Middlesbrough's return to the Premier League may have been somewhat unspectacular, but Aitor Karanka will nevertheless be content with his side's progress during the first half of a campaign in which they can call champions Leicester City a close adversary. Boro have held their own against many of their rivals and can feel confident of securing their Premier League status in the early part of next term.
Balancing whether to ensure survival is secure with some comfort is the dilemma facing many clubs, not least Middlesbrough .who are tasting the fine wine of the top flight after seven years in the Championship. Steve Gibson will be given the keys to the funds, but will he hit the 'buy' button? You would think not.
What they need
With a goal record to rival teams in the bottom three, Karanka could do with bolstering his forward line to ease the club towards survival. Alvaro Negredo has been effective but support from deep has been few and far between. Jordan Rhodes' brief outings have exposed his lack of quality at this level and should Negredo suffer any of the fitness problems that beset his first spell in England then Boro could be left short.
Who could join?
Rudy Gestede would fill any void left by Negredo more than adequately, even if he would compromise any ambition Karanka has of promoting a cultured approach. Hull City's Harry McGuire is destined for bigger things, though a move to Middlesbrough to keep him in the Premier League for another season could be in the offing.
Who could leave?
Jordan Rhodes' struggles have seen him linked with a host of clubs, namely Aston Villa, whose manager Steve Bruce wants him to boost their promotion bid, according to the Birmingham Mail. But while that deal would be moving on a player perhaps out of his depth, the interest in Ben Gibson is real and could yet hurt Middlesbrough. Chelsea have been scouting the 23-year-old, according to the Daily Mail, and could firm up their interest in January as they search for a replacement for John Terry.
What the manager has said
"Today, I can't say I'm missing one position as I'm proud of everybody," said Karanka, according to Hartlepool Mail. "The last thing I have in my head is January. "The players on the bench are showing a great attitude, and so are the players left at home. "They're training well to make my decisions difficult."