The new year is here! Yes, okay, it’s already nearly two weeks old, but never mind. Here are some suggested new year’s resolutions for some of the movers and shakers in Argentine football.
Where to start? ‘Sort yourselves out, for God’s sake,’ seems a rather vague suggestion for a resolution, but I doubt it’s a sentiment any fans will disagree with. If there’s a single person in Argentina who thinks the country’s football is being competently run, I’d like to meet them and have a good laugh at them.
A few more specific suggestions for resolutions the AFA might make, though: first, sort out the financial crisis currently engulfing the nation’s clubs, and make sure a TV rights deal is signed in time for the season to restart next month. Secondly, try and cast the correct number of votes in the presidential election this year, if and when it goes ahead. And thirdly, if you can, try not to get kicked out of FIFA while you’re doing all this, can you?
And now, some suggestions for the clubs, mostly having to do with on-pitch performances…
Decide on an identity for your team, and pick a national team in keeping with that identity. Bauza’s resolution has to be to secure qualification for the Russia 2018 World Cup – no more, and certainly no less. If he’s to achieve that, Argentina really can’t afford to drop many more points.
The resolution for league leader Boca has to be to keep going as it was at the end of the year. Like my new year’s resolution to reach a point where I can do 100 push-ups, though, the reality might prove more difficult than the idea. That’s because a congenitally weak shoulder and a naturally scrawny physique… oh sorry, I got confused. I meant to write: that’s because Carlos Tevez has left for China (without even saying good bye!), Fernando Gago could be on his way too either now or at the end of the season, and the search for a new goalkeeper following Guillermo Sara’s injury has so far been fruitless.
What does Boca have going for it? Well, it has plenty of midfield options already should Gago leave, and Tevez’s absence arguably frees up manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto to use they system he preferred at Lanús, a 4-3-3 in which Tevez, as neither a winger nor a center forward nor a midfielder, really fit into. From a purely trophy-hunting point of view, the sensible thing for Boca to do is hang onto Gago for the remaining six months of his contract (thus taking the hit and letting him probably leave on a free transfer in July rather than getting some cash for him now), and go for the title. Complications with that plan might arise, though, if AC Milan, say, offer the club money to take Gago now.
River has made one resolution very clear, having put all its eggs in one basket during the second half of 2016. After prioritising the Copa Argentina to the detriment of its league position, there can only be one acceptable resolution for 2017: the club needs to go a long way in the Copa Libertadores. The ambition, of course, is to win it and be crowned champion of South America for the fourth time, but the resolution should be at least a semi-final place – and improved performances in the league, in front of the fans who pay their money to watch the team, should also be demanded.
Racing and Independiente
I apologize to fans of the two Avellaneda giants for lumping them in together, but… perhaps a little stability this year should be the resolution, for both institutions? Both hoped for title challenges, both are well off the pace so far after either eating the manager alive (Racing) or producing incredibly dull football (Independiente). 2014 title-winner Diego Cocca replaces Ricardo Zielinski as Racing boss for the new year, while Gabriel Milito has made way for former Defensa y Justicia manager Ariel Holan at Independiente. Both need improvements – for Racing, more consistency is required, and a more attacking ethos is widely desired. Independiente, meanwhile, needs to start playing football that doesn’t send its fans to sleep.
Continue to secure funding for the Return to Boedo, and try to hang on to as many key players as you can. The latter, in particular, won’t be easy, but it would help the main aim, which is surely a title challenge given the current position. 2016 was a great year for San Lorenzo off the pitch, and the team has done enough in the first half of the season to give reason to believe that 2017 could be a successful one on it, if it can keep its current level up.
Newell’s Old Boys
Whatever you were doing in the first half of the season to spark that amazing turnaround in form after a dreadful transitional championship in the first half of last year, keep doing it.
Estudiantes de La Plata
Just make sure club president Seba Verón’s return to the playing squad isn’t a gimmick – and if it is a gimmick, make damn sure he doesn’t become an albatross around the neck of a team which has more than enough ability to rescue its title challenge, but was showing serious signs of falling to pieces in its last few games before the summer break.