OPINION | Argentina may need another Messi masterclass against the Netherlands

Argentina’s passage into the quarter-final of the FIFA World Cup has been full of moments of doubt and action that has made multiple fans nervous about the team. While Lionel Messi’s performances have been exhilirating, the Albiceleste have clear weaknesses in the team and issues of concern.

Despite the issues, it is Messi’s influence that has been carrying the team and he has become a papering over the cracks of the team. In a way, one issue connects to Messi himself as due to the lack of a second ball progressor in midfield, the Paris Saint-Germain has to operate deeper in midfield. Since Argentina build with a back three, it is their best ball progressor in Enzo Fernandez who drops in as a centre-back, leaving the midfield spaces open. Messi, as a result, has to drop into that space to act as the connecting point between the defence and attack.

While that doesn’t just overwork Messi, it takes him away from his best role in the final third. While having Messi help in progressing the ball is not bad, his output can be used in a better way if he is used close to goal. Having said that, Messi has shown that he has played both roles well, acting as a covering over their issues.

Argentina’s second issue doesn’t relate to Messi but it relates to the fact that Argentina lack runners out wide who can stretch play and run in-behind. Pretty much all their players want the ball at their feet, making the side one-dimensional, especially when the opposition play a higher defensive line like Saudi Arabia did. The Asian side succeded in making sure that Argentina played infront of them and they caught them out many times when Argentina ran in-behind.

Not having someone like Nico Gonzalez and the absence of Giovanni Lo Celso is costing Lionel Scaloni and Louis van Gaal, who is excellent at picking out opposition weaknesses, would know where Argentina slack. He will set up in a way which counters Argentina – perhaps in the same way as Saudi Arabia did. But so far, Messi has been acting as a cover for Argentina’s issues and him firing can take the Albiceleste through.

Kaustubh Pandey | GIFN

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