Middlesbrough 2-0 Marseille report: Marcus Tavernier shines amid Bournemouth speculation
Isaiah Jones and Marcus Tavernier earned Boro a comfortable victory on TeessideThe latter dominated the pre-match talk on Teesside, with reports claiming a deal to Bournemouth is close. However, Chris Wilder sent a defiant message to potential suitors by naming the 23-year-old in his starting line-up.
Chuba Akpom providing the assist for Middlesbrough's first goal of the season was a line not many would have expected to read even just a fortnight ago. © James Heaton/News Images Chuba Akpom of Middlesbrough with the assist for Isaiah Jones
The striker's Boro career seemed all bit over as he trained alone at the start of this summer following a loan spell last season at PAOK. the former Arsenal man had been sent packing back to Greece by previous manager Neil Warnock having failed to impress in his first season on Teesside.
Not proving the prolific goalscorer Boro had hoped for, the final straw came late on in that awful behind-closed-doors season when Warnock felt Akpom sulked and took too long to leave the pitch having been subbed off in a period in a game that Boro were chasing and needing a spark from the bench.
‘Work to be done’ Middlesbrough boss Chris Wilder refuses to get excited by Marseille win
The Boro boss stressed improvements can still be made despite defeating the side that finished second in Ligue 1 last season, the Boro boss insists “a lot of work” needs to be done ahead of the Championship opener next week. © CameraSport - Alex Dodd Middlesbrough manager Chris Wilder congratulates his players It is no secret that the Teessiders are hunting a new striker, with Wilder admitting to transfer difficulties earlier this month. On tonight's showing, Middlesbrough possess no struggles finding the net as they brushed aside the French giants with ease.
READ MORE: Five positions Boro still need to strengthen clear in West Brom draw
With Warnock replaced by Wilder last term though, there was curious intrigue at the start of the summer to see whether Wilder would offer the striker an opportunity to reintegrate. When there was no sign of the 26-year-old at the start of pre-season, and then videos began appearing on his Instagram of him training alone back in the capital, it seemed clear that Akpom would have no chance to work his way into Wilder's plans.
Then, completely out of the blue, with just one friendly left to play and with no new strikers brought in yet, Akpom was suddenly back and involved as Boro wrapped up their summer friendlies with an impressive victory over French giants Marseille.
Josh Coburn loan plans confirmed, as Middlesbrough receive plenty of enquiries for the striker
Chris Wilder admitted he would like to loan the striker out this seasonThe striker has enjoyed an incredible period since breaking into the Boro first team towards the back end of the 2020-21 season. And last term he enjoyed plenty more big moments, including that special goal to seal victory against Tottenham in the FA Cup.
Even with that chance of resurrection, until midway through last week Akpom wasn't expected to start in the 1-1 draw against West Brom. He would have been a good bet to come off the bench as Wilder gives him a chance to turn his Boro career around in the next month, but Riley McGree had been expected to play just behind Duncan Watmore from the start, much like he had for much of pre-season.
The Marcus Tavernier situation changed that, however, prompting Wilder to push McGree back into midfield and, with Marcus Forss only joining on Thursday, it was Akpom over young Josh Coburn that the Boro boss would hand that opportunity to. And with an assits and plenty more intelligent link-up play in a really positive outing, Akpom has certainly given Wilder food for thought as he plots his moves in the remainder of the window. Wilder likes striker options and he likes to rotate. More performances like the one against West Brom, Akpom very well may end up staying at the club beyond the summer transfer window.
Groningen director discusses Middlesbrough's bids for Strand Larsen and desires to keep him
Middlesbrough have had two bids turned down for Norway striker Jorgen Strand LarsenThe transfer chief at the Dutch side has confirmed the club's desire to keep the striker this summer, though has not ruled out a sale for a 'top price'. He claims the Eredivisie side are not in a position where they have to sell the 22-year-old, who has two years remaining on his current contract.
Asked about the striker after the game, Wilder said: “I thought he was excellent first half. He just ran out of gas, same as Duncan, after not completing much of pre-season. He missed most of the games and Duncan was the same because he has a slight issue at times that requires him to be pulled out of training.
"We’ll always know with Duncan that that’s there and that’s how it is. He hasn’t completed 90 minutes for us in my time, although I do know I often change it around. Duncan understands that he’s got to score that chance. But I thought Chuba’s performance was really good. He won his headers, he linked up play really well and showed he’s an intelligent player. If he’s about then we’ll work with him."
There's recent history at Boro for Akpom to take encouragement from too. Both Joseph Desire Job and Massimo Maccarone were sent out on loan and seemingly unwanted, only to return and score some vital goals for the club. Could Akpom become the latest striker to have such a rejuvenation? He certainly did his chances no harm on Saturday.
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Arveladze was discussing Greaves' future in his pre-match Norwich presser, amid links with MiddlesbroughThe 21-year-old is into the final 12 months of his contract at City, though the club do have the option of triggering another year. Greaves has started all of the Tigers’ opening three matches in all competitions this season, suggesting he remains a key part of their plans despite the potential of a move to the Riverside.