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Football News: Middlesbrough Season Review

Middlesbrough Season Review
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Middlesbrough Season Review

The best thing you can say about that season, from a Boro perspective, is that at least they finished top of the North-East sides. After such a promising start, unbeaten in the first three matches, it was all downhill from there, with little in the way of entertaining football to enjoy. Game after game of mind numbingly dull defensive football saw them slide down the table gradually through the season. Goals were almost non-existent in their games, particularly at home, with the lowest number of goals in the Premier League scored at the Riverside.

Just 27 goals in total, through a whole season, were scored by Boro, as first Aitor Karanka and then his replacement Steve Agnew looked to keep it tight at the back and hope to snatch a draw. It did not help that Karanka's difficulties with the squad last season were never fully resolved, leading to more issues this time around over his decision to leave Stewart Downing out. As we saw at Leicester City, if the players are not behind the manager then performances suffer badly and it is always the manager that gets the heave ho.


Aitor Karanka

Karanka was sacked on 16th March 2017 (interestingly just over a year after he stormed out of Boro during a training ground dispute on 11th March 2016) following a run of dreadful form and dismal performances. After the good start they made, Karanka then decided the best thing he could do is hope to defend for 90mins and hope to snatch the odd point here and there. Sometimes it felt like he was looking to bore the opposition to sleep, so they could snatch a victory. Whatever his dull as ditchwater tactics were meant to achieve, all they actually did achieve was to get him the sack.

Falling out with the players was just the start, as he also managed to alienate the fans and fall out with the board before he left. Karanka gave Sunderland manager David Moyes a run for his money as the worst manager of 2016/17.

Marks out of 10: -3


Steve Agnew

Agnew replaced Karanka on a caretaker basis, but it was like he was just merely content to be a caretaker, as there was so little difference in the play under him. He had such a neglible effect on things that he may as well have not been there at all.

Marks out of 10: 0


Victor Valdes

The former Barcelona keeper was picked up on a free from Manchester United in the summer. Despite Boro's struggles, one thing they did not really do was overwork their keeper, as they kept a packed defence to protect him. As such, Valdes never really got the chance to show how good, or otherwise, he actually is. It was telling that he never played again or made the squad after Karanka's removal from power. That tells its own story.

Marks out of 10: 4


Brad Guzan

The American keeper arrived from Aston Villa on a free after helping them to relegation last season, only to help Boro to relegation too. To be fair to Guzan, he had a very small role in this relegation, as he only played twice under Karanka and became first choice under Agnew. Having said that, in the little football he did play Guzan was as dodgy as he had been for Villa, so it is probably lucky he did not start the Premier League season as first choice!

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Ben Gibson

The only Boro player who finished the season with his reputation enhanced was Gibson. The chairman's nephew proved himself in the Premier League, playing every minute of every league game.

Marks out of 10: 7


Bernardo Espinosa

The Colombian centre back might be the slowest player I have ever seen in the Premier League. Bernardo ran like a man running out of steam at the end of an iron man triathlon, who has done it wearing concrete boots and carrying a 20kg rucksack. It is easy to see why Sporting Gijon had let him go on a free.

Marks out of 10: 0


Daniel Ayala

Last season Ayala had a great partnership with Gibson at Championship level, but the Spanish defender found the step up in level a lot more difficult to cope with, as he struggled to break into the team this time around. With new signings ahead of him in the pecking order and niggling injuries affecting his form, this was not a great season for him at all.

Marks out of 10: 2



The former Man Utd full back, and twin of Rafael, was brought in from Cardiff City to provide cover. Injuries gave him a path into the side and he kept his place due to his good form. While he is not going to trouble the Brazil selectors and force his way into their thinking, he did play ok and, at times, actually got forward, which is more than most of his teammates!

Marks out of 10: 5


George Friend

The former Wolverhampton Wanderers left back had an injury disrupted season, which left Boro light at left back for chunks of the season, as their other left back, James Husband, missed almost the entire year through injury. At times he showed a real attacking intent and drive down the left, something which was missing in the players supposedly playing in front of him.

Marks out of 10: 3.5


Calum Chambers

Arsenal spent a large chunk of money to bring Chambers in from Southampton, only for his career to stall and then send him on loan to Boro for a year. This season he started to look a lot more like the promising youngster he was seen to be, but he has a long way to go to fulfil that promise yet. One thing that was cleared up this season is his best position, he is simply not good enough on the ball to be a modern day full back.

Marks out of 10: 4.5


Antonio Barragan

The Spanish right back has come a long way in his career, from Sevilla youth team to Liverpool, then Middlesbrough's bench via Deportivo La Coruna, Real Vallodolid and Valencia. Barragan started off as first choice at right back and held onto the place for most of the season, but lost his place to Fabio towards the end of the season. It is hard to see exactly what qualities he offered to the team, being perfectly honest.

