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Middlesbrough

Nottingham Forest should seek George Friend reunion with Aitor Karanka

The experienced defender would solve a problem position at Forest.

Max Cohen

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George Friend
Photo: Getty Images

Tuesday night brought disappointment for George Friend and Middlesbrough, as the Teesiders crashed out of the play-offs after a tepid 0-0 draw with Aston Villa.

Condemned to another season in the Championship, Friend should move to Nottingham Forest and reunite with former boss Aitor Karanka in order to fire Forest to promotion.

The signing of the 30-year-old Englishman would offer Karanka a top-quality full-back who has Premier League and Championship experience.

Friend played under Karanka from 2013-2017, enjoying numerous fruitful seasons as Boro thrived under the Spaniard’s direction.

The full-back played an integral role in Boro’s dominant 2015/16 promotion campaign, featuring 40 times as the club finished second in the league.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

The acquisition of the experienced defender would be welcomed at the City Ground due to Forest’s lack of depth in the left back position.

According to a column written by former Nottingham Forest player Kenny Burns, the left back position has been a worry for the club all season long.

Ben Osborn has deputised well, but is not a defender by trade, and Juan Rafael Fuentes’ performances were mediocre before he suffered a serious injury in late April against Barnsley.

It is clear that Nottingham Forest need a consistent, experienced left-back, and George Friend would be the perfect summer signing.

The influence of Karanka could prove crucial in prying the defender away from the Riverside Stadium, as the two have a close relationship thanks to their time at Boro together.

If Forest can secure the services of the Middlesbrough defender, then a promotion push might not be out of the question next season.

ddWith an experienced and impressive player like George Friend, Karanka’s side would be set to challenge for the top-six.

Max is an 18-year-old football journalist studying at the University of Pennsylvania. Max specialises in English football, is an avid follower of Fulham, and co-hosts a weekly Fulham podcast. He is also a politics reporter and deputy news editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian.

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Aston Villa

Aston Villa’s James Chester comes back to haunt former manager Tony Pulis

The Welsh defender came back to bit his old boss in the play-off semi clash.

Max Cohen

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James Chester
Photo: Getty Images

Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough side were expertly stifled by Aston Villa in their play-off semifinal, as the Villans held Boro to 180 minutes of scoreless football.

Villa centre-half James Chester was a constant rock at the back, revealing to Pulis that his former boss was wrong to sell him when the two were together at West Bromwich Albion.

Chester signed for the Baggies from Hull City in the summer of 2015, after five impressive seasons for the Tigers. The fee was reported to be in the region of £8 million and many expected the Welsh international to excel in the back four under Pulis.

Yet, frustratingly for the centre-back, Chester made only 13 league appearances for the Baggies in the 2015/16 campaign. The Welshman started just nine Premier League matches all season, as Pulis clearly did not consider him as first-choice at the Hawthorns.

After just one year at West Brom, Chester was sold to Championship side Aston Villa in 2016.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In the following two seasons at Villa Park, the centre-back has enjoyed tremendous success, making over 75 appearances and establishing himself as an indispensable presence at the back.

This season, Chester has struck up a formidable partnership with former Chelsea captain John Terry.

The airtight defensive combination was on full display during the two matches against Middlesbrough, as Chester and Terry stifled the high-octane Boro attack.

Featuring the likes of Britt Assambalonga, Adama Traore, Stewart Downing, Patrick Bamford, and Rudy Gestede, the Teesiders’ star-studded frontline was held scoreless due to Villa’s superb defense- led by James Chester.

As Tony Pulis watched his side run out of ideas and fall to a 1-0 aggregate defeat, he will surely be ruing his 2016 mistake.

Allowing James Chester to be sold to Aston Villa truly came back to haunt the Boro boss, as the Welsh international delivered Pulis a dramatic reminder of his abilities and cost the Teesiders a spot at Wembley.

