After weeks of speculation, Sunday night’s defeat to Racing was the nail in the coffin for Boca Juniors manager Rodolfo Arruabarrena and despite leading the club to a league and cup double only two months ago, Daniel Angelici relieved the 40-year-old of his duties ahead of a huge week.
Arruabarrena had given himself a stay of execution after back-to-back wins over San Martín and Newell’s Old Boys but remained a defeat away from disaster after superclásico defeats in the summer and a poor start to the Primera season. Defeat to Racing and the manner of Boca’s play proved to be the end for El Vasco but there are other factors behind Angelici’s apparent act of hastiness.
Considering where the club was, after drifting along under Carlos Bianchi, when Arrubarrena arrived in 2014, Vasco’s accomplishment in lifting a first league title since 2011 and following it with the Copa Argentina should not be forgotten, particularly at a much needed point in the club’s history, where they have been forced to watch River celebrate enormous success. With his achievements in mind many would argue that the coach deserves more time but the harshest critics claim that Boca won these accolades in spite of Arruabarrena, rather than because of him.
Certainly Arruabarrena’s statistics are favourable and while his sides ability to grind out victories during the 2015 season should be applauded, perhaps with the squad and resources available, Boca should have been winning certain Primera matches in a far easier manner.
Many would argue that had it not been for the arrival of Carlos Tevez, Boca would not have lifted the Primera title. The returning hero dragged Boca over the line in many matches and his irrepressible desire to win appeared at times more important than any tactical decisions from the dugout.
Luck, most would argue balances itself out over the course of a season, but Boca’s double triumph undoubtedly had a huge slice of fortune. Rosario Central are most likely still seething over the manner they were defeated in the Copa Argentina final when a series of dreadful officiating decisions gifted Boca the title. Even in the Primera title race, the AFA’s failure to sanction Carlos Tevez for his leg breaking challenge on Ezequiel Ham certainly swung things in their favour.
Failure in the Copa Libertadores could be glossed over as Boca felt victimised by CONMEBOL after they were disqualified over the attack on River Plate at half time in the second leg. However, it is worth noting that three quarters of the way through the tie, Boca had seriously underperformed and were heading out regardless.
And this performance against the top teams is perhaps the most important factor when analysing Arruabarrena’s dismissal. After getting a very easy group in last year’s Copa Libertadores, River were the first major challenge and even prior to the ‘pepper-spray incident’ Boca were poor. Lifting a record-equalling eighth Libertadores target is the goal this season and the question is, would El Vasco be the man to do that?
Certainly his numbers against River and the remaining three grandes suggest otherwise. In 15 matches against River, Independiente, Racing and San Lorenzo, Arruabarrena’s Boca have won just three, drawing three and losing a difficult to accept, nine.
With this record in mind, Angelici may have felt that he needed to act now. Boca face Racing again on Thursday night in the Copa Libertadores group stage having drawn away to Deportivo Cali in their opener while Racing thumped Bolívar. A second defeat to Racing would make taking top spot in the group a tough ask and if this week couldn’t get any bigger, Sunday marks the season’s first superclásico.
The availability of Boca icon Guillermo Barros Schelotto may also have hastened Arruabarrena’s exit and while the former Lanús boss remains firm favourite, it is thought that reserve coach Rolando Schiavi will oversee these two crunch fixtures. Perhaps a superclásico isn’t an ideal time for a new coach to arrive but despite the likes of Jorge Sampaoli, Marcelo Bielsa and Alejandro Sabella being linked, anyone other than Schelotto would be a major surprise.
El Vasco probably won’t be out of work for long and will no doubt feel aggrieved by the manner he has left La Bombonera. Daniel Angelici’s leadership should come under as much scrutiny but with the president not going anyway for a while, this week will put his decisions in the spotlight.