Gaizka Garitano Tasked With Saving Athletic Club From Relegation
The brief and disappointing Eduardo Berizzo era has finally come to an end at Athletic Club. Toto leaves the San Mamés having won just one La Liga match and seeing the team go 13 straight league games without a victory, an undesirable club record. He was dismissed on Tuesday following the team’s 3-0 loss to Levante which now has the Lions sitting 18th in the La Liga table with four points separating them from safety.
As expected, Bilbao Athletic manager Gaizka Garitano has been named as the first team coach following Berizzo’s exit. Garitano was hired last summer to lead the reserves following the promotion of Kuko Ziganda and did fantastic work with the Katxorros. He guided Bilbao Athletic to one of the best seasons in history and made it all the way to the promotional playoffs before being eliminated by Villarreal B.
This season things haven’t been as easy for Bilbao Athletic who have lost several key players due to major injuries. Despite the setbacks they have fought for results and only trail the last promotional playoff spot in the table by a mere four points. The squad has taken on the identity and personality of their coach – challenging, competitive, and unwavering – and now Garitano will be hoping to bring the same to the first team.
Garitano has only one job to do now and that is saving Athletic from relegation. The Lions, along with Barcelona and Real Madrid, have never been relegated from the Primera since the league began and they hope that it will never happen, but the fear began to grow under Berizzo. The water hose has been placed in the hands of Gaizka Garitano who is tasked with putting out one of the biggest fires the San Mamés has ever seen.
Whether or not Garitano is the man to fix the situation remains to be seen. He could be just what is needed to turn things around, or he may not. Regardless, the club had to make a change and having Garitano take over for Berizzo was the obvious choice. Fans are already very excited about the managerial change, but it won’t be easy for Garitano who has taken over a very bad and worrisome situation.
The Athletic first team have spent the last few months searching for an identity. They have defended poorly, failed to create chances, and lack motivation. With each passing loss or draw the team’s morale worsened and it’s been clear that the players are dealing with a mental problem that Berizzo was unable to repair. If Garitano is going to turn things around he must first address the minds and morale of his players and then focus on rebuilding from the basics of football. The squad is definitely strong enough to climb out of the relegation zone, and perhaps even further up the table, and it must all start with a culture change off the field.
Gaizka Garitano has been thrown into the fire that he is challenged with putting out. He will begin coaching the team on Wednesday and will oversee his first match on Thursday as Athletic face Huesca in the second leg of the Copa del Rey. Luckily, the Basques hold a 4-0 lead which takes some pressure off of the new manager in his debut match. However, the real work will begin on Monday as Athletic host Girona at the San Mamés. Several key players will be unavailable, leaving Garitano will some difficult decisions to make in a fixture that Athletic must win.