Promoted Preview – Middlesborough

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Middlesborough have returned to the Premier League after a lengthy absence with an aggressive transfer policy and distinct style of play. It’s time for @liambednarski to run an eye over Boro’s ‘Projected XI’.

If this were basketball we would hear the constant screams of DEFENSE from the Riverside. Middlesborough broke a 30 year record in the Championship for clean sheets recording 22 in 46 games on their way to an automatic promotion.

Promoted teams tend to average a handful of clean sheets although we have been ‘blessed’ with the occasional surprise over the years (Swansea & Birmingham spring to mind earning 14 and 12 respectively).

Judge each team on its merits is the reminder here, there are always exceptions to the general rule. Manager Aitor Karanka is focused on the defensive side of the game with great emphasis on work-rate and diligence from all of his players. His signings (Valdes, Negredo, Fischer) do add an extra layer of quality to the squad and will start the season fit and firing.

In the 4.5 price bracket it is debatable where the Middlesborough defenders figure. Bournemouth & Watford had enticing patches of form last season and remain well priced this season. Whilst Jonny Evans (WBA), Neil Taylor (SWA), Erik Pieters (STO) & Lamine Kone (SUN) present strong options from Premier League mainstays.

The fixture computer has been somewhat generous with Middlesborough’s opening fixtures including Stoke (H), Sunderland (A), West Brom (A) and Crystal Palace (H).

Middlesborough were especially enticing at home last season where they conceded only eight goals in 23 matches. With a reliable formation, managerial tactics and some impressive signings there are players worthy of consideration for your FPL team.

Projected XI

Middlesborough Starting Line Up

Victor Valdes (4.5) is an extremely competent and experienced goalkeeper who will be between the posts for the opening game. Brad Guzan (4.5) was signed incase of injury and will battle for a bench seat with club stalwart Konstantopoulous (4.5).

Emilo Nsue (4.5) is not a traditional right back. He is more comfortable as a right midfielder with question marks over his role given the signing of Antonio Barragan (4.5). Avoid both for the time being.

Daniel Ayala (5.0) is injury prone and a yellow card magnet. He presents a threat from set pieces and may be favorable for bonus points but I can’t justify the 0.5 price premium. Slight doubt for the season opener, I expect him to start.

Ben Gibson (4.5) is a central defender who will partner Ayala to open the season. Bernardo Espinosa (4.5) has been signed to challenge but is out with injury until at least September. One to consider.

George Friend (4.5) is a popular pick in the 4.5 bracket amongst the FPL community. With only the solitary goal and two assists last season his not an attacking gem but he was widely regarded as the best left back in the Championship. First name on the team sheet. Nailed on to start.

Marten de Roon (4.5) is a new signing who will bring assured performances to central midfield. His ability to break up play and protect the defense is his strength and number one task. Not an FPL asset but important to Boro clean sheets. Starter.

Adam Clayton (4.5) is a constant in the side and also adapt at protecting the defense. Again not a FPL asset but important to the way the team defends. Rock.

Grant Leadbitter (5.0) is expected to be out of action for a month or so. He will be required throughout the season but has minimal FPL impact. Injured.

This is where things get difficult as manager Aitor Karanka is infamous for rotating his attacking players. He requires exceptional work rate at all times, if someone isn’t training well his not afraid to leave them out:


“I always (pick) the best XI and the best eleven players in my head is the XI I put on the pitch. (Fans) have their best XI but they don’t know how (the players are) training, how they are in terms of injuries or pains. It’s difficult for people to understand a lot of things, but I have to manage it and sometimes when one player is not confident or I can feel he is not confident on the training ground, I have to choose the best XI.” – Aitor Karanka


With this in mind the following selections have been made for this ‘Projected XI’ with the only guaranteed starter being Gaston Ramirez (yet to be priced). He scored seven goals and provided three assists in only 18 starts after arriving on loan from Southampton. He should come in at a cut price of 5.5 and be nailed on for the CAM role. Invest.

Former fantasy hero Stuart Downing (5.5) is in a battle for starting place with Ramirez & Fischer (5.5). He was a signing which nearly saw the manager resign and his impact dwindled throughout last season. Avoid.

Fischer (5.5) brings an interesting skill set to the team. His reliable in front of goal but the level of his physicality and his work ethic is unknown at this level. Important aspects for a wide player. Monitor.

Christhian Stuani (5.0) & Albert Adomah (5.5) are set to battle it out for the role on the right. Stuani is categorized as a forward unfortunately whilst Adomah can be impressive but inconsistent. Avoid both in the battle for this position.

