Inaki Williams: The young forward making waves at Athletic Bilbao
While the footballing world is going crazy spending enormous amounts of money to acquire the services of footballers from across the world, Athletic Bilbao have set an example of how clubs can totally rely on home grown talent and yet remain competitive.
Yes, they might not be a force as great as the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid these days, the Basque giants have acquired a rich legacy in Spain since their inception in 1898. Known for its Cantera policy, the club has produced numerous world class players over the course of its existence and continues to do so year after year.
One of their recent products of recent times, who is beginning to make a mark for himself with his electric performances is the young Inaki Williams and in this segment, we take a look at his style of play, strengths and weaknesses.
Williams was born to a Ghanian father and a Liberian mother on 15th June, 1994 and started his footballing journey with local club CD Pamplona. It was during one of their visits to the CD Pamplona youth games that the renowned Athletic Bilbao scouts caught a glimpse of the talented individual and he was signed by the club in 2012 and was immediately put in the club’s developmental squads.
After impressing during his time with the youth squads, Williams was assigned to the club’s reserves side Bilbao Athletic, which was involved in the Segunda Division B and continued with his rapid rise, which eventually forced the hierarchy at the Basque club to draft him into the senior side (He scored 21 goals in 32 appearances for Bilbao Athletic).
His efforts in the training ground coupled with the injury to the club’s leading striker Aritz Aduriz led to the player being handed his official debut on 6th December 2014 and while that game might have ended in a loss for Bilbao, it surely marked the arrival of yet another bright talent as Williams has gone from strength to strength with every season.
Style of play and strengths
Though he was trained to be a striker, the Bilbao forward has predominantly been used as a wide man in order to accommodate Aduriz. After initially struggling to adapt to life on the wings, the player finally looks to have found his feet in the position as he is rapidly gaining a reputation for being an attacker to be feared.
He is quick and can beat the best of defenders with a mix of pace, power and skill on the ball and that has largely been the most talked about feature of his game. However, there is a lot more to the player than just his pace.
He has shown an ability to make brilliant runs off the ball, thus creating space for himself as well as his teammates to operate in. He loves to cut in and get inside the opposition’s box and despite being in his early 20s, he has shown the ability to find the back of the net at a relatively good frequency.
The forward has scored 13 League goals in the last 2 seasons and while he was not creating a lot of chances in the 2014-15 season, having created a total of 14 chances, his creativity improved considerably last season as he was his side’s 2nd highest goal scoring opportunity creator behind Benat Etxebarria with 37 goal scoring opportunities and we expect the attacking numbers to improve going forward.
Another dimension of his game that often goes unnoticed is his defensive contributions. The industrious player is often seen tracking back to help his defensive colleagues and does not shy away from making crucial tackles for the cause of his side.
There are a few aspects of his game that need extensive work and the most vital of those is his finishing. While he has scored a decent number of goals for a player his age, he has also been found guilty of not getting the job done on numerous occasions.
Yes, making the switch to the top league is tough for a young player but having played over 100 games for the senior team, the player definitely has enough game time under his belt and needs to improve considerably. Another aspect of his game that needs improvement is his tidiness with the ball at his feet. He can be reckless with his passing and has built a reputation of giving away the ball rather easily over the years.
The coaching staff at Bilbao led by the former Bilbao player Jose Angel Ziganda will be keen to work on these aspects before its too late to improve on the player and his effectiveness in the final third could prove to be the difference between him remaining a great talent and becoming a great player.
While Williams has time and again claimed that he feels at home at Bilbao, his growing reputation means that numerous big clubs from across Europe will be keen to acquire his services. He has been linked to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool over the course of the last few months and given his talent, we would not be surprised if he was subject to a whopping bid in the days to come.
For now, however, he is tied down to a contract with Bilbao until the end of the 2020-21 season and his goal should be to continue with his improvement as well as improve upon the solitary cap he has for Spain.
There is no doubting Williams talent as has been evident during his outings for Bilbao ever since coming through their ranks. However, to call him a finished product would be foolhardy as the player has several critical aspects of his game to improve upon. He has his heart set at becoming a Bilbao legend and is already a fan favourite at the club. What is needed now is for the player to sort the deficiencies in his game and continue with his rapid development to greatness.