Athletic Bilbao midfielder Oscar de Marcos says the club is more relaxed than at this time last year.
Twelve months ago former boss Marcelo Bielsa returned from holiday and started a row by criticising the work being done at the club’s Lezama training ground, as well as Fernando Llorente’s well-publicised falling out with the club over his contract casting a shadow over pre-season.
Now, however, De Marcos maintains there is a much more upbeat atmosphere around, with former Bilbao player and Coach Ernesto Valverde having returned to take the reins at San Mames.
“Yes it’s true that last year there was a major uproar at Lezama and Athletic. This year everything is calmer and, step by step, things are becoming much clearer.
‘Those of us that are still here will be very good for the team,” he told Mundo Deportivo.
The 24-year-old acknowledged the players are still getting to know Valverde.
“Well, we’ve known each other a week and we are happy. It’s a slightly different way of playing to that of Marcelo but everyone has their own particular style.
“Both like attacking football and like to play with the ball a lot, and Valverde teaches us very well what he wants from us.”
The Basques conceded more than 60 goals last season and De Marcos accepts things will need to change in that department.
“Yes we let in a lot of goals. The goal difference was very big so we’ll need to correct that if we want to be up there in La Liga. We have to try and concede fewer and score more at the other end.
“Perhaps defensively last year we concentrated mainly on marking the man, but this year it seems we will be more of unit and work from side to side while trying to recover possession.
“The idea of stealing the ball is still the same but the defending is different.”
Even so, at the moment De Marcos is unsure just where he will be operating in midfield next season.
“I don’t know whether I’ll be playing inside or outside. There’s a lot of competition for places in all positions and the Coach is trying me out in various roles, but I’m used to changing.
“I’ve not been tried on the inside [of midfield] so far, but if I am then I’ll need to learn to play there and we’ll see if it works,” he explained.