Trimming The Squad Will Be Eduardo Berizzo’s First Big Challenge As Athletic Club Manager
The Eduardo Berizzo era at Athletic Club begins today as players will be reporting back Lezama at 9:30 to start preseason training. Toto will have 34 players at his disposal, although Kepa Arrizabalaga is still on extended vacation due to competing at the World Cup with the Spain National Team, so there will be a packed crowd on the pitch. The ultimate goal this season is to qualify for Europe, but Berizzo’s first big challenge will be trimming down the squad this summer.
Berizzo is said to want a squad of 24-25 players which means as many as ten could be cut before the season begins. As things stand right now there are 4 goalkeepers, 11 defenders, 9 midfielders, and 10 wingers and strikers. Eight of the players are youth prospects who have been given the chance to train with the first team, but everyone will have the opportunity to fight for their place in the squad.
Kepa Arrizabalaga is clearly the starter in goal and Berizzo wants Iago Herrerín to continue as the backup. With that being the case, Alex Remiro is expected to leave on loan in the Primera while Unai Simón has plenty of suitors in the Segunda. The two keepers are entering the final years of their contracts and Athletic are hoping to reach renewal agreements before sending them out on loan.
There is plenty of depth as far as the defense is concerned, but four left-backs will be competing for their place in the team. Andoni López is expected to sign a contract renewal and be sent on loan to the Segunda, but others like Iñigo Lekue and Cristian Ganea will also be under the microscope.
The biggest questions surround the midfield. New signing Dani García already figures to play a key role, but the futures of Mikel San José, Mikel Rico, Beñat, and Ander Iturraspe are all up in the air. At the same time, starlets like Peru Nolaskoain and Oihan Sancet will get the chance to compete for spots in the team, while Unai López looks set to secure a place at the San Mamés after a very successful loan spell with Rayo Vallecano. Athletic’s biggest issue last season was an underperforming midfield and this is the area that fans most want to see fixed by Berizzo.
As far as the forwards are concerned, the biggest concern thing is finding the best backup behind Aritz Aduriz. Sabin Merino, Gorka Guruzeta, and Iñigo Vicente will all have the chance to battle for that role and Berizzo will be the one to make the ultimate decision. The initial belief is that most of the young players spending the summer with the first team will either leave on loan or return to Bilbao Athletic. Their development is the most important thing.
The ultimate goal this season is to qualify for Europe and get Athletic back to their winning ways. For this to happen Berizzo must pass his first big test which will be assessing the squad and putting together the best team possible. The next few weeks will be vitally important to how the campaign will play out and it all starts today. Athletic Club football is finally back.