Athletic Playing Champions League Level Football Under Gaizka Garitano
Depending on who you ask, Gaizka Garitano has either brought back the Athletic football of old or is too defensive. In truth, its somewhere comfortably in the middle. While not everyone is a fan of Garitano’s style of play, or even some of the decisions that he’s made, there’s no denying that the Mister has been a massive success.
Garitano took over as manager nearly one year ago after Eduardo Berizzo was relieved of his duties following an embarrassing loss to Levante. At the time, Athletic sat 18th in the La Liga table and were in a very real relegation battle. Garitano’s arrival changed everything as the Lions quickly turned the season around and even had the chance to qualify for Europe over the final weeks of the campaign.
With an entire summer to prepare the team, Garitano’s Athletic began this season very strong. After the first few weeks the Basques were at the top of the table before a five-game winless streak saw them fall. However, the Mister made necessary changes to the lineup and over the weekend Athletic climbed to 5th with a 2-1 win over Osasuna at El Sadar. Now 14 games into the current campaign, Athletic have their best start to a season in 25 years.
The match against Osasuna was in fact Garitano’s 38th La Liga game as manager of Athletic, the equivalent of one full season. In that time Athletic have earned a total of 65 points which is the fourth most in the league behind only Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, and Real Madrid. If Garitano’s tenure had actually been a full season, and not two halves combined, Athletic would have qualified for the Champions League.
Whether or not Athletic will manage to qualify for the Champions League this season remains to be seen. Several clubs will be in contention near the top of the table but the Lions will be expected to challenge for a place in Europe. Whether or not fans like Garitano’s system or find it boring, the manager has brought positive results to San Mamés and the numbers are undeniable.