Gaizka Garitano “We Weren’t So Bad Before And We Aren’t So Good Now”
Athletic have spent the week preparing for Sunday’s match against Granada and manager Gaizka Garitano knows the Lions will have to be at their best. The Mister addressed the media prior to Saturday’s training session at Lezama and made it clear that, although Granada are a newly promoted side, their success this season has been fully deserved.
“Granada are a little different from other teams that have come to San Mamés lately, but they have scored a lot of goals away from home. They’ve started the league well, with very good organization and incredible confidence, and with the same coach since they earned promotion. Granada have a compact block of very strong players who are tall and have quality. They have 21 points and that’s because of the great work they’ve been doing.”
Just a few weeks ago Granada were at a the top of the table, but a four game winless streak has seen the team fall. When asked about the poor run Garitano explained that they have played well despite the results and that every team goes through negative stretches throughout the season.
“They were fine against Valencia and Atlético Madrid. We will all have a time where we go four or five games without winning, sometimes six or seven. There is no team capable of avoiding it. Setting aside the two at the top of the table, not even Atlético is able to win every game. Granada are dangerous.”
Likewise, Athletic overcame a five-game winless streak and have now gone four matches without a defeat. Garitano stated that the little things are deciding results throughout the league this season and that Athletic haven’t been as poor or as great as streaks have suggested.
“Matches are won in the small details. We want to play our game well but we also need the small details and to play well in the last minutes. A goal has given us victory just as conceding a goal at the end has turned a win into a draw. There’s a very fine line. We weren’t so bad before and we aren’t so good now. Small details are deciding games. We can’t afford to lose concentration, intensity, and humility. If you lose the things you can lose to anyone.”
With Athletic now 5th in the table there has been a lot of talk about the Lions possibly challenging for Champions League qualification. “I don’t believe much in looking at the future, on the long term, nor in looking back,” responded Garitano. “What’s done is done, but that’s not enough to win tomorrow. To win you have to start from scratch. When you have a point of relaxation or think you have done something, it can cost you.”
Since taking over as manager, Garitano has led Athletic to the fourth-most points total in La Liga. The manager admitted that he really isn’t concerned about the numbers because it’s all in the past. Right now, he’s solely focused on Sunday’s match but it excited for the players who have been able to enjoy the success.
“I don’t look at the numbers because there is a game tomorrow and what you have done in football is worthless. What counts is tomorrow, today, the present. The past is behind you, the bad and the good. Today and tomorrow are what matter. I am happy for the players and for the magnificent work they have done, but will that give us the win tomorrow? They have to keep thinking about winning.”
Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta recently stated that he hopes to renew Garitano’s contract very soon but the manger isn’t concerned about it right now. Instead, Garitano prefers to focus his attention on the next match and is confident that the new contract will be worked out with ease in due time.
“I have a contract this year and right now I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’m focused on what I’m doing for the team to do well. The renewal will be handled later. What worries us now is the day to day of the team, that we are happy and that the fans are happy with the progress of the team. That’s the most important thing. The rest can be dealt with later.”
After starting last weekend’s match against Osasuna the expectation is that Oihan Sancet will be back in the lineup again on Sunday. When asked about it, Garitano reminded everyone that Sancet is still developing. The midfielder has played well when given the chance but the manager wants him to continue taking steps forward.
“He has to improve a lot. Talent alone isn’t enough, he needs to continue growing. He’s young and he’s on the right track. We have a lot of confidence in him but he has to took at De Marcos and Balenziaga who have 300 or 400 games in the Primera and nobody has given them anything. You have to work and not just rely on talent. He’s a player who gives us a lot. We are very happy with the progression that he has had.”
Garitano ended Saturday’s press conference by discussion the situation with Oscar De Marcos and Mikel Balenziaga. Although De Marcos has returned to full training he has been left out of the squad in recent matches, but the manger says that he’s still a very important player for the team.
“De Marcos is training well and can play at any time. He’s a very important player for me and I trust him a lot. He has played with me and now he isn’t playing because there are others who are like Capa and Williams is now playing on the right. It’s more of a squad problem. Not everyone can play but I’m very happy with those who haven’t been playing.”
Likewise, Balenziaga has played well when given the opportunity but those chances have been few and far between. Garitano explained that both fullbacks have his full confidence and the only reason the pair has been left out of the squad is simply because other players have been chosen ahead of them.
“De Marcos and Balenziaga are very good for me. It’s important to have players who support this team the way they do. If they haven’t been in the squad lately it’s because I have chosen others. If it’s based on what they have done they would be called every time. They are always ready to play. They are players with incredible reliability, with an incredible attitude, and with incredible quality. They’ve demonstrated it for years. When I have had to use them the have responded perfectly. There’s no problem, it’s just that others are being called.”
A win over Granada could lift Athletic into 4th place but competition is close behind. As many as 14 clubs are currently fighting for a place in the European zone of the table and every single point is vital. Granda will present an interesting test for Athletic due to their attacking style of football, but the Zurigorri have proven to be one of Europe’s strongest defensive teams and could keep all three points in Bilbao if they play their style of football.