Luis Enrique still trying to rediscover Spain
Background photo: Fernando Pascullo, CC BY-SA 4.0
La Roja are still in transition mode. If not the FIFA World Cup disaster, then Luis Enrique’s team selection for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers served as proof. The selection announcement itself was a peculiar one he’s made a regular thing.
Living up to modern standards, Spain uploaded a video off Enrique himself announcing every player. The former giants are evolving again. In a competitive environment where a team can change or perish, La Roja wishes to stand above the rest. Taking a page out off Joachim Low’s book, he dropped “A-Listers” Isco, Koke, Saul Niguez and Thiago Alcantara.
Even their recent heroics in club football couldn’t help these players. Instead, new names like Jaime Mata(not to be mistaken with Juan), Sergi Gomez, Sergio Canales, Iker Muniain were among some surprise selections. Upon being questioned on his bold changes, he stated, “We are in a phase of evolving as a team and competition makes us better,”
It seems at La Furia Roja, evolution has a price. Even at Barcelona, Enrique proved he isn’t scared to change things up. Initially scrutinised for relentless tinkering, the final product rewarded Blaugrana with an illustrious treble. The stakes remain different at Spain. The season is short, matches come handful, with reason for scrutiny doubled. Spanish football is an ocean brimming with talent. The manager’s job is to rope in the perfect talent. Some new blood need to replace the declining old for the glory days to return.
Right now, not many remain indispensable to the Spaniard’s system. Only senior figures Sergio Busquets, Sergio Ramos and Jordi Alba are here to stay as regulars under Enrique. Dani Carvajal might’ve missed the cut due to injury, yet his berth is almost sealed thanks to superior experience. Even David de Gea - whose international form’s almost directly inverse to his Manchester United heroics- isn’t safe. With the controversial Kepa Azzabaliga doing well at Chelsea, de Gea’s walking on thin ice.
Every other place is up for grabs. The main overhaul is La Roja’s attack. Lack of lethality in the final third’s the root cause to their recent disappointments. Imitating Luis Aragones’ deeds of replacing a weary attack with a refined one, he’s taking risks to find the perfect rhythm. The new faces have been brought on to make their attack exciting again.
Spain’s biggest craving is for a quality goal-scorer. Both Atletico Madrid strikers Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata haven’t been able to pick up Fernando Torres or David Villa’s mantle. The Spaniard hopes Jaime Mata, Getafe’s star striker does the trick. The 30-year-old’s contributed in 19 league goals for them, scoring almost everything he touches. The Spanish gaffer hopes to inspire the late bloomer to rekindle the Spanish fire.
When it comes to creativity, Canales, Muniain, Dani Ceballos, Sergio Asensio are all capable of big things. However, with limited spots, only the best can be regulars. This health competitive nature can automatically elevate the players performance-level. Enrique’s master plan is taking shape. Enabling everyone to compete at their best allows him to rotate options more often.
However, in his few months, certain favourites can be made out. Ceballos is one, with his young age, rich pedigree along with blooming ability in midfield suiting his own philosophy. In defence, Inigo Martinez is another. After Gerard Pique’s untimely retirement, the Atletico Bilbao center-back’s reliable ability’s won him over. That being said, complacency or drop in performance-level will result in an uncompromising axe.
The shocking selections work best for the new-comers. Sergio Canales, who had given up dreams of getting a national call-up again, has now found new-form hope. Muniain, craving for the spotlight, finally finds it. Even unsung heroes like Dani Parejo, Jesus Navas, Fabian Ruiz are primed to make an impact. The Spanish gaffer’s lit up the fire in their bellies.
If not anything, the recent call-ups were a statement of intent from Luis Enrique. He’s done being the nice guy. Now it’s time to run the gauntlet and churn out La Furia Roja’s next generation superstars to get them back to world football’s pinnacle.