Saturday, August 13, 2016

Argentina Season Preview - Part 1/2

Following CA Lanús' stunning title win during the shortened Primera División season in the early months of 2016, the new season is right around the corner in Argentina. On August 21, 30 teams will yet again begin their quest for the - probably - most important league title in South America. This preview takes a look at all the teams, their changes in the summer and what can be expected from each one of them. Enjoy and please share if you liked it!

Lanús celebrate their title in 2016 (Photo:
The brightest news first: the two division system is gone again. During the 2016-17 season, each team will play against everyone else at least once; twice against their Clásico rivals. It will be a new year that starts with a bang as Independiente will play hosts to champions Lanús in week one. 

New to the league are CA Talleres from Córdoba. The 102-year old club replaced the iconic Argentinos Juniors that were just too poor all year long to stay in the league. At the end of 16-17, four clubs will be hit by their relegation fate. As usual, the table of the last four seasons will be significant for the bottom clubs. The four spots are currently being held by Talleres, Atlético de Rafaela, Temperley and Sarmiento. 

In the regular yearly table, the four best teams will qualify for the Copa Libertadores in 2018. The following six will play Copa Sudamericana 2017. Traditionally, the big names are being expected to compete for the championship, whether it is River Plate, Boca Juniors or Racing Club. However, it is not justified for each one of them. Let us preview the teams.

Club Atlético Lanús

After shocking the big clubs with 12 wins out of 16 games during the 2016 season, CA Lanús return to the new year as first-time champions of Argentina. Most importantly, 34-year old striker José Sand remained at the club after scoring a ridiculous 14 goals the past season. The other main reason for success, coach Jorge Almirón, did the same and promises another year in the top regions of the table.
On the less bright side of things, Lanús did lose some quality on the transfer market. Paraguayan centre-back Gustavo Gómez joined AC Milan for €8.5 million, while Oscar Benítez went to Portugal to play for Benfica (€3.3 million). In addition, midfielders Pablo Mouche and Iván Marcone returned to Palmeiras and Arsenal de Sarandí respectively after their loan spells ended. 

Lanús themselves did not spend any money on the transfer market. They received back five players from loan spells, loaned striker Brian Montenegro (Nacional/PAR) as alternative for Sand in a busy calendar, right-wing Ciru Rius from Defensa y Justicia and managed to sign centre-back Santiago Zurbriggen. The 26-year old comes from Unión's youth system and was a key part of the first team in Santa Fe last season. Additionally, he is very flexible and can play on both sides defensively. 

Outlook: While losing three of their important regulars is definitely not good news for the club, they managed to keep some exciting prospects on the team as well. Paraguayan left-wing Miguel Almirón or striker Sergio González can be a part of another good season. It is doubtful that it will lead Lanús to the title again, but a top five spot is certainly not out of the question.

Club Atlético Aldosivi

The sharks have established themselves quite well in the Primera after reaching the highest tier of Argentine football in 2014. In the upcoming season, they will try to improve further and reach the secure midfield of the table yet again. Aldosivi's most exciting young player Santiago Rosales unfortunately left the club and joined Racing in a summer transfer. While the club received €2.35 million for the player, it leaves a big hole in the creative department on the left wing. In addition, 23-year old centre-back Guillermo Ortiz found Newell's Old Boys offer more attractive. Understandable, if such an iconic side inquires for you.

Central midfielder Martín Rivero joined his teammates on the way out after featuring in 15 matches last season. To replace him, Aldosivi acquired the services of 33-year old Uruguayan Roberto Brum. He joins the team on a free transfer from Gimnasia y Esgrima and wants to bring his experience to the table. The squad is filled up by a lot of U26 hopefuls from Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. One of them is Joel Acosta, a former U20 international of Argentina, from Boca's youth. He spent last season in Italy's Serie B, but could not make his mark. Instead, the player that can play anywhere on the pitch, will try to live up to his former standout status back home.

Outlook: Losing Rosales hurts Aldosivi a lot, but there will surely be weaker teams in the league. Led consistently by coach Fernando Quiroz since 2011, the offense has never really been a big problem at the club. New centre-back Alan Alegre is supposed to be part of the solution to fix the defensive issues.

Arsenal Fútbol Club

One of the few that stayed: Juan Sánchez Sotelo (Photo:
If you like a lot of changes in just one summer, Arsenal is your club. 16 players left the club, another 15 are new on Sergio Rondina's team. Logically, the new season is quite hard to predict and a lot depends on the coaching staff's ability to form a working unit quickly. Last year, they managed just that and finished fourth in Zone A.

