Following the record arrival of Britt Assombalonga, the options Middlesbrough have up front must be giving Garry Monk the nicest of headaches.
£15m man Assombalonga must surely be a guaranteed starter after such an outlay; it’s hard to think he’d be anything but. However, aside from the now former Forest man, Boro now possess some serious firepower, not something that has been said about them since the days of JFH, The Yak and big Aussie Viduka (not to forget our favourite Italian Massimo Maccarone too).
For all the stick Rudy Gestede has generated among the supporters, many mystified at his £6m transfer from Aston Villa in January, he has actually got a decent Championship pedigree. He had a modest spell at Cardiff; however it’s at Blackburn where he hit some pretty good form. Alongside old fans favourite Jordan Rhodes he managed to strike up an effective partnership, with the 2014/15 season proving particularly fruitful, bagging 20 goals in the league.
Many have written off Gestede as maybe the man who’ll be sacrificed given the now added competition, but don’t assume he’ll be packed off just yet.
Moving on to Patrick Bamford, we’re looking at the Championship Player of The Year for 2014/15. His blistering spell at The Boro in their ultimately fruitless season was one of the many highlights in that campaign, his 19 goals in all competitions proving vital. A forgettable collection of loan spells over the ensuing 18 months were a huge setback in his development, but a return ‘home’ to Boro has already got the Nottingham born man looking re-energised.
A fit and firing Bamford will undoubtedly be a huge asset for Monk given his previous record at Championship level.
Martin Braithwaite offers up something of a mystery for non-followers of France’s top division. Other than him being apparently ‘mint’, and extremely pacey according to players of the FIFA series, not much else is known about the man over on these shores. A quick look at his scoring record will tell you he’s not necessarily prolific, however 40 goals in 149 games represents a respectable return in any of Europe’s top divisions. It’ll be his versatility that attracted Monk though, with Braithwaite understood to be competent anywhere across the front, his pace will surely prove valuable against Championship defences.
Now, given the last two seasons you could argue whether Christhian Stuani should be included in any striking options, but for the sake of correctness I’m going to include him.
Aitor Karanka may have seen him as a wide man yet his natural position is that of a No.9, so with that, he ought to be considered as one. Not a regular troubler of the scorers, Stuani often popped up with vital goals, especially in the promotion season (who could forget Brighton?), but it’s always been a feeling of ‘what if’ in terms of if he’d been given the chance to shine up top. Is Monk going to use him differently? Does he have a future even? Whatever happens, should he stay then you feel he has to be used up top more often in order to be more effective.
So having looked at Middlesbrough’s striking options, do we have too many? Are one, or even two going to make way do we feel?
You can never have enough goals in your ranks, but keeping players happy who are consistently watching on from the bench isn’t easy. Strikers are a selfish breed and whilst they may play for the team, they’re the sort that thrives on confidence, something which will be in short supply if consigned to the bench (see Jordan Rhodes). They love nothing more than hitting the back of the net, but that can’t be done from the comfort of the Boro bench. Who would you sacrifice and why? Or do we keep hold of them all?