Argentina have gotten off to a pretty good start in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Whilst one may argue that they were narrow wins against South American minnows, it is safe to say that the fixtures were not easy ones by any means.
Both Ecuador and Bolivia played a very rash and physical game against Argentina. On top of that, the playing conditions in both the matches would have been painful for any visiting team, even if it was the World Champions.
Furthermore, it must be considered that ties against South American teams are highly unpredictable, even if the opposition is an underdog on paper. Uruguay’s recent loss to Ecuador is an evidence to that fact.
As always, Argentina continue to be weak defensively, despite possessing one of the best attacking talents in the world right now. While their fullbacks, Tagliafico and Montiel seem to be pretty good, the center of their defence looks worrying.
Nicolas Otamendi is in the twilight of his career, and has probably hit the worst patch of form in career. Lucas Martinez Quarta did look better of the two, but he could be massively exposed against stronger oppositions like Germany or Brazil.
In such a situation, it seems baffling why the Argentina management has not considered Tagliafico’s Ajax teammate, Lisandro Martinez, yet. The 21 year old is arguably one of the best young center backs in world right now. He is extremely versatile and comfortable of on the ball too. In their next set of fixtures in November, Lisandro Martinez should be definitely considered as an option.
In goal, Franco Armani might seem a decent option. But if Argentina want to seriously contest for the Copa America next year, they need to look at better alternatives. Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez could be the perfect replacement for the River Plate man. He was highly instrumental in Arsenal’s FA cup victory and has continued to impress in his loan spell at Aston Villa. Argentina ‘s defensive struggles should make it inevitable for Scaloni to change his personnel at the back now.
Lo Celso-dependence in midfield?
While Argentina ‘s attacking unit saved them from blushes against Ecuador and Bolivia, their midfield was unable to supply the attackers with any support. The midfield lacked creativity, and only seemed to offer defensive support off the ball.
This was probably due to the fact that one of their most technical midfielders Paredes plays in a deeper position. Furthermore, their main source of creativity, i.e. Lo Celso was out injured. Exequiel Palacios did try to replicate that in the game against Bolivia and he had a few nice touches and passes as well.
However, Palacios needs to be more consistent and crisp in his creative play. Argentina cannot rely on just one midfielder in their squad to provide them with creativity. If needed, Scaloni should also change his setup to a 4-2-3-1 in absence of Lo Celso. This would be possible with De Paul holding with Paredes in midfield, and Alejandro Gomez playing on the left, with Messi through the middle and Ocampos on the right.
Off the ball structure
In their past two games, Argentina have pressed with a 4-3-3 formation. However, this formation works only if the two wingers are energetic enough. However, Messi is 33 right now and playing him on the right while pressing does not seem to be a good idea at all. Rather they should change their off the ball structure to a more conventional 4-4-2 or a 4-1-2-1-2, something which they used in the 2019 Copa America.
Argentina arguably have one of the best sets of attacking talent in their ranks. They also seem to have a reliable goalkeeper in Emiliano Martinez after a long time, since Romero. With players like Lisandro Martinez available at their disposal as well, they may not be defensively weak anymore. Scaloni needs to figure out a consistent set of players for the starting XI. Furthermore, he should have a plan B ready for surprise situations as well.
Argentina look set to make it to the World Cup easily. They also have the potential to lift the Copa America in 2021. Will Messi finally break his curse? Lets wait and watch.
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