The new Athletic Club de Bilbao coached by Ernesto Valverde have earned 17 points out of 24 in the first eight games of LaLiga. They have picked up five wins, two of them on the road (0-4 versus Cádiz and 1-4 against Elche), two draws and a defeat against Espanyol.
Since the arrival of ‘Txingurri’, Athletic have become a very solid team with a clear playing style. They might be behind other clubs roster wise in the battle for the European spots such as Villarreal or Betis, but they outstanding start into the new season can certainly be a symptom of a great year ahead of them.
One of the keys for such an excellent start so far is being their high pressure. The team feels comfortable defending forward and they prove that by a well-organized pressure that forces their rivals to make mistakes. They have grabbed four clean sheets so far in six games and have only conceded two goals, which results in their defensive solidity.
Another key aspect is the role of Iker Muniain, who manages to drag defenders in order to allow Berenguer to have more space on the wing. He combines both amplitude in the left wing and interior runs to attract the opponent’s midfield. Iñaki and Nico Williams also open up in order to create space inside, which Sancet and Muniain himself are able to take advantage of.
One aspect to improve on is the accuracy at finishing. They struggled on accuracy in some games such as against Espanyol, as they attempted ten shots and only three were on target. Nice playing and lack of scoring, which is something that the team coached by ernesto Valverde paid very expensive.
Nico Williams keeps improving:
The youngest of the ‘Williams Brothers’ has still a lot of improvement margin. He scored his first goal against Elche, as he was able to send it to the top left through a great shot after overcoming his defender. He really stood out at dribbling, as he completed seven out of nine dribbles successfully. The next step must be to make better decisions when he gets to the finishing line. He is on the right track, though.
The top spots on the table are very expensive to earn, but the excellent performing by the team of Ernest Valverde in these first few games of the new season is undeniable. Their goal must be to keep growing. Of course, it will be even better if results are on their side.
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.
Main image: @AthleticClub.