Gaizka Garitano “We are aware of where the team should be based on history”
Gaizka Garitano turned heads with comments after Athletic’s loss to Cadíz. “The Primera isn’t easy for us,” the manager said. Fans took it as a reference to possibly battling relegation. Going into Sunday’s trip to Alavés, Garitano wanted to set the record straight.
“I said that for Athletic each game is difficult and it’s the same for everyone,” the Mister clarified during Saturday’s press conference. “Don’t twist my words. The Primera is very even and any game against a rival such as Eibar, Cadíz, Granada, or any club is difficult. It’s very even in that aspect.”
The quality of football in La Liga has improved in recent years. “Every team has good players and can compete against anyone,” Garitano continued. “We saw it three days before when Cadíz played Sevilla, who ended up winning in the end.”
Garitano continued by pointed out that Athletic should be challenging for important things every year. The club’s history demands better even though the league has become more competitive.
“There is a lot of equality and it’s difficult for everyone. That’s what I was trying to say. I didn’t say anything about permanence. We know what that demands of us. We are aware of where the team should be based on history, the club, the fans, and everything else. Our ambitions are the highest in the world.”
Scoring goals continues to be the biggest issue for Athletic. Garitano once again defended how strong the team is at the back, but admitted they must be better in the final third.
“We are the team that concedes the fewest chances in the league, the one that gets the least shots on goal. In that statistic we are defending well, but goals have been scored against us with little chances. Then we are taking a lot of initiative in the opposite half but we don’t create chances. We have to create more and finish better. It’s true that we’ve had a hard time in the last meters. We haven’t made good decisions and that’s what we have to improve.”
After signing Alex Berenguer the manager is confident that the squad has versatility and quality. Athletic have enjoyed plenty of possession this season, but need to turn it into goals.
“We have many kinds of players. The goal is to have a mix, with some players who are physical and some players who are more creative. In that aspect we don’t have too much of a problem. We combine play a lot and have one of the highest possession rates in the league.”
Garitano praised Berenguer when asked about the new signing. Coming from Torino, Berenguer is viewed as a player who can both score goals and create chances. As the club’s 4th-most expensive transfer in history, expectations are high.
“Alex is a very versatile player who can play in any position in attack. He’s one of the most versatile footballers that I’ve seen. In Italy he’s played through the middle, as a center forward, and on both sides. He’s a player who contributes goals, assists goals, and is good in the one on one moments. He’s a good player to complete the squad. He comes to contribute goals from the wing and take on defenders. Being able to open up a closed defense can help us.”
Garitano was then asked about the possibility of signing other players such as Javi Martínez or Fernando Llorente. The manager essentially ruled out any more additions.
“I think that with Berenguer, from what the club tells me, we have closed the signings. Let’s see if any more players leave. There may be some more, but I think not. We have a center forward in Asier Villalibre. Then we have other players who can play in the front of the attack. At no time have I asked for anything else.”
In closing, questions were raised over Garitano’s decision to take Iñaki Williams and Iker Muniain off in the second half against Cadíz. The Mister defended the two attackers, citing his confidence that they will find their best form very soon.
“They are two very important players for Athletic, that is clear. Williams didn’t have much of a preseason, but he’s better every day. He played a very good game in Eibar. Little by little he’s doing better with each game. Iker is a player with whom I’m happy and he’s contributed a lot since I’ve been here. It’s normal that they can be taken off because there are five changes and sometimes we have to try to change things with the bench. We have only played three games and I’m sure that little by little they will pick up their level. We are all looking for our best version.”
Athletic desperately need a convincing win over Alavés to add important points and move up the table. Following the Basque Derby teams will have a two-week break for international football. The Lions can’t afford to go into another stoppage surrounded by negativity.