MIDDLESBROUGH have identified four key areas they'll look to address this summer, with the club's recruitment team and Michael Carrick planning ahead for the next transfer window.

Carrick remains determined to keep the current season alive for as long as possible and Boro head for Stoke City this weekend looking to bounce back from the deflating 2-0 home loss to Plymouth last time out, which left them closer to the relegation zone than the play-off places.

But background planning is well underway for the summer window. While there's obvious disappointment at results in recent weeks, there remains confidence that the foundations are in place and there'll be no need for a major summer overhaul like last year.

A striker is the obvious priority for Boro. It's no secret that a centre-forward was top of the wishlist in January but there was an acceptance from the very start of the winter window that it would be difficult to land top targets on permanent deals in the middle of the season. Efforts were made in the lead up to and throughout the month but it was always made clear Boro would only sanction deals for players who they deemed the right fit.

Emmanuel Latte Lath is now fit again and Josh Coburn will hopefully have managed to finally shake off his problematic groin injury come the summer, but another centre-forward will be a key summer priority. Elsewhere in the attack, a decision will be made on Sam Greenwood's future, with Boro having the option to make his loan permanent for £1.5m - though that could be complicated by Leeds United winning promotion. If Greenwood doesn't stay at Boro, attacking midfield is obviously an area that will need strengthening.


Central midfield and right-back are two other areas Boro will look to address, with decisions to be made on loanees Lewis O'Brien and Luke Ayling. When quizzed on O'Brien's situation, Carrick admitted last week that plans will soon be "firmed up", with the Nottingham Forest loanee determined to take his chance in the side in the coming weeks in the absence of Hayden Hackney and Jonny Howson.

Howson's contract situation will also need to be resolved. The captain recently made clear his desire to stay at Boro.

Boro will be determined to hold on to Hayden Hackney this summer and Carrick will want to start next season with four central midfielders, as was the case this term.

Ayling is set to be a free agent this summer as his contract at Leeds United expires. It's not clear at this stage whether Boro will look to make his current loan deal permanent, but right-back will be an area of attention, though Tommy Smith will be fit again for the start of next season.

Anfernee Dijksteel's current Boro contract is due to expire at the end of next season.

Boro will also assess their options at centre-back this summer, amid ongoing uncertainty over Paddy McNair's future. The Northern Ireland international is due to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Boro have been linked with Will Fish in the last couple of weeks, but it's understood the Manchester United defender, who is currently on loan at Hibs, is not on the club's radar.

Another link understood to be wide of the mark is Brendan Galloway. Boro were linked with the Plymouth left-back this week but he's not believed to be a player under consideration for the summer.