Gaizka Garitano “It’s Been A Fantastic Week”
Athletic’s terrific week continued on Sunday afternoon as the Lions wreaked havoc at Estadio José Zorilla in the form a 4-1 win over Real Valladolid. While the scoreline is a little misleading, it was the biggest victory for the team since Gaizka Garitano took over as manager and saw Athletic move to within five points of the top seven.
“It’s been a good week,” Garitano said after the game. “Beating Villarreal, going to the Cup final, and now this victory. It’s been a fantastic week with great effort from the players, both physical and mental, which is important when playing three very important games. We’ve won at a ground where only two other teams have won. It’s not easy to win here.”
The Mister then explained that there were many tactical adjustments throughout the match. Athletic even changed formations as the team had problems controlling the midfield at times.
“We thought that they were going to play a 4-4-2 with their lineup but they started with five defenders. We weren’t at ease and changed to a 5-3-2. The difference was that we were lethal with our chances. We were very effective in front of goal. We did things with the ball that we’ve been failing with away from home. The game was more complicated than the final result says. Valladolid gave everything with crosses that we had to defend and we were forced to suffer. But without suffering this type of game is impossible to win.”
Finishing chances has often been a problem for Athletic but that wasn’t the case on Sunday. Midfielders Unai López and Oihan Sancet managed to generate a number of opportunities going forward, though Mikel Vesga was brought on early in the second half to provide more security.
“The team has good morale and we’ve been confident with the ball. Aside from some of the dangerous giveaways we created danger with Unai and Oihan. We did a good job because we were tired and we knew we were going to face problems in the last 20-25 minutes. Vesga has been playing more lately, which gives us more strength in the middle of the field, but Unai gives us more football. He played a great first half. After the break the game became more physical and I wanted a player like Vesga to defend and help on set pieces.”
Iñigo Córdoba also made the most of his minutes, registering an assist in the second half and scoring a goal before the final whistle. The winger’s return to the lineup has come with good results and Córdoba is making his case to stay in the team moving forward.
“The goal is a prize for him. He’s that kind of player that doesn’t appear so much in the statistics, but is always in the mind of the coach. The criticism has been unfair at times because he gives us more and more. He scored a goal and it’s very good for him to stand out from time to time.”
Under Garitano, Athletic have played a similar style of football to that of Getafe. The manager revealed that he’s been pushing the squad to have more consistency like Getafe and was pleased to see the team respond against Real Valladolid.
“My speech to the players in recent days has been that if we want to be a good team we can’t only compete when we’re under pressure. You see teams like Getafe, which I have given many times as an example, who play Ajax on a Thursday and wins then goes to Mallorca three days later and wins there too. That’s the type of team we have to be. We advance on Thursday and then we came here and won. This team is very strong mentally.”
Having now won two straight league games Athletic will face a big test next weekend when Atlético Madrid visit San Mamés. Gaizka Garitano will have the entire week to prepare the team for the fixture and will be expected to field the strongest lineup in hopes of securing another three points to continue climbing the table.