As you know, Spain lost 5-1 to the Netherlands in their World Cup opener last week – and I must be honest with you, when I saw their starting lineup going into the game, confusion rippled through me. Xavi was behind Diego Costa, with Silva occupying the right attacking mid position… and Iniesta the left. Behind them, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets (two midfielders with great positioning, but ultimately playing the same role) behind them – and honestly, I questioned why César Azpilicueta, a left back, was playing right back, when Jaunfran (who played an insanely important role for Atletico this past year, helping them win the league and get to the Champions league final) was on the bench.
Assessing Spain’s failure in this game is quite simple (and I’ll explain why throughout this post) – like Arsenal – they had way too many midfielder playmakers, and too few attackers. Last week Xavi said, “We (Spain) will live and die by Tika-Taka,” but what Vicente del Bosque needs to realize is this: if he doesn’t field more attacking talent, Spain ultimately commit Tika-Taka suicide.
Furthermore, Vicente del Bosque should have picked either Xabi Alonso, or Sergio Busquets to stand in front his defensem and used a box to box midfielder in front of one of them to pick up the slack and serve as the conduit between their attack and their defense… Just as Modric does for Real (Xavi used to do this, but now is too old for such a role). But, here’s what needs to be realized: Gabi (although older) and Koke of Atletico Madrid really deserved roles as starters in this world cup, THE FUTURE IS NOW for Spain, and clearly Barcelona’s (and Spain’s) lack of success can be partly contributed to two things: 1, their fear of change, and 2, their inability to capitalize on Atletico’s success this past year, and use the players from Atletico that have performed at the top level all year (and last year).
To be fair, it’s not totally Vicente del Bosque’s fault, the Spanish media would have grilled him had he not picked the right team on paper (the team that has been the most dominant over the past decade), but if Barcelona’s lack of success this year was any indication, he should have known better than to field a midfield that was left trophyless at club level this past year.
Fast forward to today, Vicente del Bosque started Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets together (again), omitted Xavi, choosing attack minded Pedro instead (which I agree with), and omitted Pique for Javi Martinez.
Vicente del Bosque did right by picking Pedro over Xavi, but should have started Martinez instead of Xavi Alonso or Busquets, and in front of Ramos and Pique – Javi Martinez needs to be used in his natural position, and where he played best for Bayern two years ago. Furthermore, when Koke came in at half-time in today’s game against Chile, Spain’s play completely transformed: they played more of the second half within Chile’s side of the field and their offensive energy instantly heightened. That said, they still lost, and only managed one goal (through a penalty) so far in this world cup, which is unacceptable and a sign that changes must occur.
Survival is about adaptation, and like I said, THE FUTURE IS NOW, and the “now” has been dominated by teams with success over the past year (Altletico, and it’s Spanish players). A couple more points: This was the world cup that Isco should have taken over for Xavi, plus Navas, after a successful year at Man City, needed to be on the team as well..