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Wenger: Spain have betrayed philosophy

ESPN staff
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Arsene Wenger brought Cesc Fabregas through at Arsenal © Getty Images
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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Spain have abandoned their attacking principles and become a more negative side, though he still expects them to win Euro 2012 as they are "the best in the world technically".

Spain stand on the brink of a record third successive major international triumph, having perfected a possession-centric style that has made them incredibly tough to beat.

But while Wenger has stood back and admired Spain's technical approach to the game in recent years, he feels that Vicente del Bosque's side are not as entertaining as they once were.

"Throughout their years of success, they have tried to keep the same philosophy, which is based around wanting to have the ball," Wenger said in his Eurosport column.

"Although they have struggled to score goals, they are the masters of possession, they are the best in the world technically and I have big respect for what they have done... These guys are more than outstanding footballers: they are really intelligent and they are winners. I want to give them credit for that.

"However, they have betrayed their philosophy and turned it into something more negative. Originally they wanted possession in order to attack and win the game; now it seems to be first and foremost a way not to lose.

"They have become more conservative, and they don't want to give the ball up because they don't want to give you a chance to score. That's the impression you get from Euro 2012. Yes, it can be hard to break down defensive opponents, but this is a challenge that confronts every successful team. They are still absolutely outstanding, but they have less penetration than before."

Despite not being as wowed by Spain's football at Euro 2012 as he has been previously, Wenger is still tipping them to beat Italy in Sunday's final in Kiev.

"I would make Spain slight favourites for the final," Wenger said. "I expect them to be a bit fresher physically. Although Italy did not have extra-time in the semi-finals, the third game inside a week can be difficult, and that's where you pay the price.

"Against Germany, they were still on a high from their penalty shootout victory against England. Maybe the energy of being in a final will carry them through, but I think they could struggle."

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