After making the 8th most expensive signing on deadline day, Aitor Karanka clearly believes that Jordan Rhodes’ ability to be in the right place at the right time will prove to be a massive boost for the club. The fact that Cristhian Stuani, with 6, is still the club’s leading scorer this season is telling.
More often than not summer signing David Nugent has led the line, with his style deemed a better fit than Kike Garcia, shifting the weight of expectation onto a player that netted many times in the Championship with Leicester.
The fact that Middlesbrough forked out a fee in the region of £9m for the services of Rhodes in the January window was a concession that they needed to add firepower in a bid to gain promotion. In truth Karanka would ideally have avoided having to make such a move in the hope that those within his ranks were capable of firing Boro to the Premier League. In the circumstances that was too big a risk to take, despite proving that the team is more than capable of mixing it with the Championships top clubs.
The move for the Blackburn man was a gamble in itself given the price tag but while Rhodes could have lost confidence from a short barren spell under new manager Paul Lambert he has instead been determined to put that behind him.
Having failed to score in 9 consecutive matches under Lambert, pundits were quick to question whether he could fit other systems and translate his goalscoring record to the Premier League. 2 goals in 2 matches followed – Opinions and fortunes can change so fast in football, particularly for strikers in terms of drifting in and out of form.
Rhodes acquisition already looks a bargain rather than an expensive gamble.
Karanka shouldn’t expect too much defensive graft from his lone striker, just that he be in the right place to convert the chances Middlesbrough should now be creating with their new signings.
The ex-Blackburn striker has won just 6 tackles and made 5 interceptions for the club this season but has been on hand to fire off 11 goals and also creating 14 chances for teammates. The fact that he always finds himself in the right positions however, is just what Karanka was so keen to add to the side.
The risk the club took in the transfer market now looks like a safe bet, just as Middlesbrough could do in a few weeks time in terms of gaining promotion. Up next for Boro is the visit of a Blackburn side without a win in 7 league games. It would be no shock whatsoever if Rhodes returns to haunt his old club after having been such an important asset to them. Scoring for the third consecutive game could have real consequences at both ends of the table, and the Rhodes isn’t short of confidence in his ability to do just that.
Lambert will no doubt hope the striker, once on his books, is not lining up against his side on Saturday.
How often do we see a player making their return to a former club register on the scoresheet against them. With Rhodes in such confident mood right now the chances of the striker scoring for the third successive game look strong, so a daft few quid on first goalscorer could prove a bargain.