Spain do not have the threat up front to be like Barcelona, says Roberto Martinez

The Wigan boss feels La Roja lacked a decisive figure in front of goal during their 1-1 draw with Italy, but praised the way Vicente del Bosque's men kept hold of possession
Roberto Martinez has questioned the formation that Spain played in their opening Euro 2012 game with Italy as he does not believe the reigning European and world champions have the right player to take on the 'false nine' role like Barcelona do.

Vicente del Bosque decided to start without a recognised striker in the Group C clash and Martinez thinks that La Roja are missing a player like Lionel Messi to make the strategy work effectively.

“You can understand where that comes from; it’s a way to keep the ball for long spells, something that Barcelona master,” he told
 Ben Hayward
 Spain Expert
After watching Spain draw against Italy on Sunday, a Catalan friend said to me: "It was like watching Barcelona without Messi."

Barca employed Cesc Fabregas in the false-nine role at times last term, but the former Arsenal captain never looks as effective in that position as Leo. How can he? Messi is unique and can cause havoc with his running from deep and wonderful finishing. It's never going to be the same.

As Martinez says, some of the link-up play was fantastic. However, there was no point of reference: Messi is not a striker but he isn't exactly a midfielder either and although he offers a goal threat, Spain lacked the movement of a genuine forward against Italy. If anyone, David Silva should have started in that role - he is the closest thing Spain have to Messi, as Vicente del Bosque has said.

With the right execution, the plan could still work (with Cesc or Silva), particularly against weaker opposition. But it will never be quite like Barcelona.

“But the reality is Barcelona can do that because keeping the ball in central areas allows a lot of space in the wide areas and you get players, especially Messi that can expose that space and that allows you with a lot of movement to get players in the box.”

Spain fell behind against Italy only to equalise two minutes later through Cesc Fabregas, but when Fernando Torres, a traditional target striker came on, the team created more gilt-edge chances.

The current Wigan manager praised the Spaniards and indeed the forward three on that day, but feels that the Euro 2008 champions are less of a threat without a main striker.

“The Spain experiment worked for a certain time where they kept the ball well,” Martinez explained.

“I thought the movement between [David] Silva, [Andres] Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas was very, very good but they didn’t have that threat up front and it’s all good keeping the ball but I do think Spain are not the same team without a striker.

“I don’t think they have the same threat but it’s something they can use during the tournament, depending on what they need.

Spain take on Republic of Ireland in their second group game on Thursday evening at 20:45CET.