We all know that Spain’s Ballon d’Or winning coach Vicente Del Bosque rewrote football coaching manuals when he picked a team without a recognised striker for the Euro 2012 finals against Italy(We predicted this move almost a year back). Of course, this move’s origin lays in the fact that Cesc Fabregas had played as a false 9 over the past season under Pep Guardiola for Barcelona. But this season under Tito, Cesc has returned to a more traditional midfield role. And with age catching up with Xavi and Xabi, Spain needs Fabregas in a more traditional midfield role. So who do they play up front?
David Villa still hasn’t reached the peak of his powers after his horrific leg injury, Fernando Torres is still out of sorts, and Del Bosque doesn’t favour Negredo, Llorente and Soldado. Which leaves us with Michu. The Swansea man has been playing ‘out of position’ this season as a striker, when he is actually an attacking midfielder. Playing under Laudrup, he would be a perfect fit for Spain’s tiki-taka. With a great first touch, balance, and a killer instinct in front of goal, he might be the perfect foil for Spain’s possession obsessed midfield. Blessed with a great vision and good passing range, he can do the job as a midfielder too when he is required to drop deep.
Michael Laudrup recognised this and played him upfront. In theory Swansea are more similar to Spain than Barcelona. Barca with all their possession,still have a few players who provide the directness needed at times in attack. Under Pep, Dani Alves was a direct no nonsense player whose understanding with the world’s best player Lionel Messi was exemplary. But Spain at times lack that kind of directness and many times their long spells of possession amount to nothing. Even Swansea face this problem especially with their midfielders lacking the creative genius of their Spanish counterparts. By playing Michu as the focal point,Laudrup in some ways solved this problem. Now Swansea play with Michu as the focal point,especially his positioning is important for them. Generally, when the ball is being passed meaninglessly in deeper areas, Michu drops deep and provides a more direct outlet.
But the reason for Michu being so successful in the Premier League is not only because of his technique or ability with the ball at his feet. With his tall frame, he can also be used as a traditional British center forward. His aerial abilities have come to the forefront, especially with De Guzman’s supply. His hold-up play is very good, and even though he may not be physical enough to attract Tony Pulis’s attention, he certainly packs a punch. So with him playing for Spain, it will provide Xavi with an option he never had before in his career. The Long Ball. Route One Football.
Sometimes, even Spain need alternatives. When the opposition put all of their men behind the ball and block the way to goal, going above the defence is sometimes the only option. Michu, with his height and prowess in the area, will provide this option. And of course, playing in the Premier League (although he plays under Michael Laudrup), he is not ignorant about route one football.
Del Bosque certainly didn’t miss a trick when he called up the Swansea forward for the next Spain squad, but it remains to be seen whether Del Bosque intends to actually play him.Although its just half a season, he certainly looks like the bargain of the season, and if he keeps performing like this, big clubs will come knocking on his door soon. Michu certainly still has a long way to go before he makes his place permanent in the double Euro winning and World Cup winning La Roja side. But he certainly offers something different to the Spanish National Team. He is a false 9 who is tall, physical and good in the air. Have you heard such kind of a player before?