IBWM StaffComment


IBWM StaffComment
Spa Jon Aurtenetxe.jpg

Jon Aurtenetxe      21      Defender     Celta de Vigo (on loan from Athletic Bilbao)     Spain

2013 has been…

Football is a fickle business. As the 2012/13 league season drew to a close, we’d have put very good money on Jon Aurtenetxe continuing life as Athletic Club’s undisputed left-back. After two very impress years as the number three for Marcelo Bielsa, Aurtenetxe did a fine job of enhancing his reputation with a string of solid performances for the club.

However, new manager Ernesto Valverde had other ideas. Having brought a new left-back to the club, Jon was allowed to gain experience elsewhere while former Real Valladolid defender Mikel Balenziaga instilled as Valverde’s left-back in the team. Aurtenetxe’s hard work for Marcelo Bielsa over the previous two years and the games he’d got under his belt counted for nothing to the new manager.

A better defender than most full-backs when they start out, Aurtenetxe is a notably fierce tackler and doesn’t shy away from putting his foot in. He actually needed to work hard on his forward play when first given a chance by his former manager. It’s still improving and potentially one of the reasons that Valverde didn’t keep him as part of the first team squad.

Aurtenetxe benefited from playing behind Iker Muniain when he started to feature for Athletic Club. With Muniain’s tendency to cut inside from wide, Jon was left with wide open space to rampage into. Even without the ball, he made important runs that dragged opposition players out of position. His final delivery needs work; but every fifth cross is usually decent.

Much like many of his Athletic teammates, Aurtenetxe has struggled to match the pace and intensity of his performances in 2011/12. He ran himself into the ground for Bielsa as the club reached the finals of the Europa League and Copa del Rey. They ended the season empty-handed and the effect of the near 60 game season was still affecting the players as they stuttered through the opening months of 2013.

Aurtenetxe didn’t have a rough time last year; but it was obvious to see his energy levels drop towards the end of games. The 21 year-old is a constant competitor and doesn’t like to stop between whistles; a wonderful asset for a defender so long as he’s given a break every so often.

Of course, Athletic’s loss this season is Celta’s gain; especially as the option to make the move permanent at the end of the season. The prospect of Aurtenetxe and Hugo Mallo on opposite wings is something we’ve only seen a few times this season but it looks promising.

After moving at the end of August, Aurtenetxe has so far shared the left-back spot at Celta with striker-turned-left-back Toni. We expect it’s a battle that Jon will have won by the time the season draws to a close; thanks to his dependable defending and wholehearted attacking.

What next?

Somewhere else. It’s the obvious answer but with Valverde not even wanting to see how things went until January in his first season; then it’s pretty obvious that Aurtenetxe won’t be needed by Athletic Club (assuming Valverde remains manager). From there, Jon Aurtenetxe could be one of the most intriguing transfer stories of the summer in Spain.

He’s probably too good for Celta Vigo and yet it’s hard to argue that he’ll be beating away suitors with a stick. There is a lot to like about his play but with the modern game seeing more and more using their full-backs as their main attacking outlets on the wing, Aurtenetxe really needs to up his game.

Even though he’s had a bash taking free-kicks of late, his delivery isn’t consistent enough. It’s fruitful. He produces a fine return of assists from left-back; although some of that is probably because of luck rather than quality.

He’s still improving and promises to only get better as a defender. He’s already got two full seasons in the top flight under his belt and is using his experience to improve as a player. His rate of bookings has already dropped remarkably and that suggests he’ll continue to work on his crossing and passing until it’s up to standard. We just can’t fathom why Valverde didn’t want to give him a chance.

"Marcelo Bielsa's tenure was tough on the full-back in more ways than one. With no genuine cover he was ran into the ground and his form suffered as a result. A loan to Celta Vigo has been seen by many as bizarre, but it provides a perfect platform to iron out the flaws in his game." - David Cartlidge, Spanish football expert

"Jon Aurtenetxe has four assists in La Liga since August 2012. Only seven defenders have provided more in the same time." - Opta

C-     Has the ability to prove Ernesto Valverde wrong