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 led there. During this time he has evolved as a coach, although he maintains the signs of identity 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 out of a squad that he considers has room for improvement. For this, he relies on his ability to quickly detect the way 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 a praise to a player, he must earn it with his effort. When it comes to betting on the puppies, his hand does not shake. In his previous stage at Athletic (2013-2017) he made up to 14 footballers debut, 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 will 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 went to a 1-4-4-3 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 match at all times, without this preventing him from getting into rhythm when the occasion called for it. He feels comfortable with a line of four in defense, so it seems difficult for him to bet on a formation of three center backs. If he ends up being the coach, he will have to go around his board to gather and promote all the talent that is in the squad (Muniain, Sancet, Nico Williams, Williams…) and, at the same time, maintain the balance of the block .
It is precisely in this aspect where his evolution as a technician 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 Athletic of him is to play at a high pace and push up front, trying not to let the match get out of control. Something similar to what the team has been in this last season. His biggest challenge will be to end the lack of effectiveness in front of goala problem that did not suffer nine years ago by having Aduriz and incorporating Ral García later on.