Gareth Southgate has warned his Middlesbrough players every position is up for grabs now he has concluded his transfer-window shopping spree. The rookie manager has served notice that complacency will not be tolerated in a new-look squad that has been bolstered by the arrival of defenders Robert Huth and Jonathan Woodgate, Jason Euell and Julio Arca.
Southgate can now boast two Premiership-hardened players for virtually every position on the pitch. It is a luxury he has been seeking ever since he took charge in July.
Monday's shock 4-0 hammering at the hands of Portsmouth clearly rattled the Boro manager and heads will inevitably roll. For starters, it is likely Woodgate and Euell will start against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, with Emanuel Pogatetz and Gaizka Mendieta likely to step aside.
When Huth is finally declared fully fit, Chris Riggott's place could come under threat. Competition for places is hotting up on Teesside, according to Southgate. "We've signed two international defenders this week, both are hungry, both have a point to prove, both have huge ability but also the potential to improve," he said.
"We've conceded eight goals in three games this season and we conceded too many goals last season, so defence is an area I knew needed attention.
"We've now got competition for places and that's something I've wanted all along."
Southgate refused to pin the entire blame on the defence for the team's goals against record. Captain George Boateng has yet to reach top form in the centre of midfield, while Fabio Rochemback has proved to be frustratingly inconsistent. "Nobody should be able to take their position for granted," said the manager. "But it's not just the defenders who have to take responsibility for defending, we're working as a team to defend as a team - everybody must play their part."
Southgate must have aged rapidly since replacing Steve McClaren at the Boro controls and that process cannot have been helped with the protracted transfer talks with Chelsea over Huth. But now he can concentrate on the training ground. "It has been a long process," he admitted. "We've had to be very patient, but the quality of the players we've brought in has been top drawer. Jason gives us options of goals from midfield, which we haven't really had in the past." Euell could barely conceal his glee at moving from Charlton. The 29-year-old Jamaica international is hoping to resurrect his career on Teesside.
"This is a massive club," he said. "In the last two weeks, I've not featured in [Charlton manager] Iain Dowie's plans and when I got the call to say I could talk to Middlesbrough I couldn't get up here quickly enough."
The Scotland Under-21 manager Archie Knox wants to arrange a series of friendly matches for his squad in the wake of their European Championships elimination at the hands of France on Friday. With this tournament being played under a shorter format, defeats to Slovenia in August and France last night mean Scotland have completed their qualifying matches and are out of the competition.
The French ran out comfortable 3-1 winners at Pittodrie thanks to goals from Jimmy Briand, Florent Sinama Pongolle and Yoann Gourcuff, while Charlie Adam scored a late penalty for the hosts.
But despite the disappointing loss, Knox is looking to the future and wants to ensure Scotland are frequently competing at Under-21 level.Reuse content