Tata Martino takes up Argentina coach post ahead of Copa America
Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has been named as the new Argentina coach, prompting Coral writers to consider what having a new man at the helm may bring to La Albiceleste, as the 2015 Copa America approaches.
Argentina, 8/1 to win the 2018 World Cup, had a once in a lifetime chance to lift international football’s most prestigious trophy in bitter rivals Brazil’s backyard this summer, but fluffed their lines in the final against a German juggernaut.
There is certainly no shame in reaching a World Cup final, and La Albiceleste’s campaign can hardly be labelled a failure, but there was something distinctly lacking in the South American side’s play.
Whilst many expected Argentina to leak goals, they proved to be a cautious, solid, hard-working unit, with individual flair, aside from Messi, sacrificed for the greater good.
With his contract running out, former boss Alejandro Sabella decided to step down, leaving an opening for ex-Barcelona boss and Argentina cap Martino, who is renowned for his attacking, high-energy style.
The former Newell’s Old Boys skipper has proven managerial pedigree with South American sides, having led Paraguay to their first World Cup quarter-final in 2010, and steering them to a runners up spot in the 2011 Copa America.
A subsequent stint at the Nou Camp, after rescuing former club Old Boys from relegation, ended in disappointment. Taking over the position from Tito Vilanova was never going to be an easy proposition, and Martino resigned after just one trophy-less campaign.
He now has the chance to re-establish himself on home soil, but the pressure will be no less intense, as Argentina must capitalise on the once-in-a-generation talent of Lionel Messi. The 27-year-old superstar will be 31 by the time the next World Cup finals arrive, and it would be a travesty for La Albiceleste if they fail to add significant silverware to their cabinet whilst boasting one of the finest players to grace the game.
Martino will certainly have plenty to chew over, then, as he settles into his new office. Top of his to-do list will likely be to re-evaluate a surprisingly resolute defence, which only conceded four goals at the World Cup.
Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was targeted as a weak link ahead of the Brazil finals, after making just three league appearances for wealthy Ligue 1 outfit Monaco last term. Romero ultimately acquitted himself well, saving two spot kicks in the semi-final shootout with the Netherlands, but doubts remain.
The lack of options which saw the relatively rusty stopper keep La Albiceleste’s number one jersey will be of concern to Martino, but new Manchester City signing Willy Caballero could provide an alternative option. However, his competitive debut for the Citizens, in which he conceded three goals against Arsenal, is unlikely to be giving Joe Hart sleepless nights.
La Albiceleste also have a host of ageing first-team stars, including centre backs Martin Demichelis and Hugo Campagnaro, and midfield lynchpin Javier Mascherano.
New Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal may help solve Martino’s potential defensive woes for him, though, if Sporting Lisbon starlet Marcos Rojo’s mooted move to Manchester United goes ahead.
Likely to be playing in a highly-organised system, and deployed in both centre half and full back roles, Rojo and Argentina will hopefully reap the rewards from the versatile defender playing at one of Europe’s top clubs.
Extra attacking impetus would not go amiss, with current international outcast Javier Pastore, and even the mercurial midfield maestro Ever Banega, looking for opportunities to impress. Neither were included in Sabella’s World Cup squad, but both possess the passing range to make the difference in tight games.
Midfield runner Angel Di Maria should slot perfectly into Martino’s high-pressing tactics, and was one of his country’s top performers in Brazil. However, if more guile is incorporated into the side, Di Maria could find himself redeployed on the wing.
This would likely disrupt the tried and tested attacking trio of Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, but their combined talents did not bear enough fruit in Brazil. If Messi were to take up a central role, flanked by Aguero and Di Maria, Napoli poacher Higuain may find he is surplus to requirements.
The Copa America would also be the ideal time to blood exciting youngsters such as Erik Lamela and Juan Iturbe, with building for the future integral to success in the next World Cup.
Martino can consider himself lucky to have such an array of attacking options, and there is no doubt the Argentina job is a prime post, but many would not envy the pressure that accompanies the ability to cherry-pick from a golden generation of talent.
To surpass his predecessor, Martino must be bold and brave, and harness the potential of La Albiceleste’s superstars.