5 Young Players Who Could Benefit From Athletic Club’s Appointment Of Gaizka Garitano
The Gaizka Garitano era of Athletic Club has officially begun. After seeing Eduardo Berizzo sacked on Tuesday Garitano will lead his first training session at Lezama today and will coach his first game tomorrow as the Basques travel to take on Huesca in the second leg of the Copa del Rey. The 43-year-old has been tasked with leading the Lions out of the relegation zone, but it certainly won’t be easy.
To turn the season around Garitano doesn’t just have to improve the team’s defending and ability to score goals, he has to fix a mental issue. Athletic have gone 13 straight league games without a win and the players feel it. By making a managerial change Athletic hope that Garitano will also bring change to the team and on the scoreboard, which could benefit several young players.
Iago Herrerín hasn’t done anything to lose the starting goalkeeper job, but Unai Simón has done everything to win it. While Herrerín has played decently and has proven experience, Simón has been absolutely outstanding in his eight appearances this year. The 21-year-old has shown composure and confidence despite his young age and his teammates trust him in between the sticks.
Simón was one of Garitano’s most important players for Bilbao Athletic last season and the manager knows him well. As he looks to make changes in the first team Garitano could choose to reward Simón with the starting role, which is what some fans were hoping Berizzo would do. Regardless of whether or not the 21-year-old earns more playing time, Garitano’s appointment can only mean good things for him.
If there is one player who benefited from Berizzo’s coaching tenure it’s Peru Nolaskoain. The 19-year-old came into the summer a midfielder and started the first game of the season as a center-back after a period of transition under the Argentine. Berizzo saw all the qualities of a great defender in Nolaskoain who repaid his favor by playing great football this season.
When Nolaskoain wasn’t playing with the first team, he was starting as a midfielder under Garitano for Bilbao Athletic. Now back together, the manager could give him more opportunities in the midfield if the opportunity presents itself. It’s also likely that the Lezama product will continue featuring at center-back as well, but there is no denying the fact that he has the trust of Garitano.
When Berizzo made the decision to keep Gorka Guruzeta in the first team squad fans were understandably excited. The forward had scored 18 goals for Bilbao Athletic in the previous season while being used in several different positions by Garitano who made him one of the focal points of the attack. However, the 20-year-old has featured just three times this season and many have begun to wonder if it would be best for him to leave on loan in January.
Guruzeta played the best football of his career under Garitano and benefitted from his manager understanding his strengths and weaknesses. He has shown the potential, quality, and determination to provide something positive for the first team, but he needs the opportunities to prove it. Now reunited, the manager could be just the thing that the 20-year-old needs to start playing more minutes.
When Asier Villalibre returned to Athletic in the summer he was dejected and hopeless. He had spent the last two seasons away on loan in the Segunda where he failed to impress and it looked as though he was not going to live up to the potential he had showed while at Lezama. That all changed when the club made the decision to send him back to Bilbao Athletic where he has since rediscovered his confidence under Garitano.
This season the 21-year-old has already scored 9 goals for Bilbao Athletic, and another 2 in the Premier League U23 International Cup. He’s done it all at striker and has been one of the most outstanding players in the Segunda B. With so many other options in attack it’s unlikely that Villalibre would get many chances with the first team this season, but Garitano’s presence does make it more likely that he could play some minutes.
It’s been obvious for some time now that Iñigo Vicente is a truly special player. There isn’t anything the 20-year-old can’t do and every time he touches the ball he makes magic happen. He’s been the key player for Garitano at Bilbao Athletic for two seasons now and it is only a matter of time before he’s playing at the San Mamés.
With Garitano’s need to change some things at Athletic it wouldn’t be surprising to see Vicente finally make his debut this season. Like Villalibre, there are many other players standing in front of him in the senior squad, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be opportunities for him to could be called up. Garitano’s appointment doesn’t guarantee that Vicente will make his debut this season, but it does make it a lot more likely.