On my first day in charge of the Argentina national team I must admit that I got a little giddy.
Giovani Lo Celso, Cristian Pavon and Sebastian Driussi.
Those were just three of the names that greeted me when I loaded up my squad for the first time and with that front three I must confess that I thought to myself something along the lines of ‘well you might as well give me all the titles now.’
I mean for crying out loud I went onto the national pool to check other available players and saw ANGEL CORREA!
Of course as some of you have probably worked out I was about to be brought back down to earth with a rather nasty bump.
For you see whilst the U-21 European Championships are beautifully flawed by allowing players to play in the the tournament as long as they were 21 or under at the start of qualifying it is not the same at U-20 level, which is usually played by South American, North American and African sides. It is very simple at this age level, you just can’t be over 20.
So by the time the South American U-20 and U-20 World Cup would roll into town (or we roll into their town) all of these incredible players would not be available to me.
I decided that I wouldn’t call upon now even if I could, not even to inflate my own ego, and I would start building for next year’s tournaments.
I arranged a handful of friendlies for the rest of the year against a lot of South American teams, as well as the Ivory Coast to allow me to get a better idea of my team and who the key men would be.
As you can see the results were really encouraging but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.
Firstly let’s discuss formation, now I won’t go into the issues surrounding international management for you can read that here thanks to Guido, Diego Mendoza and Dan Gear, but I wanted to have a variety of formations to keep things fresh. We started with the diamond (something I may write about later for reasons you shall see) but a few friendlies later I found myself shifting to a flat 4-1-4-1 partly inspired by FM-Pressure.
The main reasoning for this was that during the Colombia game I was really alarmed by how much our full-backs were exposed. I know this is the risk you take playing the diamond but I decided that whilst the standard at this level can be inconsistent most countries would probably have fairly tricky wingers and those would be the primary dangermen. I initially moved to a 4-3-3 but against Ecuador a few days later we still had the same problem so I dropped the wingers deeper.
One of the other reasons was that whilst I was keen to have two strikers I found that Ezequiel Palacios was regularly one of my better players, even when not playing him as a winger. For that reason I felt I probably had to get him involved in some way.
As I mentioned the trade-off was not playing with two strikers which was tough to take given my four first choice strikers were Maxi Romero, Facundo Colidio, Lautaro Martinez and Ezequiel Ponce which is frankly disgusting. Picking two was tough, picking one was just painful.
The basic idea behind the formation I settled on was to have one sitter who was the primary playmaker with the rest of the roles and instructions kept simple (once again I’m sorry that the screenshots aren’t ideal but as I mentioned I wasn’t 100% I was going to blog this save). My reasoning here was thus: Bar one or two teams we had a considerably better set of players than most of the teams we’d play and I wanted to give them as much freedom as possible, hence so few ‘specialist’ roles.
The other key man in this side was of course Santiago Ascacibar, a player of whom many have us have developed a man-crush on this year’s game. Unfortunately in October he picked up a four month injury with a damaged spine, which sounds horrific, and just like that I’d lost my anchor and captain for the South American U20s.
This gave me four matches to settle on a replacement as well as make a decision about my strikers. In the next piece I’ll reveal who got the nod as well as going through both tournaments, could we achieve my main goal at the first attempt?