Unai López “I’m Convinced That Good Results Will Come”
Unai López has had a difficult path to reaching the first team. After making his debut at 18 years old back in 2014 he went on to return to the reserve team before spending the last two years on loan at Leganés and Rayo Vallecano. This summer he was rewarded with a contract extension and has already featured in five matches this season. Over the weekend he sat down with DEIA for an exclusive interview and said that he is convinced that the team will will climb higher up the La Liga table.
“Nobody likes to be this far down the table, but we have full confidence that the situation will change. We are doing very good in training and I’m convinced that good results will come. If I didn’t see it that way I wouldn’t answer the question. Considering the team we have there have been some games where we could have won. I’m convinced by what we are doing on a daily basis and that the joys will come.”
The 23-year-old understands that fans are not happy with the recent results, but also believes that the team has been working hard and will be able to turn things around. López is encouraged by the fact that Athletic have been tough to beat this season and wants to see the Lions win more games moving forward.
“It’s normal for the fans to be angry, but they also don’t participate in the day to day of the team and see what is being worked on. We are annoyed too, but I know that we are in a new project. It’s different and it takes some time. The reality is that we draw a lot and are struggling to win games, but it’s also important that we haven’t lost a lot even though we’ve played the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona and on a difficult field like Ipurua. I’m aware that there have been other games where we should’ve won, but we have only lost two out of ten matches.”
New manager Eduardo Berizzo has introduced a different style of football this season and López admitted that the players have felt very comfortable. They have been able to keep possession but haven’t been dangerous enough in front of goal. Everyone has the ability to help the team, but the coach is the one who selects the lineups each week.
“We are training to capture what we do at Lezama and put it into games, but the players are comfortable in this style. It’s true that there have been games where we have had more possession but weren’t able to create chances. We played a great game against Valencia and we have a large squad with players that have different strengths. We live with the understanding that anyone can play and the coach is the one who decides.”
There is no denying the fact that La Liga has been extremely competitive this season. The point gap is extremely close and López believes that if Athletic can string together a few victories they can make a significant jump in the league table. The team is relying on every player and the midfielder says that there is a unique family aspect about the club.
“Everything is very even in La Liga this season. Anyone can beat anyone and that is seen in the table. If you can win a couple of games you can be at the top, but if you lose a couple you are at the opposite end. The teams in general are better than a few years ago. Barcelona, Madrid, and Atletico have individuals who can win games, while everyone else still need all eleven. We rely on every player here. In the end, what is different about this club is the family aspect. I have always said that I’ve been very lucky to have made good friends with whom I have a special relationship.”
The biggest focus under Berizzo is Athletic’s ability to control games. He wants the Lions to dominate in every aspect and López says that he has been asked to try to make more late runs into the box. He understands that to score more goals he has to play further up the field.
“The Mister is focused on controlling the game. He likes to impose our style from the very start of the game. I’m also usually told to try to run into the box. I would like to improve that facet of my game. The coach at Rayo also asked me to do the same thing. I really like to give passes, have possession, and be in position to receive the ball again. Maybe I would need to play higher up the field to have chances to score.”
Due to Athletic’s poor placement in the table the team is in desperate need of a win. Fans may already be looking ahead to the matches to come, but López says that the players are only thinking about Monday’s game against Espanyol.
“The only thing we are focused on is arriving at Espanyol’s stadium and winning there. They have started very well and the change of coach is noticeable. Espanyol are a team that does a lot of damage and they have built confidence. Is our goal to qualify for Europe? That is an objective that the media have set, we want to finish as high as possible.”
López then turned his attention to his personal career, saying that he was very excited to renew over the summer. With a new contract in place he can simply focus on playing as much as possible and was not shy while admitting that his loans away from the club were good for his development.
“I am happy to have renewed, that was my goal last year. I’m also happy because it gives me the opportunity to continue here and to fight to be available to play every game. I have already been through everything. I debuted in the Primera very young, I went on loan, I achieved promotion, and I spent a difficult year with Bilbao Athletic in the Segunda. Some players need loans and others do not. I am proud and happy for what I have experienced.”
In closing, the 23-year-old is enjoying his football this season and believes that he has been playing well. He wants to continue getting as many minutes as possible and understands that he must be the one to convince the manager that he deserves to be on the field. López isn’t the same teenager that debuted back in 2014 and hopes to earn a bigger role at Athletic as the season progresses.
“I have had a great year. I spent the last two seasons on loan and I’m ambitious. We all want to play every week and I have had my chances. I’m training hard and I think I have the confidence of the coach. I know what I did last year at Rayo. Above all I trust myself, but the coach is the one who decides who plays. When he changes his mind and I stop playing it will be up to me to convince him again. I have to be work hard and be available. I’m not the same 18-year-old who debuted years ago. I’ve spent two years away and that has helped me become a better person and player.”
Unai López has featured in the last three games for Athletic, starting twice, with Beñat out sick. He was included in the squad list for Monday’s game and it will be up to Berizzo to decide whether or not to select the midfielder for the lineup. Regardless of who is on the field, the Lions desperately need a victory and will be hoping to get their season back on track against a dangerous Espanyol team.