Gaizka Garitano “If We Do Things Well We Will Have Options To Win The Match”
Athletic have won their first two games under manager Gaizka Garitano despite not having much time to learn the new system. In his pregame press conference on Sunday, Garitano highlighted that the team must continue to build on what they have been doing so far, while also saying that they can’t start to think they have accomplished anything yet. The Lions have been playing to win and that has to remain the ultimate goal.
“We haven’t had a lot of time, but the team has assimilated well to what we want, both in terms of training and carrying out the game plan. A coach is always calmer when doing things that have been working. The results may get better or worse, but you have to try to repeat the same things that have been working. The idea is clear. You have to be brave looking for goals and play to win while always being strong defensively. The team has to be recognizable, you can’t vary. So far we’ve done this and it’s important to give continuity to the win against Girona. I am happy with the image that the team has given, both in the Cup and in the league, because we have won. We are playing to win and have to continue doing so.”
The manager admitted that the team will have to change some things on Monday night at the Mendizorrotza because Alavés is a much different team than Girona. Garitano pointed out that Alavés play complete games which means that the Lions will have to be focused for the full 90 minutes to get a positive result.
“Now we will have to change some details because Alavés and Girona are not the same. If you compare Alavés to Girona, they are different and are going to player higher up the field because they are physically stronger. They are a team that have scored a lot of goals in the first few minutes and the final minutes of games. We must be ready, especially at the beginning of the match. They can make a game long so we must be strong from the beginning until the end. Alavés competes well and are always alive until the end. They never have five minutes of disorganization and that’s why they are so good.”
There is no denying that Alavés have been one of the best teams in La Liga this season. They spent several weeks challenging for a spot at the top of the table, but haven’t won in their last three league games. More importantly, they have yet to lose a game at home this year which adds more pressure to this Basque Derby.
“Abelardo has given an identity to Alavés and a way to play. They play with three inside or two forwards, are great on set pieces, they’re organized and believe in what they do. You know when a team believes in their system and they believe, but if we do things well in Gasteiz we will have options to win the match. They haven’t won in their last four matches and the results haven’t been great lately. We know that they are very dangerous at home.”
Garitano remarked that football is an unforgiving sport. You must always be at your best to be successful and can’t live on past results. The atmosphere at the Mendizorrotza will be intense so the Zurigorri must be ready for the challenge.
“We have to be ready because football puts you in your place from one week to the next. Either we play with the same intensity or we don’t and we won’t get anything from the match. We can’t think that we have done anything, but instead about everything we still have to do. It’s a Derby and fans will make it a great atmosphere. Alavés have a great team and will be playing to win tomorrow. We know that we need to carry out our game plan.”
When asked about Peru Nolaskoain’s role in the team Garitano wasn’t shy about his fondness for the Lezama product. He said that the 20-year-old reminds him a lot of himself because of his versatility. Despite not giving any hints as to who will start on Monday, the manager did state that Mikel Rico is still unavailable as he continues to nurse an ankle injury.
“Peru is a player that I value a lot. He’s young and I’m seeing constant improvement. He is a player very much like me, he can play in the back or in the middle of the field. Mikel Rico isn’t having the recovery that he would like, although we hope to have him available soon. I will not say which players will start tomorrow. I don’t want to give our opponents any clues.”
Alavés star Ibai Gómez is said to be a top transfer target for Athletic in January, so it wasn’t surprising that Garitano was asked about the rumors. However, the manager said those things are out of his control and he is singularly focused on Monday’s game because that is all that matters right now.
“Right now I’m only thinking about Alavés and when we finish that game I will be focused on Valladolid. I am happy with the players I have now and the winter market isn’t an issue that worries me because it isn’t in my hands. Ibai Gómez is a good player, but that isn’t my decision. I’m just thinking about moving up the table.”
History suggests that this will be a difficult match for Athletic who have lost their last two matches at the Mendizorrotza by a combined score of a 4-1. In fact, the last time the Lions won a league match in Gasteiz was back in May of 2003, although it should be noted that Alavés spent 12 of the following 13 years outside of the Primera. It won’t be an easy game for Athletic but taking all three points is vitally important. A win is all that matters and for that to happen the Zurigorri will have to be at their best.