The Premier League has become more and more competitive in the last two seasons and nothing that I’ve seen from Middlesbrough suggests that they have improved at the same pace.
You feel that there comes a point with Boro when they just don’t have the quality to win enough games, and unless Southgate goes out and brings in quality reinforcements Boro are going to be in a spot of bother this season.
Mind you, Boro still finished 12th last season so they do have that quality to scrape through and get the necessary points.
I don’t think Boro have improved enough this summer but there’s still time to go and I think Southgate does have it in him to take them to the top 10, but Europe might be too far for him, especially with the current competition and the players at his disposal.
Manager Status: Southgate has done well considering that he was thrown too early into the job, but so far he hasn’t convinced anyone that he can take Boro to Europe, the way McClaren did. He is unlikely to be sacked but persisting with him will be difficult if Boro are in the bottom 6 come May.
Transfer Analysis: Woodgate’s permanent transfer was a good move but losing Viduka on a free is a blow and Aliadiere does not look like he can match Viduka’s impact at Boro. Boro will miss the powerhouse pairing of Yakubu and Viduka and if Yakubu goes as well, I don’t think Boro have any chance of breaking into the top-10.
Boro are still a few players short of what I’d call a good squad, so it’ll be interesting to see who Southgate brings in over the next 3 weeks.
Players to watch: Downing and Sanli.
August Fixtures: Blackburn at home, Wigan and Fulham away and then Newcastle at home. It’s a tame start to the season compared to what some other clubs are facing, and it’s a good chance for Boro to get a couple of wins and gain confidence.
Expectations: Fans will be expecting Boro to climb into the top 10.
Predictions: Tough – mid-table (9th-15th) but could end up lower.