9th June 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Following an overwhelmingly impressive first season in La Liga with Sevilla, it was disappointing to see their fiery manager, Jorge Sampaoli, leave to take over as Argentina's head coach.
Having guided the Andalusian outfit to their second highest points total in La Liga history and an exemplary fourth placed league finish, he just couldn't resist the lure of managing Argentina - the country of his birth.
"There's a clear intention from my country to have me as coach and, since I was young, it's something that has appealed to me," he insisted.
He then went onto state that stepping into the position was "the fulfilling of a dream that I craved for a long time and that I've always admired this role."
Had he stayed with Sevilla, it's hard not to think they could've accomplished great things together, for his team appeared genuine title challengers midway through the campaign and dark horses to go deep into the Champions League, until their form slipped away at the end of the season.
Overseeing particularly impressive wins over Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, plus a statement draw vs. Juventus in the Champions League group stages, the signs were indeed there that he could mould this side into a really special team for the future.
But it wasn't to be, however, as his desire to manage his country won out. "The opportunity to guide the national team has come along again and, as an Argentinian, I cannot turn it down," he explained.
"Even if this means that I may not have the opportunity to coach again European clubs, I feel I have to do this."
It'll certainly be exciting to see how he embraces the challenge of working with some of the finest players in the world, though, and especially to see how he approaches getting the best out of superstar Lionel Messi.
In terms of style, while he's a very adaptable coach, it should be expected he'll place a heavy emphasis on attacking football, just as he largely did at Los Nervionenses. Throughout his tenure at Sevilla, the Marcelo Bielsa disciple stuck to his preferred methods, which began with his desire to build out from the back by creating numerical superiority to bypass opposition pressure.
Another hallmark of his philosophy was creating overloads on the flanks to yet again ensure a free man could be located to progress their attacks through. Moreover, fluid movement, fast combinations and subtle interchanges of positions by his attacking players also proved extremely effective in manipulating opposition defensive structures to manufacture space. Offensive width would come from the wing-backs or full-backs, as he'd often instruct his wingers to drift infield to overload the 10 spaces and occupy zones in between the lines.
Meanwhile, on the defensive end, his favoured intense and aggressive pressing and counterpressing worked fruitfully, allowing Sevilla to regularly win the ball in ideal locations so they could attack unset defences. It should be anticipated that he'll deploy a high defensive line too, in order to condense the pitch and suffocate his adversaries, plus to set his team up nicely to win vital second balls.
Even though he faces a huge task to get La Albiceleste back on the right track, after the lacklustre spell of previous manager, Edgardo Bauza, optimism should be rife back in his homeland that he can arrest their struggling form and give his men some crucial momentum.
First up is a friendly against fabled rivals Brazil in Melbourne and then another friendly vs. Singapore. But then the all-important World Cup qualifiers resume, as Argentina face a crunch game with Uruguay, a contest that is a must win due to the fact they only currently sit in the play-off position to qualify for next year's World Cup in Russia. For a country that possesses such a wealth of wildly gifted footballers, winning just six of their 14 World Cup qualifiers simply isn't good enough, which leaves them a whopping 11 points behind leaders Brazil.
Sampaoli unquestionably has a monumental task ahead, but under the stewardship of the 2015 Copa America winner with Chile, Argentina are in good hands.
Vowing "to build a team that respects the history of Argentinian football", all eyes will be on the enigmatic tactician when his reign begins this week vs. Brazil, who are currently ranked number one in the FIFA World rankings.
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Sevilla's Loss of Jorge Sampaoli is Certainly Argentina's Gain
9th June 2017. By Edward Stratmann.