Carlos Ruiz Weighs In On Garitano, Lezama, And Iñaki Williams As A Striker
When it comes to scoring goals, Carlos Ruiz was one of the best. He played for Athletic from 1970-1981, making 275 appearances and scoring 115 goals. During his 11 year career at San Mamés, Ruiz won two Cups and is the last Athletic player to win the Pichichi trophy. Though he’s been away from the game for a few decades now, he still follows Athletic closely and told Radio Popular that the club can’t keep relying on the same players to score goals.
“Raúl García and Aduriz have been the duo of recent years and that’s how Athletic have scored goals. Now Raúl García has scored the latest goals. Being a center-forward means you always have to be in a scoring position. Being a playmaker, like Raúl, you have fewer chances. The important thing is arriving into the box, not being in the box, but running into it.”
Iñaki Williams still isn’t scoring goals at the rate that many expected when he was younger. Ruiz believes the biggest issue is the 24-year-old isn’t picking out his shots. The former striker says Iñaki is relying too much on his speed and power at the moment.
“It’s been a little more difficult for Williams to score goals that we thought. He has speed, which is priceless today, but he needs that second tenth of a second to look at where the goalkeeper is, where the goal is, and where he needs to put his shot. To score goals you have to take shots while knowing where the goalkeeper is. Until now, most of his goals have been because of powerful shots, not because he is looking up and placing his shots. I’ve only seen him once or twice score a goal at the opposite post, but not too many times.”
Ruiz would also like to see Iñaki become a threat in the air, although he admitted that the forward has improved in this area. In the right system, Iñaki can be strong in the position, but that isn’t always the case. Ruiz is also pleased to see Ibai Gómez back at San Mamés and hopes that Kenan Kodro can perform at the same level as his father.
“Before he used to jump but didn’t challenge for the ball, but he has improved. It’s always said that he is on the run. He has qualities and is coachable, but his head should also be fundamental. Williams can be a good center-forward provided that the style of play is conducive with the team playing long balls. If the opponent locks that up then he needs to be on the wing. Ibai was already contributing at Alavés where he has had a very good season. Now he seems to be starting to take on the style of play at Athletic, but he has a very good technical quality and can score goals, although he hasn’t yet. I haven’t seen Kodro play but if he looks like his father that has to be good.”
Promoting Gaizka Garitano has proved to be massively successful and Ruiz says it was clearly the right move. The players didn’t fit Eduardo Berizzo’s system according to Ruiz, but the team is responded well to Garitano’s ideas.
“For me, it was a wise decision because he has to know what players you have and what team you have to adapt to your way of playings. That’s what Berizzo didn’t know how to do. He wanted to play and do many things with players who weren’t suitable for it. Garitano has understood that perfectly. His father also came at a very difficult stage with Mané and they saved the team. He has certainly be advised by what his father could have told him. Garitano has made a philosophy of war, organizing the back so well that it’s hard to be beaten. From there you will create a lot of chances.”
Markel Susaeta has yet to receive a renewal offer from the club which has bothered many fans. Still, Ruiz understands the hesitancy. He explained that Susaeta isn’t a true starter at the moment and Athletic have to also consider the future and economic impact.
“It will depend for Susaeta because he’s not an indisputable starter. I don’t know to what extent they will value him if they only look at the economics. Aduriz has shown enough. The injury he had to his knee hasn’t needed surgery, which would have taken him out for six months. The knee is stable so he can continue playing. When things don’t go the way you want the nervousness gets in the squad, giving chances to youngsters gives them an added responsibility. If it doesn’t go well it can even lead to a truncated career. Playing minutes progressively and, preferably, when you are winning is the best way.”
In closing, Ruiz took a moment to discuss Lezama. To him, it’s imperative that the right people be in charge of the academy. Difficult decisions must be made and the ultimate goal is still to produce players for the first team.
“If Athletic wants to continue maintaining this philosophy then Lezama has to be directed by very competent and experienced people with some programs and a way of work that is appropriate. Many times the decisions about the Lezama coaches are made for other reasons and that’s when they start generating doubts or situations that are not the most appropriate. You have to have a series of criteria valued by the people with experience to make a great number of players reach the first team.”
Current Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta has been analyzing Lezama since he took over control back in December. He and Andoni Ayarza, along with the rest of the Sporting Committee, are preparing to introduce their changes and alterations this summer after the season has come to a close. His goal is to turn Lezama into the best youth academy in Europe and he’s serious about the endeavor.