Seven big summer transfer decisions that could shape Middlesbrough's success next season

Middlesbrough are planning an ambitious attack on Championship promotion next season, with head coach Michael Carrick absolutely clear about his desire to challenge next season.

This term ultimately proved a challenging one for Boro for multiple reasons, but there were plenty of positives to take from it - namely the growth of the players, both individually and collectively, having come through the various experiences they had to over the course of the campaign.

While squad continuation is big factor for Boro heading into next season after last summer's huge overhaul, they are still looking to do some transfer business this summer as they look to add to the solid foundations put in place over the last 12 months. Hindsight is a wonderful thing that the Boro recruitment chiefs won't have when making these decisions, but we highlight seven big decisions they could have to make this summer that could end up defining whether next season does go as hoped or not.

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Goalkeeper dilemma

Seny Dieng established himself as a solid first choice last season while Tom Glover proved a more than capable deputy. However, in what appeared the work of agents on both occasions, the duo were each linked with summer moves before the end of the season.

It coincides with a summer in which academy goalkeepers Zach Hemming, 24, and Sol Brynn, 23, return from successful loan spells determined to prove their worth and fight for a place next season. Either or both could be the future for Boro, but the question is, are they ready now? And if not, are they happy heading out on loan again?

The decisions Boro have to make this summer with regard to how their goalkeeper department will look next season might not only have implications on their potential success next season, but also the longer term too.

Defensive cover

Boro are likely to add Luke Ayling on a free this summer when his Leeds United contract expires at the end of June. But Paddy McNair has already announced his departure on a free, while Anfernee Dijksteel is likely to move on too.

An ideal squad would consist of two options per position and even without the two aforementioned exiteers, Boro would have that. The trouble is, there will be mental scarring around the injury crisis they've had this season, with Tommy Smith and Darragh Lenihan both returning from long-term injuries and therefore carrying a little uncertainty as to the level they'll be able to return at.

That could tempt Boro into signing a couple of young prospects for right-back and centre-back, if funds allow, with no real sign of any academy products being close enough in any position to provide that backup at this stage. James Wilson, 17, made his debut on the final day of the season but is expected to be back around the academy sides to continue his development next season.

Left-back stick or twist

Boro signed two left-backs last summer for what was such a key position in Carrick's first year thanks to the excellence of loanee Ryan Giles. It's fair to see neither Lukas Engel nor Alex Bangura lived up to those levels, however.

In the case of Engel, he showed immense strength of character to recover from a torrid start at the club to establish himself as a steady eddy on the left side of defence. But he lacked the attacking prowess of Giles or Bangura. The Sierra Leone international showed flashes that he could be a like-for-like Giles replacement but unfortunately struggled to stay fit for much of the campaign.

It gives Boro a dilemma this summer. The ideal model dictates they show faith in the Boro to grow from their first year in England and both make improvements next season. However, given the emphasis of the role in the ideal way Carrick wants to play, might there be temptation to try and offload one and bring in more proven quality?

Midfield mould

Boro have made the decision not to pursue a permanent deal for Lewis O'Brien this summer after his loan spell from Nottingham Forest. While he did well once returning from a long-term injury, the feeling is that Boro will seek a different kind of midfielder this summer.

The big question, however, is what the mould of that midfielder will be. Carrick's side did at times struggle with a balance in the side last season that stemmed largely from a midfield that were too easy to bypass when Boro gave away position and teams countered on them.

Most feel that Boro could do with an enforces-type brute of a midfielder, while others would like to see a more athletic and energetic box-to-box kind of midfielder who can make strong recovery runs when teams do try to counter on Boro. The midfielder they come up with could be key to success.

Forward quality

The level of quality they add to their forward line could be a crucial decision too, after a season in which, despite the quality they already possess, they often lacked an unpredictable flair man who can unlock a stubborn defence with a moment of improvised magic.

Providing they don't lose anyone, they head into next season with Isaiah Jones, Marcus Forss, Finn Azaz, Alex Gilbert, Riley McGree and Sammy Silvera as their senior options. They are certainly looking to add at least one more in that area, and it will be interesting to see what the scouting department have come up with after finding some gems last summer.

Striker balance

Until very recently, Boro looked like they might need to spend yet more money on a centre forward if they were to have a 20-goal-plus man firing them to promotion next season. However, A fine end to the season for Emmanuel Latte Lath leaves everyone convinced he can be the man to provide that.

What is less certain, however, is if he can stay fit for a 46-game season and there is an appreciation at Boro that they have to equip themselves in case he can't. There remains high hopes that Josh Coburn will return next season better for his difficult experiences this term, but another striker is being sought too.

Will Lankshear on loan from Tottenham is one option they have though they're yet to finalise who their first-choice target will be as they monitor the market. Whoever they bring in, it will be an interesting conundrum because they'll want someone who can contribute, obviously, but will also not want to stunt the growth of Latte Lath and Coburn.

Key player resolve

Finally, and perhaps the biggest dilemma Boro officials could face this summer will be if any big offers come in for star men this summer. The club are determined to wade off offers for such players, but a club in Boro's financial position can only have so much resolve.

Latte Lath's agent has said they won't actively look for a move, but didn't completely close down the possibility if someone wanted to test Boro with a big offer. Rav van den Berg has made his feelings clear that he sees no reason to leave at this stage but is likely to be the subject of interest.

Hayden Hackney has been attracting interest from top Premier League clubs for some time now, though it's uncertain if his injuries this year might lead to clubs giving him an extra year. McGree has also had an injury-hit campaign but with just 12 months remaining on his contract, there will be uncertainty over his future this summer until he signs a new contract.

Can Boro keep all or most of their best players at the club next season? It's a huge question will likely rests more on the players themselves and the size of the fees clubs might be willing to pay.