With Barros Schelotto waiting in the wings, Arruabarrena looks on borrowed time
A summer that consisted of two superclásico defeats, a lacklustre goalless draw with Temperley on the opening weekend, followed by a shambolic thrashing at the hands of San Lorenzo for the Supercopa, left Rodolfo Arruabarrena clinging to his job prior to Atlético Tucumán’s visit to La Bombonera. A league and cup double only buys you so much time it would appear and despite the newly promoted side enjoying a famous win over Racing last Sunday, Boca were expected to return to winning ways and kickstart their season.
El Decano had other ideas and took full advantage of Boca’s hideous start of the year to record a historic 1-0 win. Rumours before kickoff had suggested that a failure to win would certainly end Arruabarrena’s spell at the club but as of yet, El Vasco has reported for training and there is no sign of a resignation or a push from Daniel Angelici. This does however appear to be simply delaying the inevitable and with Boca icon, Guillermo Barros Schelotto available again after his shambolic exit from Palermo, Angelici has his replacement ready in waiting. The rumour mill has even suggested that Argentine president (and former Boca president) Mauricio Macri has told Angelici to appoint Schelotto.
It is difficult to assess just how poor Boca look at present, only months after completing a league and cup double. It is certainly far deeper than simply Carlos Tevez lacking the sharpness that dragged Boca to glory at the end of 2015. The defensive reinforcements have not helped and the attempt at playing three central defenders failed with spectacular results. Games are coming thick and fast which is perhaps one reason not to rashly dispense with Arruabarrena. On Wednesday, Boca travel to San Juan to play San Martín and it appears that El Vasco will be in charge.
Central look genuine title contenders but Newell’s provide little test in the clásico
Five wins now from the previous six clásicos speaks volumes about how the power has shifted in Rosario but Central’s current superiority was never clearer than on Sunday afternoon in the Gigante de Arroyito. Eduardo Coudet’s title hopefuls tore their city rivals to shreds and although the scoreline only reads 2-0, it could have been far more embarrassing for Newell’s Old Boys. Unsurprisingly this latest crushing blow spelled the end for Lucas Bernardi as coach and the present fortunes of the two rivals couldn’t be any more distinct.
Central proved in 2015 that they were to be taken very seriously and after keeping the core of that side together under the guidance of Eduardo Coudet, they have to be considered genuine challengers this season. A solid defence with full-backs that provide ample width, a compact midfield that maintains possession and in Marco Ruben, a centre forward who guarantees goals. Disposing of Newell’s barely required moving out of second gear but Central’s bigger tests are yet to come. Coudet’s first eleven is incredibly good but there are still question marks over how deep the squad strength is and when the Copa Libertadores kicks off in a couple of weeks this will be tested.
Newell’s are once more floundering and Bernardi is now another name on the list of managers that have failed since Gerardo Martino’s successful spell only three or four years ago. Moving directly from the pitch to the dugout is not an easy transition but it would be foolish to assume that Bernardi is at fault for the club’s recent decline. Supporters centered on president, Jorge Riccobelli’s house after the clásico defeat suggesting they know exactly where the problems lie.
Huracán appeal for lengthy postponements after bus crash
Huracán were not in action this weekend after the AFA agreed to postpone their match against Tigre in light of the bus crash that left several of the first team players injured. Travelling to the airport in Venezuela on Wednesday after overcoming Caracas in the Copa Libertadores playoffs, the team coach’s brakes failed and resulted in it flipping. Patricio Toranzo was the worst affected and there is still some uncertainty over the extent of the injuries to his feet but Diego Mendoza, Hugo Nervo and Lucas Villaruel have all been ruled out for the immediate future with varying injuries.
Postponing Sunday’s meeting with Tigre was the only correct course of action in the circumstance and the AFA have extended that to the round three fixture with Aldosivi but El Globo have requested that they are excused for a month. Currently sitting bottom of the descenso, relegation remains a very real possibility and with Copa Libertadores commitments already, the club are up against it.
