Five years have passed since Ernesto Valverde left Athletic for the second time. He went to Barcelona, where he won two leagues and made the Blaugrana team one of the most reliable teams in Europe. He only lost 16 of the 145 matches he coached there. During this time he has evolved as a coach, although he maintains the hallmarks that have characterized him throughout his career. Now, his name is once again related to the Bilbao club, to which he will return if Barkala or Uriarte are elected this Friday.
The opportunity to train again in Bilbao stimulates him a lot. He sees players with energy to run and press, plus a batch of youngsters that he quite likes. All this leads him to think that he can get a lot of performance out of a squad that he considers has room for improvement. To do this, he relies on his ability to quickly detect how to make the footballer perform and in what role he can do it. He cannot be considered an inventor, but it would not be strange if we saw some striking change of position, like the one he did with De Marcos in 2013 (from inside to right back).
He is a coach who enjoys teaching young people, with didactic explanations and daily demands. He never gives praise to a player, he must earn it with his effort. When it comes to betting on the puppies, he does not shake his hand. In his previous stage at Athletic (2013-2017) he made his debut up to 14 footballers, while in Barcelona he needed a single training session to decide that Ansu Fati would stay with the elders. Sancet, Vencedor, Vivian, Nico Williams, Nico Serrano and Zarraga would benefit from all this.
Regarding the system, 1-4-2-3-1 was his most common formation in those four years. At the Camp Nou he changed to a 1-4-3-3 in attack and a 1-4-4-2 in defense, which shows his waist to vary depending on the pieces they have. His Athletic was a well-ordered team, with great tactical work behind it, who sought to maintain control of the game at all times, without this preventing him from getting into rhythm when the occasion required it. He feels comfortable with a line of four in defense, so it seems difficult for him to bet on a formation of three central defenders. If he ends up being the coach, he will have to turn his board around to bring together and promote all the talent in the squad (Muniain, Sancet, Nico Williams, Williams…) and, at the same time, maintain the balance of the team. block.
It is precisely in this aspect where his evolution as a coach is most noticeable. He detected that current football is oriented towards a game in which transitions take on greater relevance and he focused on working on that aspect. Despite the fact that he likes control, the idea he has for his Athletic is to play at high tempos and push up front, trying not to let the game get out of control. Something similar to what the team has been in this last season. His biggest challenge will be to put an end to the lack of effectiveness in front of goal, a problem that he did not suffer nine years ago by having Aduriz and incorporating Raúl García later on.