Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Times Tough for Athletic Bilbao

It has been a miserable start to the season for Athletic Bilbao and their new manager Eduardo Berizzo. The Basque club find themselves in the bottom 3 and on the joint longest winless run in the league along with rock bottom Huesca. Berizzo’s appointment in June was met with much positivity after relatively good spells at Celta Vigo and Sevilla. Despite being sacked by Sevilla during the middle of last season, Berizzo won much praise of his football and fighting against cancer. However, he has yet to get Ath Bilbao going this season and the pressure is severely mounting on his shoulders after 1 win in 13 league games thus far.

The season started very well for the Basque club with a comfortable home win against Leganes but since then their season has just dipped and are winless in 12 league games. However, while they are winless in 12, they’ve lost just 4 of those matches. Too many draws and the fans are becoming increasingly frustrated with their inability to secure a win and see out matches. Bilbao are struggling in all areas of the pitch especially in attacking areas. Their stats show their problems:
Shots per game: 10.5 = 19th
Shots on target per game: Joint 16th
Dribbles per game: 18th
Goals: 14 = Joint 12th

Ath Bilbao are struggling to create chances and clearly if you cannot score, you don’t win football matches. They also have the worst disciplinary record in terms of yellows with Bilbao accumulating 46 and have seen a man sent off twice this season. Berizzo is clearly struggling to get his philosophies across to a team full of talent and experience. The likes of Inaki Williams, Mikel San Jose and Iker Muniain are bright sparks in the team and so far, their sparkle appears to have disappeared while experienced campaigners Oscar De Marcos, Markel Susaeta and Artiz Aduriz are also finding times tough and their form has massively dipped. Bilbao’s big striker Aduriz has struggled with fitness and injury so far this campaign and is yet to score in the league this season. While Inaki Williams is their top scorer with 4 in the league this season, Berizzo has consistently played him in various positions across the front line meaning he doesn’t get a run in a preferred position.

Another major issue for Berizzo and Bilbao is their inability to secure an away win. They along with Leganes are the only sides yet to secure an away win this season and this is another added pressure on the shoulders of the likable Argentine. Defeats to Ath Madrid and Espanyol along with draws against Barcelona, Eibar, Rayo Vallecano and Real Betis. While draws at the Nou Camp and Villamarin (Home of Betis) are good results, drawing to Eibar and Vallecano are very disappointing for Bilbao’s high standards. Their issues on the road are further highlighted through Bilbao having has the least amount of shots on target per game and 2nd highest for bookings.

Bilbao is always a difficult job for somebody to take on due to their strict rules and transfer policy which only allows the club to sign players born in the Basque region of Spain. While they have received consistent praise for their policy and determination to help the region, many feel they are very restricted in terms of quality. Bilbao heavily rely on the talent coming through their B side and they have produced quality players including Ander Herrera, Kepa Arrizabalanga and Aymeric Laporte. However, the talent seems hard to come by in recent seasons meaning Bilbao has spent more money bringing the likes of Inigo Martinez and Yuri Berchiche. Both have struggled so far this campaign and Berizzo is no doubt feeling the frustration of the fans. The San Mames once a fortress has certainly lost its touch with fans increasingly hostile and frustrated throughout matches so far this season. Heavy defeats to Villarreal and bitter rivals Real Sociedad have not gone down well with fans. Both teams fully warranted their victories and simply looked a class above Bilbao. Berizzo is desperate for a change in fortunes and he will be hoping December is the month to kick start their season because the longer, this winless run goes on, the greater build of pressure on his shoulders. At times they are a good team to watch but their performances are not consistent and for a whole match hence why they’ve won once this campaign.

Ath Bilbao must get their season up and running and fast otherwise a potential relegation battle looms for one of La Liga’s biggest clubs. Berizzo is feeling the heat from all corners and things must improve on the pitch with his job severely under threat. A crucial December kicks off with a trip to Levante and by any means necessary they must find a win to ignite their season. Berizzo has been passionate in his defence of the team and his ability as a manager but something has to change soon otherwise relegation is a real possibility for the Basque club.

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