Dear Alejandro Sabella,
Word has filtered down that you are prepared to change tactics for your first World Cup match. I don't understand. Are Bosnia and Herzegovina really so frightening that you must adopt a totally different formation to ensure you get out of the match with a bit of dignity?
Or did Spain's humiliation at the feet of Netherlands really rattle you that much?
Mr. Sabella, you've been using more or less the same lineup for nearly two years now. We may have been a bit unsure about which defenders' form would find them slotted in at the back, but most of said defenders seem more or less interchangeable anyway. But you found yourself a 4-2-3-1 and you stuck with it. You were committed. We liked that about you.
Ok, that might be a lie. What we really liked was the four-pronged attack we were set to see at the World Cup. Ángel di María playing a little deeper, ready to set up Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero, and Lionel Messi. That's not just a tasty lineup. That's got us positively salivating.
But now you're going to take away our joy. Rather than set out what could well be the most exciting attack at the World Cup, you're going to bench Higuaín, bring in Hugo Campagnaro, and play five at the back. Is your goal to cause everyone watching Europe's midnight kickoff to fall asleep?
Or is it simply that you believe you can expose Bosnia's weaknesses by the use of a 3-5-2? If so, you may have grossly underestimated the strength of your opponents. That, or you're relying on outdated information.
See, Bosnia have adapted since your side last met them in St. Louis. Then, as they had throughout qualifying, Safet Sušić set out a 4-4-2. A 4-4-2 with a bit of a questionable back line, and no holding midfielder. Argentina easily ran out the 2-0 winners. If you decide to run a 3-5-2 against that 4-4-2, you may be able to pad your goal difference. The three centerbacks could nullify Edin Džeko and Vedad Ibišević. Pablo Zabaleta and Marcos Rojo could hang back to help protect Sergio Ramos in goal, and the majority of the albiceleste attack could cut through the middle, where there'd be no midfield enforcer to get in their way. Then just get the ball to Agüero or Messi and boom! plenty of goals.
Yet there's a very good chance that the side that steps out into the bright lights of the Maracana on Sunday looks quite different to the one playing at Busch Stadium half a year ago. For one, Sušić has found himself a proper defensive midfielder in Muhamed Bešić. A 21-year-old from Hungarian side Ferencvárosi probably doesn't have your knees trembling, Sabella, but the kid's got talent, and Bosnia have looked much stronger since his introduction.
Then there's the fact that, by fielding three central defenders, you're essentially given Bosnia more room in which to work. That's because they're likely not fielding two men up front. While Ibišević's form previously made Sušić refuse to consider dropping him, his performances toward the end of the season mean he's now expendable. Instead, Džeko starts alone up top. Essentially, you're devoting three defenders to stop one man. Džeko's talented and everything, but he's no Zlatan.
But really, the reason you need to avoid the switch to a 3-5-2 has nothing to do with your opponents, and everything to do with Argentina. Argentina aren't supposed to be the defensive side, not with that front four. And Argentina don't have the resources to be that sort of side. You're meant to be the ones pouring forward, operating on a just-score-one-more principle.
And, damn it, that's what we fans were hoping for. We want to wonder whether the goal will come from Higuaín lurking near the goal, or Agüero letting fly with a powerful shot, or even di María rampaging forward.
But mostly we want to see Messi. After all these years, it's finally his turn to shine with Argentina. It's been your tactics and your guidance that have allowed the forward to replicate what he does regularly for Barcelona when he's in the Argentina shirt. Why would you want to destroy what you've worked so hard to build? We want a World Cup in which Messi can star - we want him dancing through gaps and picking out the perfect pass. We want him scoring goals.
Putting on four attackers means the opposition's defense can't solely focus on Messi. Or they could, but the more they try to take him out of contention, the more partners he has to slip the ball to. If you make Bosnia concerned about threats coming a plethora of talented attackers, it's much more likely the focus will slip. Let them run free. Let them overwhelm.
Let Argentina be fun. Please.
Yours most sincerely,
World Cup Watchers
P.S. - there's a vague rumor floating around that Higuaín isn't completely fit, yet seems to be "working well." Don't let this be an excuse to temper Argentina's approach.