Is It Only Downhill Now For Athletic Bilbao?

4 09 2012

The journey witnessed last season where Athletic Bilbao – under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa – reached two cup finals, helped restore some faith in the Spanish league and reminded a few naïve people that La Liga actually contains other competitive sides; despite the duopoly by Real Madrid and Barcelona. The way in which they tormented the likes of Schalke and Manchester United in the Europa League helped establish them as everyone’s second favourite team, not only for their playing style, but also their policies.

Athletic have a unique viewpoint in the way they run as a club. The notion of the squad only consisting of players with Basque heritage helps connect themselves with the fans and keep regional identity alive. This was a policy mirrored by their rivals Real Sociedad, who eventually adopted the traditionalist format after become furious with Athletic for buying their players. Notably John Aldridge was the first non-Basque player to represent Los Txuri-urdin. Despite the policy being admirable, albeit slightly more flexible nowadays, it has not always been successful. As recently as five years ago the club only stayed up with a last matchday victory over Levante. A trophy has not been paraded around San Mamés for 28 years, since their domestic double in 1984. Historically, Los Leones are one of the greatest teams in Spain. Throughout the 1930’s they amassed seven trophies, including three league titles. They also hold the prestigious award, along with Real Madrid and Barcelona, of competing in every top flight season since the inauguration of the league in 1929.

The style Bielsa has imposed on his team is a mitigating factor in the popularity for Athletic. El Loco, before taking the rein in Bilbao, had used a 3-3-1-3 formation in the World Cup with Chile, which provided an exciting tactical deviation from the norm of 4-2-3-1. The Argentine was hired at La Catedral to enthral everyone with an offensive philosophy. Previous coach Joaquín Caparrós had a more pragmatic approach and despite the stabilisation he instilled, he did not show enough to promise he could progress the team.

A Lot Depends On Whether Bilbao Can Retain Llorente

A Lot Depends On Whether Bilbao Can Retain Llorente

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