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WTF Argentina?

May 23, 2010

Watching yesterday’s Champion’s League final got me to thinking about things. For one, the Dutch team is going to be excellent if we take the form of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben as a guide. For two, Argentina could be a contender. Notice I say could. The enigma that is the addled mind of Diego Maradona puts a giant question mark over the Argentina team.

First, take a look at his team selection. To me the biggest surprise comes in midfield, where Maradona left out Esteban Cambiasso and Fernando Gago in favor of Juan Sebastian Veron. Yes, the very same Veron who happens to be one of Sir Alex’s biggest mistakes. While Veron is playing at a high level right now, it is hard to ignore his age, and while Cambiasso is no spring chicken, he is also playing at a higher lever right now. But, if age and athleticism is your concern, why not opt for Gago? He has been in an out of the Madrid squad (though with 3 coaches in 3 years, what player hasn’t?), but he has shown talent and has the youth both other candidates lack. Either way you pick it, I simply don’t see including Veron in the squad as a probable starter at the exclusion of Cambiasso and Gago, both of whom would fit much better beside Mascherano in the middle of the park. Next we come to the inclusion of Javier Pastore. It is clear that Pastore has talent and will be integral for Argentina in the future, but the long and short of it is that he is young and inexperienced. If you want to bring along a young midfield playmaker, why not include Atletico’s Ever Banega? He has played more first team football than Pastore, and is only a year older. Or, why go down that road at all? Lucho Gonzalez has had a good season at Marseilles (you might have heard of them, they won the Ligue 1 title). Here we have 4 players who are all better suited to the squad than Veron and Pastore. But those aren’t even the most baffling selections. Try Martin Palermo. The 36 year-old was selected ahead of Lisandro Lopez, who outscored him this season. That I simply don’t understand. In the previous cases I can see arguments that makes sense as to the exclusion of the players, but not here. Either way this is a sub, so why not bring along a younger player who is more prolific in front of goal?

Now that we have run the rule over the Argentina selections, let’s address Maradona’s idea of tactics. He, like Bob Bradley and unimaginative coaches everywhere, favors a 4-4-2. With the squad he has named, I’m willing to bet he will be playing Mess in the hole or alongside either Higuain or Milito (although judging by his assured performance last night Milito has made that job his). That will put Maxi Rodriguez and Angel di Maria on the wings (though Jonas Guitieriez may be favored over Rodriguez), with Veron and Mascherano in the middle of the park. This seems to me to be a complete waste of the talent at his disposal. Maradona is blessed with 4 of the best forwards in the game. Why not line up in a 4-3-3, a formation that aside from benefitting the abilities of his squad is also the formation that most of his forwards play in at the club level. Milito, Messi, and Tevez all play in 4-3-3 systems at club level, and all have experience in swapping roles within the 3 forwards. So this could leave you with an ever shifting frontline of tireless runners and workers, something that would constantly mystify defenses everywhere. In the middle of the park you would want a playmaker playing slightly ahead of two more defensive minded midfielders. Again, you would benefit from the club experience of Esteban Cambiasso, who plays in this role for Inter (too bad Maradona didn’t select him). Mascherano is always comfortable playing in front of the back 4, so it only leaves to question who would play the role of Riquelme for the squad. For me this is where Lucho Gonzalez comes into play. He would fit perfectly into the play maker role. And then TA-DA! Presto, instant favorites for the title. And yet Maradona, despite deciding on the 4-4-2, hasn’t been able to figure out how to get the best from his players.

Finally, lets take a look at how Argentina has performed under Maradona. Perhaps the most damning evidence is that Argentina finished in the last automatic qualification space for CONMEBOL behind Paraguay, Chile, and Brazil. They finished only 4 points in front of Uruguay, but they had to beat them in their last qualifier to ensure qualification (a game they won an unconvincing 1-0). I understand that this isn’t the CONCACAF, but Argentina should easily qualify in this field. They should be right up there with Brazil. But instead they had to scrap their way to fourth. I’m guessing unless something has changed drastically, even Leo Messi won’t be able to carry this team much past the quarter-finals (and if they weren’t in such a weak group, and paired with such a weak group, it might be questionable that they make it that far.)

This takes me back to my fantasy following yesterday’s final. If only Jose Mourinho were put in charge of Argentina. So why not Jose? You could use a World Cup to go along with that pair of Champion’s League trophies on your wall, and your host of English and Portuguese league titles.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. jonathan permalink
    May 24, 2010 9:23 AM

    gago’s not great, to be honest. he’s one of these guys who a lot of people simply presume must be good because he plays for a big club and he’s from one of the big latin nations. in fact he’s a deeply ordinary midfielder in all respects.

    but leaving out zanetti and cambiasso is suicidal. there must be something personal behind that. there has to be.

    it says it all that while two players from the champions league winners didn’t make the initial squad of 20, two players from newcastle united did.

  2. Lila Zidane permalink
    May 24, 2010 11:11 AM

    There’s just nothing like a former great player falling on his face in management. The skill sets are completely different and sometimes it’s hard for people to see past the glory days. Maradona the coach can never live up to Maradona the player…just can’t

  3. In Arsene We Trust permalink
    May 25, 2010 12:11 PM

    Jonathan, I agree with you on Gago. He isn’t great, but he fills a role. Argentina needs another holding midfielder, and if he is going to leave out Cambiasso (for whatever reasons), he should at the least take Gago. That being said, I’d rather have Cambiasso on my team.

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