The sticking point from Jorge Sampaoli’s and Argentina’s meek capitulation to Croatia was the manner in which they conceded each of the three goals and their inadequacy in attack.

With a provisional 3-4-3 line-up, La Albiceleste were left too exposed at the back due to the lack of pace possessed by Javier Mascherano and the more passive Enzo Perez in front of them. Nicolas Tagliafico, playing as one of the back three had predominantly played as a left-back for Ajax while Gabriel Mercado had started more games for Sevilla on the right (21) than he had on the centre (14).

Only one man of that Argentine defence was playing in his naturalised position and that was Nicolas Otamendi. This system, more flawed than most Argentine plans, had to go. And it did against Nigeria.

The three-man defence was the first to go. With insufficient cover and the team requiring to master a new system in a short amount of time, the return to four men at the back was a welcome move, less of a gamble.

Marcos Rojo returned to the centre of defence, partnering Otamendi. Rojo has an air of liability about him, but was at the heart of the backline that carried Argentina to the final in 2014. Tagliafico returned to the left, Mercado to the right, balance was restored once again.

After starting Marcos Acuna and Enzo Perez at the base of midfield in both the games, came the change that re-vitalised Argentina, at least on the night. Sampaoli had been stressing at the end of the Croatia game and even after beating Nigeria that Lionel Messi was their main man and he had to be supported with passes and through balls.

Ever Banega has been the obvious answer to this conundrum since day one, and he was imperious against Nigeria, recording more key passes (3) and through balls than any one else on the pitch. The Sevilla play-maker can sometimes be frustrating, but when on song, there’s no one that Messi would rather have supplying him in an Argentine shirt.

No one made more passes than Banega on the night, 79 with an accuracy of 89%. Messi received 63 passes, a quarter of which (16) came from Banega, who incidentally received the highest number of passes against Nigeria (73).

Banega was also spot on with his long passing, as made all 9 of his attempted passes over the high range. The assist for Messi’s opener was a peach of a ball, with the Nigerian defenders stepping up and getting caught. It was a simple but effective ball, the likes of which Mascherano and co had been struggling to play in Argentina’s initial matches.

The 29-year-old Arsenal transfer target created several other big chances on the night. He send Angel Di Maria through on goal before he was brought down by Leon Balogun and released Higuain only for the Juventus striker to pass up the opportunity.

Higuain’s inclusion at the expense of Kun Aguero was questioned but he offers a different option to the Manchester City man. Despite not having a goal to his name, Higuain remains a target man, the only one Argentina possess. His work-rate was up there against Nigeria, even though the finishing might not be at par with Aguero’s.

Argentina players' average positioning during the periods 1) 0-15 minutes 2) 15-30 mins 3) 30-45 mins
Argentina players' average positioning during the periods 4) 45-60 minutes 5) 60-75 mins 6) 75-90 mins

Sampaoli also appears to have arrived at a conclusion that Messi’s best position is out of the right wing as part of a three-man attack. Going by the ex-Chile boss’ assertion that the Barcelona man could play more balls into the box and take higher share of the creative burden.

While Nigeria were surprisingly open, compact defences may test Argentina’s 4-3-3 in a way that the Africans didn’t. One possible option would then be to crowd the midfield and play two banks of four with little space in between.

For Messi to be involved in a higher proportion of attacks, he needs to be playing close to the central midfielders and sole striker. Playing him in the hole would certainly prove beneficial, as would a move up top alongside Higuain.

Plenty of chinks to sort out, but a basic shape and personnel have finally started emerging for Jorge Sampaoli and this Argentina side.