either way, it’s points not performances, that win prizes.

  5. 5 points from a possible 12 on offer would result in ( if my maths is correct, which is highly debatable) an end of season total of approx 47 points.

    Yes please.

    1. This misses my point in that it assumes all games are equal. My point is that I would expect a team that wants to survive to take more than 5 points from games against the opposition that we have faced to date. Or to put it another way, do you think we will take 5 points from games against say Man Utd, Man City, Leicester, Tottenham. Or 5 points from a run of games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton. To be frank, I’m not convinced that 5 points from Stoke (h), Sunderland (a), WBA (a), Palace (h) is enough. Especially given that the latter 3 are all expected to be relegation rivals based on last season and the evidence to date from this season.

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