After seven years away from the top flight, it is great to see Middlesbrough back in the Premier League. With rivals Newcastle being relegated from the Championship last season, there was a worry that the North East of England would be underrepresented in the Premier League, especially with Sunderland almost always flirting with relegation. But Middlesbrough made their return by finishing second in the Championship, and it is a club with great history, winning the League Cup back in 2004, and finishing runners up in the UEFA Cup just two years later, both under Steve McClaren.
Seven years in the Championship is a long time, therefore Middlesbrough must stay up this season in order to avoid another lengthy absence. The club has managed to attract some top players, most namely Alvaro Negredo coming in on loan, with the likes of Marten de Roon and Viktor Fischer showing great potential. That said, it will be far from an easy job for the ‘Boro to stay up, with the club currently four points above the drop zone, but with the tied least amount of goals scored in the competition. With not a huge amount of money available, you will have to do it the Middlesbrough way on FIFA 17, keeping it tight at the back, for the club have only conceded 22 goals this season, the same as fourth placed Manchester City. With the potential to reach the European finals, Middlesbrough is a great side to pick in career mode, if you want a rebuilding job that will deliver excitement every season.
How you should lineup
Current Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka has opted for a 4-2-3-1, and you could easily pick this system for yourself, but with plenty of strike options at the club, we have gone for a 4-4-2.
Champions League winner Victor Valdes is in goal, and he has a defence of Antonio Barragan, Calum Chambers, Bernardo Espinosa and former Manchester United man Fabio in front of him.
Adam Clayton and Marten de Roon are the midfield anchors, with Gaston Ramiez and Viktor Fischer providing the width. Christian Stuani gets the nod above new signing Rudy Gestede to partner star man Alvaro Negredo up front.
On the bench, you should go for Brad Guzan, Daniel Ayala, George Friend or Emilio Nsue, Adam Forshaw, Stuart Downing, Adama Traore or Jordan Rhodes, and Rudy Gestede.
The Transfer Market
Starting transfer budget: £24 million
Starting wage budget: £75,000
Who should go
With Middlesbrough now in the Premier League, it’s time to trim the fat. You need to identify the players that aren’t or never will be of top flight quality. David Nugent is the highest profile name, with the former Burnley man now the fifth-choice striker at the club following the signing of Rudy Gestede. The former England international should collect you around £1 million.
The other two that can go are fairly unrecognisable name, who won’t pocket you a great deal. Dimitrios Konstantopoulos and Carlos de Pena won’t be making inroads into the first team so they can both be sold, for around £200,000 and £250,000 respectively.
What the team needs
For the Premier League, £24 million is not very much money at all. So it is almost crucial that you win a pre-season tournament and get up to that £30 million mark.
It’s a tough call when deciding what your first order of business should be in the transfer market, with six players in the side rated at 74 or 75. You should look for a striker, right midfielder or attacking midfielder, which gives you the option of reverting back to a 4-2-3-1. But striker Aritz Aduriz may be your best bet at the grand old age of 35, yet he is currently enjoying the most successful period of his career, as reflected by his 84 overall rating. The Athletic Bilbao man has 94 heading accuracy, 93 jumping and 87 composure on FIFA 17, and will cost around £15 million. The Spanish international’s wages of £50,000 should just about fit into your budget.
– Riccardo Saponara – Empoli, Age 24, OVR 80, POT 84, Cost: £20 million, Wage: 14,000
– Rachid Ghezzal – Lyon, Age 24, OVR 78, POT 83, Cost: £16 million, Wage: £43,000
– Michael Krohn-Dehli – Sevilla, Age 33, OVR 82, POT 82, Cost: £14 million, Wage: £36,000
– Kaka – Orlando City, Age 34, OVR 82, POT 82, Cost: £11 million, Wage: £22,000
– Fernando Torres – Atletico Madrid, Age 32, OVR 81, POT 81, Cost: £10 million, Wage: £50,000
Other than that, you may struggle to find another player with limited funds remaining, but if you can go again in the transfer market, you will want a right back to replace Antonio Barragan. With Branislav Ivanovic rarely playing for Chelsea, you could take the opportunity to strike, with the right and centre back available for less than £10 million. The Serbian captain is rated at 80 on the game, with 90 aggression, 87 marking and 87 heading accuracy. The 32-year-old has wages of £43,000, which could be a tight squeeze.
– Bacary Sagna – Manchester City, Age 33, OVR 82, POT 82, Cost: £9 million, Wage: £43,000
– Mathieu Debuchy – Arsenal, Age 30, OVR 79, POT 79, Cost: £7 million, Wage: £43,000
– Antonio Rukavina – Villarreal, Age 32, OVR 77, POT 77, Cost: £4 million, Wage: £36,000
– Glen Johnson – Stoke, Age 31, OVR 77, POT 77, Cost: £5 million, Wage: £18,000
Having come up from the Championship, there are a few players at the Riverside who currently don’t have the quality for the top flight. They may do one day, so we would suggest loaning James Husband out for the year, with Bryn Morris, Nathan McGinley, Hayden Coulson and Jonathan Burn benefitting from having two years away from the club.
Four Middlesbrough players have contracts running out at the end of the season, but with a limited wage budget of £75,000 per week, you probably won’t want to renew any of them.
Emilio Nsue is a player in and around the first team, but with an overall rating of 72 and potential of 73, it won’t be long before the right back or midfielder can be allowed to leave, especially if you are considering bringing in a new defender.
As for goalkeeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, he should be leaving the club as soon as possible, but with centre-back Jonathan Burn, you may want to see how he develops on loan before making a judgement on his future.
The most annoying aspect of managing Middlesbrough is the board objectives. Fortunately, you aren’t restricted too much financially, but there is still a high priority on keeping on top of your budget. You may be asked to keep your salary growth under ten percent, and increase the worth of club by 20 percent within three seasons.
As for youth development, there is a medium priority, and you may be thrown a tricky one in bringing through an academy player and playing them in half of the games the following season. For brand exposure, you could have the straightforward task of increasing the season ticket holders by ten percent, which can be achieved by winning regularly, scoring plenty and bringing in big names.
Surprisingly, Middlesbrough’s domestic objectives have a very low priority. For this, you will be asked to finish mid-table or simply avoid relegation, and get through the first couple of rounds of the FA Cup.
Back in the big time
Well, those managerial objectives are a bit of a damp squib. It does take a lot of the pressure off of knowing that you could get relegated but still keep your job, but the irritating aspect is that for the first half of the season, you will need to concentrate on keeping your finances tight and scouting young talent, as opposed to improving the first team. That is probably the best way to go about it, and if you are happy with your off the field matters in January, you can then bring in new first team players then.
It is never going to be a quick climb of the table with Middlesbrough, but they can take heart from the recent successes of Watford and Bournemouth of how quickly things can change. The vital thing for this season is to stay up, but if you’re still going strong in the FA Cup when the quarter-finals come around, you can have a go at getting into Europe. Middlesbrough have performed well on the continent before, and it may not be too long before they reach it again, especially with you in charge.
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