Mikel Vesga “I Don’t Know How I Would React If I Scored Against Alavés”
Mikel Vesga has come on strong in the past two months after barely seeing the field at the beginning of the season. Gaizka Garitano’s switch to a formation with three center-backs saw Vesga brought into the lineup and the midfielder has done his best to take advantage of the opportunities. Speaking with Radio Popular on Thursday, the 26-year-old explained that he’s quite comfortable in the system.
“When I returned I knew it wouldn’t be easy because of the players that are here. Luckily, I have had more minutes recently and I’m playing more regularly so in that aspect I’m happy. My chances have coincided with us using three center-backs which is something I knew from my time with Leganés.”
Interestingly, veterans like Mikel San José and Beñat have had very few minutes this season. The pair are both set to see their contracts expire in June while starlets such as Oihan Sancet and Unai Vencedor look ready to earn promotion to the first team.
“We see them train every day,” Vesga said about San José and Beñat. “They compete and contribute in the locker room and are a clear example of how to act. You can’t blame them for anything, they give us so much. Sancet and Vencedor are coming up. They’re very good kids and they want to learn. You have to be patient with them. They have done very well and you have to help them grow.”
While Vesga has enjoyed regular minutes lately, he’s still searching for his first goal this season. The midfielder could finally find the back of the net on Sunday against his former club, though he says the celebration would be tempered if he were to score against Alavés.
“It’s always special to score goals and even more so with this shirt. I’m not a player who scores many goals anyway. I really want to and I was close the other day. It’s always nice to score and it would be the best to do it at San Mamés. I don’t know how I would react if I scored against Alavés, but I have a lot of respect for the club and would be restrained. It’s a special match for me. I was there for many years and have family, friends, and acquaintances there.”
Athletic will be eager to take all three points at Mendizorrotza seeing as how the Lions have now gone nine straight league games without a victory. Vesga admits that it’s been a difficult run, but says the team has played well despite what the results suggest.
“The league is very important for us and we will fight until the end to get as many points as possible. It’s true that winning the Cup gives us that pass into Europe, but we also want to do well in the league. A good result at Mendizorrotza would be great for us. We have played well and we’re eager to change this dynamic. Sunday’s game is an opportunity for us to break the bad streak and add three points. The streak is negative. It worries us to some extent, but the team is playing good games.”
Vesga was quick to blame poor finishing as one of the major reasons for Athletic’s winless streak. It’s true that the Basques have struggled in front of goal and Garitano has continued to demand intensity from the players to turn things around.
“Perhaps we have lacked fortune in front of goal in many games. We want to improve in that area because that’s where games are decided. We’ve created chances and, with the players we have, I think we will improve. The Mister is the same as always, he’s trying to convey intensity. Athletic has always shown that in difficult times we can move forward. Last year was an example of that.”
Apart from Athletic’s struggles in La Liga, the team has one foot in the Copa del Rey final after beating Granada 1-0 in the first leg of the semifinals. Vesga reiterated that winning the Cup would be huge for the club. “The wait has been long and it has generated a lot of enthusiasm,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to it. There’s not one day that La Gabarra doesn’t go through my head. Taking it out would be amazing.”
At the end of the interview, Vesga was asked about the fact that Athletic have been scheduled for 10 games at 2:00pm on Sundays with more likely to come. The midfielder agreed with others that it doesn’t make sense while also sharing his thoughts on the usage of VAR in recent matches.
“I don’t like it, it’s a bit of a weird time to play. This year it’s happened to us too many times. After playing the next Cup game on a Thursday it will happen to us again in Valladolid. It’s not our preferred schedule and it keeps happening to us. VAR? In the past few weeks there have been a serious of decisions that we weren’t happy with such as the handball against Osasuna and Capa’s goal that was annulled.”
Athletic currently sit 10th in the La Liga table and seven points off the top six. A win on Sunday is vital at this point to end the winless streak and start looking up the standings. Depending on the formation, Mikel Vesga could once again be named to the starting lineup and would be excited to face his former club at Mendizorrotza.