Already relegated with two games to go, it's not been the season Middlesbrough fans were hoping for and for the large part of the nation, expecting. When you looked at the big picture prior to the season the Teeside club were fancied as the promoted side with the best chance of success this campaign. Hull's squad and preparation was nothing short of catastrophic while Burnley are certainly not blessed with distinct quality in their side. While that could be said for Karanka's promotion hopefuls, Negredo and Victor Valdes were among signings that signalled the club's intentions so to neutral things looked promising before a ball was kicked.
In truth I anticipated Middlesbrough would struggle but certainly not to this degree. Having watched glimpses of the club in the Championship it's clear to see they are first and foremost hard to break down with what is really a negative approach. So when they got promoted goal scoring was the most alarming concern and that alone was the reason I questioned their capabilities of avoiding the drop. The likes of Stuani, Downing, Negredo, Ramirez are not influential enough to get the goals needed to get some big wins particularly when you couple it with the conservative style that Karanka has. However the likes of Stuani and Ramirez contributed in the promotion season so how should Boro fans feel about their chances next season?
First of all it should be a different experience from the one under Karanka, what style of play and which manager that is dictated by remains to be seen however the squad of players at their disposal is one of all the makings of a promotion side. I say that because the foundations are already there, the spine of the team is ready made for the 46 game dogfight. Defensively Boro should be hard to beat again even if a more expansive style is enforced. Individually they are strong at the back and to be honest I can't see many key players leaving that would dent their chances. Ben Gibson and Negredo may remain amongst those wanted but I think the club is in a good position to deal with that possibility.
Many said Middlesbrough were preparing for life in the Championship in January, with the signings of Rudy Gestede, Adlene Guedioura and Patrick Bamford in the January window. In truth that's pretty much what it is but there's no denying it will aid the club with the task of bouncing straight back, all three of those players are proven to be top end Championship talents so realistically just a few key signings need to be made in my opinion. Boro should go after a couple of wide men and a striker, not rocket science but I believe they really don't need drastic change.
Sunderland are in a far worse position, who else will join Middlesbrough remains to be seen. And while the likes of Aston Villa and Norwich City will be desperate for an improved season, Middlesbrough should be a shoe in for a play-off spot with a well regarded owner in charge, there's not much to be concerned about. It would be ludicrous to be making promotion predictions at this stage but I would say the club have an excellent chance and their fans should be optimistic at the Riverside Stadium.
Do you fancy your chances Middlesbrough fans? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!