Iago Herrerín “We Aren’t Thinking About The Other Team, We Are Focused On Ourselves”
Iago Herrerín has been playing his best football of the season since Gaizka Garitano took over as the Athletic manager. Part of the goalkeeper’s success comes from the fact that the Lions are much stronger defensively, but they will be put to the test on Saturday at the Anoeta will they face off with Real Sociedad in the Basque Derby. Herrerín spoke to the media on Thursday and was open about the fact that the players have been looking forward to this game.
“There has been desire for this Derby to come. When you are playing moderately well what you want is to continue enjoying it and to take advantage of the good run. We are not that far below them so the table doesn’t say much. This game will count for six points. It will be a close game, an equal game, that will be decided by the small details. We aren’t thinking so much about the other team. La Real have good players, but today we are thinking about ourselves, of maintaining our style and bringing three points back to Bilbao. For us even more than a Derby it’s just another game in the league. We want to win but it’s just one more game. We have to do our job well to win.”
Real Sociedad is a strong team, but Herrerín believes that Athletic should focus on themselves. Despite the run of 7 games without a defeat the Lions don’t believe they are the favorites and are focused on treating every single game like a final and continuing to add points.
“We have enough to worry about with thinking about ourselves. We are going game by game and we don’t feel like we are favorites of better than anyone else. Every team in this league have great players so what we have to do is take the game on the field. The team is responding 100% in every match. We are playing every game as a final and if we end up being close to Europe, which is what we all want, great. But we are still coming from below and we have to keep adding points.”
Climbing out of the relegation zone and into a battle for Europe hasn’t been easy, it’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication. Garitano’s system has gotten the best out of the players who are now thriving in the league and could climb as high as 7th with a win on Saturday.
“The fact that we’ve given up fewer chances on goal has left me more calm. The order and the energy we are playing with in this new scheme is very good for us. Berizzo and Gaizka have two different systems. With Gaizka we have more order which has helped us. We know that we were not winning games so we had some self-criticism and now we know who we are. We have come from below with self-analysis, hard work, and being together.”
Herrerín admitted that he’s feeling much more comfortable in Garitano’s system because opponents are getting less chances. In fact, the entire team is feeling better protect and more at ease. It’s also going to be a big game for Iñigo Martinez who left Real Sociedad for Athletic one year ago, but the goalkeeper doesn’t think the defender will need any protection.
“With Gaizka’s system I feel more protected, but it’s not just me. The defense and the whole team feels more protected and organized. We do not mind being without the ball, we keep suffering together and it shows. We are more comfortable and the results are helping to build our confidence. Iñigo Martinez is a person with a lot of character and personality. Last year the situation was new for him. If he needs us to protect him we will do it, but I don’t think he ever needs it.”
There is no denying the improvements that Athletic have made under Gaizka Garitano. The seven games unbeaten streak is a testament to the success of the manager and the players have all been outspoken about their enjoyment of playing in his system. Saturday’s game will be another huge test, but a win will put Athletic in the conversation for European qualification.