When asked about Argentina’s plans for the upcoming World Cup, Diego Maradona cried: “It’s ridiculous. That’s how teams used to play in in the 1930s.”
This is the same Maradona who lined up with five attackers- Angel Di Maria, Maxi Rodriguez, Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez- against Germany in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals.
His side were torn apart on the counter-attack by a mobile, balance Germany side. The 4-0 scoreline was flattering.
So what’s got Diego so riled up? The answer can be found in Jorge Sampaoli’s tactics.
To call Sampaoli attack-minded would be doing the 58-year-old a disservice.
He seeks to crush the opposition with relentless waves of frantic attacks that would leave the Duracell Bunny feeling lethargic.
We’re not talking 4-3-3 with limited defensive responsibilities for the front three. We’re talking a 2-3-3-2 formation.
Yep, Sampaoli is throwing caution to the wind, and then some, in his quest to make up for Argentina’s 2014 final heartbreak.
There is some method to the madness. This is, after all, a nation with enough attacking talent to leave Mauro Icardi at home.
This is also a nation whose defensive options are so minimal that Everton’s Ramiro Funes Mori nearly snuck into the squad.
So, rather than wrestle his top heavy squad into an awkward shape, Sampaoli has worked with it.
The problem for Argentina managers has always been getting the best out of Lionel Messi and the wealth of attacking options available.
In a 2-3-3-2 formation Sampaoli doesn’t have to sacrifice one of Gonzalo Higuain or Sergio Aguero to free Messi.
It’ll also mean a return to defensive midfield for Javier Mascherano, whom so many of us have become accustomed to seeing play in the centre of defence.
Nicolas Otamendi and Federico Fazio, who looked like Bambi on Ice during his time at Spurs, are nailed on to start as the back two, which seems ominous.
The rest is very much up to interpretation.
Whoever plays, it’ll be exciting.
Sampaoli’s tactics with Chile took Spain by surprise at the 2014 World Cup, but this time he’ll have to cope with being the favourites in a group alongside Nigeria, Croatia and Iceland.
Bring. It. On.
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