Andoni Iraola “Football Is About Adapting”
Since retiring from football in 2016 after a very illustrious career, Andoni Iraola has found similar success as a coach. The Athletic legend took over as manager of AEK Larnaca in 2018, leading the team to the Cyprus Super Cup, before being hired by Mirandés over the summer.
Iraola nearly took Mirandés to the Copa del Rey final this season but was eliminated by Real Sociedad in the semifinals. However, the manager has still done an impressive job with the Segunda side by introducing a very clear style of football and discussed his experience on Wednesday in a virtual panel with the Football School of Bizkaia Coaches.
“If the player doesn’t buy into your idea, you’re screwed. You’re going to be short-lived. It’s not easy to put yourself in front of the footballers. We have been players and players examine you in less than five minutes. When you start talking they are thinking ‘what is this guy going to tell me now’. Gaining credibility costs a lot and losing it takes very little. You have to be honest with the players.”
Iraola went on to explain that one of the biggest challenges of coaching was learning how to deal with each player individually. Knowing your players well goes a long way towards getting the best out of the team.
“You have to keep certain information and know who you can tell things to and who you cannot. When you try to meet the player outside the football environment how are you going to pressure him, who do you have to talk to individually, and who do you have to push in front of the group to get them ready?”
Although he hasn’t been coaching for very long, Iraola has a firm grasp of the system that he wants to play. High pressure is one of the keys to success, but he admits it’s important to not demand too much from the players.
“There are things in my system that would be difficult to remove. I like for my teams to press high to try to steal the ball in dangerous areas. We have fast and young players up front and sometimes you might want the opponent to bring the ball forward a little to let there be more space behind to exploit. I try not to obsess over it and make the players comfortable.”
It took some time for Iraola to find the right balance after joining Mirandés, but success quickly followed as the manager made necessary adjustments.
“We started playing more from behind, opening the center-backs and taking more risks. It cost s many goals at first. I saw that the goalkeeper started breathing easier when I told him to kick the ball ahead to the striker. We want to play, of course, but we decided to be more direct. Football is about adapting.”
Mirandés currently sit just four points off the promotional playoff zone of the Segunda table and may have the chance to climb further up the standings if the season returns. In a short time Andoni Iraola has become one of the top young coaches in football and has even been linked with a possible to return to Athletic at some point in the future to manager his former club.