Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka keeps faith with his methods

Aitor Karanka has insisted he never doubted himself as Middlesbrough's encouraging start to life in the Premier League turned to frustration.

Aitor Karanka
Aitor Karanka

The Teessiders had launched their campaign in promising fashion as draws with Stoke and West Brom either side of a victory at Sunderland left them sitting pretty in the top half of the table.

However, a return of just one point from their next five games saw them slip to within a hair's breadth of the relegation zone before last Saturday's impressive 0-0 draw at Arsenal provided vindication for head coach Karanka's belief that they would get where they wanted to go if they stuck to their guns.

Asked if he ever questioned his methods during a difficult run, he said: "No. Doubts? Never because I trust myself a lot, I trust my players a lot and my staff, so when results are not coming, I know I have to change something.

"But it is not the same playing against Arsenal away and to play Bournemouth at home and to play Manchester City away. Every single team and every single game is different.

"But the plan is clear and the players know, especially the players who have been with me for the last three years, so we have to keep going."

The performance which yielded a deserved point at the Emirates Stadium could hardly have been better timed with the fixture list presenting Boro with a series of sizeable challenges in the weeks ahead.

Manchester City, Chelsea and Leicester will provide the opposition in between Saturday's home clash with Bournemouth and Hull's visit to the Riverside on December 5, and while Karanka refuses to write off any game, he knows the bulk of his side's points are likely to come from the division's lower-ranked teams.

He said: "Yes, of course. For example, to lose against Watford, to lose against Crystal Palace, even when we didn't deserve to lose those games - if you look at the table, with two points from those games, it would be much better."

Karanka has led Boro into battle with the Cherries three times during his reign to date, all of them in the Sky Bet Championship, and is yet to taste victory after two 0-0 draws and a 3-0 defeat at the Vitality Stadium the last time the sides met in March last year.

Having seen them at close hand, he is not surprised at how comfortably Eddie Howe's men have taken to lift in the top flight.

The Spaniard said: "It's not a surprise for me because I really like Eddie. I met him during my first season here and the job he is doing there is amazing."