Athletic Club are one of the founding members of the Primera División in Spain. The youth academy of the Basque club is among the most reputed in the country, producing top young talents year-in, year-out. Despite being the fourth most successful club in La Liga, season finishes have been worsening and the club haven’t enjoyed European football since the 2017/18 season. Having won the Supercopa in January 2021, the Copa del Rey final was their chance to lift another trophy against their main rivals, Real Sociedad, but the final ended in disappointment for Los Leones. The defeat in the Copa final and having a 10th place in the league in 2020/21 left Athletic fans frustrated.
During the early weeks of the 2021/22 summer transfer window, rumours were surrounding the future of the manager, Marcelino, who was approached by Tottenham and talks were held between the two parties but Spurs’ pursuit of Marcelino was not fruitful. Although Marcelino’s appointment has not been as successful as some would have thought, it is still fairly early considering his appointment came only mid-way through last season. It remains to be seen if Marcelino can live up to the expectations of the club and get the team back to winning ways and into European contention.
With the likes of academy graduates like Iñaki Williams, Iker Muniain, Ander Capa, and several others who have established themselves in the starting XI, the quality of the team is quite evident. Marcelino’s team could possibly start the season in a 4-4-2 like they did last season, or in a 4-2-3-1 as experimented during the pre-season. Iñaki Williams will be the main man leading the attack with his runs behind the opposition defenses, be it drifting into spaces to create chances for his team-mates or using his pace on counter-attacks to score goals, which makes him very difficult to handle. Also being a relentless hard-working player for his team, Iñaki is a rare commodity in modern football.
Many senior squad members like Iker Munian, Iñigo Martínez and Yuri Berchiche will also be pivotal. Coming off a decent Euros with Spain and quite an unfortunate Olympic final, Unai Simón has the potential to be one of the best goalkeepers in the league and after the pre-season performances of Julen Agirrezabala, the competition for the starting role in goal will be fierce. With the promotion of young players like Unai Vencedor and Oihan Sancet, two of the most sought-after talents in the cantera, who are technically gifted, very mature in possession and good readers of the game, the midfield looks to be very promising. Vencedor and Sancet are surely two of the youngsters to watch out for in the upcoming season.
With a combination of experienced and young players in the squad, Athletic Club will surely be aiming to perform well and push for a higher finish this season. It would be a successful season for the Basque side if they can secure a spot in the top half of the table and get back into European competition.