Unbeaten Athletic Club Are Early La Liga Leaders On Merit5 min read
When Aritz Aduriz sent San Mames crazy in the last minute of Athletic Club’s opening game against Barcelona, bicycle-kicking home an audacious winner, no one could’ve foreseen that after five weeks of the season, the Basques would still be sitting atop the La Liga table.
And yet, there are many parallels to be drawn from that opening game relating to their subsequent fixtures.
Gaizka Garitano has made Los Leones extremely hard to beat both home and away, and with only one goal conceded so far, they have, unsurprisingly, the best defence in the Spanish top flight.
Though Aduriz missed a late penalty to give them all three points at Mallorca, a draw and a clean sheet in that game should be seen as a positive.
In the Basque derby against another high-flying side in Real Sociedad, they simply overran their opponents, as 15 shots compared to two from La Real would testify.
Another draw, this time at Getafe, is very much a point won rather than two lost, and with the next four games all winnable, there’s every chance we could see Athletic still sat atop the table as we move into November.
Garitano likes to make use of Inaki Williams’ pace where possible, and that’s a great outlet to have when backs are against the wall.
Alongside Williams is either Iker Muniain or Aduriz, giving Athletic both pace and power in abundance, and as we’ve already seen it’s more than enough to put the frighteners on any team.
The front men have been ably supported by their midfield in most games, with the warrior, Raul Garcia, amongst the goals himself at the weekend.
In order for the team to be able to wreak havoc up front, they’ve needed a solid core, and there’s very little to reproach both Yeray and Inigo Martinez for this season.
The centre-back pairing have complemented each other perfectly, both centrally and when cover has been required on either side.
It’s still early days of course, and the table could take on a very different look in 10 games time.
However, the Basques are looking down on the other 19 sides on merit, and if they’re able to stay injury free for the most part, there’s no ceiling to how far this team can go if they have the belief.
What makes it extra special, of course, is that the club are enjoying the fruits of their labours whilst still, staunchly, applying a ‘Basque-only’ policy to their playing staff.
It’s a philosophy that has served them well for years, and with Garitano making real strides with this side, it’s surely only a matter of time before appropriate success follows.
Listen to the latest episode of the Eye On LaLiga podcast with Oliver Wilson and Jason Pettigrove: Madrid Get Serious At Sevilla