Kuko Ziganda’s Assistant, Imanol Etxeberria, Opens Up About Last Year’s Disappointing Season

Kepa Arrizabalaga

Imanol Etxeberria in training with Kepa Arrizabalaga (MD)

Athletic have already put last year’s disappointing campaign in the rearview mirror, but this summer has been a time of reflection. Kuko Ziganda and his staff are still waiting to see what the future holds and goalkeeper coach Imanol Etxeberria recently spoke with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo to discuss what happened in the previous campaign. He said that many different issues led to the bad results, but that the staff worked hard to turn things around.

“At the beginning, in order to prepare for the season, it was necessary to have a short preseason with very high demand because of our need to qualify for Europe. From the first moment we had the feeling that everything was going very fast without being able to settle into an idea or a style of playing…a lot of injuries, little time to prepare and connect with the squad. I understand that we did a very good job in Bilbao Athletic. We have put in a lot more hours, analyzed more data, planned more for matches, did extra in training, but the results did not come.”

The 45-year-old went on to say that he knows every great team goes through rough patches, but also believes that injuries played a big role in how things played out. Everyone struggled with the reception they received from fans, but Etxeberria thinks that no one had it harder than Kuko Ziganda.

Cuco Ziganda

A lot of issues contributed to Athletic’s disappointing year under Kuko Ziganda (AC)

“I understand that a team that is at a very high level, like Athletic in recent years, may have moments where they slump. Everyone does. The same happened to us. The players were not 100% and we were not able to convey our vision and ideas. All of this together with the injuries of Muniain, De Marcos, Balenziaga, Beñat and then Aymeric Laporte leaving played into it. We had a bad season, but Kuko had the hardest time. Bingen also had a very bad time, but Iban had already seen the difficulties of the Primera. It was difficult for me because I didn’t think we were going to have so many problems based on how the previous years went. I don’t know what happened. With Kuko I saw him the same as I always have. He talked a lot with the players, met individually to discuss football ideas, I don’t know. The group as a whole assimilated to our ideas for each game and tried to implement them, but it just didn’t work.”

In closing, Etxeberria admitted that Athletic Club is very special, but that fans still demand a lot out of the team just like at any other club. Still, he believes that if the fans support the players at the San Mamés instead of whistling that it is nearly impossible for opponents to play a good game at the Cathedral.

“Athletic is something special. We carry it in our blood and we talk about Athletic with an indisputable pride and a special feeling, but there are some things that aren’t different from other clubs. The fans are faithful, but the atmosphere at the San Mamés last year is what it is. There is no denying it. It isn’t that the fans didn’t support us, but the difference was noticeable. People have to realize that we have a stadium where, if the fans are supporting the team, it is practically impossible for an opponent to win at the San Mamés. There were whistles, but it is also true that the team has to transmit a good feelings to the fans and that was seldom achieved.”

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