Negredo (6.5) brings a touch of class in a body ravaged by injuries. The manager has spoken out about the strikers lack of fitness throughout the pre season stating him as “not 100%” he went on to add that “If he was at 100% he would be at a Man City, Liverpool or Chelsea, this is the situation we deal with not at 100%.” His impact may be limited and the club has taken a significant risk in securing his signature. At 30 years of age with a couple of poor seasons behind him the nature of the deal (a loan) suggests they know the risk they are taking. Monitor.

His challenger for the striking role is Jordan Rhodes (6.0) who has been biding his time in the Championship for a number of years. He has a goal ratio better then one-in-two over his career whilst approaching peak performance at 26 years of age. Having conducted some study into Rhodes goals for Middlesborough & Blackburn over the last two seasons he is extremely dangerous from corners and set pieces. Not only is he a strong header of the ball but his ability to follow up knock downs from team mates and opponents is superb. He is a poacher with all of his goals coming from within the 18 yards over the last two seasons. His ability in the air may have been excellent at Championship level but the PL has a number of exceptional defenders who will be tougher to beat. Monitor.

With the number of minutes likely to be shared between these two strikers I would avoid starting the season with either. You want to be looking for nailed on performers. The attacking rotation habits of the manager and fitness levels of Negredo make it difficult to recommend you start with either forward in your squad of 15.

22 comments on “Promoted Preview – Middlesborough

  1. BMN

    rate my team please

    courtois – jakupovic
    shaw – baines – ROTATION (souare – fernandez) – BENCH (lanihan)
    mkhitayan – hazard – fischer – bolasie – BENCH (fletcher)
    aguero – ibra – gray

    • Liam Post Author

      Not sure if Fernandez is a nailed on starter. Lanihan is also unlikely to play. Although Hull’s injury crisis could throw up a lot of variables in any case I don’t recommend a defender from that club.

      There are possibly better 5.5 options out there then Fischer I would assess the options before selecting someone who is not guaranteed 90 minutes.

      Bolasie is widely inconsistent but is a player who could continue to grow into a more regular performer.

      Few things for you to think about but generally quite good. It is often the edge of the squad that is the hardest to judge.

      • BMN

        Thanks for your advice.
        Could you please recommend 5.5 – 6.5 MF to replace Fischer and Bolasie and 4.5DF for Fernandez?

        • Liam Post Author

          Ramirez & Gradel are my recommendations at 5.5 (Ramirez yet to be put into the game I expect that is what his price will be).

          My suggestions in the 4.5 bracket are in the article above:

          “In the 4.5 price bracket it is debatable where the Middlesborough defenders figure. Bournemouth & Watford had enticing patches of form last season and remain well priced this season. Whilst Jonny Evans (WBA), Neil Taylor (SWA), Erik Pieters (STO) & Lamine Kone (SUN) present strong options from Premier League mainstays.”

    • kingcolesy

      I’d stick with that team. Very good! Consider mahrez over mhki if you have doubts over man utds attacking

  2. Ballybun

    Fantastic review Seems like Negredo will be on a short leash. He’s currently on my team with Zlatan and Sergio but dang…….your last paragraph is concerning.

    • Liam Post Author

      His only scored 10 goals in his last 55 games be wary of selecting him based on his sensational start to his time in the PL with Manchester City.

      • Liam Post Author

        To add that that he appears to be a streaky player he scored 5 goals in January for Valencia similar to his time at City 9 goals early in the season. Streaky.

  3. Chris Jones

    Great read.

    Friend is the only one I’m considering from ‘Boro at this stage, they are pretty shaky at the back, with decent depth, he’s the only one nailed on for me. I’d feel more comfortable with Rhodes over Negredo too, but they do look great up top!

    • Liam Post Author

      Having two options to go to can only be valuable for the club but not for us fantasy managers with so much doubt over the starting role. They may be worthy of investment in the season. To start with it is too difficult to say.

  4. The Swan and Paedo

    Hey Liam,

    Sorry I only just saw your reply about Ozil on the Arsenal post.

    How do you view the info for the top 50 over the years? That would be great info!

    Based on what you said I’m thinking that a power strikeforce might be a better option this year (3 of Kun, Ibra, Kane, Vardy, Lukaku) and then cheaper mids with lots of set piece duties like Tadic, Erikson and Fabregas.

    Your point about there being no top mids with penalty duties is a really interesting observation.

    • Liam Post Author


      A great fantasy website called: fantasyfootballfix have a pre season pack available which includes a look at the top 50 teams of last season and of ‘all time’ its 15 pound for the pack but you get a 12 pound credit towards the regular season website (which I think is about 18 pounds).

      Is it worth picking up? Hard to say for the average reader. It is incredibly useful for me because I am putting team profiles together.

      Along with fantasyfootballscout I rate it as one of the best sites for fantasy premier league information. fantasyfootballgeek is also good and of course us here at FPL Addicts!

      Sorry for not including links my comments get automatically moderated if I do and not approved (happened when I replied to one of your posts).

