Euro 2020: Spain need a spark after Poland draw – Time for a formation shift or Wolves winger Adama Traore?
After another tepid performance from Spain at Euro 2020 Pete Sharland looks at what can be done to make sure they make it to the knock-outs. The problem lies in the fact that some of that has been done already with the squad that Luis Enrique selected. He needs to get it right for the final game against Slovakia.
Our future is in our hands - Enrique and Alba react to draw
That noise was crying out for Morata to be dropped after missing chances against Sweden in Spain’s opening match, but Enrique, as stubborn as they come, persisted.
SEVILLE, SPAIN - JUNE 19: Alvaro Morata of Spain celebrates with Luis Enrique, Head Coach of Spain after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group E match between Spain and Poland at Estadio La Cartuja on June 19, 2021 i
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At half-time the gamble looked as if it was going to pay off. Spain were not dominant but they were in front thanks to the alert Morata.
The opening goal was his 20th for Spain, quicker than both Fernando Torres and Raul Gonzalez to reach the target, and he’s just the fifth Spanish player to score in back-to-back European Championships. David Villa, Fernando Morientes, Raul, they never did that.
And yet at the end of the match it will be his image plastered over social media for all the wrong reasons after he fired wide when presented with the chance to put Spain ahead of Gerard Moreno’s penalty came back out to him off of the post. He then smashed the ball into Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny in the final ten minutes.
Poland's goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (L) tries to stop a shot from Spain's forward Alvaro Morata (C) during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group E football match between Spain and Poland at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville, Spain, on June 19, 2021.
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Now on some levels this is obviously a fair reflection. He had the best chances of the game and only took one of them. But on another level it feels extremely harsh to criticise Morata when he felt like the only player who was going to, y’know, do something.
It was tough to watch Spain at times on Saturday evening, there was no real creativity and absolutely no spark. The sort that we saw in a revitalised Germany team who hammered Portugal in the earlier game.
Bringing Moreno in solves one problem but shifting him out to the right just creates another, he offers a lot of ingenuity but his left-side dominance can make him a tad predictable. That tendency of both wingers to cut inside is one of the things that can sometimes slow Spain down. Neither were making enough runs, the one who did so was Morata.
The midfield too was ponderous. Neither Pedri nor Koke could really influence the game and it was hard to see where the space was going to be created. Some of the most probing balls came from Jordi Alba and Marcos Llorente but even then they were few and far between.
There are some, including this author, who want Spain to move to a back three as that could allow Moreno and Morata to play together up front and unleash the full attacking potential of the aforementioned full-backs by moving them into wing-back.
If you don’t want to bring in Eric Garcia or Diego Llorente for fear of being too defensive you can always drop one of Rodri or Sergio Busquets into the three and then use either Dani Olmo or Mikel Oyarzabal as an attacking midfielder to get some runners for the deeper players to find and the strikers to play off. Although that might be a bit too Pep Guardiola/Marcelo Bielsa for the rather conservative Enrique.
The other ace that Enrique has up his sleeve, and apparently seems to have lost, is Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Adama Traore. Now, Traore is not your typical Spain player but he might be exactly what they need for one reason. More than any player in this squad he will take players on. He has fabulous close control and his ability to beat a man would unlock so much for the players around him.
Plus if you were to move to a five man defence you could play him as both a striker or as a right wing-back and shift the energetic Llorente into the midfield to provide a bit of drive. And if you must stick with a 4-3-3, and there are no rules that say that, why not try him on the left or right? What have Moreno and Olmo shown so far that warrant starting against a Slovakia team who you imagine will employ similar tactics to that of Poland.
SEVILLE, SPAIN - JUNE 19: Adama Traore of Spain looks on as he warms up during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group E match between Spain and Poland at Estadio La Cartuja on June 19, 2021 in Seville, Spain.
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Yet instead Enrique continues to persist with players like Pablo Sarabia and Fabian Ruiz. The former has not had a particularly impressive season in France and was a real surprise. Fabian meanwhile is a wonderful player but he should be possibly taking the place of one of the starting central midfielders to up Spain’s pace from the start, not in the final minutes.
It is now where Enrique can come under fire for only taking 24 players. For not taking a Marco Asensio, a Sergio Canales, a Bryan Gil or even a wildcard option like Yeremi Pino. To not have those sort of options to come on during a tough game like this is a terrible lapse in judgement from the management. Even in Poland's squad there is 17-year-old Kacper Kozlowski, who came on today to become the youngest player in Euros history. He didn't make too much of a difference but he is a wildcard option. Ironically Spain have that, they're just not using him.
This is not a similar situation to Germany, who showed promise against world champions France. Spain looked short of ideas against an admittedly well-organised Sweden team but not one expected to pull up trees. The same has now happened against a Poland team of similar stature, albeit with one world-class talisman. There is a genuine chance they don’t make it out of the group if they can only muster another timid draw against Slovakia and this Poland team goes on to beat Sweden. Perhaps Enrique needs to start paying more attention to who he picks as those “10 others”.