For the third installment of our series covering the most influential Premier League players heading to Russia, Maryam Naz looks into why goalkeeper David de Gea could be Spain’s main man.
A safe pair of hands
The Spaniard has been a crucial figure for Manchester United this season with 15 clean sheets in 36 appearances that have won them games at the death. Yet, while he has ensured defensive stability behind the back four, he has also instigated attacks, thanks to his quick distribution and accurate delivery, with an impressive 64% distribution success.
The best keeper in the world?
De Gea’s ability to stop shots this season has been simply superb. His performance in United’s 3-1 victory against Arsenal springs to mind. He made 14 saves overall – a performance which resulted in Jose Mourinho hailing him as the ‘best in the world’. High praise indeed.
Consistency is key
Just as with United, de Gea’s performances for his national side have been a joy to watch. His safe hands add an extra dimension to the Spanish defence, in addition to helping attackers make forward runs – a crucial aspect of their style of play. He has made 2.38 game-changing saves per match for La Furia Roja; a stat which speaks volumes about why he is so crucial to this Spain side.
Whilst de Gea’s keeping provides confidence to the back four, his teammates have also made it easy for him to defend his goal. This is due to Spain’s ‘Total Defending’, which ensures every single player can control the ball well. In doing so, they each take the responsibility to both attack and defend, irrespective of their position.
In theory, this would suggest that even having Diego Costa in defence would ensure defensive stability somewhat. Each and every player should be able to dribble well and pass their way out of any situation, effortlessly merging defence with attack.
Yet, de Gea is simply one man. Others must also rise to the occasion, as there is only so much he can do between the sticks.
In defence, Spain need someone to lead from the back, and across the years that has been Sergio Ramos. Everyone’s ‘favourite’ defender. His win-at-all-cost mentality has made him one of the best centre-backs of the modern era. Ramos’ leadership will be vital if Spain are to keep the opposition’s attack from causing too much damage to de Gea’s goal.
Further up the pitch, a player in central midfield who will be just as important to their hopes is Isco. The Spaniard has proved he can be Andre Iniesta’s long-term replacement in the centre of the park. During his time at Real Madrid, he has quietly transformed into one of the best players in his position. His ability to make forward passes which unlock the opposition’s defence, as well as attacking dribbling runs, will be a welcome form of creative energy.
Can they repeat the successes of the 2010 World Cup?
Spain aren’t the best in town anymore. Germany, Brazil, France and Belgium have all looked to revamp their squads, with fresher and younger talent on show. For Julen Lopetegui’s side, come June 15th it’s going to be a lot harder to blow the rest of the teams out of the park. But their experience and international know-how just might get them to the semi-finals.
Follow Maryam on Twitter @mnaz98