Spanish PL stars struggling for caps: Are La Roja right to leave Alonso and co in the cold?
Holly Thackeray | 15 November 2016
Spanish PL stars struggling for caps
There’s always an XI to be made out of ignored Spain stars when it comes to squad announcements, due to the quality across the board in La Roja ranks. But, when casting an eye over those excluded this time, it reminded Coral writers that Spanish stars plying their trade abroad, particularly in the Premier League, can struggle for caps.
It took an age for Manchester United’s David De Gea to take over the number one keeper mantle from Iker Casillas, while fellow Red Devil Ander Herrera is only now poised to make his debut against England at age 27.
Among Coral’s extensive England v Spain bets, you can back Herrera at 11/2 to get in on the goal action anytime.
So, with that in mind, and as England face Spain on Tuesday, we’ve come up with five Spanish stars from the Premier League that deserve a nod of international recognition… have La Roja been right or wrong to keep them out in the cold?
Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)
Even Arsenal’s Bellerin has had a tough time edging his way into the Roja camp despite regularly impressing at the Emirates. The right back is currently injured, but has clocked up just three caps so far, highlighting that patience is key when it comes to being included by the Iberian nation (who are 6/4 to triumph on Tuesday).
Though out of contention now, it was the Spain Under-21 squad Bellerin dropped out of, with the highly-talented defender yet again snubbed by the Spain seniors.
A regular in Premier League teams of the week, Bellerin has a bright future at Arsenal and his mature performances at both the back and going forward begs the question: Would the 21-year-old have more caps if he was instead getting game with boyhood club Barcelona?
Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)
“It’s like after uni when you go to do a master’s. Italy is like that for defenders,” Alonso told press recently. As a player he is almost unrecognisable from the former Sunderland and Bolton Wanderers full back, having fine-tuned the defensive arts in his time with Fiorentina.
At 25 and 6 ft 2, Alonso was considered a last-dash deal by many as he arrived at Stamford Bridge for around £23m on deadline day. It looked as though those pundits were right as the flying Spaniard was not included by coach Antonio Conte until Premier League matchdays four and five, but never got a minute off the bench.
After being flung in at the deep end in a loss against Arsenal, which led to Conte rapidly shaking up the Chelsea system so the Blues reverted to his trusty three at the back, Alonso has kicked on in style.
Excelling in the wing back role, whenever Alonso has been in the XI in that position the Londoners have not lost a PL game, and he’s chipped in with a goal and assist from five appearances to boot.
And as for Spain chances? uncapped Alonso’s versatile if benched clubmate Cesar Azpilicueta and Arsenal’s old reliable Nacho Monreal have the need for a Jordi Alba back-up nullified, with high-flying Sevilla star Sergio Escudero justly being included as a further reserve.
If Alonso is to get the call, which on current form he should, he’ll have to plug away for a little longer yet.
Pedro Rodriguez (Chelsea)
Sticking with the Blues, 60-capped Pedro’s Spain career seems to have stalled since leaving Barcelona for Stamford Bridge.
La Roja are never short of attacking stars, so we wouldn’t expect much-maligned Pedro to be picked ahead of Alvaro Morata and co, but the attacking spaces are quite open with the likes of former Liverpool flop Iago Aspas included for his heroics with Celta Vigo.
Real Madrid winger Lucas Vazquez has made the cut, despite no club goals to his name this term and just 252 minutes of game time. While, Pedro has been at his best since his Blues arrival with two goals and five assists, including being a key figure in demolitions of Manchester United and Everton. Chelsea may have to bag the title for Pedro and his proven pedigree to get back into Spain’s squad.
Forgotten man Obiang has sprung to life again and could be the man to save the stuttering Hammers’ season – but it’ll take more than a handful of top performances to turn Julen Lopetegui’s eye with all the midfield talent at his disposal.
Obiang, an energetic and dynamic midfielder willing to cover every blade of grass on the pitch, does not sound like a typical La Roja recruit and it isn’t clear where he’d fit with the likes of Sergio Busquets and Koke – especially if Saul Niguez is not yet even fully integrated.
However, after Spain’s poor showings at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016, it seems their old tricks aren’t working. Teams are becoming ever more adaptable and Obiang, if he continues in the current vein for West Ham, could prove a useful option to at least have in the squad if blooded.
N’Golo Kante has shown the importance of having a player willing to get into the thick of things, so it’s not an impossible dream for Obiang.
It looks as though Lopetegui made the right call here in holding off with a bow for another Hammers player. Adrian had previously been brought into La Roja’s fold with a first-ever call-up aged 29 back in August.
That spoke volumes about how the Irons man had performed last season, with numerous memorable saves helping West Ham claim big scalps.
Though something is amiss after the switch to the Olympic Stadium and Adrian has looked like a Hammers weak link, with several clangers and catastrophes in net leaving the Spanish stopper somewhat lacking in confidence.
If he can get back to his brilliant best from last term, there is a spot behind De Gea and Sergio Asenjo up for grabs. Though for now, La Roja cheerleader Pepe Reina can breathe a sigh of relief.
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