Athletic Club – Season Review 2014/15

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2014/15 Season Review

This season the aim was to try and finally break the monotony of the big two at the top of La Liga. We were given £30m to aid us in our challenge, though most of the players available to us aren’t the type of player I’d sign, given their price and advancing age. But one was exactly the type of player I wanted… Read on to find out who!

Liga BBVA (stats)

This season we needed to make a real go at closing the gap on Real and Barcelona. And from the start we were there or there-about, getting into the top three and were up and down between the top three positions for most of the season. We kept picking up points even when we had to play reserves/youth, and on the last day, we won the title! Our results between Barca and Real is where it was won though, with the gap between us being so tight – of the twelve points available from them four games, we picked up nine.

League results vs ‘The Big Two’

Real Madrid (a): 3-2 win

Barcelona (a): 0-1 loss

Real Madrid (a): 3-1 win

Barcelona (h): 1-0 win

These are the results that won us the title. Taking nine points off your closest league rivals is always going to be a boost, and so it proved as we took the win on the final day.

Champions League (stats)

We were third seeds, and to be honest, there were worse groups we could have drawn. It went to the last game, but the win against Chelsea ensured we topped the group while they finished second.

I was gutted to get City in the knockout round, after they beat us 6-3 on aggregate in last season’s quarter final. We were outplayed at the Etihad in the first leg, but still scraped an important draw and vital away goals. In the second leg we grabbed an early lead through Telletxea, but by half time it was 2-2 and the momentum was with the away side. City probed for a winner, but in the end it was us who found a winner, on the counter.

We got the best of the quarter final draws with Spartak, but it was by no means easy. We grabbed the lead in the first half of the first leg, but Enric Saborit’s dismissal for two yellows on the hour left us short in the middle and Spartak capitalised with an equaliser. We were on the ropes for the rest of the game, but we held on. The second leg was much more under our control, and we were unlucky not to score more than the one goal as we went through to the semi final.

The one name I didn’t want to draw in the semi was Juventus. But life has a funny way of giving you exactly what you want the least… We were to play at home first, and we were pretty much on top, though we weren’t hitting the target despite a good few opportunities coming our way. But when Itturaspe was sent off for two inadvisable tackles the tides turned and we were the ones holding on. I was extremely relieved to hear the whistle. A week later we were at the imaginatively named ‘Juventus Stadium’ and we were really up against it. Three shots, none on target for us while they peppered our goal. Our ‘keeper Arrizabalga was more than equal to it though, and we were left to face another half an hour of football in extra time. Those thirty minutes elapsed fast, though each time there was a highlight I feared the worst. With five minutes to go I threw the lot at it by switching to overload, but nothing doing. Penalties it was. There’s nothing I hate more than penalties. I couldn’t watch. Still level after ‘normal’ penalties. It transpires there is something I hate more than  penalties… Sudden Death penalties. It was edge of the seat stuff as Irureta missed, but so did Asamoah! César Azpilicueta buried the next penalty, as Chiellini stepped up, blasted the ball… Straight at the keeper! We were into the final!!!

Lyon beat Chelsea on away goals after a 7-7 draw over the two legs of the other semi and therefore were our opponents. Lisandro Lopez struck first after a mix-up between our defenders allowed him clean through. Two minutes later we were on level terms thanks to José Telletxea, and it was to stay that way for the first half at least. A stern word with the players had them all fired up for the second half, and just after the hour the wonderkid Telletxea struck again with what turned out to be the winning goal, and we’d won the Champions League!

Copa del Rey (stats)

Nobody can say we didn’t deserve this. To come against, and beat, both Real Madrid and Barcelona on the way to the final – a final versus a fierce rival, no less – really is a test with a small-ish squad competing on three fronts.

My Player of the Season

José Telletxea. Seventeen years old. From the Athletic youth academy. Spanish Youth Player of the Year. Youngest Champions League/Liga BBVA goalscorer. Capped by Spain’s senior side. Top scorer & assists in the Copa del Rey. Second only to Messi in the league top goalscorer list. What more do I need to say!!!???

For someone to even get close to Telletxea for this award says a lot about their contribution. But César Azpilicueta certainly did run it close in my mind. 14 assists from right back as well as a vital equaliser against his old club in the Champions League group stage, all in his first season at the club. I’m very pleased with his contribution so far!

Transfers

IN: César Azpilicueta from Chelsea, for only £11m – his ‘face value’! Considering the impact he had on our season, he would have been cheap at twice the price!

OUT: Loads out, nobody significant, all as free agents.

Youth Intake

Nothing, nada, zilch. Not one was worth signing. Disappointing.

Next Season

I’d like to attempt to retain what we’ve won this season, though I doubt we’ll get them all. Also the UEFA Supercup and Club World Cup would be great additions to the CV.

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