Online sports articles and news over the net

Latest online sports news , sports articles and sports videos

Spain’s attack- a blunt knife

Posted on | June 8, 2018 | No Comments

Cesc Fabregas. Dani Parejo. Juan Mata. Ander Herrera. Pedro Rodriguez. Javi Martinez. Marcos Alonso. Hector Bellerin. Sergi Roberto. All names that any manager would love to have in their lineup, but names not even good enough to make Spain’s 23. Despite all their midfield and defense riches, Spain’s attack tells a different story. The 2010 winners are currently the 3rd favourites in World cup 2018 odds to win it for only the second time in their history.

Even in the Fernando Torres-David Villa peak days of yore, attack was perhaps never Spain’s strongest suit. It showed – even in their victorious 2010 World Cup campaign, Spain only scored more than 1 goal in just 2 games – and won all their knockout matches by the same score, 1-0. But it was different back then – their USP – a midfield full of all-time legends in Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, knew that they could take their time on the ball, patiently break teams down through their patented style of play, tiki-taka, and when the chance came, a world-class striker would be there to bury it.

But as Torres and Villa declined, Spain moved on. Necessity is the mother of innovation, as the saying goes. Vincent del Bosque trialled a striker-less 4-6-0 formation at Euro 2012, with a front 3 of David Silva, Fabregas and Iniesta – all 3 central midfielders by trade. Fabregas would be the central of the 3, and the La Roja’s furthest forward player. The term “false 9” was popularized. Despite the flak del Bosque copped, it worked. Spain did not create many chances in the final third, played “boring” football, focused on keeping the ball than creating chances – yet they emerged comfortable winners, blitzing Italy 4-0 in the final.

Another major tournament saw another major change – as the 2014 World Cup rolled by, Spain again saw a change of guard in attack. Brazilian-born Diego Costa, previously snubbed by his nation of birth, obtained Spanish citizenship in the build-up to the tournament. Costa had had a sensational season in 2013-14 – his 27 league goals in 35 appearances not only gave Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo a run for their money in the Pichichi rankings, but also led Atletico Madrid to a sensational league title victory – ending the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly, and as far as a heartbreaking extra time defeat in the Champions League final to cross-town rivals Real.

But it didn’t work out – champions Spain were dumped out in the group stage, after just 2 games. They were thumped 5-1 by an unfancied Netherlands before suffering a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Chile. Spain only scored 4 goals in the tournament, 3 of them coming in a dead rubber against group minnows Australia. Ironically, Costa ended the tournament goalless, while the old guard, Villa and Torres both notched a goal each in the final game. For a side that tailored their style of play around short passes, a true, traditional, big and strong #9 in Costa did not quite work out well, as he was continuously booed by the Brazilian crowd, who thought that he had “betrayed” his birthplace. The Brazilian crowd joyously celebrated as Costa missed a sitter against Chile –the match that saw Spain eliminated from the tournament.

Yet another big tournament, yet another striker. After a torrid 15-16 season with Chelsea, Costa was dropped from the Euro 2016 squad. Alvaro Morata, who had a fruitful Champions League for Juventus, but yet used sparingly in the league, and 35-year-old AritzAduriz were preferred. Morata scored 3 goals in the group stages, but failed to have any impact in the knockout stage as Spain were eliminated after a 2-0 defeat to Italy in the Round of 16.

Two years later, their seemingly eternal striker dilemma seems to have come full circle. Spain have gone back to Costa, with Morata dropped. The previous incumbent, Morata, had a torrid domestic season with Chelsea – the exact position Costa found himself in, 2 years ago, after replacing him at Stamford Bridge this season. Chelsea’s club record signing at £60m,Morata couldn’t have asked for the season he had at a worse time – scoring only 11 league goals, missing a whopping 17 big chances throughout the season, and going a period of 3 months goalless at a stretch.

Costa, himself, hasn’t had much of a fruitful season either. Frozen out by Chelsea despite a successful 16-17 season where he powered the London club to a league title, he was sold back to Atletico Madrid. Atletico, facing a transfer ban, could not register him until January – so Costa went 6 months without top level football. Naturally rusty on return, he could only muster 3 league goals in 15 appearances. Spain’s joint-top scorer in the qualifying (with Morata), Julian Lopetegui put his faith in him again, but it remains to be seen if he can deliver on the biggest stage of all with very little football and poor form behind him.

The other forwards called up, Iago Aspas, Rodrigo and Lucas Vazquez have all had respectable seasons domestically, but they are not forwards of the pedigree that will make defenders shudder in their boots – no one is quite yet established in the top tier, like Villa and Torres were back in 2010. Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Isco, Marco Asensio, David Silva, Thiago Alcantara, Koke, Saul Niguez – it reads like a who’s who of the top midfielders of today, but for Spain to have a productive World Cup, this service needs to be converted by the men upfront. It remains to be seen how Lopetegui utilizes this crop of midfielders, with the famine of a harvest up top.

Article written by Shubham Singh



Leave a Reply