2012/13 Season Review
Athletic Club. One of the only three clubs to have never been relegated from La Liga (alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid). Hardcoded to only be able to sign players of Basque descent, or any Spanish player under the age of sixteen. A proper youth-based challenge, to catch, and better the traditional ‘big two’…
I’ve taken the reins as ‘Inigo Montoya’ -my Spanish alter-ego. This season was all about getting settled in and gaining the players’ trust as my reputation is only Sunday League. I started out with a 4-5-1 formation, and for a while it seemed to be working. But a bad run of results hit, and a change to a 4-2-3-1 deep turned things around and so I stayed with it. I’ll go into more depth on tactics once I’ve given it a thorough test.
Liga BBVA (stats)
Qualifying for the Europa League was the boards’ minimum requirement for this season. And as a newbie manager, I agreed. We were unbeaten in our first nine games, and then it all went a bit pear-shaped – only one win in the next eight games, four of which were losses. We were up and down for the rest of the season, having periods of good form then bad, but we held on under the pressure from Granada and Valencia and finished third and secured a Champions League place!
League results vs ‘The Big Two’
Real Madrid (a): 0-1
Barcelona (a): 1-3
Real Madrid (h): 1-2
Barcelona (h): 0-1
All the games, besides the Barcelona away game, were close. The first game vs Madrid we went down to a dubious penalty, and some comical goalkeeping allowed them into the game at home which gave them the momentum to steal a win. Barcelona were the better team at the Nou Camp, but it only took a slip from Ekiza to allow them the victory at San Mamés.
Europa League (stats)
We were tasked with qualifying for the Europa beginning at the third qualifying round, where we were paired with SV Ried of Austria, who we beat comfortably, and drew Gent of Belgium in the fourth qualifying round, who were a bit better, but still well beaten. Our group was considered relatively easy, but I knew Gladbach were better than their third-seed ranking suggested. Having only taken 2 points from six from them, and another draw in Bucharest, we only managed to finish second. I feared the worst when we drew Inter, but a 1-0 home win set us up rather nicely for the second leg, as I knew we had it in us to get another goal, a vital away goal. A 1-1 draw at the San Siro sent us through! Dynamo Kyiv I figured would provide a good game, but I envisaged us emerging from the tie as the victors. A lackluster draw at home was followed by a defeat in Ukraine. And that put us out… But Kyiv did go on to win the competition, so I felt a little better about going out to them, at the end.
Copa del Rey (stats)
For the first two rounds, I sent the kids for a run out. Having drawn Real Madrid in the quarter final, it was time to send out the big guns – and they were rewarded with an emphatic victory in the first leg. In the second leg, I changed my style – went defensive – and we were beaten 2-0 by 9 men. It mattered not, we were through. Malaga next, and we’d already beaten them in the league and my confidence in the team was reflected in the scoreline. The only team other than Barcelona I didn’t want in the final were Sociedad. Fierce rivals, and a very good, talented young squad. We were the better team throughout, but one screw up – a rash tackle in the box – and we were staring down the barrel as ex-Arsenal striker Carlos Vela slotted home. I threw the kitchen sink at it, and despite hitting the woodwork no less than four times, it wasn’t to be. We’d lost.
My Player of the Season
It was close between San José, Muniain and Llorente, but the young centreback gets this accolade as he set the example and defended stoutly while also scoring some important goals too.
IN: Kike in on loan, purely so that he’d pick up Basque nationality before he turned seventeen, so that if he improves in the future, and at a time where he is actually interested in a transfer, he’ll be eligible for us.
OUT: The major out, Amorebieta, was purely because I saw no need for him in the squad, and his contract was expiring anyway so I let him go in January to save on his £25k p/w wage.
Only one player worth signing, but he is definitely a future replacement for the Juventus-bound Llorente! He has already become the clubs’ youngest player, and it is only a matter of time before he becomes youngest goalscorer too.
Next season, the aim is to again qualify for the Champions League, while also hopefully getting past the group stage in the Champions League.