With the completion of the second to last 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers this past week, Mexico find themselves all but having clinched a spot in Qatar. They’re currently tied for 2nd overall with USA, but more importantly, are 4 points in front of Panama, who hold that 4th spot, which represents the inter-confederation playoff series, with only three games to go. And with Panama facing both USA and Canada in the final stretch, they look pretty unlikely to catch Martino and company, no matter how poorly they may perform.
However, that wasn’t enough to keep former Mexico NT midfielder Alberto García Aspe silenced. In an interview with ESPN, he addressed a couple topics that we’ll dive right into. First off and most importantly, the Héctor Herrera and Andrés Guardado topic; “What’s worrying about Herrera is that he’s not playing in Europe; even if you do play for Atlético de Madrid, if you don’t get minutes, you lose game rhythm... Apart from that, they’re playing him as a CDM, which isn’t his natural position. When he faces a speedy player, he gets beaten and even looks bad,” García Aspe went on to say.
He happens to be right, you know. Herrera was mostly static throughout the three matches in which he performed over the week. He appeared to lack energy, apart from the fact he didn’t give the team any depth with his touches like he did at one point in his career. He appears not only incapable, but unwilling to sprint to catch an opponent, not to mention his erratic and non-impactful all-around performance. Until he proves he can contribute again, he should be stripped of the starter role and come off the bench with fresh legs in the second half.
Regarding Guardado, García Aspe had this to say: “He should be in the NT, but maybe more in a locker room role, because I’m not sure he can go the full 90 minutes in the World Cup. Both he and the coaching staff know that.”
He’s right again. Guardado has the technical capacity to still be on the NT, but not as a starter. He’s lost most of his speed which gave him a huge edge on the left flank for most of his career. Now 35, he’ll lose most of the one-on-one battles he’ll face due to speed, and particularly for the CDM position, that’s a bad sign, because you can’t afford to lose the battles in the middle of the pitch in front of your CBs. It’s too much of a disadvantage. What he could do is come in for the final 10-15 minutes to close out a game by helping with ball possession or even defending to a certain degree, as long as he has help around him. Even to execute a critical free kick, penalty, or something of the sort. But, as much as it pains me to say it, Guardado is no longer fit to be a starter.
Finally, García Aspe touched upon the Johan Vásquez situation: “I don’t understand Johan Vásquez’s (situation). He’s a regular in Italy and can’t play a single minute with the NT. It’s incredible to me because it’s not like we have two irremovable CBs, since Martino’s rotated the position during the entire qualifiers.” I see nothing wrong with his take here as well. You haven’t found an answer between Moreno, Álvarez, Araujo, and Montes. So why not try out the 23 year-old who’s become a regular with Serie A’s Genoa? Why make him travel all the way from Italy to not even touch the pitch?
Many subjects still need answers as we’re now just under ten months from the start of the 2022 World Cup. And with only three official matches remaining at the end of March, they’re not likely to be resolved before then. Is Martino still the right man for the job? Can he right this ship? Can he make the adjustments necessary to provide the spark this squad oh so desperately needs?