Now accustomed to online training sessions with his players, Real Oviedo Head Coach Cuco Ziganda today took part in his first video conference with the journalists that usually cover Los Azules. The coach spent over half an hour answering the different questions put to him by the various members of the press.
What do you think about the return to competition? What worries you, and what do you think the training period will be like?
- There is a protocol, a draft. It explains the different phases, and we are waiting to find out how long each phase will last. We are aware of the haste, and it is going to depend on the time there is to play with more than what we may want. We are going to have to adapt, but a minimum of two or three weeks training together will be necessary. We are facing a scenario we've never seen before, we are all going into the unknown. We have limited means and are going over and over how we should start it and who will be most affected. It's a challenge and we have to see how to make it all fit together. We can't resolve our doubts until we've seen everything. There are a lot of variables at play.
You took charge of the side at the difficult time. Now with 'preseason' coming up, are you considering a revolution in concepts?
- I don't know. It's true that we were happy with the side in defensive areas, but you gain confidence the more of those types of matches you have. We had been like it for several matches, but only for a short amount of time. We saw that we had a negative goal difference. It seems like we are going to have a few weeks of training, and we are going to have to think about how to optimise that time and be practical. We have to keep playing on the same lines that we did in Extremadura, since the timeframes are what they are. It's difficult to build a team overnight, and this break doesn't help that at all. We've got to know each other and strengthened our relationships, but the other stuff needs more time. We aren't going to make excuses and it's all about being a solid and compact team.
Are you worried about the physical state of the players?
- We are working on it and know the conditions we will be starting with. We are all in a similar position and not going to overthink it. We have a plan, adjusted to the different phases we are going to face. The idea is to arrive at the competition's return in the best way possible. We would like to do a test to compare the start of all this and now, and work on what each player has to improve. There are a lot of factors and we will resolve them on the pitch.
Do you think that the way Real Oviedo has dealt with the crisis from an economic perspective has helped when facing this situation?
- We have to be grateful for the club's actions and the way it's treated its employees. In such critical times, it is easy to request an ERTE (temporary employment regulation). Respecting the contracts isn't going to make us score goals, but it's a great personal, team gesture. Anything which gives an emotional boost is important and positive.
What is your opinion about the return to football and the players' feelings?
- Opinions are personal and intransferible. The moment in a person's life, their experiences...they are different. It's not the same if you are 22 years old as if you are 53, or 33 with a pregnant wife. We have different views than the people we are living alongside. I believe we are going through a delicate moment, a critical situation, with personal and emotional tragedies. Football has to help out and be available for whatever the moment and society may require. We have to hold our hands out and have our hearts open. If we have to stay at home then we should do so, but if we have to play then we will be delighted to do so. We have the example of people turning up and putting their lives at risks to keep things going, and if we can help then great. We must all be in agreement, with the necessary safety measures in place, in order to contribute our small part. We can't just think about ourselves, but about everything that goes with football. There are a lot of jobs linked to it.
Is there any uncertainty about the contracts which are due to expire?
- There is so much uncertainty that we can't answer. We don't know timeframes, dates... Within what is in our hands, we are speaking to the people affected and making ourselves available. We have to manage the situation up to the end of July, and make sure we get there. Everything can change, it's very vague. If this drags on then I think all clubs will be able to count on the players we have now.
Do you want to stay at Real Oviedo?
- We've not spoken about the future, only analysed this year's work. I speak to Arnau daily... my opinion hasn't changed. I was very happy to come here, excited and hungry, and I want to achieve the objective. I've not changed my perspective; in fact it's more the opposite. I've seen a lot of displays of affection and things to do. We have to get through this and then look forward with optimism.
Are you using this time to learn?
- I am restless. I like to have a lot of information. We have a lot to do and are going over things a lot. We are trying to stay up-to-date, seeing new things, and that type of learning is continuous for us. I read, watch a lot, and listen.
Do you make the most of the conferences to do group work?
- We are training, having weekly chats and a lot of contact with the players. There is not as much tension and more relaxed conversations. We are getting to know each other more. I feel that the group has an honest relationship, and that it is a group with a lot of potential.
How does COVID affect football fans?
- We all know that football is about the fans and that they are the heart and soul of the club. They are the ones who give sense to playing and bring the passion and colour to each ground. They bring sense to what we do, to celebrating a goal... without them, the global feeling of football will be lost. It loses its magic. The situation will determine things, we are going to have to adapt and it will be a strange feeling. Not being able to hug or feel them close to us will be strange and we will have to wait to feel those sensations again.
What percentage can the team play at when playing behind closed doors?
- It will be very strange and seem like a training session. It's clear that playing at the Carlos Tartiere without the fans, their drive and the colour blue, is going to be a huge loss. I am the coach and I can't cling on to those things. We have to win the matches, knowing that they are watching us on the television. We will defend our colours as best we possibly can, but we will lack the energy and extra drive the fans give us.
How are your days going?
- They go quickly because we are very busy. We have a daily catch-up, look at our options, chats...we are very busy with everything. We are working online and spending a lot of time on it. We have all the work in the world to do. It's not just football, but also family and many other things which aren't related to football.
How do you think that fear of contagion may affect things?
- I'd take it all relatively. We are not worth any more or any less than anybody else. We have to follow the safety precautions just like anybody else. I want everybody to get the test, not just people in football. We trust in the tests, in the health profession and in the doctors. Everybody is different, I am not going to overthink it, but we will do everything possible not to catch it. Hopefully the situation will improve and in a month everything will be different.
Ahead of the possible return to competition, do you have changes to the starting eleven planned?
- When you start working with a set of players you go on what you see and on your sensations. It was a short amount of time, but we tried to give continuity to an idea. We understood that the best thing would be to solidify a group of players, and we saw that we could count on those players to give the level we needed. We didn't want to do a lot of analysis, we wanted to give continuity to a way of working, to then make the movements automatic. We were in a hurry. Now, when we return we will
go on our feelings. It is still unknown how this will affect everything, but we are open to changes.
What impact do you think that the accumulation of matches may have?
- We have been working ahead due to the possibility of that hypothetical scenario. There is a scenario which could see us play every three days, and we have planned for it. We are going to think about the next day when that arrives, but it's still a long way off. We are thinking about how to organise this first phase, then the beginning, then the next match... We will see how it goes. There is no set plan for all of this. We will take it match by match, not by looking at the eleven matches. We have to
prepare as well as possible, with no excuses.
Has a return date been set?
- There is no set date. We are looking at the options and planning, but there's no day selected yet. We are waiting on the authorities and the situation in the country.