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A 3-0 defeat to champions-elect Chelsea mathematically confirmed Middlesbrough’s relegation from the Premier League in their first season back in England’s top flight.
The performance on the night was a damning indictment of the inefficiencies which have seen the Teesiders slip into the relegation mire, with goals simply too hard to come by for a team that is on course for the lowest scoring stat since Derby County mustered just 20 way back in the 2007/08 season.
It must however be noted that at the time of writing there are still two matches to play.
Boro arrived in the Premier League fresh from a wonderful season under Aitor Karanka and the club immediately set about their transfer business, which on paper looked strong enough to give them a serious chance of staying in the division.
One of the legacies of the current TV wealth and the vast sums of money gifted to promoted teams is that those coming up from the Championship are now at an advantageous position ahead of those who have been narrowly fending off the drop for a number of years.
End of the ‘yo-yo’ era
The early years since the Millennium often saw clubs be promoted and then unsurprisingly slip straight back down, it was a running joke that the likes of Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion were ‘yo-yo’ clubs for this exact reason.
The era of the ‘yo-yo’ clubs is definitely passé with four of the six promoted teams in the last two seasons having all remained in the Premier League in their first campaign.
Teams that have been in the Premier League for a number of years are far more at risk with owners being disillusioned and using the vast influx of money only to cover debts, Aston Villa and Sunderland are the prime examples.
Middlesbrough were not one such team to escape the drop but they invested wisely.
Busy summer ahead
Alvaro Negredo will be sold on after a disappointing goal return, yet Marten de Roon arrived as a £12 million signing and is now likely to be valued at nearer the £25-30 million mark after a quite exceptional effort this term with Jose Mourinho even labelling him ‘phenomenal’.
Adama Traore still hasn’t done enough to shake the suspicion he lacks in end product but the 21-year-old’s talent will attract buyers. Chelsea were close in January and could come in again with Middlesbrough profiting nicely.
This may sound like I’m advocating a fire sale at the Riverside Stadium but that isn’t the case.
There are players of a certain level that simply won’t entertain dropping down a division irrespective of the fact they have just been part of a team that has fallen through football’s proverbial trap door.
With the vast funds the club will receive from both sales and parachute payments, an already well run organisation will be well placed to invest in Championship level players and likely return to the top flight at the first time of asking.
There is an infrastructure in place at the club which prepared for this eventuality yet clubs like Sunderland and most notably Aston Villa do not have the same security.
Villa dropped down and began investing ill-thought out sums of money in players, the process was a disaster and they were looking for a new manager after just 124 days.
Possess the necessary experience
They failed to return to the Premier League at the first opportunity and it is likely Sunderland will face similar problems with David Moyes next year.
Middlesbrough on the other hand have experience of the league both on and off the pitch and know just what it takes to get promoted now.
Lessons will also have been learnt from their solitary season in the big time. You cannot score just 26 goals in 36 Premier League games and hope to stay up.
Defensively the team has been solid enough as they boast the tenth lowest goals conceded, the former Real Madrid assistant coach put sound building blocks in place in midfield and in defence which will remain for the near future.
Middlesbrough play attractive football too, often they have controlled matches, especially in the first half of the campaign, but have just been unable to find the net with any regularity.
Need to stay calm and regroup
Ben Gibson has been present for every single minute of the domestic season and has marshalled the back-line excellently, it is little surprise he is being courted by Arsenal but the Teesiders must do what they can to persuade him to stay in order to keep their defensive strength ahead of next season.
Whilst other relegated clubs are consumed by chaos, Middlesbrough simply need to regroup and reload. Their performance in the top flight was disastrous but it was certainly something to learn from.
Those in charge mustn’t panic and if they firmly believe Steve Agnew is the man to lead the club forward they have to back him fully.
If the club has a stable summer and heads into next year on an even footing then it is clear they will be right up there with the favourites to bounce back up to the top division in English football.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
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