Euro 2016 is right around the corner and Spain is here to play, potentially win, and to redeem themselves from a horrible 2014 World Cup campaign.
Much has changed since La Roja were victorious in Ukraine four years ago, and a number of younger players are beginning to take lead roles in the setup – our very own Koke being one of those.
The 25-man squad was revealed earlier in the week with debate about Juan Mata and Diego Costa being just a few notable names omitted from the squad.
Obviously, the Spanish national team is blessed with deep talent at majority of its positions, often times seeing a lot of quality midfielders and forwards fighting for starting XI spots. This Euro campaign will be no different.
In the past, Spain was fortunate to have arguably the best attacking midfielders of their generation in Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta. The former has since retired from international competitions while the latter is still a first-choice pick for his side. But is Iniesta still the best out-and-out attacking-midfielder in Spain’s roster?
The answer obviously lies in the most frequently used midfielders like Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcântara, Koke, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva and Isco. Given that Busquets is used for different attributes than most of his positional peers, we’ll focus on the others.
Value, Stats, and Advanced Metrics
In England, Fabregas has had a sub-par campaign under former manager Jose Mourinho and interim coach Guus Hiddink. He went from winning the English Premier League to finishing in 10th place this season.
It’s been accepted the he’s suffered from distractions and from being forced to cover for Nemanja Matic’s shortcomings this year. However, per Squawka, Fabregas is still a top three player at Chelsea according to their Performance Score:
David Silva has also endured a sub-par 15/16 season at Etihad Stadium with his Performance Score dropping from a 999.45 to 603.84 in one season:
To his defense, the Manchester City midfielder has endured a few injuries this year and although we’re not disputing that these two Spanish EPL talents shouldn’t be called up, they’re quality enough to make the national cut but given their recent dip in form perhaps the others are primed to rival Iniesta.
In the Bundesliga is where you’ll find Thiago Alcântara and in La Liga is where you’ll see Koke and Isco display their services every week. Speaking on Real Madrid’s midfield call-up, Isco has been a more permanent staple this season for Los Blancos than James Rodríguez and has shown to be in Zinedine Zidane’s more offensive go-to formation.
Without viewing what Squawka’s computing metrics has to say for the youngster, we’re sure even a Real Madrid fan wouldn’t put Isco over the like’s of an aging Iniesta just yet. Bayern’s Thiago on the other hand, when put head-to-head against Atleti’s Koke, is an argument we can make without the advanced algorithm.
Koke’s creation, vision and passing when put to the test in a defense-first club like Atleti, still surpasses Thaigo in the stats department, and the Bayern midfielder even plays for a team that has a love affair with the ball. Thiago’s four goals and seven assists fails in comparison to Koke’s five and 16 in all competitions.
Yes, Thiago Alcântara has only started in 29 and Koke has 49, but Thiago has been subbed in 14 times as well, it’s not like he hasn’t received a decent amount of minutes overall.
In fact, Koke has better assist and goal marks than any of the midfielders being compared. Shall we bring out Squawka’s Performance Score metrics? I think it’s time:
Koke trumps all of them in the overall Performance Score, which is even more impressive considering he plays for squad that wins matches without the ball.
Before you call us biased, yes, these algorithms and computer metrics aren’t the end-all in evaluating players, and yes, Iniesta is still class. But given Koke’s excellent season, stats to back it up and Squawka’s metrics going in his favor, can he at the very least have enough evidence to back up a permanent spot on the starting XI? We think so.