Gaizka Garitano “We Can Enjoy This But There Are Many Things To Improve”
Athletic kicked off their La Liga season in the best possible way on Friday night, beating Barcelona 1-0 at San Mamés. Gaizka Garitano’s tactics and substitutes were perfect. The Lions put in a very impressive performance and proved that they will be a force in the league this season. After the game, Garitano explained that it was hard to play with a high press the entire game but that he was very satisfied with the result.
“I’m very happy for the great work. We’ve started La Liga well because you don’t win every day against Barcelona. We can enjoy this but we can’t start ringing bells. Tomorrow we will have things to work on. The first half went very well, then it got harder. The intensity was difficult to endure. We have confidence. When you play this type of team you have to play together. Now we will go to Getafe. We won’t go crazy after this match because there are many things to improve.”
Aritz Aduriz scored the game’s only goal with an amazing bicycle kick in the dying minutes of the game. Garitano joked that the 38-year-old would have scored a second had he been brought on earlier.
“We are all Aduriz’s fans. If I gave him 10 minutes instead of 5 minutes maybe he would have scored two goals. He has to come on fresh. We know the qualities that he has and that’s why I put him on the field. A goalscorer doesn’t lose that ability even if he’s 40 years old. Aduriz is a competitive animal, the first at training and the last one to leave. I have played with and trained very few like him. He may be losing some things with age, but mentally he hasn’t lost anything.”
As expected, Garitano was also asked about his decision to start Unai Simón over Iago Herrerín. The Mister explained that he has full faith in both goalkeepers but and that every player will have to earn their chances.
“I trust both goalkeepers and today I didn’t play Iago, but I value him a lot. When he plays he will be phenomenal as always. He has to win minutes like everyone else. Today I bet on Unai, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t value Iago. They are both very good. When you bet on a goalkeeper it isn’t like other players. You have to give him room and you can’t change every day.”
Building on last year’s excellent form, Athletic’s defensive was once again a major storyline. The Lions were extremely organized and kept Barcelona from being able to find a rhythm. Garitano shared that it took every player doing their job to pull off a clean sheet against the reigning champions.
“We were able to keep Barcelona from scoring a goal for two years in a row and that’s impossible if the players don’t work. It’s impossible to keep them from scoring if you don’t have constant help. In the second half, they took more of the ball and it was difficult for us to steal it. The pressure we play with makes it very difficult to be perfect from the start of the game and it wears on you.”
In closing, Garitano was asked if he was surprised by the result against Barcelona. “No, I believed this could happen”, he answered quickly. “I’m quite optimistic. I’ve seen the team work and train. We won in Rome, beat West Ham, and now Barcelona. The normal thing is to lose, but I knew how the team was going to be throughout the game.” Beating Barcelona is an exciting way to start the year but the Basques know they must now turn their attention to next weekend’s trip to Getafe.