Karanka: My first few months at Boro were tougher than this fight for Premier League survival!

Calum Chambers clashes with Watford's Isaac Success in Boro's defeat to the Hornets last week. Picture by Tom Collins
Calum Chambers clashes with Watford's Isaac Success in Boro's defeat to the Hornets last week. Picture by Tom Collins
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Aitor Karanka is convinced the battle to keep Middlesbrough in the Premier League is not his toughest as a coach.

The 43-year-old Spaniard saw his side slip to the brink of the bottom three last weekend when a 1-0 home defeat by Watford left them above the red line only on goal difference and without a win in six league outings ahead of tomorrow’s daunting trip to Arsenal.

However, Karanka is confident he is a better coach than he was the day he arrived in November 2013, with the Teessiders then flirting with relegation from the Sky Bet Championship.

Asked if Boro’s current run represented the most challenging period of his career to date, he said: “I think it was tougher at the beginning.

“At the beginning, we were not in the same situation, but we were fighting to survive in the Championship and at that time I didn’t have the experience that I have now, I didn’t have the players I have now, I didn’t have the staff I have now.

“Now I am much better than I was three years ago and the situation is not the same, but it is similar. I remember when we played against Millwall away in November, December – at the beginning of that game, we were two points above the relegation positions.

“Now we are more or less in the same situation and again, now I am much better than I was that season.”

Boro’s only win to date came at Sunderland on August 21 as they took five of the first nine points available on their return to the top flight.

However, the going has been considerably tougher since, with critics questioning the head coach’s team selection and tactics amid a slide down the table.

But, if there is pressure on him, he is refusing to let it affect his life away from the club’s Rockliffe Park training headquarters.

Karanka said: “I don’t want to blame my family for things that happen in my job, so I try to keep it to myself when I am at home and come to my office as soon as possible to try to win the following game.

“It’s my first experience and to go to my office and look at the fixtures and it’s Arsenal, City... I have been working hard to live this situation.

“I trust my work, I trust my players, so we just have to keep going and the day that we are not good enough, we have to change something.”

Meanwhile, captain Grant Leadbitter has joined full training for the first time this campaign.

The ex-Sunderland midfielder underwent a hernia operation at the end of last season, and he could return to playing sooner than initially expected.

“Grant is training with the team, so at the moment we have everyone,” the Boro boss said.

“Now we want to have him fit as soon as possible.

“His injury is good so it is just about getting him fit.”