The surprising retention of Ben Gibson and the mercurial problem of Adama Traore. Yet one thing remains constant. The Riverside Stadium must be a strong hold for our promotion challenge. It has always been the key to The Boro success historically and as we will see a key point of getting out of the dreaded second tier.
Since the 2011/12 season five of the six winners of the home table have been automatically promoted. The only time recently it didn’t happen was when ‘Boro themselves topped the table on route to a 4th place finish and ultimately heartbreak in the playoff final. In the 2014/15 season it was not our home form that let us down. More so the nine points in arrears of Watford based on away form. Even with the disastrous relegation season 65% of ‘Boro points came at The Riverside.
So what does this break down to on a points tally required? Based on average of the last 6 years 52 (rounded down) points at home would see you promoted. Breaking that down is 17 wins at home from 23 games. It does not leave a lot of leeway for matches on Teesside.
Only once in the last six seasons has on average points per game (PPG) of less than 1.90 been sufficient to go up automatically.
Cardiff City and Hull City where promoted with 87 and 79 points in 2012/13, the lowest in winning points tally in the last 6 years.
In that same timeframe only once did a PPG off over than 1.90 fail to get promoted (Brighton 2015/16).
Taking a closer look at that successful season, Aitor Karanka’s side scored 34 goals and conceded only 8. Losing just 2 games while winning 16, drawing the remaining 5 reaching the magical 52 points total.
This all starts with Sheffield United on Saturday. While on paper this should be straightforward home win, I am always nervous of a newly promoted team against a recently relegated outfit, albeit one who are pretty unrecognisable from last season. The Blades will have an extra game behind them when they play Walsall mid-week in the EFL Cup and the dangerous Billy Sharp has already hit the ground running.
This new look Middlesbrough outfit will need to be able to cope with what will be an expectant Riverside crowd. That comes with own pressure and against a Sheffield United side with no fear it could be dangerous.
That said I fully expect Boro to show up and flex there muscle. Comfortable 3 - 0 win.