Euro 2016: Why Vicente del Bosque was right to pick Lucas Vazquez for Spain over Saul and Isco
The exclusion of Isco and Saul from Spain's squad raised many eyebrows. Was the decision right?
The very fabric of Human beings’ nature is to criticize. At the very first sign of an event unfolding in a way they don’t prefer, a huge wave of cynicism flows from their end of the spectrum. So when Vicente del Bosque announced his squad for the Euro 2016, this natural inclination of Humans was once again showcased.
Vicente del Bosque is a winner. Except for his unfortunate time in Turkey, he won accolades wherever he went. He is the most successful manager of Real Madrid’s modern era as well as the most fruitful one for Spain in its history.
With a Euro and World Cup under his name, he has done enough to be considered a legend with Spain. Yet, there are many fans who want to see the back of him after an atrocious display in the 2014 World Cup.
Del Bosque’s squad selection has always been a subject of controversy. For Madrid fans, he is an anti-Madridista who likes to fill his team with Barcelona players while overlooking the more accomplished players at Real Madrid. For the Cules, he’s a spineless old man who doesn’t have the guts to drop a declining Iker Casillas.
To an extent, the claims are true, but there is also a good reason for him to do this. However, we will leave that discussion for another day.
The talk of the hour is his exclusion of Isco Alarcon and Saul Niguez from the Euro 2016 squad. The talent of the former is unprecedented, while the latter was one of the best midfielders of the season as he had a great year with Atletico Madrid.
In their stead, it is Real Madrid winger Lucas Vazquez who goes to France—a decision that surprised many.
Was snubbing Saul Niguez the right thing to do?
While the exclusion Isco wasn’t a hard fact to digest given that he was warming the bench for most part of the season, Saul’s snubbing didn’t bode well with many fans. For some, he should have been among the first names on the list.
And then there is Lucas Vazquez. Now this is a guy who started in only 12 games this season, so how is his inclusion over Isco and Saul justified?
Sergio Busquets, Koke, Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Bruno, Thiago and Cesc Fabregas are the seven midfielders that del Bosque is taking with him. In Spain’s 3 man-midfield, Koke, Busquets and Iniesta are most likely to be the starters with Silva, Fabregas/Thiago and Bruno being the backups for Iniesta, Koke and Busquets, respectively.
If we categorize Saul, then he would fall in the group of Koke, Fabregas and Thiago. By now, you must have already understood what I am trying to imply here: Saul just didn’t have a slot in the team and his inclusion would have been a redundant one.
Now Saul might have had the best season among the midfielders I categorized him with, but in the Spain setup, he has played 0 games.
What people tend to overlook is the fact that being a manager of an international team isn’t as easy as it looks. A major tournament once every 2 years may sound like an easy job, however, it is anything but.
The players are groomed for a span of 2 years for each tournament in a very scattered manner. Before a tournament, the international coaches get their players for a stretch of only a couple of weeks at max. Within that time, and in a span of 2 years, the international coach has to accustom his players to the team’s playing system.
We have seen new club coaches need more than 3-4 months to get his players to adjust to the demands of the system—and those are 3-4 months at a stretch. For national teams’ coaches, however, they get the same amount of time but over a span of 2 years and in the most dispersed way possible.
With Spain, Thiago, Cesc and Koke have already been groomed to the setup. Hence favouring an uncapped player over one of them would have been an absurd decision. In Isco’s case, the presence of David Silva and Andres Iniesta’s renders his obsolete and also the fact that he didn’t play enough games were simply the reason for his snubbing.
Why picking Vazquez was the right choice
Lucas Vazquez might have only started 12 times, but in the 20 sub appearances that he made for Real Madrid, he scored 2 goals while assisting 6 of them. In 12 starts and 20 sub appearances, he scored 4 goals and created 8 more.
In terms of dribbling, he made 1.2 successful dribbles in each game—but that is not his most impressive aspect. What makes him stand out is his willingness to track back and help the defense. With him on the field, the right-back has more freedom to attack because Vazquez is always there to back him up.
With 1.9 tackles-per-game, he shows his tendency to win the ball back for his team.
However, the biggest reason for his inclusion is beyond statistics as there are players with better numbers in Spain.
To put it simply: Spain simply don’t have a player like him. He is the only player in the squad that adds a different dimension to Spain’s game—something which Jesus Navas did. However, the Manchester City winger is not even a shadow of his former self now and La Roja needed someone to fill in his boots.
Vazquez is very quick, full of tricks, can beat his marker, cunning without possession, efficient with it, tracks back, puts in inch-perfect crosses, stretches the field of play and opponent’s defense and gives Spain something every team that aspires to win the championship needs: a plan B.
Say, for example, Spain are in dire need of a goal and the former Real Madrid manager needs to change the system because the opponent have successfully halted the current one. Would bringing Isco for David Silva or Saul for Koke had worked? In terms of altering the system, no.
However, with Vazquez, what can be guaranteed in the least is that the system would change, the dimensions would change and the opposition would have now to worry about the flanks against a team whose focus on playing through the middle often makes them monotonous.
Yes, he might be an uncapped player, but he is in the team to add a new dimension to the system and not be a crux part of it--which actually makes it unnecessary for him to have played with Spain. If anything, a new guy for a new addition in the system is the best possible combination that could happen.
It is very easy to slack off del Bosque while sitting in cozy chairs, but it is an undeniable fact that del Bosque’s concern for Spain is far greater than yours or mine.
His decisions are based on years of planning and thought, keeping Spain’s best interest in mind—and Vazquez’s rise is one of the best things to happen to Spain.