Friday, September 23, 2011

David Silva, Del Bosque and Luis Aragonés.

June 16 2010, Spain made their debut in the World Cup they ended up winning against Switzerland. The coach of the team, Vicente Del Bosque bets on a system that is similar (but not the same) to Luis Aragonés' lineups in the previous Euro 2008. But the result could not have been worse and Spain lost 0-1 against the Swiss team. There was a victim of this game: David Silva. Since then, the player of Manchester City did not count for Vicente Del Bosque, who has been calling him, but always for a very secondary role. Last week, David Silva exploded and targeted Del Bosque: "He does not trust in me". The words of someone who feels strong after the memorable games Silva is playing in the Premier League. But behind these words there is a debate that has been hidden under the success of the Spanish NT.

There is a remarkable difference between Luis Aragonés and Vicente Del Bosque, a difference that is not irrelevant: Silva or Xabi Alonso. After the World Cup 2006 and the failure in Northern Ireland in the qualifying round of the Euro 2008, Luis Aragonés made a bet for the rupture. Since the World Cup 1998, Spain had been walking on the shoulders of Raúl, icon of the Spanish NT and Real Madrid. Raúl defined the style. Raúl was not a classic striker, but a forward that always played with a striker along him. Since then until 2006, Spain had been using a system with two forwads, two wingers and a double midfield. However, Luis Aragonés thought that the change was needed and there was a radical change in the model and the point of gravity. The team would not turn around Raúl, but a new figure: Xavi. This change was not just a change of names, but a change of style. The huge personality of Raúl swallowed everything, while the new model around Xavi focused on the system. Xavi defines the style as long as he has partners that speak his language.


In this idea of football, Xavi was the center and it was necessary to create the appropriate atmosphere for him. Since then, Spain basically played with a defensive midfielder (Senna), two central midfielders (Xavi and Iniesta) and two open players cutting in (Villa or Silva) plus a striker (Torres). The system admitted some changes, as in the semifinals and the final of the Euro, when Villa got injured. Then Cesc was the 12th player instead of David Villa. Using this system, Luis Aragonés took the best of the Spanish team, in terms of success and brilliance.

Vicente Del Bosque, during the qualifiers for the World Cup 2010 did not fix what was not broken, but the rivals were not important enough to know his intentions. Besides, some injuries, especially in the case of Iniesta, the main victim, made not possible to know his real intentions. And, in this situation, we go back to June 16 2010. Spain lose against Switzerland and Del Bosque points the guilty: David Silva. Silva disappeared from the lineups and Del Bosque made a cautious approach. The idea was the same, ball possession and attacking football.... but with the handbrake on. Del Bosque made a very strong bet on a double defensive midfield, untouchable until these days, with Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso. While Sergio Busquets may fit in the shoes of Marcos Senna, since both were used to play in a system with only one anchor man, the main difference was Xabi Alonso. If everything had to turn around Xavi Hernández, the Catalan midfielder lost a partner upfront to get one at his back.

Alonso & Busquets

Spain won the World Cup, showing good moments of football, but never reaching the brilliance of the Euro 2008. Since the knock-out rounds, Spain won all the games with a short 1-0. Spain was the best team, probably because they had the best players on the pitch, but the new system killed some of the beauty shown in the Euro 2008. The difference was Xabi Alonso instead of Silva. Last week, Silva talked to the media and said that "before the game against Switzerland, I had confidence. I played regularly and I had a place in the team, but everything started to change with the defeat. Because of this reason, with the pass of time, I believe I was the victim of the bad debut in the World Cup. The only thing I say is that Luis (Aragones) trust in me... Del Bosque thinks in a different way. I am going to work to keep the level I am showing in this first games, however, I doubt that I can have a protagonist role in the Euro. I feel I played in a high level and it was not enough to have a place in the starting XI. There are lots of good midfielders, not good, really good! Nothing to say about them to be chosen. I do not discuss the lineups: I analyze my situation and I am not happy. And I do not see that anything is going to change. Not playing for Barça or Madrid damages me".

Probably David Silva is right in his thoughts. The problem is not his good or bad performances, but Del Bosque's concept of football. Del Bosque sacrificed an attacking player to introduce a defensive midfielder to cover his back. Del Bosque is not Luis Aragonés, who created the circle around Xavi, nor Guardiola, who is the flag of La Masia's style. Del Bosque always trusted in the double defensive midfield, call it Makelele-Helguera or Busquets-Alonso. But, definitely, it is out of question that Del Bosque belong to a more conservative school in terms of lineup design. Del Bosque probably believes that it is better to keep the back well covered, since the talent in attack will solve the games anyway. It is logical to think that, at some point, Xavi or Iniesta will find Villa, Torres or whoever to win a game... but everything starts by keeping the order in defense. It is not that Luis Aragonés does not trust in defensive balance, he surely did, since his motto was "compete, compete, compete". But Luis Aragonés thought that the balance was assured with only one defensive midfielder... this is not possible for Del Bosque's idea.

David Silva

The consequence is that Spain waste two magnificent attacking midfielders like David Silva and Cesc Fàbregas, relegated to a secondary role, to hype Alonso and Busquets. The gravity of Spain's football is 20 meters backwards and this is not irrelevant. At the same time, Xavi will probably keep doing well, since his talent is out of question. However, when he raises his head, he will miss references that he usually has in Barcelona or used to have in Luis Aragonés' Spain. So far, both systems triumphed, but Spain's brilliance got lost in the way and the results started to walk on a thin line of 1-0's.

The debate was hidden by the success, but I am glad that David Silva put it on the table and it will mark the future of Spain. Personally, I believe it is a tragedy to punish Silva and/or Cesc in order to play with Alonso, when Busquets has shown to be capable of doing the task by himself. Why punish the attack with such a defensive and (why not) coward approach? Why? Del Bosque may win the Euro again, but I doubt Spain will find the excellence of the Euro 2008 again... and the absence of David Silva explains the difference.

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