After a bright start with five points from three games upon their Premier League return, things have gone a little sour for Middlesbrough of late. But despite losing their last three games, there’s no reason for ‘Boro fans to worry.
The Teessiders have slipped to 15th in the table, but the bookies still make them easily odds-on at 2/7 to stay up, while they’re 17/20 favourites to be top north-east club come the end of the campaign.
Defeats to Crystal Palace, Everton and Tottenham have taken the shine off a solid start, but the latter two clubs already look like assured top-six contenders.
Boss Aitor Karanka welcomed 12 new signings to the Riverside in the summer, so it’s no surprise that this new-look Boro squad is taking a little time to gel.
And it’s perfectly understandable to argue that Karanka may not yet know his strongest XI, which would go some way to explaining their patchy performances of late.
Boro could, and arguably should have beaten Palace, while they also impressed for large spells against Everton and Spurs.
But they’re yet to show their full and undoubted potential over 90 minutes, although that could change soon.
Boro’s next few fixtures, on paper at least, should allow them a solid chance of increasing their points haul.
First up comes a trip to crisis-club West Ham, with very winnable home games against Watford and Bournemouth to come before Halloween arrives.
Alvaro Negredo should be relishing the prospect of facing a Hammers defence which has conceded 14 goals in their last four, while the Cherries have won only one of their last seven away fixtures, and inconsistent Watford went from beating Manchester United to losing at Burnley.
A trip to Arsenal may put a dampener on things, but the next four matches offer Middlesbrough the perfect chance to grow and establish themselves in the Premier League.
A tricky November sees Karanka take his men to Manchester City and Leicester – plus a home tie with Chelsea – but by then the Spaniard should have a much clearer picture of what makes his squad tick, and we should be seeing a much stronger Boro too.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing