Gaizka Garitano’s Team Starting To Take Shape As The Mister Trims The Squad

Garitano Training

Gaizka Garitano began the preseason with 33 players (EC)

Going into what will be an extremely important season, Gaizka Garitano has been tasked with building the strongest possible team for Athletic. When the preseason began back on 4 July he had 33 players in the squad and has been working to trim that number down to somewhere around 24 by the end of the summer. Over the past few weeks decisions have been made and the team has started to take shape.

Just a few days after starting preseason Garitano informed Cristian Ganea and Andoni López that they would be sent out on loan. Both left-backs have received a lot of interest from clubs in the Segunda but a move has yet to happen. Meanwhile, Peru Nolaskoain was also told that he would spend the year away, however an injury to Iñigo Martinez has seen the 20-year-old stay in the squad. Now that Martinez has returned to training, Nolaskoain has accepted an offer from Deportivo and an announcement could come any day now.

More recently, Hodei Oleaga and Iñigo Vicente have both been told by the coach that they will be sent on loan as well. Oleaga was competing with Jokin Ezkieta for the third goalkeeper role in the first team, but Ezkieta will be the one to play with Bilbao Athletic this season when he isn’t needed by Garitano. Segunda clubs have been lining up in hopes of signing Vicente and Athletic will look to send him to whichever club can guarantee the most minutes this season.

Along with Ezkieta, Dani Vivian and Oihan Sancet will split time between the first team and Bilbao Athletic. Both will remain available to Garitano and will likely train a lot with the senior squad. Consistent minutes are important for both starlets to continue developing so when they aren’t needed they will be under the orders of Joseba Etxeberria.

Oihan Sancet Paderborn

Oihan Sancet will be available to Garitano while playing with Bilbao Athletic (EC)

With these moves, Garitano has trimmed the squad down to 25 players, but more decisions must be made. The Mister has yet to decide what to do with Asier Villalibre. The young striker has barely played this preseason and if he stays at San Mamés his chances will be few and far between. It’s very likely that Villalibre will also be sent out on loan. At the same time, Gorka Guruzeta is still recovering from ACL surgery and when he returns in November he will train with Bilbao Athletic and is expected to be loaned out when the January transfer window opens.

Players like Gaizka Larrazabal and Unai López have already earned their place in the team this season and could play important roles under Garitano. However, others such as Kenan Kodro and Mikel Vesga are still trying to prove that they can contribute at this level. Both will likely have limited chances throughout the year and must take advantage when those opportunities are given.

After failing to qualify for Europe for the past two years, a top-six finish is the ultimate goal this season. Garitano and the players have routinely explained that they will take it one game at a time, though Europe is the prize. La Liga will be even more competitive than it was last year which means that the Lions must be at their best if they are going to challenge for a place among the elite.

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