Ibai Gómez “We Have To Go There To Get All Three Points”
Ibai Gómez’s return to Athletic hasn’t gone quite the way the winger had hoped. At the time, he was in the best form of his career with Alavés but has struggled to find a place in the lineup at San Mamés. On Sunday, Gómez will make his return to Mendizorrotza as Athletic seek to end their nine-game winless streak in La Liga and he optimistic about facing his former club.
“Alavés are very dangerous at home,” Gómez said during Wednesday’s press conference. “They’re an organized team that works well together. They have good strikers and I think it will be a close game with few goals or chances for either team. We are going to have more possession than them, but they are comfortable with that. It’s a very special game for me, you know the love that I have for Alavés.”
Due to his lack of playing time Gómez considered leaving Athletic in January. Espanyol contacted the 30-year-old who admitted that he accepted the offer, but that Gaizka Garitano rejected any possibility of Gómez leaving in the winter.
“Yes, I’ll be honest, I was willing to leave. I had options to leave in the winter and accepted the offer from Espanyol, but Gaizka said that nobody was going to leave except for Cristian (Ganea). If you ask me then I have to tell the truth. What I like is to play and there was a good option that appealed to me for more minutes, but I’m happy to be here. I have to give more to get more minutes.”
Espanyol manager Abelardo, who coached Gómez at Alavés, was the main proponent of signing the winger. “For me, it’s something special when a coach who had you for a year and a half and is coaching a team in the relegation zone wants to sign you for the challenge of fighting for salvation,” he said. “Such a situation makes you very excited and gives you strength.”
Gómez went on to reveal that he spoke with Garitano and the club about his situation and it was made very clear that he wouldn’t be allowed to leave the club. There was no frustration about the decision and Gómez is committed to earning more minutes this season and helping Athletic fight for the Copa del Rey title.
“There are times when you have to take risks and my priority is to play. Apart from this being my job, it’s still what I love to do. The first thing you do is talk to the coach and the club to tell them how you see your situation. The Mister told me that there was no option to leave because we are all very important players and he’s counting on the entire squad. I am here and I will try to contribute what I can to finish higher in the league and bring the Cup to Bilbao.”
Despite not leaving in January, Gómez maintains that he is very happy at Athletic. Looking back, he has no regrets over his choice to return to San Mamés and is willing to fight for his place.
“My situation hasn’t changed because I haven’t been successful. I don’t want to say that the coach has to give me anything, I have to earn it with my work and performances. I’m at Athletic, the club of my life, and I’ll never regret the decision to return. I made that decision knowing that this could happen. I’m lucky to be at a club like Athletic and train with these teammates. I’m trying to get those minutes that we all want.”
Turning the attention to the team, Gómez admits that Athletic’s winless streak in La Liga has been challenging. The team is eager to take all three points on Sunday against Alavés and are aware that it won’t be an easy match.
“We’ve gone nine games without winning and for us that’s a very negative streak. The team wants to change it as soon as possible. We cannot afford to go ten games without winning, or nine, but the league is complicated now. We are on a negative streak and we have a nice opportunity to change it on Sunday. We have to go there to get all three points.”
The poor run of form has seen Athletic fall seven points off of the top six which means the team’s best chance of qualifying for Europe will be to win the Copa del Rey. Even still, Gómez says the squad can’t be satisfied with the way things have gone over the past two months.
“Trusting everything to the Cup can be dangerous, but the squad has had to face two long competitions. To be honest, we all believed that the priority was the Cup. We have an incredible opportunity this year and we have all been saying that here. Obviously, if we weren’t in the Cup and had gone nine games without winning we would be talking about something more dangerous. It would be even more serious.”
Gómez shared that the team isn’t nervous about the current situation. Athletic are eager to secure a victory this weekend and feel the pressure, but the players are remaining calm in the face of adversity.
“I don’t think there’s any nervousness, but there’s more pressure. We want to change the streak as soon as possible. We know how difficult it is to win in the Primera. We’ve done things well, but the results haven’t followed. Against Osasuna we had an opportunity that was failed and it hurt us. We haven’t done well in front of goal and it’s something we have to improve.”
Dropping points on Sunday could result in Athletic falling into the bottom half of the table. On the other hand, a win at Mendizorrotza could be just the thing needed to jumpstart a successful run of form in the weeks ahead.
“There are players who have accumulated many minutes. Playing every three days with this intensity is difficult. It’s been good for, physically and mentally, for us to have this break. We know that there is time. If we can win on Sunday we will start seeing the table differently. When you break that streak you gain confidence and it helps you start a positive streak. That’s what we want to do.”
Not having a midweek game to contend with, Garitano is expected to field his strongest eleven against Alavés which could include Ibai Gómez depending on the formation. Regardless of who starts, the Zurigorri hav every intention of leaving Vitoria with a victory and all three points to start looking up the table.