In the changing room tunnel at El Sadar, it smells like wet grass, freshly cut. Jagoba Arrasate (Berriatua, Bizkaia, 44 years) appears there, friendly, close, smiling. He has been on the Club Atlético Osasuna bench for four years and is the second Rojillo manager with the most games behind him. He has ousted Pepe Alzate and only Pedro Mari Zabalza, an institution, remains in front. The Biscaya coach is on the way to becoming a different person.
Questions. They are an endangered species. There are already few coaches who sit across from each other to grant an interview.
Answer. Well, I do not know. It is true that this world is heading towards it. In the end, the clubs don’t know if it’s about protection or why, the product is almost ready. It’s gotten a bit lost, but personally I’ve always been someone who followed journalism. I like these things, but I understand that it’s getting harder and harder for journalists.
P She and four others think so.
R yes good That’s because we appreciate their work and moreover when they give you the finished product it’s not like face to face because they give it to you canned and there is little slack left. As long as we talk about football with respect, I think it’s good for both sides.
P You are from Biscay but more of the Gipuzkoan school maybe because it was easier to get to Gipuzkoa from your city?
R I’m from Berriatua, from the border, but my father is from Mutriku and when I was six years old he already signed me up for the Deba beach tournaments, I played for the Mutriku teams and I’ve had more than one Football life in Gipuzkoa than in Bizkaia but I’m from Bizkaia and too much honor.
P Is there something that sets Basque coaches apart from the rest of Spain?
R I don’t know, I’ve been asked more than once. It’s true that we are many and the truth is I don’t know why. It will be because of the passion we have for football, also because of the rigor, but there are also very different people among the Basque coaches.
P What differences?
R I think those of us who worked in the North, like Mendilibar or the two Garitanos or Imanol or even Ernesto Valverde, have a similar profile, but Emery has traveled all over the world, he’s been in big teams, so has Lopetegui; Eder Sarabia comes from a different school. Of course we have things in common, but in football we are different.
P You fell on your feet in Pamplona, four years ago. do you see the border
R They welcomed me well, yes, but you never know, football is very changeable, but it’s true that it’s been good from day one. We knew Osasuna, we knew our origins, also the society of Navarre, and that helps. At the end you are on solid ground and that was an advantage for us. Then things are going well, so I’m happy to be here for so long. It’s a good sign.
P It’s unusual for the club to put up a poster in the middle of town to announce its revamp, also with the motto “Berritua,” meaning “renewed,” almost like the name of its town.
R That was a shame for me because they told me a day or two beforehand and there was no room for anything. It was a hit, a Bilbao, and I already told you it’s from Berriatua and not Bilbao, but look: I have it at home. It was an unusual thing. What matters is why it’s being done, and if it’s meant to herald renewal, it’s a good sign.
P They trusted you, like they did when the club persevered after chaining thirteen consecutive games without a win.
R When it is said that Osasauna is different, it is not just words. That’s when I noticed the club’s trust, and you can tell that when the sporting director goes to a press conference and talks so emphatically about trusting me. Then from there things started to get better. Anyone who has been in a club for a long time also has bad ancestors. We also have a family in the dressing room who know how to pack up when times get tough to get things going so I’m proud to be part of this club and this dressing room.
P Why are so many Navarrese players coming out? The last is Aimar Oroz.
R I don’t know, I think it’s going to be a compendium of things, because it’s not that Navarre is a very populous municipality, but the Navarrese, in sport and you see it in the ball, is a very competitive person, very rigorous to pay very close attention to what the coaches say. Let’s assume this drives them to bring out the best in each other. Then they also have talent, but not only that. It is no coincidence that there are so many Navarrese footballers in the elite, and not only now but historically.
P Does the fact that you are a teacher have anything to do with how you train and how you explain what you want to your players?
R Sure, yes. For me, pedagogy is a way of life, so I find it important when it comes to making or managing decisions. School was something professional for me, I taught for ten years. He had to bring out the best in the kid and now the player. They have many things in common and I believe in pedagogy very much.
P You asked for training leave, do you remember?
R First you ask for a leave of absence because you don’t know how long football is going to last because we already know this world is very unstable but that’s over for me and now I’m enjoying being a coach and if one One day I have to teach again, I like doing that too.
P Did you feel undervalued in your first appearance in the elite when you took the helm from Real?
R Not at all, no. I came from Phillipe Montanier’s coaching staff and suddenly, the year you’re playing in the Champions League, you’re the coach. I can understand that people were surprised or that I didn’t have the background to coach Real Madrid, but I didn’t feel undervalued. I made the most of this experience. The first year was very good and in the second we started badly and the coach was changed. I give it normality. I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve suffered, things the way they are, but it’s made me a better coach and a better person.
P Did you learn a lot from Montanier?
R Yes very much. Exactly, this summer we fell together because we played a friendly and I have a special affection for him because he was very good to me, apart from the fact that it was a fantastic year where we finished fourth, and I also learned from another school like the French, more analytical, less tactical but also more technical and I was involved with all five senses and that allowed me to have a broader view of football.
P His second experience was Numancia. What did you learn there?
R It was a very important decision after leaving Real. I spent three years in Soria, some fantastic years. I needed a quiet place, in quotes, a solid team to work on, improve on, where I would feel respected. In this respect, the Numancia was a very important turning point, because everything was also there. I’ve improved as a coach and also at a family level, it was the first time we left home, that step was important.
P And in the end, Pamplona, and this Osasuna season has started well, what are your expectations?
R In First you must respect the category. Here you can spend two months without winning, it’s very demanding. The expectations are to continue to grow as a club and stay in the First Division. We have a beautiful stadium, a crowd that resonates with the team and we have to give that continuity. We don’t set limits, but we know that the stability of the club depends on consistency. From there, to be as high as possible, to get that far in the Copa del Rey, but respecting the category and valuing what we’ve done in recent years.
P Without doing crazy things?
R In Osasuna, they don’t do crazy things, starting with the sports administration. Little has been signed but well, economically the club has had a bad time but it has been channeled lately. Reason prevails here, and reason can be combined with illusion.
P What do you think when you listen to big team coaches asking for more signings?
R You know what’s happening? We know where we are and when the market closes we always think we have the best squad we can have. Our work is based on getting the best performance out of what we have. I know we all want more, that the big clubs certainly want more, the coaches want more, but we’re not asking here, we’re just trying to make the best of what we have.
P The next step is the Bernabéu and last year they drew. What do you think can happen this time?
R You must always go to these fields with a plan that can come out. If you walk with fear, bad; if you walk with respect, bad; if you see them coming, bad; if you’re suicidal, bad.
P There are very few assets, right?
R Yes, there are very few assets. They ask me if it’s the best time to go but I don’t think there’s a good time to play Real Madrid. They’ve won every game they’ve played, they’re in great shape, and what we have to do is set the bar very high, bring out the best version of Osasuna, and if they exceed that bar later, we’ll give them congratulate. When we are at our best level we are a difficult team for the rivals.
P How is the dressing room for the game after a fortnight without a game?
R The last defeat against Getafe was a bit disappointing because a win would have put us in a very good position, but we used the break to play a friendly, relax over the weekend and now we’re looking forward to it again because we didn’t stop until the World Cup. Many games come in a row and you have to take the rest to get that break of a month and a half with the maximum possible score.
P With all the work being done now to analyze the rival, what do you have on Real Madrid, an encyclopedia?
R You have to do the filter because if you start analyzing everything you won’t have time. It’s simple: we all know how Madrid play, what their strengths are, but the hard part is counteracting them. That’s the size of football. If we could minimize Madrid with the analyses, everything would be easier, but it’s not possible.
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