After five years sitting on the beach honing my tactical knowledge, the time was finally upon me to begin life as a football manager. And we had a big game to get things started.
Our debut as Athletic Bilbao – or Athletic Club – manager was at home to Real Sociedad. And annoyingly we went into it without star man Iker Muniain, who picked up a two-to-three week injury on the eve of the match.
I’ve decided to go with a 3-5-2 formation, largely because our full-backs are rubbish and we have three strong centre-backs. We’re also a little light in midfield and don’t have an overly natural attacking midfielder… so we’ll see how this goes.
But our reign got off to the perfect start as Inaki Williams scored inside two minutes. Inigo Martinez’s free-kick floated a free-kick from deep, it somehow evaded everyone and Williams got in at the back post to poke it home. Eight minutes later Williams turned creator, getting in down the right and floating a cross over for Sergio Ros – the striker, not the midfielder – to head home. 2-0 inside 9 minutes, we were off to a flyer!
Sociedad got back into it on 22 minutes with a superb Shoya Nakajima free-kick. But then we went down the other end and scored in the same minute to restore the two-goal lead. Right wing-back Asier Sanchez put a cross in, left wing-back Alex Berenguez headed towards goal and Ros turned it in from close range. 3-1 inside 22 minutes!
We’d absolutely dominated in a mightily impressive first-half, racking up 16 shots and hit the woodwork an incredible four times! Then, just before half-time we were handed a penalty and Ros stepped up to complete his hat-trick, despite smacking it straight at the keeper. 4-1 up at half-time, not a bad first game in Bilbao.
But there was no letting up as Williams made it five and added his second as he smashed home the loose ball from a free-kick on 57 minutes. That wrapped things up for a big 5-1 win on the opening day, with all five goals shared by the two strikers.
Interestingly, the opening day also saw the first El Clasico of the season, with Real Madrid defeating Barcelona 2-1 at home with the winner scored by Roberto Firmino.
Worryingly, one of my three centre-backs Yeray decided to submit a transfer request in the week following our big opening win. Arsenal had made a derisory offer that I rejected, mainly because it would be impossible for us to replace him!
Next up was Real Sporting away and we started well with Williams getting an early goal only for it to be cancelled out with the last kick of the half. And it stayed 1-1 in a dull second half. Then another away game saw a dull 0-0 draw with Real Betis, in which there wasn’t a single highlight all match.
An international break was followed by our second home game, this time against Valencia. That provided enough time to get Muniain back to fitness and he stepped into the hole behind the front two. A dull half saw is go in at the break 0-0, but then Williams stepped it up again in the second.
Sanchez made a superb run down the right and shot at the keeper, with Williams waiting to turn in the rebound, then Ros (the striker) teed up Muniain to score at near post. And Williams made it three after nice work by Ros (the midfielder – I need to find another way to differentiate them!). Valencia got a consolation through Lovro Majer, but we secured a big 3-1 win.
Into the Europa League
We also got our Europa League draw during the international break, and we’re up against PSV Eindhoven, Dinamo Zagreb and FK Astana. First up was the toughest game of the group, PSV away. We got off to a flyer as striker Ros teed up midfielder Ros to score his first goal of the season after 3 minutes.
Striker Ros then setup Williams to put us two-up just after the break, and the two combined two minutes later for Ros to slide home with a nice finish. Adn we wrapped things up with a fourth through attacking midfielder Alejandro Ibarrondo’s first goal for the club on 84 minutes.
It’s clear that this team has lots of goals in it, we just need to work on our away league form a bit.
In the next post, we’ll try and crack on into the season a bit – as I’m aware it’s taken five hours to play a handful of matches!