Hodei Oleaga And Unai Etxebarria Battling For The Starting Role At Bilbao Athletic
Bilbao Athletic has been graced with the presence of some very talented goalkeepers over the past few years. Kepa Arrizabalaga. Alex Remiro. Unai Simón. Lezama has been widely regarded as a goalkeeper factory and over the past few years there’s always been another starlet waiting to take the place between the posts for the reserve team. This year, however, it hasn’t been as easy.
Last season Hodei Oleaga served as the backup to Unai Simón for Bilbao Athletic. Both were called to train with the first team over the summer and Simón was eventually sent out on loan with Oleaga expected to become the new starter for Bilbao Athletic. Everything changed drastically when Kepa Arrizabalaga left the club. Alex Remiro refused to sign a new contract and Iago Herrerín was injured, which Simón recalled to make his debut in the opening game of the campaign.
Oleaga once again featured as the backup, this time for the first team, until Herrerín was able to return from injury. In the meantime, Unai Etxebarria was handed the starting role at Bilbao Athletic. The 22-year-old had spent the previous year on loan with Leioa and was eager to prove himself. He did quite well, starting in the first six games of the season until Oleaga was back in the team.
As expected, Oleaga took his place in the starting lineup as soon as he returned. The young goalkeeper was impressive and eventually signed a contract renewal with Athletic in October that runs through 2022. After a few months, Oleaga’s form would begin to dip. He then suffered an injury that gave Etxebarria the perfect chance to get back into the lineup.
It’s nearly April now and Bilbao Athletic are still looking for the clear answer at goalkeeper. Manager Aritz Solabarrieta has publically stated that he’s expected more out of both players and to this point neither has been able to solidify their place in the lineup. Etxebarria has featured in 16 games, nearly 1,400 minutes, and has conceded 15 goals. Similarly, Oleaga has made 14 appearances, just over 1,200 minutes, and has conceded 14 goals of his own.
Hodei Oleaga and Unai Etxebarria are promising and talented. They have the qualities to become very good goalkeepers and this competition will make them both better footballers. For the time being, Bilbao Athletic are still hoping to qualify for the promotional playoffs and will need one of the shot-stoppers to step up in the final weeks of the season.