Here is a brief FM20 team guide of the Athletic Bilbao squad, their club structure, relationship any potential managers will have with the board, expectations and possible tactics any FM manager can use.
About the club
Athletic Club or Athletic Bilbao are a professional football club that plies their trade in the La Liga. They are the 3rd most successful club in Spain having won the La Liga on 8 occasions and the Spanish cup on 23 occasions.
They are one of the 3 clubs, behind the 2 giants Barca & Real Madrid to never have been relegated from the first division of Spanish Football since the inception of the league. They are one of the 4 clubs in Spain that are not sports corporations but are instead owned and operated by the club members themselves. Bilbao are well known for their Basque policy for only using and promoting Basque players in the squad.
They have also provided more footballers to the Spanish National team than any other side. However, things are all not smooth sailing for the club as they have failed to win a title in over 25 years and are now an established upper mid-table club.
The Board's Expectations
Bilbao narrowly missed out on a Europa League spot last season and they finished 8th in the table. The minimum board requirements should be,
- A top 6 finish securing automatic qualification to the Europa League
- Reach the final of the Spanish Cup
There will not be any specific football philosophies required by the manager. The transfer budget will be sufficient considering Bilbao have not spent anything on the market so far this season and have only promoted youngsters into their squad.
Athletic Bilbao are blessed with excellent training facilities and a very good youth set up. The club regularly provides International players to Spain.
Squad, Formation and Tactical Style
Bilbao are not a side that rely on possession, they tend to prefer hitting teams on the counter-attack and play quick tempo football. Hence the best tactic that suits their players is a fluid counter-attacking style of football with high tempo.
A 4-2-3-1 is how Bilbao line-up in real life and is probably the best-suited formation to the available squad of players. This also helps them maintain the width and start quick counter attacks by spraying the ball to the wingers.
A rough example of what your line-up would look like in a 4-2-3-1 formation is as follows,
- Unai Simon as a regular keeper
- Yeray Alvarez & Inigo Martinez as the 2 central defenders. With Inigo Martinez being played as a Ball Playing Defender.
- Ander Capa & Yuri Berchiche as the 2 fullbacks with Yuri having increased crossing instructions and playing with a more attacking mindset.
- Dani Garcia & Unai Lopez as the 2 central midfielders, you can play them in various roles with a defensive mindset.
- Iker Muniain & Inaki Williams as the attacking wingers. Munain to be given complete attacking freedom.
- Raul Garcia as an attacking midfielder in a No:10 role.
- Artiz Aduriz as the lone forward in a Complete/Advanced Forward role.
Even though you need not tinker with the formation much, you can always swap around the personnel with talented players such as Extebarria & Ibai Gomez who will be in the squad.
1. Iker Muniain
Iker Muniain is the captain and one of the most important players in the squad. His attacking contributions are important in securing good results.
2. Inaki Williams
Inaki Williams is a versatile attacker who can play in multiple positions. He also has high potential and is sought after by many clubs.
3. Inigo Martinez
Inigo Martinez is an experienced CB who is a natural leader in defence. He is also an aerial threat from set-pieces.
- The defence is a concerning area for Bilbao. The quality of the backup Central defenders is definitely not up to standard and could see a lot of goals conceded if any injuries occur.
- With heavy reliance on Basque Players, there is a problem with variety and the talent available. This has shown in Bilbao not being able to win titles for over 25 seasons now.
- You will be helpless if bigger clubs want to poach away your talent and could leave you with gaping holes in the squad.
Potential Transfers (in)
With Bilbao having a policy of signing only players of Basque origin, it is very hard to find quality players in the market and we have to look at the club’s youth system for upgrades. However, some potential transfers are,
- Unai Bustinza
- Asier Illarramendi
Potential Transfers (Out)
These players may be surplus to requirements at the club or may not be of the expected quality.
- Mikel Vesga
- Inigo Lekue
Exciting Young Prospects
There are a few exciting young prospects in the ranks who have the potential to be some of the best players in the league. A few examples are,
- Inigo Cordoba (AML)
- Jurgi Oteo (AMR)
FM20 Team Guide - Athletic Bilbao
To Summarize, Bilbao are a solid club for most FM managers. However, do they have the quality to compete with the Spanish giants and get a coveted Europa League spot? Can you stabilize Bilbao and take them to their former glory?