Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
We're fast approaching the midway point of the season, which means two things: the Superclásico is upon us, and the firing squad is limbering up. Conveniently, the two feed off each other.
Boca play River next weekend, but predictably the build-up has already started. The players may be regurgitating the ‘one game at a time’ line about the forthcoming fixture, but this weekend is essentially a glorified dress rehearsal for the following weekend’s hostilities.
For the Xeneize and the Millionaires, this Sunday is about getting star players firing on all cylinders, avoiding suspension-carrying yellow cards and not picking up any injuries. For Boca it’s about finding a tried and trusted starting XI, for River it’s about finding goals.
For Boca’s Abel Alves and River’s Leo Astrada, a defeat in the Superclásico could well signal the end of their managerial reign: both sides are wallowing in bottom-half mediocrity. But before we examine the state of the nation’s two biggest clubs in next week’s blog, there could be more casualties in the dugout.
So far, Racing and Atlético Tucumán have waved adios to the men who started they season with. Racing gave Claudio Vivas rakes of cash to spend in the preseason, but just four games to make things click. He didn’t, and was he sent packing.
Osvaldo Sosa, meanwhile, left the Tucumanos at the bottom of the pile and was a mere question of time before he received the unwanted call from the board. There could well be more of the same this weekend, namely in Santa Fé.
If Colón fail to beat Gimnasia on Saturday, then Antonio Mohamed will be on his way. He himself said so. Bizarrely, it won’t be the board who say thanks but no thanks: the Turk created this situation all by his lonesome. "If you lose three games in a row," said Mohamed this week, "you have to go."
Perhaps it was the sight of an unrecognisable Colón side losing to Arsenal on Monday night in the second straight defeat that pushed him to say it, but the club was in no hurry to fire El Turco. Two weeks ago they were top of the table. They play good football, have a strong squad and only missed out on the group stages of the Libertadores on penalties.
Mohamed, who had been touted as a possible addition to Maradona’s backroom staff at the World Cup, was one of the few coaches in Argentina afforded time and backing, and he is repaying the faith with results.
That is, apart from the last two. According to him, one more defeat and he’s off. But with the short-season format, the Argentine league is basically a frenzied free-for-all pressure-pot atmosphere where every single mistake is scrutinised by the media and fans.
Vélez head honcho Ricardo Gareca was clear about the problem facing coaches when quizzed about the issue this week. "There are no long-term projects. We're not magicians."
San Lorenzo's Diego Simeone also threw in his tuppence: "Saying things like 'the coach has to resign' or 'if he loses the next game he has to go' is just a way of making people more aggressive towards the team." He should know. Until last weekend’s 3-1 win over Chacarita, El Cholo was the bookies' favourite to get the axe.
So while the media don’t help things, and the fans get increasingly agitated, and the board of directors are often trigger-happy, the men in the dugout don’t always help themselves.
Ricardo Caruso Lombardi has risked his reputation, his fridge, and Tigre’s comfortable mid-table position by offering the out-of-work, out-of-shape gossip-rags' favourite forward, the one and only Cristián ‘The Ogre’ Fabbiani, the chance to play the rest of the season with the Matador.
They may have a rough deal, but some coaches are gluttons for punishment...
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