It hasn’t always been easy for Rosario Central supporters; aside from the difficulties of provincial clubs dealing with dominance of Buenos Aires in Argentine football, in recent years they have been forced to endure the success of neighbours Newell’s Old Boys. Gerardo Martino’s Newell’s were lifting the 2013 Torneo Final and reaching the Copa Libertadores semi-final while Central were battling back to the Primera following their relegation in 2010. 2015 well and truly saw the tables turn and although El Canalla may not have ended with their hands on a trophy, it was a wonderful year for those in yellow and blue. Eduardo Coudet must take an enormous amount of credit for this resurgence and given their underdog status, the 41-year-old novice coach is a worthy winner.
Central had suffered a difficult Torneo Transición finishing fifteenth out of the 20 sides that the Primera División included at the time and when Huracán edged them to the Copa Argentina on penalties it signalled the end for manager Miguel Ángel Russo. President Raúl Broglia turned to Eduardo Coudet, a former player, who at that point had no experience as a head coach and had retired only a couple of years earlier after ending his career in the United States.
A bold choice but given his status with the supporters not an unpopular one.
The conclusion of Coudet’s rather nomadic playing career saw him given a six-match ban for aggressively remonstrating with a referee while playing for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and this proved to be an indication into the type of manager he has proved to be. Fiery and confrontational are two words that could be used to describe Coudet’s presence on the touchline but there is far more to Chacho than this.
Coudet’s first success was before a ball had been kicked in the Torneo 2015 when he managed to persuade Marco Ruben to return to the club on loan from Dynamo Kyiv. Coudet had two spells at the club as a player between 2004 and 2006 when Ruben was just emerging as one of the most promising teenage strikers in the league and being able to bring the centre-forward back to the Gigante de Arroyito proved to be a masterstroke.
But it wasn’t only the signing of Ruben, the defensive duo of Javier Pinola and Cristian Villagra hugely improved the defensive unit as Central conceded two less goals in the Torneo 2015 than they did in the entire Transición, a championship which played eleven less matches.
These experienced heads were complimented superbly by some of Central’s young talents and the likes of Franco Cervi, Walter Montoya and Giovani Lo Celso emerged as potential stars. Cervi had shown glimpses in cameos under Russo but Coudet put faith in the teenager and put him straight into the starting eleven. In matchday one this faith was repaid with Cervi lobbing Sebastián Saja to give Central victory in the Cilindro over champions Racing.
Now after a season in which Boca Juniors won a league and cup double, it might seem odd not to award Rodolfo Arruabarrena but it comes down to expectation. With Boca’s vast squad and the arrival of Carlos Tevez, arguably had they not won these trophies Arruabarrena would have been out of a job.
It is also worth noting that Central were beaten only three times in the league, fewer than any other side and and Coudet’s win ratio of 55.2% is higher than that of Arruabarrena (49.7%). The loss percentage of just 10.3% is substantially less than Arruabarrena’s Boca (26.5%) and goes to prove just how effective Central were in 2015.
The difficulty that Coudet now has is how to follow up this success when suddenly there is a degree of expectation. A return to the Copa Libertadores after nearly a decade awaits and will bring an extra burden on the squad. Franco Cervi will still be with the club until he leaves for Benfica midway through the year and Coudet will be hoping that a permanent deal for Ruben can be agreed but a big challenge lies ahead.