Middlesbrough announced their annual shortlist for their player of the season this week, and after a start-stop campaign, it is difficult to see who will come out with the award.
Plenty of names were brought in overthe summer, but after Garry Monk was sacked in December, and Tony Pulis took over at the club, there has been a significant change at Middlesbrough. In terms of personnel, tactics and team selection, Pulis has reinvigorated the side.
The shortlist consists of six names, and includes Darren Randolph, Daniel Ayala, Stewart Downing, Adama Traore, Britt Assombalonga and Patrick Bamford. Here is a case for each of the shortlisted Boro players.
Arguably one of the best goalkeepers Middlesbrough have ever had. After Mark Schwarzer’s departure, Boro have struggled to find a reliable ‘keeper, one who controls his box, is vocal and is capable of making outstanding saves when called upon. They have found that with Randolph.
Randolph is the definition of consistent, and the fact he has 15 clean sheets this season speaks volumes.
Verdict: Outside chance
Since Tony Pulis became manager of Middlesbrough on Boxing Day, Daniel Ayala is the third highest scorer for the club. His goal against Bristol City took his tally up to seven goals for the season.
But his eye for goal has overshadowed his defensive displays, which have been erratic at times. He has a mistake in him each and every season, and although he has been vital in securing points with his goalscoring capabilities, the defensive side of his game needs to improve, especially for a centre-back.
Verdict: No chance
Another consistent performer from the start of the season has been Stewart Downing. It is good to see him nominated, as much of the good work he does seems to go unnoticed.
He has always had the ability to pick a pass, deliver a cross or beat a man, and he has shown that time and time again in this division this season.
He has seven assists to his name and a huge 83% passing accuracy. But although he has been impressive and consistent, Downing has not stood out, and that could cost him.
Verdict: Slim chance
There’s a reason why Championship teams fear Adama Traore. When he is running, he can beat any man with technique, skill and speed, and has been deadly of late.
He has provided the assist for each of Middlesbrough’s last four goals, and for a player with ‘no end-product’, 10 assists and five goals says otherwise.
Although he had a stop-start season before Christmas under Garry Monk he has thrived under Tony Pulis’ guidance. It is because of Traore’s amazing form after the turn of the year, that Middlesbrough propelled up the table.
Verdict: Favourite to win
It has been a topsy-turvy season for Britt Assombalonga. Signed for a club-record fee at the start of the campaign, he certainly hit the ground running. 12 of his 14 goals came before Tony Pulis took charge over Christmas.
The second-half of his season has been frustrating for the Congolese, but he remains Boro’s top scorer and that gives validation to his place on the shortlist. With the injury to Patrick Bamford sustained last week, Assombalonga could prove to be even more useful between now and the end of the season.
Verdict: Slim chance (given the second-half of the season)
Since Patrick Bamford was moved to a central role he has never looked back. The majority of the goals in his career have come from playing as a number nine, and Pulis recognised this early in his reign. Unfortunately this came at the expense of Assombalonga, but Bamford has been crucial in cementing Boro in the play-offs.
Similar to Assombalonga, Bamford’s campaign has been up and down. Especially before January, as he was often played out wide, and struggled to make an impact. But since being moved to a central striker, he has shone in this team, and deserved his nomination.
Verdict: Second favourite to win
You can vote for your Middlesbrough Player of the Season here. Voting closes on Thursday 26th April 2018.