The schedule to fit in a short championship and the Copa Libertadores is already tight and it is virtually impossible that the AFA, let alone CONMEBOL could sanction such a layoff. As a result AFA’s ruling that Huracán will return to action in round four next weekend comes as no surprise. The fact that no one was killed or more seriously injured was a huge stroke of luck but the crash has no fuelled relegation fears.
The Grandes start slow and struggle for form
2016 was supposed to be the year when the Buenos Aires ‘Big Five’ rose once more to the forefront of Argentine football but with Boca’s woes already mentioned, the form of the other four is patchy at best. None of the five have won both their opening two fixtures and with the schedule about to get much busier, they are in desperate need of improvement.
San Lorenzo had appeared to have turned a corner after romping to the Supercopa against Boca Juniors but on Saturday, Los Cuervos required a very suspect penalty to get back into their game against Sarmiento in the Nuevo Gasómetro. Pablo Barrientos ultimately snatched all three points for Pablo Guede’s side but after the opening weekend draw with Patronato it remains clear that the team hasn’t yet adjusted to life after Edgardo Bauza.
River Plate gave an indication that concerns over their form were a thing of the past when they blew away Quilmes in round one but Marcelo Gallardo’s makeshift defence leaked three goals away to Belgrano as they slumped to defeat. Los Millonarios remain a real danger going forward but there are serious question marks over the defence and how light reinforcements are. Injury to Eder Alvarez Balanta prompted Gallardo to play Leonardo Ponzio as a partner to Jonathan Maidana and Belgrano exposed this.
Racing have done what was required of them by reaching the Copa Libertadores group stage but have so far failed to impress in the league. Defeat to Atlético Tucumán was followed this weekend with a 2-2 in Avellaneda against San Martín. La Academia threw away a lead twice and with Gustavo Bou now likely to miss the midweek trip to Newell’s and possibly the clásico next weekend, Facundo Sava needs three points.
Rivals Independiente are also yet to find their groove and a disjointed display away to Godoy Cruz ended in a 1-1 draw. Germán Denis provided the solitary plus from an otherwise disjointed performance and although it is very early days, Mauricio Pellegrino may find himself under pressure if El Rojo don’t get positive results against Central on Wednesday and Racing next weekend. Lose both and in a short championship, title hopes are probably over.
Some surprise packages from the opening two rounds
Only five teams have won their opening two fixtures – Rosario Central were already considered title contenders so their 100% record is of little surprise but the remaining four have given their supporters a pleasant surprise.
The least surprising of those is Lanús, who despite enduring a frustrating 2015 retain a decent side and under new manager Jorge Almirón have made a solid start. Their two wins cannot exactly be classified as shocks given that they were away to a slightly understrength Estudiantes side and at home to Defensa y Justicia but were potential banana skins for any new manager. Pepe Sand has immediately found the net and Racing loanee, José Luis Gómez looks an exciting prospect.
Two sides that struggled last year are enjoying a change in fortune in 2016 and creating plenty of excitement with their open style. Aldosivi have scored three goals in both their opening matches and young forward Santiago Rosales has already displayed why he is such a highly regarded prospect in the wins over Olimpo and Argentinos Juniors. Colón have been equally ruthless in dispatching of the weaker sides with a 2-1 win against Arsenal and a 4-2 victory against Quilmes. Both sides appear to have goals in them but conceding goals against relatively poor opposition suggests they may need to tighten up before the fixtures become a little more testing. For now, both sets of supporters can revel in their status as league leaders.
Finally, the biggest surprise so far has undoubtedly been Atlético Tucumán. When the AFA announced that they would face Racing and then Boca Juniors, few would have expected El Decano to have any points at this stage. A fearless approach to the matches, epitomised by the side still looking for a second goal in La Bombonera with ten men, has delivered remarkable results. As a newly promoted side, the goal must remain simply to ensure safety and despite these results, Juan Manuel Azconzábal’s side must not lose sight of that.