As he now moulds his team for Euro 2012, Del Bosque is faced with the decision of whether or not to embrace Silva in the false No 9 role given it is a move that may prove to the detriment of his other designated strikers.
After an hour of last week’s qualifier against Czech Republic, Del Bosque jettisoned his customary use of a striker for a more fluid take on the 4-3-3. As David Villa replaced Fernando Torres, Silva was given licence to share the central attacking role with Villa. Del Bosque continued the experiment against Scotland and was fully justified for starting Torres and Fernando Llorente on the bench as Silva scored twice and helped carve the Scots apart for the third. The 25-year-old has stepped up a gear this season at Manchester City and took his goals with a ruthlessness rarely seen at Valencia.
Although Scotland played two deep banks of defence and midfield, from time to time space cropped up between the centre-backs and central midfielders. This allowed Silva to acquire the ball in dangerous areas and he played three passes in the marathon, 41-pass build-up to his opening goal. Below is a typical example where Silva (highlighted below) dropped into the hole to link up play and drag markers out of position.
With Silva reprising the ‘Lionel Messi role’, David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez were able to continue their Barcelona functions as wide forwards in a front three. In midfield, Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets were this time complemented by Santi Cazorla whose tidy dribbling skills meant that the absence of Andres Iniesta was not felt.
The similarities between Del Bosque’s Spain and Guardiola’s Barcelona do not end there. Spain also deployed a lopsided defence, allowing one wing-back the licence to join the attack at will. At Camp Nou it is right-sided Dani Alves who makes the overlapping runs, in Alicante it was debutant left-back Jordi Alba who bolstered the attack with consistent effect. A converted winger, Alba’s searing burst of pace set up the opener and his threat regularly pegged back Barry Bannan and Alan Hutton.
One of the rare criticisms made of Spain is that, without a Messi figure, they lack the flair of Barcelona. A series of 1-0 wins at the 2010 World Cup did little to counter such arguments. The creative talents of Silva and the increased cohesion he brings to the Roja attack may go some way to allaying those concerns.
Moreover, his performance against Scotland offers Del Bosque an intriguing tactical dilemma to consider ahead of the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. The aptitude of Villa and Pedro in wider areas should assure both players of a first-team spot. However, Torres, Llorente and Alvaro Negredo may all have to settle for a place on the bench. With Cesc Fabregas another to have shown his proficiency in the false No 9 role, still to return, Del Bosque may find that with Silva’s recent performances, what was a plan B tactic may feature more prominently for la Seleccion.