His game has evolved from the experience of more than 500 games in the elite, becoming decisive, first with Marcelino and now with Valverde
Iker Muniain is a classic in our league. With 390 games in 14 seasons , the Navarrese is experiencing one of his best moments at a football level. Captain of ‘his of him’ of him Athletic and flagship, he is also the figure by which the entire game of the team revolves . Since last season he has been increasing his degree of offensive action, being decisive. A level that, despite the change of coach, he is maintaining.
Muniain has matured his game and, like fine wine, has improved over the years. Less electric than in his early days and more intelligent, over the years he has become a more complete player .
In the 2021-22 campaign , he entered the podium of left wingers (where he played the most) in assists (2nd), passes that lead to a shot (1st), key passes (3rd) and successful passes in the attacking zone (1st and 2nd) both total and adjusted for 90 minutes.
So far in 2022-23 , despite his change in position (more on that later), he looks like he can keep up in some of those parameters.
Let’s put the magnifying glass on the pass parameters. We know it’s too early for this comparison to be entirely fair, but it may help to see where Muniain’s power is going this campaign. Beyond the fact that he passes more and better, he highlights that he is a better pass receiver .
Much of the ‘blame’ surely has his change of position . Muniain has changed it with the arrival of Ernesto Valverde. Txingurri, unlike Marcelino, wants him more in the center . He seeks to give it greater prominence than anchored on the left.
All part of the game system. Marcelino always used the classic 1-4-4-2 , so the figure of the midfielder did not exist and, with two midfielders, Muniain had to end up placed on the side. But with Valverde the scheme has changed to 1-4-2-3-1 . In that line of three behind the striker, the Basque coach wants Iker closer to the box in inside positions .
Seeing his distribution of minutes per position, the change is clear. Last season he barely played 18 minutes as a midfielder while this season he has already accumulated 406.
How far Muniain can continue to grow this season remains to be seen. But what cannot be denied is his growth in recent years, being vital in the creation phase of Athletic , with an absolute level of relevance.
At 30 years old, he is no longer the boy who debuted at 16. More than 500 games behind him are enough to complement his talent, often questioned more for his lack of continuity than for lack of it. That experience and that continuity are leading him to his best football years.