Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
In a summer of managerial movements and big-money youngsters, much has been made of identity. “Villas-Boas will need to change the identity at Chelsea,” we are told. “Jordan Henderson is a symbol of Liverpool's youthful new identity.”
By the same token it could be said that Argentina, hosts of (and favourites for) the 2011 Copa America, are having a bit of an identity crisis.
Sergio ‘Checho’ Batista is in charge now, and ever since the friendly with Portugal in February has set up his side to emulate Barcelona. But the boss is treading on very dangerous ground by publicly declaring his intentions to copy Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side.
"...and I'll go bald and buy a nice suit"
Wanting to play entertaining and successful football, of course, is nothing to be criticised. People watch football to be entertained, and for a manager to set out his stall with this as his primary goal is to be admired.
However, success doesn’t necessarily follow from style; ask Arsene Wenger, who has suffered six years without a trophy whilst playing marvellous football. In Checho’s native Argentina, Estudiantes won the Apertura title but weren’t a hugely entertaining unit – they just got the requisite results.
Even if Batista gets this vastly talented squad playing in the style of the Catalan giants, the Copa America campaign won’t be a success unless he wins the tournament.
He aims to do this by playing the 4-3-3 with Messi as a false 9. The reasoning behind this is that following a disappointing World Cup from the one they call The Flea, Checho knows that this is a system guaranteed to get the most from the world's best player.
"Do that thing! Y'know, the one you do for him!"
That reasoning seems sound but overlooks the fact that the rest of the Argentina team wasn’t brought up in La Masia, the Barcelona academy responsible for developing the majority of the European champions’ first XI. Their distinct style of play is only truly known by Messi in this Argentina side.
It also means that virtually every other forward in the squad will be playing in a different role to that which they do for their club side. Manchester City's Carlos Tevez and Napoli's Ezequiel Lavezzi look set to start wide, whilst there is only one actual winger in the squad, Angel di Maria.
That’s not to say that this squad is unable to play in this system and won’t be successful, although there are more than enough good players in this squad not to have to copy anyone.
However, Batista has made his decision and he will be treading the line between emulating a successful style, and being a poor tribute act. Nobody enjoys watching the latter.
A lot has been said about the early rounds of this year’s Copa America, most of it criticism of the lack
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