Even just three games into the 2016 season no one could possibly have predicted that the leaders in the two zones would be Atlético Tucumán and Colón but with three wins apiece, that is precisely where they sit. Newly promoted Atlético were supposed to be scrapping for points at the foot of the table while Colón were not anticipated to improve a great deal on their 19th placed finish in 2015.
Such was the apparently cruel fixture list, El Decano would probably have been happy with a third of their current points tally. Given the size of their opponents in the opening two fixtures the majority of the headlines focused on the deficiencies of Racing and Boca, and while Atleti undoubtedly benefitted from catching them out of form, it took a resiliance and strategy to score two wins. Even against Unión on Thursday, Tucumán sacrificed the majority of possession in favour of keeping their shape and remaining tight and so far it appears to be working. Only one goal conceded in three and five scored, Juan Manuel Azconzábal’s side have managed to carry their belief and fine form up from the Nacional B. Such an outstanding start to the season is certainly putting distance between themselves and the relegation places and with tougher times certain to come ahead, these victories could be vital.
Colón’s form is not as surprising but given how inconsistent El Sabelero were, putting together three wins is an achievement. Darío Franco’s side only managed this once in the whole of 2015 but perhaps significantly it was in the final three fixtures of the season, a run which ensured their survival. Wins over Arsenal and Quilmes are perhaps to be expected by any half decent side. Hoever, these were exactly the type of matches that Colón were dropping points and Thursday night’s victory over Belgrano, who edged them to a Sudamericana spot in 2015, was against an opponent considered if not a title underdog then a strong top half side. El Sabalero look like they could be fun to watch this season with a suspect defence but in Alan Ruiz, a wonderfully gifted playmaker, who is in the best form of his career.
Arruabarrena survives after Boca win but are the champions back?
If the sports pages were to be believed Rodolfo Arruabarrena was to step down/get booted out if Boca failed to beat Atlético Tucumán in La Bombonera last Sunday so for El Vasco to still be in the dugout for Wednesday’s visit to San Juan was a surprise. Having dodged one bullet, Arruabarrena couldn’t survive another defeat and given San Martín’s impressive home form this was a more difficult ask than the previous Sunday.
In what was a pressure situation for the club, Carlos Tevez scored the goal that gave Boca the vital win just as he had done at crucial times during the second half of 2015. The side were far better than they had been and although at times they were wasteful and a little imbalanced, there was a mental toughness and desire to win that had been lacking since the summer friendlies.
Importantly for Arruabarrena the players appeared to want to play for him. Dani Osvaldo played with a broken toe to make a difference when it would have been easy for them to down tools, safe in the knowledge that Vasco would be the fall guy and Guillermo Barros Schelotto would replace him. It wasn’t a grand performance but it was a necessary result. The visit of Newell’s to La Bombonera on Saturday is another must-win but this result may have given a foundation now for Boca to go on a run.
Newell’s recover from clásico defeat in style but what to make of Racing?
After their sorry performance in the clásico on Sunday, Newell’s Old Boys, under the temporary management of Juan Pablo Vojvoda, needed a reaction and although nothing forgives a derby defeat like the one suffered against Central, La Lepra did a pretty good job. Racing were the visitors to the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa, themselves in search for a first league win, and although Facundo Sava rotated his side ahead of an important weekend, La Academia were utterly trounced.
The clásico defeat cost Lucas Bernardi his job and although it would be unfair to lay the blame solely at his door, Newell’s were a different side when Racing visited on Tuesday. La Lepra haven’t scored five goals in a league match since Gerardo Martino’s side in 2013 and Racing haven’t lost by such a margin since February 1997, coincidentally also in Rosario but to Central.
The problems at Newell’s run far deeper than one loss in the clásico and so by the same notion, one victory doesn’t turn it around but at least there was a positivity that had been lacking. Racing can explain the result by pointing to the fact that several first team players were missing but ahead of their own clásico, La Academia are in desperate need of a win. Facundo Sava needs far more from his squad players with the Copa Libertadores kicking off next week and now still without a win in the league there is an even greater pressure.
Central further title aspirations with deserved victory in Avellaneda
It’s been a pretty good week for Rosario Central and as of yet there are no signs that Eduardo Coudet’s can’t go better than they managed in 2015 and end their 30-year wait for a trophy. Victory over Newell’s was impressive but in the current circumstances expected, however, a visit three days later to an apparent title rival should have presented a tougher challenge. It wasn’t the same level of domination that they exerted over their city rivals but two decisive moments in the second half swung it in favour of Eduardo Coudet’s impressive side.
Mauricio Pellegrino, Independiente’s under pressure boss, thought his side had matched Central and for large parts they did but costly errors were punished ruthlessly. Marcelo Larrondo’s penalty to open the scoring enabled Central to play on the break and in this manner, Jonás Aguirre doubled their advantage.
However, while Independiente looked a little disjointed and desperate in possession, Central appeared a well-drilled unit: Two domineering centre backs, two full backs that press high and add width, a midfield that battles but keeps the ball well and the pace in attack to support Larrondo. Balancing the Copa Libertadores will place a strain on Coudet’s squad but they have laid down a marker as the team to beat in these opening rounds.
Vélez show signs of recover with impressive away win
After expressing my concern over Vélez following an utterly awful 2015 and little obvious improvement at the start of this season, Cristian Bassedas’ side jolted back to life with a 3-0 win away to Argentinos Juniors. It may only be Argentinos Juniors but a clean sheet, three goals and importantly a win is something to celebrated right now in Liniers.
The return of Mariano Pavone was always likely to be vital if Vélez were to improve and the veteran striker proved his worth with a couple of early goals in La Paternal. His experience along with Leandro Somoza in midfield and Fabián Cubero in defence play an vital role in supporting the cast of academy products that recent Vélez managers have had to contend with. Tuesday night’s match suggested Bassedas might do this better than Miguel Ángel Russo managed in 2015.
Pavone offers a wonderful focal point of the attack and a central striker who the pacy youngsters can play off. El Fortín have a few players that fit into this category but Hernán Toledo deserves special mention this week after his superb solo goal wrapped up the victory.
With such a young side, it is probably expected that Vélez will remain inconsistent but ahead of a potential relegation battle next season, they need to start picking up points now.