Where did it all go wrong for Middlesborough?
Steve Agnew’s men are currently cemented to 19th place in the league and are now only playing for pride but where did it all go wrong for Boro?
One of Boro’s main issues this season has been goals. The Smoggies have just 26 goals to their name, two less than rock bottom Sunderland and have struggled massively in front of goal this season. The Teessiders average just 0.72 goals per game with top scorer Álvaro Negredo chipping in with ten and a further five assists meaning the Spaniard has been involved in 58% of his side’s goals.
Whilst Boro have managed a slightly better tally than Derby’s haul of just 20 in the 2007-08 season, it’s still a poor showing from the North East side. Boro have been goalless in 18 matches this season meaning they have failed to score in exactly half of their games and only managed to score more than twice in one game all season, in a 3-0 win over fellow stragglers Swansea.
Twelve of the Teessider’s games have seen them score just once and they have only scored two in a game a total of five times. It seems that home comforts matter for Boro has they have managed 16 goals at home but just ten on the road.
Boro’s struggles in front of goal are a perfect indicator of the difference in standard between the Championship and Premier League. Last season they finished second to secure promotion to the top flight, scoring an impressive 63 goals. Still, compare that to Brentford who finished ninth with a haul of 72 or Fulham who survived relegation by a whisker with 66, it’s clear that scoring goals in the Championship is some what of a breeze compared to the Premier League.
Negrado may have carried out his forward duties rather sufficiently this season but his striking partners have failed to help. Rudy Gestede has completed a hat-trick in all the wrong senses of the world, the Frenchman has now experienced relegation with three clubs; Cardiff, Aston Villa and of course Boro. With just two goals since arriving in January, the 29-year-old is partly to blame for his side’s failings and must take responsibility. Patrick Bamford must also share some of the blame as the 23-year-old has failed to score since his return in the January transfer window. The former Chelsea man has been limited to just one start and six appearances from the bench having been told he must prove his fitness and desire to the play the club in the U23s squad.
In behind Negredo with five goals is fellow striker Cristhian Stuani. The Uruguayan started his season well with a brace away to rivals Sunderland in his Premier League game. Though that was as good as it was going to get for Stuani as he has since managed just three goals in a further 22 league appearances. Joint on goals with the 30-year-old is midfielder Marten De Roon. The Dutchman has been a standout performer for Boro this season and is increasingly being linked with a move to Everton as Ronald Koeman seeks a replacement for veteran Gareth Barry.
Of course, Boro’s poor goal scoring exploits are not wholly to blame for their downfall this season but they shoulder a large part of it. It’s a disappointing end to what could have been a promising season for Boro, particularly after bring their six year seven year absence from the Premier League to an end. It may take them another six years to return with the Championship standard forever increasing, albeit still some way off that the top flight.