The championship may only have been sealed in midweek with Lanus’s failure to defeat Estudiantes, but Gerardo Martino’s men have been the stand out side in Argentina this year and with a Copa Libertadores Semi Final still ahead of them they are on the brink of the greatest year in the club’s history. Lanus started strongly but faded badly and for the second half of the season have looked dreadful and River Plate have been, at best, inconsistent. If either of these sides had won the championship it would have been a travesty as Newell’s have balanced their Libertadores commitments perfectly and been heads and shoulders above their rivals, but what makes Newell’s the best side in Argentina now?
Newell’s have consistently been the most entertaining side to watch this year as is evident by the 40 goals that they have plundered in this short form season. You need to go back to River Plate’s Clausura title in 2004 to find a side that has scored more goals. This season the have scored 3 or more goals in 10 matches and that includes a 4-0 over Boca and a 5-0 demolition of Union. Frankly what has made Newell’s so watchable is their slightly cavalier approach to defending. Conceding 21 goals leaves them with a mediocre record but their 40 goals scored is 9 more than their nearest rival and even more significant when you see that most the teams in the table have half the amount.
What has turned Newell’s into this impressive footballing juggernaut, bearing in mind their perilous position when Gerardo Martino took over in 2012? Well, Martino himself must take a huge amount of credit for this and this has not gone unnoticed by some of the European heavyweights. A pupil of Marcelo Bielsa, playing under him for Newell’s when they last won the championship in 1992, Martino has inherited his astute tactical approach and also, at times, his fiery, demonstrative character. What, perhaps, highlights Martino’s strength is his ability to adapt. When leading Paraguay to the Copa America Final in 2011 the side was all about defence and setting up not to concede. With the resources it led Paraguay to one of it’s best campaigns and resulted in Martino being named South American Coach of the Year. That approach is now the opposite with his talented Newell’s side who look to outscore their opponents. It will not be long before Martino makes the move to Europe, having been linked, in recent weeks with the top job in Malaga and more recently, as one of the names on Real Madrid’s shortlist.
Besides Newell’s attractive style of play, Martino has assembled a skilled squad utilising some younger homegrown products with some more experienced, well-known faces. The man who has stolen most of the headlines is striker, Ignacio Scocco. Top goal scorer over the past year, the front man has scored 29 goals in just 42 appearances since returning to Newell’s. Wherever Scocco has played he has scored goals, whether it be Mexico, Greece or the UAE and at only 28 years of age a new European challenge may come calling. However, the work of Maxi Rodriguez and Gabriel Heinze has been crucial to their success. Their wealth of experience has been invaluable and this season could prove to be the swansong to their glistening careers if they were to bring the Copa Libertadores back to Rosario. In the event of Scocco’s departure, the emergence of youngster, Maxi Urriti will soften the blow. Despite having a supporting role he has contributed with some vital goals and assists.
So with the Torneo Final in the bag, Newell’s now have sometime to prepare for their biggest challenge. A Copa Libertadores Semi Final against Ronaldinho and all the other talent that Atletico Miniero has to offer beckons. Impressively Newell’s have already knocked out, fellow countrymen, Velez Sarsfield and Boca Juniors despite finishing runners up in their group. Momentum has been building and the biggest test of all comes next. Should Newell’s triumph and then go on to claim the Copa Libertadores, it will be the club’s finest hour.