Where Does Raúl García Fit Into Gaizka Garitano’s System?
Since joining Athletic back in 2015 Raúl García has been one of the club’s most important players. However, things have changed over the last few months. While Raúl García was sidelined for over a month with a muscle injury, Iker Muniain established himself as an integral part of the new system under Gaizka Garitano. The team’s ability to succeed without the 32-year-old available was impressive. Now that he is finally healthy and ready to contribute, one has to wonder just where he fits into Garitano’s system.
There’s no question about Raúl García’s ability to play in his usual midfield position. He did so when he started against Barcelona on Sunday and looked very capable and comfortable in Garitano’s system. That being said, the team has performed much better overall when Muniain is in the central role, as evidenced when he came on in the second half and García was moved out to the right wing.
Earlier this year Eduardo Berizzo tried to utilize García out wide, but it didn’t work at all. The 32-year-old struggled to produce in the demanding and pressing style of football as he lacked the necessary pace and stamina. However, with Garitano’s organized and direct attacking style García has actually looked very strong on the right wing where he has spent time in the two games since returning from injury.
Athletic may be playing better football with Muniain in the midfield, but it’s always a good thing to have Raúl García on the pitch. He always has the ability to affect the outcome of games and brings invaluable experience and leadership. It’s important to note that Muniain can’t start every game so García will still get his chances in the midfield, but perhaps a somewhat regular place on the wing could allow for both players to share the field.
When García came on as a substitute against Real Sociedad he looked strong on the right wing. Athletic may not have gotten the result they were hoping for, but Rulo’s strengths were utilized well out wide and he did the same thing against Barcelona on Sunday. Garitano already has plenty of options to choose from in that position, but García definitely deserves consideration at this point.
With Oscar De Marcos suspended for the next match, and possibly a second, it will give Garitano the chance to hand García minutes on the wing. Ibai Gómez and Markel Susaeta will also be in the running to start Monday night’s match against Huesca, so the manager does have a difficult choice to make. Regardless, there is plenty of season left to be played. This selection dilemma is a great thing for Athletic because the Mister now has even more versatility at his disposal. Garitano could even choose his lineup based on the opponent and the game plan put in place.
The best part about Raúl García being back in the squad is that he really can function anywhere in the attack and when he is at his best he can be the most influential player on the field. As seen in the match against Barcelona, Garitano now has another weapon to add to his arsenal and Raúl García’s role in the system could very well be the same as others like Ibai Gómez and Oscar De Marcos – wherever the team needs him most.
In a way, Raúl García could also become something of an X-Factor for Garitano, capable of playing in multiple attacking roles or even coming off the bench in the second half as an incredible substitute option. What he’s shown over the last two weeks is that he will produce in the new system no matter what position he is in. This is great news for the Lions who are still trying to become part of the discussion for European qualification.
Raúl García makes Athletic better and Garitano will understand that more than anyone. Choosing a starting lineup may now become more difficult, but that is an envious problem to have. The Zurigorri have been playing scintillating football in his absence, but getting the veteran back healthy now adds a new dynamic to the team. So where does Raúl García fit into Garitano’s system? Ultimately that’s for Garitano to decide and we could get an answer in Monday night’s match at El Alcoraz.