Mexico depth chart shows Chicharito on top, Giovani dos Santos struggling
There is a wave of positivity regarding the current state of the Mexico national team, largely sparked by players in Europe being in some some genuinely good form. That is reflected in the final depth chart of 2015, with a total of eight of the 11 players selected plying their trade in Europe and one (Rafa Marquez) having just returned to Mexico following a distinguished career in Europe.
Like always, it is difficult to predict how coach Juan Carlos Osorio will set up the team from game to game but we've stuck with the 4-3-3 that the Colombian has tended towards in the majority of his career. It also suits the talent pool of players Osorio has at his disposal.
There are some positions that are highly competitive, as Osorio would like. It seems impossible to leave Miguel Layun out of the right-back spot but almost equally harsh to sideline Paul Aguilar. There is likely to be a time in the near future in which Diego Reyes surpasses Marquez as the starting center-back. Jonathan dos Santos and Jose Juan "Gallito" Vazquez are in a tight battle for a spot, Carlos Vela remains off-color but perhaps Mexico's most talented individual, and the goalkeeping position still poses a tough conundrum.
Here is the Mexico national team depth chart for the end of 2015.
1. Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
2. Moises Munoz (Club America)
3. Guillermo Ochoa (Malaga)
Munoz started Osorio's first game in charge against El Salvador in World Cup 2018 qualifying, while Talavera got the nod against Honduras. There has been little between the duo for a while and it would be no surprise if Osorio continued to rotate.
Watching on is Ochoa, who really needs to move on from Malaga if he is to win back the starting spot. The former Club America keeper hasn't started a single game for Malaga in La Liga since joining after the last World Cup. Osorio, however, has been very positive when talking about Ochoa, indicating if he can get minutes and hit some form, the 30-year-old would quickly be back in the reckoning. Much may depend on the January transfer window for Ochoa.
1. Miguel Layun (Porto)
2. Paul Aguilar (Club America)
3. Raul Lopez (Chivas)
One of the toughest dilemmas anywhere in the team involves times when both Layun and Aguilar are fit. Club America's Aguilar was one of Mexico's better players in 2015 and scored that memorable winner against the United States in the CONCACAF Cup final in October, but with Osorio set to use Layun on the right, the Porto player gets the nod following his excellent start to life in Portugal.
Behind them, Chivas' Lopez is the long-term replacement, providing he can improve the defensive side of his game.
Center-back, right side
1. Rafa Marquez (Hellas Verona)
2. Diego Reyes (Real Sociedad)
3. Hugo Ayala (Tigres)
Marquez wasn't available for Osorio's first two matches in charge of El Tri, but the former Chicago Fire coach has been very complimentary of "El Capitan" and it would seem that he remains just a little ahead of Reyes.
If Reyes can get regular minutes at Real Sociedad under new manager Eusebio Sacristan, the pecking order could well change in 2016, especially if Marquez's return to first club Atlas doesn't work out as planned.
Center-back, left side
1. Hector Moreno (PSV)
2. Oswaldo Alanis (Chivas)
3. Yasser Corona (Queretaro)
There is a long-standing problem of depth in terms of left-footed center-backs but thankfully Moreno is back to his very best at PSV and should cover the position for the next couple of years. Alanis shows promise, but there is little of international quality after that.
1. Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres)
2. Luis Fuentes (Pumas)
3. Adrian Aldrete (Santos Laguna)
Fresh from winning the Apertura with Tigres, Torres Nilo has an opportunity to nail down the starting position with El Tri, largely thanks to Osorio's reluctance to play right-footed Layun on the left.
Osorio went for Fuentes over Aldrete in the last two matches, although the Santos Laguna left-back has been impressive when playing for Mexico over the past couple of years.
1. Jonathan dos Santos (Villarreal)
2. Jose Juan Vazquez (Club Leon)
3. Reyes (Real Sociedad)
A key position in Osorio's set-up, Dos Santos and "Gallito" Vazquez are still duking it out for the start. Dos Santos is better in possessio, but Vazquez is probably slightly ahead in terms of the defensive side of the game. In all likelihood, that means the manager will rotate between the two, depending on the opposition, or even start both if he tinkers the formation.
Behind those two are the likes of Jesus Molina, Alejandro Castro, or even Guardado or Reyes.
1. Hector Herrera (Porto)
2. Miguel Layun (Porto)
3. Carlos Pena (Chivas)
Herrera may not have had the second half to 2015 he would have liked but he is still close to being an automatic starter for El Tri. Layun could be moved into a more attacking position if required, while Pena showed some form for Leon last season and may be coming back into the national team reckoning. There is also Toluca's Carlos Esquivel, who has been consistent for both club and country.
1. Andres Guardado (PSV)
2. Herrera (Porto)
3. Layun (Porto)
"El Principito" is a leader in the team and was Mexico's best player in 2015 by a distance. After him, Osorio is unlikely to look beyond Layun or Herrera to fill in, although there could be an outside chance L.A. Galaxy's Giovani dos Santos will be tried in the position.
1. Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad)
2. Jurgen Damm (Tigres)
3. Raul Jimenez (Benfica)
Vela was possibly the biggest disappointment for Mexico in 2015, but his talent means he is still a starter. The Real Sociedad forward coming onto his left foot to support the main striker with Layun supporting him on the outside makes Mexico's right flank a considerable threat.
Jimenez's inclusion is perhaps a surprise, although Osorio did use him out wide against Honduras and interim coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti did the same against the United States in October. The other strong option is Giovani dos Santos, who has played on the right wing before for Mexico.
1. Jesus "Tecatito" Corona (Porto)
2. Javier Aquino (Tigres)
3. Giovani dos Santos (L.A. Galaxy)
Osorio's use of right-footed players on the left wing means Corona is an ideal fit. The Porto youngster is a player who should go on to become one of Mexico's very best in the next year or two and consolidate himself as a regular with El Tri.
The option strong option is Aquino, who has enjoyed a mini career rival since joining Tigres from Villarreal last summer. MLS star Dos Santos provides a left-footed option, as does Vela.
1. Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen)
2. Raul Jimenez (Benfica)
3. Oribe Peralta (Club America)
The man of the moment in Mexican soccer, Hernandez is miles ahead in this position at present following his avalanche of goals since October for Bayer Leverkusen. Jimenez offers a more physical presence should it be required, or a strike-partner if Osorio wants to play with two upfront.
Peralta didn't close 2015 in very good form for Las Aguilas but with younger talents like Erick "Cubo" Torres and Alan Pulido flopping, the only other real threats for the third spot are the likes of Pumas' Eduardo Herrera and Chivas' Omar Bravo. Other options upfront include Vela and Corona.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3):
Talavera, Layun, Marquez, Moreno, Torres Nilo, J Dos Santos, Herrera, Guardado, Vela, Corona, Hernandez
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.