Raúl García Praises Gaizka Garitano’s System As The Reason For Athletic’s Recent Success
Raúl García has been one of the most dangerous players in La Liga since returning from injury. He’s scored three goals in his last four games and has played a big role in the recent victories against Huesca and Eibar. The 32-year-old recently sat down for an interview with Robert Basic of El Correo where he admitted that he’s enjoying being in such fine form and highlighted Gaizka Garitano’s system as the catalyst for the team’s improvement over the past few months.
Has the best Raúl García returned?
“I’m comfortable right now. After a long time during which I have not been one hundred percent I enjoy being like this.”
Against Eibar you scored at 41 seconds. It is the fastest goal in the new San Mamés? Is it your fastest goal?
“Probably, yes. I don’t remember scoring a goal so early in a game. In fact, on the way home I said to my wife ‘Did you miss the goal?’. She said, ‘No, no, it was in the first minute’. I thought it was in the fifth minute! I did not know. I don’t remember having scored a goal so quickly.”
Why has the team been so good?
“Everything helps. The results are what help a team to believe in what they are doing, to feel better. We connected with the coach from the beginning and his way of playing connects with us better than the previous one.”
Opponents are having a hard time creating chances and scoring. Is defending well the team’s biggest philosophy?
“When something works it is easier to convince everyone to do it. We have a very supportive team and everyone works and helps. For us it is important to transmit security because that is the main thing you need to attack well.”
Why was the team struggling so much and now so strong?
“Because there was a totally different way of playing. Eduardo came here with his idea. It was a totally respectable way of playing that had paid off in other places, but here it didn’t work. Maybe we didn’t play our best, but it just wasn’t the best fit for us.”
Why do you think the Berizzo project failed? Was it a tactical, physical, bad luck…?
“I have always said it and I will always say it – I will speak well of Eduardo and his technical staff. They have worked at a physical, organizational, and day-to-day level in a spectacular way. They went to the death with their ideas and we tried to carry it out in the best way, but it didn’t work out. Each coach has his way of seeing things and tries to get the team to interpret it, but in this case it did not work out well.”
Now you seem comfortable. Did the team take more risks previously and that made you more vulnerable?
“That’s clear, yes. It happened in many moments of games. It’s a respectable way of playing, but perhaps the best we are doing now comes down to us. In the moments when things are working you trust more in what you are doing.”
There is a lot of debate about styles. What do you like?
“There’s a lot of nonsense in this regard. It is the typical bar discussion and those who speak never agree. Football is very simple if you want to make it simple. If you have some tools that you know work, you have to use them in the best way. Each team has its players and their way of enhancing what they have. The main thing a coach must do is get 100% out of his players.”
If you could pick the way to win, what style would you like to play?
“I’m comfortable with how we’re doing things right now. The whole team is involved. Everyone knows that when you have to defend you have to defend and when you attack you have to attack. It is clear that we are missing some points with the ball, but I have always felt comfortable in an intense team that is good defensively. Sometimes it seems that defending well is a sin, and it is just the opposite. The most important thing is that you don’t concede goals. That is where winning starts.”
It’s a style that is working now.
“You can see that it is working now int he league. There are teams like Getafe who do it well and are very hardworking. You can say that you like the style of football or not, but it gives results. You have to be respectful with each other’s way of playing.”
Do you think there is a tendency to underestimate teams that win by defending, organization, and intensity and to elevate those who bet on touches, combinations, and possession?
“Of course, yes. Fans tend to like the teams that play well, that have the ball, the possession. It seems very good. For me the most important things are the two boxes. If you control yours and don’t allow chances and in the other you create chances and you are effective then you know what you are doing.”
Are you able to have fun without winning?
“It’s difficult, even with my friends. When I play around in the summer I also want to win. The sauce of football and any competition is to win. When you do not win it is very difficult to have fun.”
The team has added 22 points in 11 games and is four points from Europe, but you don’t want to look beyond the next game. Is that because of fear?
“I don’t think that people are aware of what we have lived through.”
“It’s very hard. When it’s not going well you’re looking for a way to win the next game, but you lose again. You go out and people talk to you about the same thing. you note the pressure, the pessimism, and many times footballer players are not understood. In those moments, I eat football. It hurts me because I don’t like to be like that. I don’t like to lose, to be in a bad mood. Football is a competition and you have to take it forward.”
The team has been flying, but also lacking goals. Then you came back from injury.
“I am playing and we all have to play. We know that for many seasons Aritz has been giving us the most goals and now everyone has to take a step forward. I hope to continue playing the way I have these past few years, but if we defend well it will be easier to win. We are aware that after what we have gone through, it is fundamental to do what we are doing.”
You turn 33 in July. Will Raúl García be here for a while?
“I think so. I am taking care of myself. I want to extend my career as much as possible, but with good performances. I wouldn’t like to get to a point where my body can’t do it anymore. That would be a clear sign that I can’t continue, but right now I feel good. I am working hard to continue playing and I’m confident that I have many years left.”
Do you like VAR?
“It depends on the what and how. Football has always had sources of doubt and despite VAR it still exists. I like to score and celebrate the goal. Right now there are many situations on the field where you are left wondering whether or not they will give it to you. For the sake of justice, it’s a good thing for everyone, but I think that in many ways the essence of football has been lost.”
What would it mean to win at the Mestalla?
“We could start thinking a bit about another situation (in fighting for Europe). We are going to play against an opponent who is also fighting for that. That moment you have enough points to guarantee safety you free yourself from thinking about the negative things and start focusing on going further. If we get three points that would give us another reason to look further and it would let us all know that this team is really good.”
Does it benefit you that Valencia play a Cup game tomorrow?
“They have two difficult competitions that they are playing in. We have to think that they will go with everything on Sunday and that we must do our best to win. If we think like that we will have possibilities to win.”
Valencia have 15 draws this season.
“They have a lot of weapons to win games. They have decisive players, but when things aren’t working out then there is pressure to meet objectives and demands from the fans. Maybe that’s why there have been games that they couldn’t win.”
Are you more concerned about the opponent or with what Athletic should do?
“I always think about us. You have to know the strength of your opponent, but the important thing is that you play well. If we play our best the opponent doesn’t matter.”