Eduardo Berizzo “Intensity Cannot Be Negotiated”
After going eight straight games without a win Athletic are looking to turn things around at the San Mamés on Saturday when they host Valencia. Manager Eduardo Berizzo spoke to the media ahead of the game on Friday and was quick to point out that the squad cannot negotiate whether or not they will play with intensity. He demands it from everyone and says that the fans want to see better performances from their team.
“We cannot negotiate the intensity, the aggressiveness, or our pressure. We need energy. At this point we must prioritize energy and aggressiveness over football. We have to be the team from the second half at Vallecas. We have to prioritize energy and intensity before the football. The fans want to identify with the way the team plays. Our fan want to see the team have a total performance. In the end, we will receive applause or not, but you have to give your best.”
Berizzo took it a step farther saying that Athletic are a completely different team when they don’t play with intensity. Their pressure has to go hand in hand with their attacking and that hasn’t been the case lately. He wants to see the players recover their aggression and won’t settle for anything less against Valencia.
“We are two different teams when we play with intensity and when we don’t. Tomorrow I want to see the team with intensity on the field. Our way of recovering the ball sometimes influences our way of attacking. We must recover the aggressiveness and steal the ball in our opponent’s half instead of being passive when they have possession. We have to do both things well, recovering the ball and creating chances, because they are not incompatible.”
Speaking of Valencia, Berizzo knows that they will be a difficult opponent on Saturday. They are well-balanced and have midfielders who can change the game. Toto has called on Athletic to control possession and dominate the middle of the field. Most importantly, he wants his team to be at their best from the start instead of having to respond to their opposition like in previous matches.
“This is a match against an opponent who plays good football and has midfielders that do things well. It’s an opportunity for us and we must excite our fans with our performance at home. The team that controls the ball will have the best chance to win. We have to prevent their midfielders from generating play. We have reacted very well in these last matches, but we want to play our game from the beginning. We have to impose our football the entire game.”
When asked about why he took off Iñaki Williams at halftime against Rayo Vallecano, Berizzo admitted that the forward leaves everything on the field each time he plays. There is a big squad and everyone must be ready to contribute. Toto also revealed that Aritz Aduriz has recovered well after playing two games in three days and could stay in the starting lineup against his former club.
“When Iñaki Williams plays he explodes and expends all of his energy. He has quality to spare, but it is also normal that he can be replaced with total normality. We have a big squad and everyone has to feel the stimulus of the coach that the coach could count on them at any time. Aduriz is fine to play. He has recovered well and could be in the starting lineup. There may be changes in the lineup, we will decide with today’s recovery.”
Peru Nolaskoain was not called up for Saturday’s game and will be playing with Bilbao Athletic this weekend instead. He’s functioned in his normal midfield role when he’s been with the reserve team and was praised by Berizzo for his versatility. The Athletic manager hasn’t been shy about his love of versatile players this season.
“Peru Nolaskoain will play with Bilbao Athletic against Arenas. With a footballer like him you have to exploit his qualities because he is valuable. He has played as a midfielder under Gaizka Garitano which is good because I like that he can play in different positions. That ability generates value, like with Iñigo Lekue, who can play on either side of the defense and on the wings.”
Valencia currently sit one point ahead of Athletic in the La Liga table and both teams are desperate for points. If the Basques win they could make a significant jump in the standings, while anything less will be met with unhappiness by the fans. At Athletic enter the second quarter of the season patience has started to fade and the demand has grown higher than ever before. The Lions need a victory.