Alejandro SABELLA is going for height when it comes to defenders.
Alejandro SABELLA is calling up tall players to defend the team. For several years, Argentina has had a problem when it came to playing against physically strong opponents. In the past, we've had the likes of Nicolas BURDISSO and Gabriel HEINZE against Miroslav KLOSE, Adriano, Didier DROGBA and other strong center forwards who are good in the air. Argentina's vulnerability at set pieces was evident. No need to look further than the goal conceeded against Germany at the 2006 World Cup or the goal let in against Uruguay at the 2011 Copa America. Every set piece in that clash against the Urugayans was an extra year taken off my life.
As I was going through the players called by SABELLA for the upcoming match in March, two things stuck out for me. Only nine players (ten, including Maxi RODRIGUEZ) have World Cup experience. Those players being Sergio ROMERO, Mariano ANDUJAR, Nicolas OTAMENDI, Javier MASCHERANO, Angel DI MARIA, Lionel MESSI, Rodrigo PALACIO (took part in the 2006 World Cup), Gonzalo HIGUAIN, Sergio AGUERO and Maxi RODRIGUEZ. The second thing which stood out was that out of those ten players, only one of them was a defender. The one who was being used as a scapegoat by many people back in South Africa. That player being Nicolas OTAMENDI.
Alejandro SABELLA is going with a completely inexperienced team when it comes to tournaments with Argentina. The second thing which stood out and that has been evident since SABELLA took the reigns of the team was how tall these defenders are compared to previous years. I dug up some numbers and looked at how tall our defenders were in 2010 compared to the ones we have now. Here are the defenders who were part of the team in 2010 at the World Cup:
Martin DEMICHELIS: 1.84cm, 6'0 feet
Clemente RODRIGUEZ: 1.67cm, 5'4 feet
Nicolas BURDISSO: 1.83cm, 6'0 feet
Gabriel HEINZE: 1.78cm, 5'8 feet
Ariel GARCE: 1.77cm, 5'8 feet
Walter SAMUEL: 1.83cm, 6'0 feet
Nicolas OTAMENDI: 1.84cm, 6'0 feet
Average height: 1.79cm, 5'8 feet
Here are the defenders who have been called for the match in March:
Hugo CAMPAGNARO: 1.81cm, 5'9 feet
Lisandro LOPEZ: 1.87cm, 6'1 feet
Federico FERNANDEZ: 1.90cm, 6'2 feet
Gino PERUZZI: 1.78cm, 5'8 feet
Pablo ZABALETA: 1.78cm, 5'8 feet
Ezequiel GARAY: 1.89cm, 6'2 feet
Marcos ROJO: 1.87cm, 6'1 feet
Jose BASANTA: 1.88cm, 6'1 feet
Nicolas OTAMENDI: 1.84cm, 6'0 feet
Average height: 1.84cm, 6'0 feet
Excluding Gino PERUZZI and Lisandro LOPEZ, both of which have not been in the team, the average height goes up from 1.84cm to 1.85cm.
That's a 6cm height advantage compared to that of 2010. While it may not sound like much, in terms of set pieces or crosses, every cm and every inch counts. I'm 6 foot 4, which is 197cm and the amount of aeriel duels I've won while playing as a defender are too many to count. Anyone who's ever played as a defender or even jumped for a ball will know how it is. The match against Sweden was one of our most difficult matches in terms of aeriel fights. I don't think anyone here is a fan of Germany's Thomas MULLER, who's 186cm tall or 6 foot 1 but the amount of diving headed goals he scores prove my point. I'm not saying I want to play against Germany but I feel slightly more comfortable.
Many will say that if SABELLA really is going for height why haven't Federico FAZIO or Mateo MUSACCHIO been called. The reason could very easily be because it's too late. It's too late for SABELLA to integrate a new center back to the team. OTAMENDI has played with the team in the past and as stated would be the only defender who would have World Cup experience.
More often than not our inability to defend set pieces have been our downfall but under SABELLA and with two tall CB's, it's been better than previous years.