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Middlesbrough

Tottenham should swoop for Middlesbrough’s electrifying winger Adama Traore

The Spaniard is finally turning raw talent into end product.

Max Cohen

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Traore
Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur have been persistently linked with a move for Fulham youngster Ryan Sessegnon, with recent reports in French outlet Paris United claiming that the north Londoners have already agreed a transfer.

But Spurs should resist a move for the 17-year-old and instead turn their focus to Middlesbrough star Adama Traore, the winger who tops WhoScored’s ratings for the best Championship player.

Traore is perhaps the most exciting raw talent in the entire division, possessing scintillating pace and remarkable explosiveness.

Crucially for the ex-Barcelona man, he has finally turned his natural talent into end product this campaign.

The 22-year-old has scored five goals and assisted ten for Boro, en route to amassing a remarkable 7.79 average WhoScored rating – the best in the league, by some distance.

His talents were on the show during Middlesbrough’s play-off semi-final against Aston Villa on Saturday, with the Spanish under-21 international representing Boro’s most dangerous offensive outlet.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Traore was a constant thorn in the Villa backline, using his magnificent acceleration and lightning quick turn of pace to elude defenders and get to dangerous crossing positions at ease.

The winger’s low centre of gravity and devastating feints give opposition players nightmares, a skill that would be welcomed at White Hart Lane.

After signing for Villa in 2015, the attacker struggled in an injury-hit debut season in England. A transfer to Middlesbrough followed, where the Spaniard suffered his second relegation in a row.

Now Traore has truly matured to English football and would be a superbly exciting signing for Mauricio Pochettino.

While Spurs have been linked with wingers such as Wilfried Zaha and Sessegnon to brighten up the club’s attack, Traore represents the ideal signing for White Hart Lane.

Finally able to consistently produce goals and assists in England, combined with his trademark swagger and skill, Adama Traore would be a fantastic addition to Tottenham this summer.

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Championship

Does Muhamed Besic have Everton future after impressive Middlesbrough loan?

The Bosnian has had an injury-ravaged spell at Everton but remains a fan favourite.

Mathew Coull

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Everton’s season will drift into obscurity after this weekend, as fans look to forget the poor campaign they have suffered through. In the end, an eighth-place finish is good for a side that were flirting dangerously with relegation earlier in the season. Needless to say, however, many Everton players will now head off on their summer holidays wondering if they could have done more this season.

But one current Everton player has still got plenty to play for. Whilst his club-mates on Merseyside may have little to play for, Muhamed Besic has things differently.

The Bosnian is currently out on loan at Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough, who have qualified for this year’s Championship play-offs.

(Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Since making his debut in February the 25-year-old has cemented his place as Pulis’ chief midfield enforcer. His never-say-die attitude and high-energy performances have made him an instant hero at The Riverside and Everton fans can understand it.

His in-your-face style and demeanour saw him become an equally popular figure at Everton and it seemed he was set for a long future at Goodison Park. However, injury has scuppered that development. A hamstring problem in his second season at the club was followed up by a knee injury in 2016. It saw Besic miss 16 months of action, including the entire 2016-17 season, for the Toffees.

In that time Everton have brought in new faces to their midfield position. So does Besic have a future at Goodison Park?

His form at Boro certainly suggests he might be worth another chance in the Everton first-team. With James McCarthy a long-term absentee and others not performing, there may be a space for Besic. His never-say-die attitude would certainly be more welcomed by the Everton fanbase than the often nonplussed looking £22 million man Morgan Schneiderlin.

(during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby and Middlesbrough at iPro Stadium on April 21, 2018 in Derby, England.

Boro, however, will be very keen to keep Besic on this season. He has established himself as a firm fan favourite and could help them earn promotion back to the Premier League.

It is easy to wonder whether, after all his injury trouble at Everton, the time now is right for a fresh start in the North-East.

Wherever he ends up, one thing for sure is this. Besic will always be a fan favourite.

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