Marks out of 10: 2


Marten de Roon

The midfielder joined from Atalanta very much under the radar but became a central cog in Boro's midfield. Hard working, enthusiastic but lacking in quality on the ball, de Roon is like watching N'Golo Kante with the footage speed turned down. He tries to cover ground like the Chelsea midfielder, but he moves at half the speed of Kante, so leaves a lot more gaps to be filled by teammates.

Marks out of 10: 4.5


Adam Clayton

The former Leeds United midfielder provided a solid base for the Boro midfield but his play was a symptom of the whole Teeside malaise, as he offers little in the way of creativity, attacking drive or skill. Very much typical of Boro under Karanka, hard working, defensive, one-dimensional and lacking in skill. However, he does do his best with his limited abilities and it was not his fault that he was not surrounded by quality.

Marks out of 10: 5


Adam Forshaw

Like his usual partners in the centre of midfield, the former Everton youth trainee is full of running, hard working, a grafter with no real creativity to his game.

Marks out of 10: 5


Grant Leadbitter

Yet another hard working, defensive minded midfielder with little creative ability, this time in the form of former Sunderland youngster Leadbitter. It is little wonder Boro offered next to nothing in the final third, they had next to nothing in the way of creativity in the team.

Marks out of 10: 3.5


Adlene Guedioura

The Algerian midfielder does offer some creativity, but he struggled to establish himself following a January move from fellow Premier League side Watford. In fact, the former Nottingham Forest midfielder was completely frozen out following Karanka's sacking.

Marks out of 10: 0.5


Stewart Downing

It was not that long ago that Downing was undergoing a renaissance under Sam Allardyce at West Ham United, but now the former England winger looks finished as a player. From big money moves to Aston Villa and Liverpool to a much heralded return to his boyhood club, nothing has gone smoothly for Downing in recent years. His body language suggests a player with little confidence and his legs look shot. In short he is a fading force, in fact a faded force. While he was a main party in the disagreements with Karanka, there was no sign of improvement under the new man, Agnew.


Downing played left midfield, but he made no attempts to get forward and deliver crosses, he was content to sit deep and do as little running as possible. Probably the most disappointing player in Boro's season. Against former club Liverpool, a game you expect him to raise his game for to prove a point, he played as an auxiliary full back, while the left back, Friend, provided all the attacking impetus.

Marks out of 10: -1.5


Gaston Ramirez

The Uruguayan midfielder, brought in on a free from Southampton, was probably Boro's most creative player, at times their only creative player. However his inconsistency and temperament meant he was unable to influence their player often enough. Ramirez shows flashes of genuine brilliance, but they are few and far between, unlike his arguments with officials after he has thrown hismelf to the ground yet again under minimal contact.

Marks out of 10: 2


Viktor Fischer

The young Dane was regarded as a huge future talent when he first arrived at Ajax from his homeland. Since then his star has waned and this season will have done nothing to re-establish his career. Fischer struggled to even make the subs bench throughout the season, his fleeting appearances were poor, at best.

Marks out of 10: 0


Adama Traore

When they hear that a player has come through the famous Barcelona academy of La Masia, people tend to expect something special. Traore has proven at Villa and now Boro that it can produce mediocrity as well as Lionel Messi. If you ever want to see someone that is in the wrong sport, you only have to look at Traore to find one. His ability to run fast is up there with Usain Bolt, but his ability to pick out a teammate or put the ball in the back of the net is down there with a man playing his first game of football. He really should consider a move to the NFL or athletics, he is never a footballer in a million years.

Marks out of 10: -2


Alvaro Negredo

To think he has been bought by the likes of Real Madrid, Man City and Valencia in his career, to now end up on loan at Boro with the most thankless task in football. Negredo must wonder where it all went wrong! It is difficult not to feel sorry for the Spanish forward, he was isolated up front and given almost no service week after week.

Marks out of 10: 5


Rudy Gestede

The bizarre January signing of Gestede was probably the moment Boro should have realised Karanka needed to go. The Benin striker was a flop in the Prem at Villa and no better at Boro. Just one goal was his return, which was probably about the same as the amount of yards he covered per game. To be fair to him, it was very rare the team even tried to make use of his one attribute, heading the ball, other than via long hopeful balls from defence, but he could have done so much more and should have done better with those chances he did get.

Marks out of 10: -1


Patrick Bamford

The young forward joined from Chelsea on a permanent deal in the January transfer window but struggled to hold down a place and had little impact on games.

Marks out of 10: 2


Cristhian Stuani

The Uruguayan forward struggled with the step up from the Championship and never got going in the Premier League, though he did show occasional flashes of ability.

Marks out of 10: 3.5

Written by Tris Burke May 25 2017 13:31:55