The final 23 team of Argentina for World Cup 2018 is out and already its marred with controversy due to exclusion of Mauro Icardi , who has been in red hot form this season at Inter. Unlike the contenders i.e. Brazil,Spain,Germany & France, Argentina is entering the competition with a shaky background,with the recent 1-6 humiliation at the hands of Spain fresh in their mind. They have scored a paltry 19 goals in 18 matches and had to be dragged to Russia on last day by a brilliant hat trick from Messi. Their final team is far from set on stone and let us take a look at the probable set up which Sampaoli might adopt in the tournament.
Sampaoli prefers a high press high octane line up based on quick touches, quick recycling of possession and limiting turnovers, as we have seen with his stints with Chile and Sevilla recently. When he took the reigns of Argentina from Bauza, they were precariously placed in the qualifications and Sampoli didnot have much time to try out his ideas. A series of draws followed which brought Argentina at the brink of elimination. Also his ideas in the friendlies didnot proved too effective as they lost 2-4 to Nigeria and 1-6 to Spain. Argentina has a dearth of quality full backs as well as central midfielders with both biglia and mascherano past their prime. Hence the challenges Sampaoli face are paramount.
Sampaoli has sometimes spoken about the 2-3-3-2 formation which was brought back from history books and restructured by Pep Guardiola. Initially Sampaoli opted for his favourite high pressing 3-4-3 and its variants, but this is the formation, which we guess , he will implement in the tournament. Its essentially a 4-2-3-1 from positional point of view, but in reality its a 2-3-3-2 in attack and 5-3-2 in defense. The same formation is the modernization of the famous W-M formation, of course tailored and suited for modern football by Pep during his stint at Bayern. The basic formation is a 4-2-3-1, but the two full backs will move up and then shift towards in field with the pivot or No 5 or holding mid . The pivot most probably will be Biglia who will be flanked by the two fullbacks operating as auxiliary midfielders. The two wide forwards will be joined by the No 8/6 thereby forming a three men attacking unit. While the No 8 will have creative burden, the two wide forwards will actually be wingers who need to shuttle up to join in attack and down to cover for the tucking full backs. We guess that Di Maria and Lanzini might operate as the two wingers with either Banega or Lo Celso as the No 8. Upwards the No 10 will join the single striker of the 4-2-3-1 to form a two men frontline, Messi will be the No 10, the No 9 might be Aguero due to his understanding with Messi. Higuain and Dybala will be the back ups for these two. Mercado will be the right back or right auxiliary midfielder and either Acuna or Ansaldi might grab the left sided role. The two centre backs will be Otamendi and Fazio. In this 2-3-3-2 , when the side defends, the pivot as well as the two full backs drop down to form a 5 men backline thus making it 5-3-2 in defense. This system requires a sweeper keeper to initiate attacks via passing to the centre backs or the channels. Sadly Argentina dont have any sweeper keeper. The closest one is Caballero and with Romero out with injury he might now be the No 1 choice, though he has also past his best days. We shall try to illustrate the formation with the most probable players as below.
Originally a normal 4-2-3-1 looks like this :-
Now with shifting in positions and duties in a 2-3-3-2, it will look something like this:-
Finally in a defensive shape in a 5-3-2, it will look like this :-
This is a tentative Argentina side since they are yet to find their best 11 and the only players who are guaranteed to start are Messi, Biglia,Otamendi,Di Maria and Mercado. Rest of the positions are not fixed and will be up for grabs during their training sessions and the recent friendlies. Argentina at the moment look ill equipped and much behind from some of the contenders and it has solely been due to Messi that they are even in the World Cup. But once the cup starts, if they can gel together and form an understanding, then with Messi and perhaps Aguero leading the lines, they can cause trouble.Let us hope that Lionel Messi lights up in what is perhaps his last World Cup.