WHEN IT comes to dilemmas, Aitor Karanka has several of the more welcome variety today.
The Middlesbrough head coach is blessed with plentiful options ahead of today’s game, with the availability of Victor Valdes and Marten de Roon, who have both missed the past two games, and fit-again George Friend boosting his numbers.
The addition of new signings Calum Chambers and Adama Traore, who could be handed debuts this afternoon, has added to Karanka’s options and the Spaniard admits to facing a few quandaries as he seek to turn a sound start into an accomplished one.
And even accounting for the high-profile additions of the likes of Chambers, who rebuffed interest from rival top-flight suitors to join Boro on a season-long loan, and Valdes, Karanka has re-affirmed his stance that no player’s starting place is sacrosanct.
It represents a consistent outlook from the Spaniard, who has tinkered with his side throughout much of his tenure, with his adherence to high standards during the working week well known among Boro circles.
Karanka said: “I never give guarantees to a player who comes in. I never did and I cannot guarantee a player that.
“Victor Valdes came here and I cannot guarantee he would play. (Alvaro) Negredo came here and was the same. They are big names, but have to fight on the pitch and show everyone they are better than their team-mates. “
On Chambers, he added: “Calum came here because Arsenal allowed him and they understood it is a good step for him. For us and for me, it is a pleasure.
“I think when you are his age you need to play to keep learning.
“I spoke with him and he understood the best thing for his career was to come here, and to keep growing.
“I know he had a lot of offers. The following day (Jack) Wilshere went to Bournemouth and he had twenty-plus offers, and I know Calum had a few offers too.
“For sure, he will be a really good player for us.”
As for the selection headaches across the board, they are certainly a plus for Karanka, who you sense is the sort of head coach who simply cannot have enough of them.
He said: “I have always said it is a nice problem for me to have to arrive at my desk and have 20 players to choose from for the following game.
“Now with Calum and all of the players who have come in, I have a good headache every single week.”