Friday, 1 July 2011

Copa América at a Glance: ARGENTINA

Writer’s note: This mini-series is essentially just sulf-indulgence/Copa América excitement. Tactics are not my specialty, and I do not claim to be a tactics expert. Take these articles for what they are, some information, a couple of observations and some nice visual aids.

First of all, let’s have a look at the hosts Argentina. With Sergio Batista they have evolved from their tactically naïve 4-4-2 used at the World Cup to a more rational and functional 4-3-3, based on Barcelona’s style (I explain this transition here). The main aim of this formation, as has been mentioned several times previously, is to try and get the best out of Lionel Messi.

Above you can see Argentina’s primary formation. The defence sits a lot deeper than Barcelona’s due to the lack of pace of the two centre-backs, and they are protected by team captain Javier Mascherano who sits in front of them. The two full-backs, Zanetti and Rojo, provide a service going forward as well in defence, with the former expected to be a little more reserved in going forward.

Valencia’s Éver Banega is the key in the midfield, as he is employed in the all-important ‘Xavi-role’. There are not many players in the world that can do what Xavi does, but with Banega’s slick passing skills and positional discipline, he is certainly a worthy replacement. Alongside Banega, the evergreen Esteban Cambiasso shuttles back and forward in the midfield. Expect to see Cambiasso at both ends of the field, whether it be helping to secure the defence with Mascherano or charging forward to provide Banega with an option to his left. Cambiasso’s positioning also allows Rojo a bit more freedom on the left, as he knows that he will have that extra cover should he get caught out.

Finally the attack, Lionel Messi (no introduction needed) sits in the middle in the much talked-about false nine role, where he drops back in to midfield to link up with Banega. This leaves the two wide players, Lavezzi and Tévez to come inside and provide an attacking threat. These two are probably the key to whether this system will work successfully or not, as it still remains to be seen if they are properly suited to the wide attacker roles in the Barcelona 4-3-3.

Lavezzi is suited to that position, it’s very similar to the one he plays at Napoli and he has impressed greatly in Serie A. Tévez on the other hand, is not particularly accustomed to playing out wide and cutting inside, at Manchester City he plays in a central role, not dissimilar to Messi’s position. El jugador del pueblo is an extremely talented player however, and should be able to adapt as long as he stays motivated.

If things go wrong, or if Batista fancies a change, he is blessed with a wealth of options on his bench and has previously tested some alterations to his system to fit them in. Here are a few examples:

1st option: Javier Pastore

Palermo’s attacking midfielder Javier Pastore has been a little unlucky recently on the national scene, as after a magnificent season in Italy he still cannot seem to hold down a regular place in the Argentina side. This is less to do with Pastore’s performances, and more to do with the fact that his elegant number ten role does not really have a place in Batista’s 4-3-3.

However, Batista would be a fool to leave him out completely, and when he is used (most likely as a substitute for Esteban Cambiasso) Batista switches the midfield to this shape seen below:

As you can see, Pastore is allowed to function in his preferred playmaking role, with Banega taking over the job of shuttling on the right side and Mascherano dropping even deeper in front of the two centre-backs. This will probably be a set-up used in the second half of matches against sides like Colombia or Chile to try and finish the game off, or possibly at moments when the team is looking for a single goal.

2nd option: Gonzalo Higuaín

In a nation where the farewell match of Boca’s lumbering centre forward Martín Palermo overshadowed Vélez Sarsfield becoming national champions, the absence of a big man up front will be one of the first tactical criticisms directed at Batista should something go wrong. In Gonzalo Higuaín, they have a fantastic centre forward, big and strong but also athletic, a much more modern version of the aforementioned San Martín.

Higuaín’s introduction sees an alteration in the attacking three, with Messi moving out to the left and Higuaín taking the central target man role.

All diagrams with help of the fantastic Tactical Pad


Gaurav Dhar said...

Hey, I haven't seen Pastore play all that much, but he didn't seem to combine that well in his substitute app against Uruguay.

Do you think it was because he was thrust in without much familiarity with the team, or simply how he was deployed by Batista, etc?

I like football me. said...

Hey Gaurav, thanks for the comment.

Regarding Pastore, I think the problem was more about the situation he was thrown into during the Uruguay game. Uruguay were looking solid in defence and playing deep, whereas Pastore functions best when the game is a little more open and the middle of the field isn't as packed.

Gaurav Dhar said...

Ah I see. I'd love to see Pastore start a competitive fixture for Argentina some time.

I like football me. said...

I think you'll get your wish soon enough!

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