Sergio Aguero rescued a point for Argentina with a goal of stunning quality against Bolivia in the opening game of Copa America 2011. The strike however, could not disguise a poor overall performance by the host nation against a very average Bolivia side.
Argentina dominated all the key statistics but their play rarely flowed and they allowed Bolivia too much time to get men back behind the ball.
Coach Sergio Batista started with a 4-3-3 formation. The most obvious change from the Maradona led World Cup side of last summer was the inclusion of Javier Zanetti as a specialized right back rather than the insane idea that a winger could somehow do the job.
Another returnee to the international scene was Cambiasso who was assigned a holding role along with Javier Mascherano. In a more advanced role was Ever Banega.
In attack Tevez and Lavezzi played wide while Lionel Messi played as a withdrawn striker.And it is with Messi that any analysis needs to start ….and probably finish as well.
When you have to best player in the world the job is to find a way to allow him to show that he is the best. Barcelona figured that out.
You only have to watch Pedro and David Villa to see the subservient roles they take on when playing with Messi.
Argentina under Maradona failed to achieve this objective while his successor Sergio Batista looks no closer to the answer either. In time Banega might find a way to adapt his game to link with Messi but I doubt it.
Banega is the classical Argentina midfield conductor. He takes the ball from the back four and defensive midfield players and looks to play short balls into feet while propping for gaps.
If the gaps are not there the ball is than more times than not played back to Banega who probes again. His ability to deliver first time incisive passes or longer range passes is questionable but more importantly he lacks the drive and skill set to drive into the oppositions penalty box from a deep position.
He doesn’t constitute a goal thread so he is very predictable in his movement and choice of passes.
Further forward you had Tevez and Lavezzi (with Di Maria entering the game at half time) and they all looked to have contracted the Portuguese disease. The Portuguese disease consists of too many players looking to take too many touches on the ball and taking off on too many dribbles.
The net impact – additional time for the Bolivian team to funnel back behind the ball.
There was a notable lack of diagonal runs from the attacking wide positions when Messi dropped deep. It then became a case of squeezing the space around Messi and if that failed a trip and/or a tug on the jersey was enough to negate the threat.
With the introduction of Di Maria (for Cambiasso) at the half the formation became 4-4-2. But after Aguero entered the game around the 70th minute the attacking set up began to take on the look of a Chinese fire-drill with Tevez and Aguero at times switching and at other times playing in the same area.
Argentina Coach Sergio Batista has a dilemma. He can continue to put out what he regards as his most gifted attacking players and watch them struggle to operate as a cohesive unit (they may hit the right note now and again) or find players who are willing to play supporting roles and have the team operate as a team.
By the time this month ends we will be on the cusp of a new European season. But before that we have two world titles to decide, the Copa America champion to be crowned, MLS moving into the final third of the season and a host of high-profile teams playing friendlies and “friendly-tournaments.”
This weekend is a microcosm of the month with the exception of the latter. Feel free to offer up your opinions and analysis as this weekend progresses as there are far too many games for one person to watch.
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