      Interesting strategy.

      Tadic has outstanding underlying statistics perhaps some of the best in the Premier League for an ‘underrated player’. It is amazing Southampton have been able to hold onto him for so long. I am expecting him to play a central role this season and increase his scoring.

      Set piece duties are a consideration but general positioning is perhaps more important. Fabregas plays rather deep in midfield so is unlikely to score many goals. With a new manager he might return to a more attacking role, if so he is a worthy investment.

      Eriksen plays off the left hand side a lot and shoots from distance which is largely ineffective. His set piece delivery is excellent but Alli is more likely to outscore him due to a central role in the attack.

      Assist kings are good fantasy assets to have but its important they obtain bonus points if they aren’t scoring goals. I am unsure where Eriksen & Fabregas figure at the current time I do not want to discourage you from selecting them as they have the potential to be fine fantasy assets.

      It is rather interesting. I don’t expect Hazard to score as highly as in the past Oscar is on penalty duties judging by the recent pre season game.

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  8. The Swan and Paedo

    What do you think of De Roon as an alternative to Fletcher? Likely to play every game, score about the same but lower ownership so less likely to fall in price

    • Liam Post Author

      Having discussed with a college of mine De Roon is likely to sit in front of the defence his a ‘sweeper’ in midfield. Therefore he is rather unlikely to score goals or assists and will accumulate more cards then Fletcher I think. I would avoid selecting him.

      Fletcher is an interesting one his high ownership is not justified for fantasy purposes but it is justified in other aspects.

      Fletcher is a former Manchester United player so his relatively well known.

      He is Scottish so he is a ‘home grown player’ for some reason players in FPL gravitate towards these players. They just love the home grown aspect ‘one of our boys’ I presume (always happens).

      He scored 100 points last year which looks like a good total (he played every game for the first time in his career).

      In his time at Manchester United he did accumulate more goals and assists some people may be factoring that in but he plays a different role these days. His a spent force after this stomach issues as a box to box midfielder but he is an intelligent player debatably the best one WBA have even at 32 years of age.

      As you discussed earlier the moment another 4.5-5.0 midfield option appears people will leave Fletcher in droves driving down his price.

      Personally I try to look for someone attacking who is at a discount in the 4.5-5.0 bracket. Someone with a greater chance of goals and assists but who can be moved on eventually and is unlikely to deviate in price due to low ownership.

      These are all the options at 4.5 in midfield in no particular order:

      Mendy (LEI), De Roon (MID), Clayton (MID), Meyler (HUL), Marney (BUR), Cook (BOU), Cattlemole (SUN), Kirchkoff (SUN), Yacob (WBA), Capoue (WAT) and of course Fletcher (WBA).

      There is much doubt over Watford’s CM they purchased a lot of them last season and have changed the teams shape. I need to review this team further.

      Capoue has been shooting a lot in pre season in a 3-5-2 formation. Could nab an early goal and is fairly secure for minutes without.

      Shaun Maloney at Hull is 32 now but plays as an attacking midfielder. Is a slight doubt for the opening fixture but has good pedigree could finish in the 3-5 goals range with 3-5 assists depending how poor Hull turn out to be. The most attacking option available at 4.5 in the game.

      Inner could become an interesting option at Leicester if he breaks into the side / someone gets injured he was extremely unfortunate not to play last season they were simply too good / extreme momentum to play him.

      Fletcher is a safe pick which could see you lose value if the bandwagon is emptied. WBA are strange, strange team and apparently have a ‘strong set’ of fixtures to start the season.

      I will be investing elsewhere probably in Maloney but that is perhaps wishful thinking on my behalf. I approach the 5th midfielder with attacking intent many just selected a guaranteed two point player of which Fletcher is an excellent choice.

      Adjust your strategy accordingly and after all of that De Roon is expected to be a regular starter and Middlesborough have a good start fixture wise. If you are looking for an alternative to a lock, stock two point player as a point of difference he is a viable option.

      • The Swan and Paedo

        Hey mate, great reply as usual!

        I did some research on Mboro and it seems Clayton is just as secure but a bit more creative and less card prone. So I may go with him

        However, you now have me thinking about Maloney. Always rated him as a player and could be an option.

        Another possibility is Watmore at 5.0m who looks like a good player who will play but not sure I can justify the 0.5m

        • Liam Post Author

          Lewis Cook from Bournemouth is another 4.5 option although I haven’t had time to see how much he played in pre season. He won academy player of the year then last season young player of the year. His scored 3 goals this calendar year as well. His only 19 but Bournemouth are really light at CM.

          Clayton is a similar player who will play slightly more forward of centre. Yes I would put him in the same basket as De Roon but when Leadbitter returns from injury he might face rotation.

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