Wednesday, November 13, 2019

What’s Going On, Argentina?

Juan Pablo Aravena in Editorial, World Cup 25 Mar 2019

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Argentina are one of the first options on everyone’s mouth when talking about some of the biggest countries in the world when it comes to footballing history. La Albiceleste have won the World Cup twice, reached the Finals in 1990 and 2014, and currently own the best player in the world in Lionel Messi. With that track record, what could possibly go wrong?

Well… a lot of things. First of all, La Albiceleste have not won a title since the 1993 Copa America. And they have been on a negative run of results in recent years. They lost the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final against Germany, and both the 2015 and 2016 Copa America Finals against Chile through penalties. Plus, they couldn’t lift any title despite having a star-studded squad with names such as Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano, and others.

Things have gotten even worse in recent years. The squad led by Jorge Sampaoli lost in the Round of 16 during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and Lionel Scaloni hasn’t had very good results after replacing him. The former Deportivo La Coruna player has been heavily criticised following the 1-3 loss to Venezuela this past Friday. And while things could go nowhere but up based on that awful defeat, it doesn’t seem as if there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Argentina. At least not on the short-term scenario.

What are Argentina’s current problems?

The lack of upside in the current squad is probably the biggest issue regarding Argentina right now. First of all, Messi can’t do everything on his own. And other players are not performing like they do in their current clubs when they don the Albiceleste shirt. Paulo Dybala, Lautaro Martinez, Mauro Icardi, Angel Correa… the list goes on and on. Scaloni does not want to call-up Aguero and Higuain either, making it even more complicated to produce in the final third.

Another challenge facing Scaloni’s men is the absence of a true general in midfield. Considering the team was used to names such as Diego Simeone, Fernando Gago and Javier Mascherano patrolling the middle of the pitch, the absence of someone of that status is hurting the side. Not to disrespect anyone, but players such as Leandro Paredes and Giovani Lo Celso can’t fill those shoes. At least not yet.

And we shouldn’t even talk about their defence. Otamendi is no longer the player he once was and to be honest, Argentina are severely lacking talent and experience on the defensive end. Gabriel Mercado performs at a high level for Sevilla, but he hasn’t been able to repeat those performances for Argentina. German Pezzella, Juan Foyth and Gonzalo Montiel are decent bets going forward, but do not look as adequate alternatives right now. Excepting Nicolas Tagliafico, it’s hard to think about an Argentinian defender currently thriving at the top level.

What should Scaloni do? Or should Argentina get a new manager?

Perhaps Argentina need to go into a rebuilding effort, but that would mean to waste Messi’s current form and perhaps his final stretch of form at the highest level (on the international stage, at least). Maybe Scaloni isn’t the right man for the job. Or maybe he’s just experimenting since he already knows the kind of players he wants for the Copa America. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the squad for both the present and the future.

However, one thing is certain. The squad must improve NOW. Otherwise, they will extend their negative run of results for, at least, a few more years. And no Argentina fan wants that considering they’re already going through a 26-year-old title drought.


Juan Pablo Aravena

A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.



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