WHEN it comes to the notion of winter hibernation, the more cynical observers might venture that Middlesbrough’s striking pool have made their departures early.
Just two Boro forwards have found the net in the league this season with their combined tally of four Premier League goals of grave concern to supporters.
It is exacerbated by the fact the man who has operated in the lone striker’s role for the vast majority of the campaign in Alvaro Negredo has not netted since the 1-1 opening-day draw against Stoke.
The Spanish targetman has endured an 11-match goal famine since.
Elsewhere, Jordan Rhodes, David Nugent and three-goal Cristhian Stuani have been used very sparingly, with the lack of game time for the former – signed for an initial £9m amid much fanfare in the new year – being a source of frustration for many, not least the striker himself.
But Aitor Karanka has this week scotched talk that ex-Huddersfield Town striker Rhodes is seeking showdown talks at his dearth of action, while dismissing suggestions he is unhappy and seeking a January move.
Karanka, who has stuck rigidly to a 4-2-3-1 formation, acknowledges that several forwards not in the starting line-up will be frustrated, but he insists that the team collective is his main preoccupation.
He said: “Every single player who is not playing is frustrated.
“When I was a player, I was the same but, as a manager, I have to think about the team to put the best XI out on the pitch.”
Karanka insists that he remains happy with the team contribution of Negredo, despite his lengthy goal famine, and says that he is doing a job for his team-mates in an often thankless task in the lone striker’s position in what amounts to a new role.
He feels that the goals will arrive at some point down the line, hopefully sooner rather than later. He added: “In all his career, he’s used to having three or four chances every game because he’s played at the top level with Sevilla and Manchester City.
“Now he’s not having those chances and it’s frustrating in that way for him. His role this season is different.
“The aims that he has had in the past are different, but if he keeps working in the way he is working, I believe the chances will arrive and the goals will arrive.”