Five key issues Middlesbrough boss Garry Monk must address ahead of Cardiff City clash
After taking just three points from four league games, Middlesbrough fans are asking what is going wrong at the Riverside?
The pre-season Championship promotion favourites’ fall to 11th in the table, nine points adrift of leaders Wolves, has raised alarms on Teesside.
But what should manager Garry Monk be doing to halt the slide? Here are five key issues the Boro boss must address.
Sort the defence out
After a promising start, Boro have now conceded four goals in their last two league games against Brentford and Barnsley.
Teenage defender Dael Fry was dropped after a mistake against Norwich last month, but the Teessiders haven’t looked the same without him.
Daniel Ayala and Ryan Shotton have both been tried alongside Ben Gibson at centre-half but neither have solved Boro’s defensive problems.
As a former centre-half, Monk will be keen to solidify his side’s creaking backline.
Settle on a formation
Boro spent over £30million on forward players in the summer but Monk has struggled to fit them all into his side.
He has tried three at the back, a traditional 4-2-3-1 and even 4-3-3 with limited success.
If Monk can settle on a consistent starting XI and a definitive way of playing, the Teessiders have more than enough quality to challenge for a top two spot.
Get Britt firing
Middlesbrough’s record signing Britt Assombalonga has scored six goals this season, but more is expected from the £15million striker.
The former Nottingham Forest forward has lacked service at times this season, with Boro struggling to get the ball upfield quickly.
If Monk’s men are to launch a promotion challenge, they need to provide more support, more quickly for Assombalonga.
The 24-year-old is a proven goalscorer in the second tier. But he needs feeding.
When Adama Traore’s missed the team bus for the trip to Barnsley, some saw it as symbolic of a Boro side being left behind in the Championship.
The pacy winger has shown incredible potential at the Riverside but his inconsistent form has frustrated fans.
Monk has shown that he will not tolerate any nonsense from the 21-year-old.
But if he can get the winger onside - and on the bus - Boro will still have one of the best talents in the Championship.
Boro have been slow out of the blocks this season, conceding first in seven league games.
Monk will be aiming to put this right over the next few weeks as the Teessiders aim to climb the table.
In their promotion-winning campaign, Boro didn’t lose a league game when they scored first.
Monk will need to address his side’s slow starts to keep the fans onside.