Athletic have been in fantastic form to the start the new season and kept that going on Sunday when they defeated Girona 2-0 at the San Mamés. It was a defensive masterpiece from the Lions, while Iker Muniain and Aritz Aduriz each found the back of the net to help the team earn three more vital points. After the game Kuko Ziganda spoke to the media and praised his team’s defensive performance and also highlighted the commitment and attitude of his players.
“We had a great defensive attitude, it isn’t easy to win matches like these. Girona is a dynamic team, which plays with many players in front of the ball. We did not want this to be a game that we look back and have to correct things. Our strategy depends on who we are playing every game. We were not interested in playing their type of game so we kept that from happening. This team showed commitment and attitude. We gave away very little and have played with solidarity, finishing, and speed. We need to have more fluency, but we have added more points and that is important. We are where we want to be and have good feelings.”
The manager went on to praise Iñaki Williams who assisted on both goals, calling him a great player that is always a guarantee. He also gave a nod to Unai Nuñez who is looking even better with every passing game that he plays. As expected, Kepa Arrizabalaga did not start due to the fact that he has had a fever for the last few days.
“Iñaki is a guarantee every time he plays, because he is a great player. He wants to score but also creates a lot of unbalanced situations. With Unai [Nuñez] if he is on the field it’s because we believe he’s going to do things well. I know what he’s capable of and he can still play better. That doesn’t mean we’re not happy with him. I’m very pleased with his performances. Kepa still had a fever today so I decided not to risk him. I have full confidence in Herrerín. Adu is Adu, he was ready to play.”
In closing, Ziganda said that Athletic is a difficult team to beat and that is something that he is very proud of. The entire group is playing at a high level and the manager said the plan was to be patient, knowing that chances would come.
“We are a team that is very difficult to beat. Our opponent was well-studied, with good players, but you have to do a lot of things to win matches. You have to note the commitment and attitude of the whole group. Girona is a dynamic team and played with a lot of confidence. We showed them respect, knowing their strengths, but we also knew that with patience we would be able to create chances.”
Athletic Club will be back in action on Thursday when they will travel to Germany to take on Hertha Berlin in the first match of the Europa League group stage. With such a quick turnaround it will be interesting to see how Ziganda rotates his team. This is something that he has really excelled at so far, but it will become more difficult as the season passes. Xabi Etxeita and Mikel Vesga did not feature against Girona and may be expected to start in Germany. Regardless, the Lions are playing at a very high level and will field a strong lineup in hopes of picking up their first three points in the group stage.