Gaizka Garitano “We Played The Best Game Of The Season”
Athletic are heading into the international break with all the momentum in the world. The Lions defeated Real Sociedad 2-0 Friday night at San Mamés and now have 7 points to show from their opening three matches. After the big win Gaizka Garitano told the media that he believes it’s the best performance of the year, but that the team hasn’t accomplished anything yet.
“I’m happy because we played the best game of the season. We were the better team and should enjoy this a lot. The intensity with and without the ball was great. The pressure was good and we were organized tactically. It’s difficult to keep Real Sociedad from scoring and we have done it. Everything went well. I’m pleased with the balance and happy about the chances that we created. We’ve grown over the last two games and that’s a very good thing. It’s a good start to the league, but we have to be humble and keep working. We haven’t done anything yet. We will give it all because that’s the Athletic way.”
Winning the Basque Derby is always a big deal. Before Friday night Athletic hadn’t beaten Real Sociedad since December of 2017 and Garitano admitted that the team had been looking forward to this match since the fixtures list was first released.
“This isn’t just any game. It’s special, perhaps the most important of the year, and we have to enjoy it. We had this game marked on the calendar. The team was plugged in against an opponent that plays great football. We have imposed ourselves at San Mamés in recent months with our style of play or call it whatever you want. We’ve been doing things well for months, although we still have a lot to improve.”
Garitano went on to praise his side’s physicality which he says is the basis of the current system. The manager also highlighted the atmosphere created by the fans which made a huge impact on the game.
“Our team is physical and physical play predominates our football rather than the technical. Our game is based on physical superiority, it’s the Athletic DNA. The fans showed us their support and it pushed us. The players give their all and the fans make us feel that we can win every game. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the fans enjoy a game this much.”
After seeing Unai Nuñez start alongside Yeray in the previous two games, Garitano put Iñigo Martinez back in the lineup against Real Sociedad. The Mister explained that he wanted a left-footed defender on the field but that he will be giving more minutes to Nuñez this season.
“It was a very difficult decision and Unai has been called to the National Team. We have three great center-backs and Vivian will be great as well. Athletic is lucky to have so many good defenders. I will always be wrong because one will not play, although we can play all three. I decided to play Iñigo because we needed the ball played out with the left foot. I value Nuñez very highly and want him to stay here for many years.”
Yet again, Ander Capa and Yuri Berchiche were absolutely flawless for Athletic. They are quickly becoming one of the strongest fullback pairings in Europe and it doesn’t surprise Garitano. “I’ve been with Capa and Yuri since Eibar, for many years, and I know them well along with Dani” he began. “They’ve been turned on. When they are physically well and focused they are among the best in their positions.” Athletic will now spend the international break preparing for the next round of games with hopes of continuing at the top of the La Liga table.