Time For Gaizka Garitano To Go Back To The Basics

Athletic must rediscover their identity before it’s too late (AC)

Gaizka Garitano was Athletic’s savior last season. After guiding the team out of a relegation battle, and nearly into Europe, the expectations were high going into the summer. The Mister led the Lions to a brilliant start in the current campaign with early signs showing that Athletic may even be able to challenge for a top four finish. Unfortunately, the success didn’t last.

Over time the performances began to suffer and the results followed. Garitano was forced to quickly seek out answers for a lack of creativity and struggles in front of goal. There seemed to be a solution when Iker Muniain was moved into the midfield with Raúl García operating as the striker. The change brought immediate improvement but Muniain was soon sidelined with a hamstring injury.

In December, Garitano began testing a new formation using three center-backs which freed up Ander Capa and Yuri Berchiche to attack down the wings. Once again, the adjustment was positive at first but over time poor results have shown it to be unsustainable with little diversity in the final third. Having now gone ten straight La Liga games without a victory it’s time for the manager to go back to the basics.

When Garitano first took over the team in the middle of last season he introduced a very simple style of football. Organized defending was the basis for the system along with pressing and direct attacking. Based on the team’s horrible form in the league, returning to the traditional 4-2-3-1 and original system needs to be the next move.

Garitano would have several options with the formation such as playing Iker Muniain through the middle or possibly even bringing Iñigo Córdoba back into the lineup. Fans were unsatisfied with Córdoba’s performances earlier in the season but the team only lost two games with the winger on the field. Moving Iñaki Williams back out to the wing could also provide much-needed space while the partnership of Unai López and Dani García should be revisited.

In football, a team is always evolving. Gaizka Garitano has made several alterations throughout the season in hopes of getting the best out of the squad, though going back to the basics is absolutely necessary at this point for Athletic to rediscover their identity. The Lions have played great football at times under Garitano and can do so once again. Athletic may still be alive in the Cup, but the manager is now coaching for his job. Garitano has rightfully taken the blame for the poor run of form and he must be the one to find the new answers before it’s too late and be the savior yet again.

One comment

  • While I hate to say it, I agree that Garitano is coaching for his job. Being a football manager is a brutal career path. I’m no expert but there is such a lack of aggressiveness in the final third. I think all parties were probably hoping the return of Muniain would be the cure all, but he’s only one player. Inaki probably needs better service in front of him, but he seems to continue to miss some pretty good chances (and make the most of some half-chances a la Barca to be fair!). I’m sure he would be the first to say he needs to be more clinical, and I hope that comes.

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