This post first appeared on Sportskeeda.
When a team boasting of the super star talents of Messi, Aguero, Tevez, Higuain, Di Maria, Mascherano, Lavezzi,etc can’t score a goal past ten men Uruguay for 30 minutes, then there is something seriously wrong. Argentina, for one, aren’t England who are the perennial underachievers. They have had a good amount of success in the international arena. But now with arguably with the best player after Maradona in their ranks, it seems as if they also have contracted the same disease as England. Hyped as the favorites, the home team failed to get going in the Copa America and the only game they played well was against a under-strength Costa Rica team. Argentinian fans have more to worry than their arch-rivals, the English, as the players they have in their team are certainly among the most talented in the world.
Sergio Batista must consider himself very lucky to still have his job as the manager after a disastrous Copa America where even an ordinary fan can point out that he made some horrible tactical mistakes. Argentina under Maradona at the World Cup also made some crucial tactical mistakes(Read Here). This clearly shows that you can have the best of players, but the right manager along with a good and compatible set of tactics is necessary for a successful team. After seeing Barcelona play, you may think even anyone can manage that team. But cases like Argentina and England show what a brilliant job Pep Guardiola has done with Barcelona.
One of the main problems for Batista before the Copa America was getting the best of Messi. Against Columbia and Bolivia, he tried to play him as the false 9. Many thought that Messi would be at his scintillating best for his country playing as the false 9, but this ploy didn’t work. This move didn’t work because of the lack of support from Cambiasso and Banega as they didnt get forward enough to support Messi when he did drop back. Against Columbia where Messi was up against only one holding player, Argentina should have taken advantage, but some poor finishing and lack of support from the midfield cost them.
The above video brilliantly demonstrates why Messi as a false 9 struggled. For Argentina in this match he dropped deep many a times, but the lack of support was appalling. This meant that Colombia could double or even at times triple up on him. When playing for Barcelona, Xavi, Iniesta,Villa, Pedro and at times even Alves are ready to make runs and are available for a pass.
Team selection was also a serious problem for Batista, with so many options he couldn’t quite get the right combination. Tevez and Lavezzi strangely were preferred intially as Messi’s partners in crime. Tevez strangely has never played well for Argentina, maybe its due to the fact that back in Manchester he is the star where as in Argentina he is just another player who could be dropped anytime. Argentina have not been blessed with quality defenders as Milito and Burdisso made lot of mistakes but that should be no excuse for Batista.
Against Costa Rica Batista, Batista finally changed the system and Argentina thrashed them comfortably with Messi at his best. But Batista failed to remember that Costa Rica is no Spain and that too they were playing with U-23 team. The victory over Costa Rica was a convincing one but many of the problems of system that Batista used were hidden
Batista used Messi on the right which freed him up and he brilliantly dictated play. Di Maria in the center of the midfield also provided the extra attack and flair needed, but with no natural winger and the full backs sitting quite deep Argentina lacked width. The center backs were more concerned with Higuain who didn’t have a good game and Messi was allowed to roam free. Di Maria bringing the ball from midfield freed Messi from that role which he was playing in the previous games. But the victory covered up many problems.
Not managing to score against Uruguay who were down to 10 men is inexcusable. Batista got his tactics and his substitutions all wrong. With no natural wingers playing for Argentina, Uruguay managed to defend comfortably with 3 in midfield. The Fullbacks should have been given more license to get forward but strangely both Zabaleta and Zanetti were subdued. Tevez and Pastore are world class players but were wrong ones for that situation. Argentina desperately need a playmaker who can see a pass and control games. Even Riquelme will do, although he has his drawbacks. Pastore still needs to mature and only time will tell whether he can take on the mantle.
The future of Argentina looks exciting with so many talented players coming through, but so did England’s future a decade ago. We all know what England’s Golden Generation managed to achieve. The national team must be put in sensible hands so that Argentina do not become the next England. So far Sergio Batista looks to have kept the job but the AFA must look to replace him, and this time it should be purely on the pedigree of the person as a football manager.