"Although largely unnoticed, the arrival of Tuncay Sanli for a free transfer is actually quite a coup for Southgate."
Hopes and Fears
Gareth Southgate’s first season in charge was solid and unspectacular. Particularly unspectacular. Because, whilst they managed to take points off the top four, Middlesbrough’s football was, at best, boring.
Over the summer, Southgate has indicated that he plans to adopt a more expansive approach but with a squad lacking in experienced players that isn’t going to be easy. Of course, Southgate can always dip into the club’s extremely productive youth system but, for a club that could struggle against relegation, that seems like a risky prospect.
The departure of Mark Viduka was anticipated and, whilst his goals will be missed, his presence is unlikely to. In order to replace him, Southgate has gone for the highly rated Turkish forward Tuncay Sanli and former Arsenal prospect Jeremie Alladiarre. The latter has often looked impressive when playing in the League Cup but much less so when doing so in the league. Seeing how he develops at Middlesbrough now that he is free of the burden of trying to prove himself good enough to succeed at Arsenal will be interested to follow.
Getting Luke Young from Charlton was a good move as there are few better right backs in the league but confirming the transfer of Jonathan Woodgate was pivotal. As is holding on to Yakubu. Putting aside the knowledge that he will be gone for over four weeks in January for the African Nations Cup, Middlesbrough cannot afford to lose his goals. With him they can aim for a similar mid-table finish as last year, without him relegation becomes more than a threat.
Although largely unnoticed, the arrival of Tuncay Sanli for a free transfer is actually quite a coup for Southgate. The former Fenerbache player can play on both wings as well as up front, making him a useful addition to the side. More than that, his wide experience and proven ability at international level means that he is much less likely to fail than most of the new players flooding into the Premiership this season.
Something to Prove
Occasionally, Fabio Rochemback remembers that he was once considered to be the best young Brazilian midfielder and threads through some passes that would confirm such a title. Unfortunately he does not do so often enough to ensure that he adds as much value to the side as he should.
One to Watch
Picking a young player from Middlesbrough’s set-up is a virtually impossible task given the validity of their work. The one that has come farthest so far has to be Andrew Taylor. Signing Julio Arca from Sunderland threatened to stunt his development yet last season Taylor was a fixture at left-back where he played with consistency and maturity that belie his age. A future England international, Southgate will be hoping that more of the club’s young players will have a similar impact.