Aside from the three recently relegated teams in England’s second-tier, Middlesbrough were one of the fancies, especially with Chris Wilder at the helm. Wilder, who has a stellar reputation in the game after elevating Sheffield United from League One to the Premier League, is into his first full season at the Riverside, but after five games, Boro are without a win.
It's always a difficult ask of teams in the Championship to compete against those who are in receipt of parachute payments, but not impossible, as proven by Wilder previously. But it’s this, combined with transfers out of the club, that have made life difficult on the recruitment and squad shaping front at Boro. The sale of Djed Spence was long and drawn out, with the club relying on the funds from the sale of the right wingback to Spurs to then go on and reinvest.
And then there was the unexpected departure of Marcus Tavernier to Bournemouth, a player who played some of his best football under Wilder and was a key cog in his 3-5-2 system. Since the likes of Marcus Forss, Matthew Hoppe, Darragh Lenihan, Tommy Smith, Alex Mowatt, Zack Steffen, Rodrigo Muniz and Ryan Giles have arrived, but it’s been somewhat of a delayed process, and they’re still being integrated into Wilder’s team.
After an encouraging opening day display against another of the league’s strongest outfits in West Brom, with the match ending all square. Middlesbrough headed to the capital and found themselves 3-0 down before halftime against QPR. The first-half performance was below par, and while Boro fought back to make it 3-2, it was a disappointing defeat with a performance to match, which has been the case too often already this season.
You could suggest Boro bounced back by drawing with Sheffield United, a game where they looked more like themselves. However, after leading at Stoke in the next match, D’Margio Wright-Phillips struck in the 91st minute to level things up at 2-2, which had been the same result against Sheffield United, and the first win of the campaign yet again slipped away.
Reading, who were expected to struggle this season, have been doing better than everyone expected. But, it’s a game that Wilder and his Boro team will have expected to have a good chance of winning. But again, there was more disappointment, with Tyrese Fornah scoring the only goal of the game. Boro dominated the ball and the shot count but failed to convert this into goals and points.
It's still early days, with over forty league fixtures to play, so there’s plenty of time for Boro to get back to winning ways. But, the bad form the side has endured spans back to last season, and the pressure is now on Wilder to change the team’s fortunes around and get them in the promotion picture. You’d think further new arrivals and the new faces gelling will help.