Aitor Elizegi Backs Gaizka Garitano Following Loss To Osasuna
Gaizka Garitano’s honeymoon period at Athletic ended a long time ago. After leading the club out of the relegation zone last season and narrowly missing out on Europe, expectations were high coming into this season. The Basques started well but have since fallen off and currently sit 10th in the La Liga table having lost three straight games and winless in their last nine.
If not for Athletic’s impressive run in the Copa del Rey and chances of reaching the final, there would be serious talks of Garitano possibly being replaced. However, president Aitor Elizegi has given the manager a vote on confidence on Monday morning following the 1-0 loss to Osasuna the night before at San Mamés.
“We think in the medium term,” Elizegi told reporters. “The team in February of last year couldn’t think in the medium term but now we can. We are alive in two competitions and have many aspirations. The team has been making a great effort since December, playing a lot of games, and few teams are able to stand firm.”
Elizegi went on to say that Garitano’s success has earned the trust of the club and the players. Athletic are in the midst of a project and the Board view Garitano as an important piece moving forward.
“Gaizka has earned many points and that is to his credit. He’s won the confidence of the club and the players. This is a medium-term project in which we all believe together. There are still days left in the league and this team doesn’t look like they are giving up. With a week of freshness the team will go to Vitoria and we hope to see the Athletic that played at the Bernabéu, that defeated Espanyol, that made life impossible for Barcelona, and that beat Granada. That’s the Athletic that Gaizka wants and he’s the one who will get it.”
Elizegi also took a moment to comment on the ongoing situation with Unai Núñez. The defender has contemplated leaving the club due to lack of playing time, but the president believes that issue has been resolved.
“Nunez is playing more than ever at Athletic which is what he wanted. He has to decide to stay. The door is open, the contract is ready, this is his home. Besides, as I insist, he is playing more than ever and he’s doing well, which is what he wanted.”
Naturally, the president was also asked about the missed handball during the loss to Osasuna which should have resulted in a penalty for Athletic. VAR did not overturn the call and several players expressed their anger after the match.
“The players live it on the field. In that context their reaction is understandable. It’s not easy to leave the field and go to the shower angry. What worries us is how similar plays are treated differently and I suppose it also worries the collection of referees. We will work so that Osasuna’s handball yesterday is treated the same at every field and the players know what to expect. With VAR the road has become more complex than we all thought. It creates confusion, but we believe that it has come to help.”
In conclusion, Elizegi addressed the scheduling issues that have seen Athletic lined up for 10 games and counting at 2:00pm on Sundays. The television provider, GOL, are allowed to select the match for that time slot but the club believes it must be more evenly distributed.
“I don’t want to make a light response. Athletic has been in the Federation for 120 years and 90 in the League. We are committed to women’s football and to the equality of playing field, but we disagree with these excess schedules. We are not for Friday and Monday games, but it’s incomprehensible that there is no balance.”
Fans have grown increasingly frustrated with the team’s shortcomings under Garitano in recent weeks, but Aitor Elizegi and Rafa Alkorta have continued to show faith in the manager. Athletic’s chances of finishing in the top six now look very unlikely, however, the team can still qualify for Europe by winning the Copa del Rey in April. Gaizka Garitano’s contract will expire at the end of the season if not renewed.