Joseba Etxeberria Tasked With Sorting Out Bilbao Athletic’s Overcrowded Defense

Bilbao Athletic Lezama Training

Aitor Paredes and Julen Bernaola could challenge for starting roles this season (Zabaleta)

Squad turnover is just part of the job when it comes to coaching Bilbao Athletic. Each year several players leave the team, some are promoted, and others come up from CD Basconia. It’s up to the manager to find the right balance and put the Katxorros in the best position possible to have a strong season and compete for a place in the promotional playoffs.

Nine players have been promoted from Basconia and there’s been one outside signing with Burgos defender Antxon Jaso joining the team. Three others have returned from spending last year away on loan. These additions will replace the 12 players who left Bilbao Athletic over the summer, seeing roughly half of the squad replaced.

New manager Joseba Etxeberria has 24 players at his disposal at the moment, not counting others like Dani Vivian and Oihan Sancet who are expected to split time between Bilbao Athletic and the first team. The squad currently consists of 11 defenders which means there won’t be enough minutes to go around for everyone. The Mister will have to sort out the overcrowding.

Jon Sillero and Jesus Areso split time at right-back last season and are expected to do so again this year. Álvaro Núñez will add competition to the position. The same is true at left-back with Jon Rojo and Odei Arrieta both returning. However, Imanol García de Albéniz will push Arrieta for the backup role. There will be an even more fierce battle to determine the team’s center-backs.

Dani Vivian was the leader of the defense last year and has since been promoted to the first team where he will serve as the fourth center-back option. That being said, when he’s not needed at San Mamés he will be available to Etxeberria. Iñigo Baqué and Javier Murua will be returning as will Oier Luengo who left for Amorebieta on loan last year. Meanwhile, Julen Bernaola and Aitor Paredes were great for Basconia and could realistically challenge for a starting role.

With three right-backs, three left-backs, and five center-backs in the team Etxeberria has plenty of options to choose from. Unfortunately, there won’t be enough chances for every defender and a few will likely leave on loan or return to Basconia before the season begins. The competition will be good for everyone and the manager will give each player the opportunity to earn their place during the preseason.

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