Has Koke become Spain’s best attacking midfielder?

We take a look at the 24 year-old's role in Vicente del Bosque's team

Koke speaks at yesterday's Champions League media open day

Koke speaks at yesterday's Champions League media open day

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:

fabregas-top-3.jpg

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:

silva-14-15-16-comparison.jpg

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-isco-alcantara-iniesta-fabregas-comparison.jpg

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.

Verdict

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.


  • Karlp

    no, of course not. If we talk about most well-rounded, yes, he will be in contention.

    I really hope we can find one natural attacking midfielder in the caliber of iniesta, isco, or silva.
    My hope still, somehow, my favorite attacking midfielder (Isco) will move to Atleti

  • Koke

    I think Koke is the most on form of all of them right now. As for best, that’s a hard argument to make. Plus, all of the players have very different attributes. Koke plays a similar role to Fabregas and Thiago, but not really to Isco, Silva, or Iniesta, even though Simeone keeps trying to force him to play there (attacking wide or attacking central midfield). Koke is not the guy I would want to have as the furthest forward midfielders, sitting just behind the strikers and making runs into the box. Instead, I’d love to see him staying deep and pulling strings next to Busquets (and hopefully, one day next to either Gabi/Augusto/Saul/Kranevitter in our team). Then, put an attacking midfielder in front of this double pivot. Silva, Iniesta, or Isco, or, in our team, hopefully one day Oliver.

    I’m sure Koke can be made into a slightly more defensive option than he is now. If I recall correctly, both Gabi and Augusto played as more attacking midfielders back in the day. While Koke is brilliant at slipping little through balls in the final third, he isn’t so good at finishing, dribbling, or shooting. If Simeone really wants to play someone in the position that Koke plays now, he should use Oliver Torres or buy Dennis Suarez from Barcelona/Villareal.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I totally agree with @Karlp & @Koke (except having Isco at Atleti, I love the footballer, but I hate the person, and Vikingos no) .
    I said before that I don’t like WhoScored, and I don’t like Squawka either, and I don’t need any of them to tell me that Koke is the most in-form Spanish midfielder right now .

    But he is not an AM, we have been repeating this for a year, he played in that position as a necessity when we couldn’t afford anybody else, when we spent in one summer only one million euro to sign Cebolla, Emre & Cata Diaz, but now this has to stop, because it’s not working, although Simeone and many fans think it’s, but it really isn’t, when you need to beat Gijon and Levante to win La Liga but you can’t then something is clearly wrong . When you score only one goal or when you score none in 20 of 38 La Liga games (more than half), something is clearly wrong .
    And please don’t bring up the Champions League, because we all know it’s a very different story, if Benfica played Roma, Wolfsburg & Man City they could have been our rivals in the final, but it won’t mean that they are even among the top ten in Europe .

    As for if Koke deserves a starting spot with Spain or not, it depends on if del Bosque thinks he fits in his plan and his style or not, Oliver doesn’t fit in Simeone’s style and many Atelti fans are fine with that, so they don’t get to be mad at del Bosque if he benched Koke .

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    One more thing :
    Koke has played 4316 minutes, scored 5 goals and made 16 assists .
    He scores a goal every 863 minute, and makes an assist every 270 minute .
    Thiago has played 2784, scored 4 goals and made 7 assists .
    He scores a goal every 696 minute, and makes an assist every 398 minute .
    Thiago has a better goal average, while Koke has a better assist average, but both are close to each other .

    If you decide to use numbers and statistics then you have to use them correctly, you can’t use phrases like “decent amount of minutes”, then you ask people not to call you biased !