Steve Agnew

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Middlesbrough devastated after Premier League departure confirmed

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It’s hard to say it was fun while it lasted but Middlesbrough’s short Premier League tenure officially came to an abrupt end on Monday.

[ MORE: Chelsea cruise past Middlesbrough as title hopes draw near ]

The Boro’s latest 3-0 defeat at the hands of presumptuous PL title chasers Chelsea ensured the club’s trip back down to the Championship after just one season in England’s top flight.

[ MORE: Five takeaways from Chelsea vs. Middlesbrough ]

Middlesbrough joins Sunderland as two of the three sides confirmed for relegation this season, and while it may not be surprising to see the Boro head back down to the second-tire of English soccer, it is still heartbreaking for both the players and the staff.

Over the course of the 2016/17 season, the Boro have racked up just five PL wins, none of which have come against sides currently in the top half of the table.

Much of the club’s lack of success can likely be attributed to the team’s former manager, Aitor Karanka, who was sacked by Middlesbrough back in mid-March.

Caretaker manager Steve Agnew has guided his side to four positive results (1W, 3D) since taking over, including a 2-2 draw in their previous match against Manchester City, however, the Boro simply haven’t been able to display the quality necessary to stay up another season.

“We’re absolutely devastated,” Agnew said. “We worked so hard to get back in the Premier League last season. To lose tonight and lose our Premier League status is a massive and bitter disappointment.

“Now we have to finish off strongly before a summer of reflection. It’s about Middlesbrough Football Club and how we can turn it around next season to get this club back where it belongs.”

Agnew isn’t the only one reflecting on the disappointment though.

Defender Ben Gibson, who is the only Boro player to play every minute of the PL season up until this point, expressed his hurt after the loss.

“It’s not just tonight, it’s a full season,” Gibson told Sky Sports. “From top to bottom we haven’t been good enough. Players, staff, myself.

“They [Chelsea] were much better in every department. It could have been 4,5,6-0. It was the lowest point of my career. We’ve got to put it right.

“In fact it’s the lowest point of my life, not just my career. It means that much.

“The fans didn’t stop singing, wherever we’ve been this season they’ve been the same. The fans deserve Premier League football and we have to find a team to do that

“We have to reflect on what’s gone wrong.”

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Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Middlesbrough

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  • Blues won 1-0 on Nov. 20
  • Boro scoreless in seven-straight vs. Chelsea
  • Chelsea leads all-time 54W-29D-31L

Chelsea can doom Middlesbrough to the Championship and move to within a win of the Premier League title with a win at Stamford Bridge on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Tottenham’s surprising loss to West Ham on Friday gives Chelsea the opportunity to move seven points clear of Spurs with three matches to play in the Premier League season. With wins on Monday and Friday at West Brom, Chelsea would win the league before Spurs next kick a ball in anger.

Boro needs a point to stay alive in the race to avoid relegation, but really only a win will do the trick. Boro is seven points back of Swansea City and six behind 18th place Hull City. The Smoggies cannot catch Crystal Palace.

The match-up points to Chelsea in many ways, including a seven-match winning streak in the series which extends back to 2006. All seven of those Chelsea wins have been clean sheets. The last win came in stoppage time via Mark Viduka.

What they’re saying

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte on the season“In this season, if Chelsea had not performed in this way, Tottenham would win the title without difficulty. Only this great season from us is pushing them to fight and, maybe, to win or not to win the title.”

Boro’s Steve Agnew on the Chelsea challenge“Any team that beat Chelsea are going to have to work extremely hard. We can talk about tactics and formations, but the bottom line is that they put in a hell of a shift. That’s what we’ll aim to do as well. The position Chelsea are in, I don’t think they will be complacent – they’ll be committed as always. But what I will say is that they will get a proper game of football.”

Prediction

Boro will battle, and its players will also know they are in the store window regardless of their safety plight. But the fact that Boro can’t just settle for a point means Chelsea will have its chances, and pull away with a 3-1 win.

Premier League Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Arsenal

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  • Sides drew 0-0 at Emirates on Oct. 22
  • Boro winless in five vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time 64W-34D-33L

Middlesbrough hopes to congest the race for Premier League safety when it hosts stumbling Arsenal on Monday at the Riverside Stadium (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

This is the first of two matches-in-hand for 18th place Boro, which stands six points back of safety and has been tough to breakdown but unable to produce many goals. No one has scored fewer goals than Boro’s 22, but the Teessiders have allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the PL.

In the case of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger‘s bunch is six points back of fifth place Manchester United and 10 back of fourth place Man City. The Gunners have played one fewer match than the Red Devils and two fewer than City, but any further screw-ups will doom Wenger’s Top Four reputation.

What they’re saying

Boro boss Steve Agnew on facing Arsenal“They’re a really positive group, we’ve had meetings about how we the opposition can play and how we can hurt them when we have possession. Arsene Wenger has done a wonderful job and has brought so much success to Arsenal – they finished runners-up in the league last year and have won the FA Cup twice in recent years.   But we have to look at recent form. They’ve conceded goals – especially away from home – and that’s something we’ll look to exploit.”

Arsene Wenger on focusing on football: “We spend a lot of time in our society to focus on things that are superficial and not take care of the essentials. The essential in football is that we have to make sure of one thing. Good players on the football pitch. That’s what we have to take care of.”

Prediction

This all hinges on the pride of Arsenal. The Gunners will find a way to win if they should heart that matches their talent, but it’s hard to guarantee that now. A dedicated and desperate Boro will make that difficult. 1-0 Gunners.

Aitor Karanka, Middlesbrough part ways

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Aitor Karanka is out at Middlesbrough, and Steve Agnew is in, as the Premier League’s 19th place side announced Thursday that the manager and club have mutually decided to part ways.

The Middlesbrough boss, 43, led the club to the promotion playoff final in 2015 before qualifying the club for the Premier League with a runner-up finish one season later.

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Boro spent the first month of its campaign in the top half, but steadily dropped before entering the drop zone after the last match day. From MFC.co.uk:

“I’d like to thank Middlesbrough for a wonderful opportunity and the players, staff and all the people at the club who I have worked with. I’d also like to thank the fans for their support. This club will always hold a special place for me and I wish everyone connected with Middlesbrough Football Club the very best for the future.”

Karanka clashed with the team toward the end of last season, and seemingly called out players like Stuart Downing after Sunday’s FA Cup quarterfinal loss to Manchester City in saying he wasn’t starting players who didn’t have enough desire. The pair was said to have a training ground fight last week.

A longtime Jose Mourinho ally who played 28 times for the Colorado Rapids in 2006, Karanka led one of the stingiest teams in the Premier League (Their 30 goals allowed is tied for fifth-fewest with Everton). But Boro could hardly score, their 19 league goals five less than the second-worst attack.