Messi as No. 10 in classic 4-4-2 for Argentina?


Edgardo Bauza has hinted that he is ready to ditch his preferred 4-2-3-1 in favour of a 4-4-2 ahead of the criticial World Cup qualifiers against Brazil and Colombia in November. Nishan Gill wonders how this might work and who should be included in El Patón’s future plans.

With loss to Paraguay and a meek draw with Peru, Argentina is sitting on the wrong side of line that distinguishes the teams who will travel to Russia in 2018. Coach Edgardo Bauza has come under severe fire owing to his own bad decisions ranging from wrong player selection to bad game tactics to making horrible substitutions – everything has gone horribly wrong for him so far.

The situation is precarious.

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the ‘silver generation’ of Argentina football is now past their collective prime. These players have reached three major finals – it’s no mean achievement to reach three finals in three years but they failed to win any of them. It’s only human to say that the baggage of those defeats is now weighing heavily on their minds. They’re under immense pressure. Argentina captain Javier Mascherano said after the defeat to Paraguay, “We were under pressure right from the beginning, we had no plan, this is not how we want to play”.

The statement clearly indicates two things – A) the players are under immense pressure to perform and B) the coach has not made a proper plan in which they can play and win.

So, let’s take a look at these issues….

The Players

Can we reverse the losses of the three finals? No, we can’t.

Can the mentality of the players be changed? Perhaps.

Can we bring some fresh faces into the team and bring a new energy in the dressing room? Undoudtedly, Yes we can!

Edgardo Bauza must realise that some of the players from the 1986-87-88 born generation (the Messi generation) should no longer be part of the national team squad. So who are these players who need to go? Should we do away with all of them? No. We must take a phased approach to this. Surely there are a few of them who need to be dropped immediately like Martín Demichelis, Nahuel Guzmán and Sergio Agüero. We have replacements for these names already in the reckoning and so here would be an idea of the potential changes to the squad.


A return to the squad for Ezequiel Garay should see the services of Demichelis dispensed with once and for all and while question marks remain over Marcos Rojo it is time for Bauza to identify a longer term replacement. Independiente’s Nicolas Tagliafico would seem a decent candidate, who is at the right age and a natural to the position.

Sergio Agüero’s repeated failures on the international scene should lead to the call-up of Mauro Icardi to shake-up what has become a stagnated group of attackers.

In goal, it is time to look to youth and so although Sergio Romero should remain part of the group, Gerónimo Rulli and River Plate’s young goalkeeper Augusto Batalla should replace Nahuel Guzmán and Mariano Andújar.

And it isn’t the only area where Argentina must plan for the future – Leandro Paredes appears a better alternative to Lucas Biglia in midfield and the likes of José Luis Gómez or Emanuel Mammana must replace the declining Pablo Zabaleta on the right of the defence.

Among several of those players who are yet to prove they are capable of displaying the consistency required at this level is Javier Pastore and a recall for Roberto Pereyra would bring a new energy to the midfield in desperate need of new options.

In addition to those already mentioned the likes of Franco Vazquez, Manuel Lanzini, Diego Perotti or Javier Correa could supplement the midfield and provide more a balance to the unit that Bauza and his predecessor Gerardo Martino tried over and over again.

Bauza must now make the call as to whether the “old guard” can help him or whether they’re all digging his grave.

The system

We have tried 4-2-3-1 , we failed !

We have tried 4-1-2-3, we failed !

We have tried 4-3-3 , we got reasonable success but it never truly convinced!

Bauza’s most recent suggestion that he will try a 4-4-2 suddenly makes sense. When nothing goes right, take the 4-4-2 route ! It’s simple, easy to apply and balanced.

Argentina didn’t have any midfield whatsoever in the last two matches. May be Bauza was trying to play fantasy football with 6 defenders and 5 forwards, I really don’t know what his footballing thoughts are but he looked quite limited as a coach. You can’t win games without a proper functional midfield. I don’t want to go bashing the old man more here! So, let’s move on.

In my opinion, a diamond 4-4-2 system with a No. 10 played by Messi and 2 wide players on the left and right will resolve this midfield crisis to some extent. Dybala plays a false 9 and should play in a free role upfront. This is the formation Argentina should play against Brazil.

Argentina 4-4-2 - Football tactics and formations

Bauza must give away the system of playing two defensive midfielders as it is far too negative and Argentina fail to transition into attack.

The wing play has failed miserably under the brilliant leadership of Mr. Winger – Di María. The crosses don’t come and even if they do it is hardly a tactic that suits Argentina’s current crop of strikers, barring perhaps Gonzalo Higuaín.

In the system proposed above, the game starts from Banega and Vázquez play the classic diamond midfield distributors and Messi should be played as a pure No 10. The false 9 role will be done by Dybala and the target man is Icardi. Mascherano plays as lone defensive midfielder depending on his form and fitness. Garay replaces Funes-Mori in the central defense (Musacchio backs up the defense from the bench)

Bauza must act and act quick now!

Nishan has been a passionate Albiceleste since 1994. The love story which started with Javier Zanetti is going strong with Leo Messi and he dreams of witnessing a third star on the Argentine crest

Facebook : /nishaan.gill
Twitter : @gill_nishaan
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2 responses to “Messi as No. 10 in classic 4-4-2 for Argentina?

  1. Fantastic article Nishan. I think the formation you suggested should be perfect for us.

    We don’t need 4 centerbacks playing on top of two defensive midfielders. That creates a hole in the midfield which Messi fills in from time to time, but the attack become isolated. We have been facing this problem since the 2014 world cup. As far as I remember, during Sabella era when Gago used to be fit, the midfield used to be great. But Gago got himself injured (again) and our midfield just vanished!

    And whats the deal with playing centerbacks as fullbacks for Argentina managers? They always think playing flatfooted players like Rojo as a fullback is a fantastic idea. I say start Jose louis Gomes or peruzzi on the right and Tagliafico or Ansaldi on the left. Team will get some width on the attack!

    I completely agree on the midfield though. We also have to remember that Masche will be old in 2018 and his form is dipping way too fast for my likings. It’s time that we start looking for a guy to replace him in due time. Ascacibar should be the one, because I’ve never been impressed by kranevitter.

    • Great comment – thanks for sharing and thanks to Nishaan for a top article.
      Completely agree with both of you.
      An imbalanced midfield that has no real link between defence and attack plus the lack of natural attacking full-backs has held back Argentina for a long time.
      The ageing squad is crying out for change and hopefully the AFA and Bauza (for now) begin working on this and planning for the future

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