Losing Fernando Luna is not great, but the club will be able to cope with that situation. Midfielder Federico Lértora featured in 15 games last season and is tough to replace. He joined league rivals Belgrano. In addition, offensive midfielder Mariano Barbieri left as well, interestingly with the same destination. They leave a hole down the middle in the squad that Arsenal is trying to fill with returnee Iván Marcone from Lanús and Maximiliano Calzada (Defensa).

Outlook: Despite a lot of action on the transfer market, Arsenal look somewhat ready to have a safe season in the middle of the pack. They managed to make the loan spell of left-back Claudio Corvalán permanent and loaned talented right midfielder Ramiro Carrera to Gimnasia. Why, you have to wonder, considering the exit of Luna, even if he was the more defensive option. If they find their structure quickly, they will be fine.

Atlético de Rafaela

Like I mentioned before, Atlético de Rafaela is deep in relegation trouble. They need a lot of points to avoid the drop and they need them better early than late. Coach Juan Manuel Llop knows that, but has only managed to win one game during his short 9 match span at the club. According to transfermarkt, the club is the least valuable in the league when it comes to player market value. At least Nelson Benítez, the only player that started more than 11 games for the club last season (15) stayed.

On the exit side instead: their only marquee talent, goalkeeper Axel Werner. He was part of Argentina's squad at the Rio Olympics and sold to Atlético Madrid. They loaned him back to Boca Juniors, so Rafaela will have the pleasure of going up against him during the season. Combined with striker Ignacio Pussetto (to Huracán) and right-back Leonardo Godoy (Talleres), it handed Atlético de Rafaela some well-needed money in the range of €2.5 million.

Lucas Hoyos is supposed to be the new number one behind an extremely shaky backline that was the worst in the whole league last season. It is the reason why most transfers have been made defensively. Five new players are supposed to make the difference and four of them will fight for starting spots as centre-back.

Outlook: It is really difficult to see this team anywhere but down. The fact that they need to leave four other teams behind them in the four-year table is unlikely considering their low starting position. If they are able to do it, it will have to be based on a better defense.

Club Atlético Tucumán

A great past season from the freshly promoted team makes a lot of hope for this season. CA Tucumán finished third in Zone B, way ahead of teams such as Racing or Boca. Going into 2016-17, they have done really well to keep their team together for another year. Solely losing right-back regular Nicolás Romat to Huracán is a loss.

Three players joined the club this summer. Mauricio Rosales did not play anymore at Estudiantes and will attempt to fill the hole Romat leaves on the right. In addition, 23-year old left midfielder Javier Mendoza and Independiente goalkeeper Facundo Daffonchio came in as well.

Outlook: Striker and captain Luis Rodríguez is 17 goals away from the all-time goalscoring lead and the 31-year old will be built upon to score this season as well. Tucumán have everything in line to play another successful season and there is nothing speaking against it. Surely, they will not surprise other teams anymore, but coach Juan Manuel Azconzábal has his team well-organised and ready to go again.

Club Atlético Banfield

Seemingly on the way up, Banfield had a very disappointing season in early 2016. They managed to win only two games throughout the 16. Seeing that they drew nine, it is not that hard to find their biggest problem: scoring goals. Under one per game was simply not good enough, but the problem was only adressed mediocrely in the summer.

Central striker Mauricio Asenjo returned from his loan spell in the Primera B. He did not convince significantly there. On the right wing, the experienced Mauricio Sperdutti was acquired from CA Colón. The former Argentine international (3 caps) was a key part of his team's offense and scored 4 goals, while assisting on another 3. Banfield hope that he can do similar things at the low-scoring team from the Buenos Aires area.

In central midfield, loaning River's Nicolás Bertolo to replace Iván Rossi who went the other way, is a great move by Banfield. Giovanni Simeone's loan spell from River ended as well and the 20-year old, despite not having the strongest season, scored a third (5) of all Banfield goals.

Outlook: Banfield will need to improve on the offensive side and more goals from veteran striker Santiago Silva and his new teammates like Sperdutti. Without Simeone, that seems like a bit of a longshot. I expect them to stay in the same area of the table in general, but maybe win some games more of those that they finished in a draw.

Club Atlético Belgrano

Matías Suárez, the club's own youth product (Photo:
Another team that never really got going last year was Belgrano. Scoring 21 goals was okay, but conceding 24 left them on the losing side more often than needed. In the upcoming months, Belgrano will have an additional competition on top, after qualifying for the Copa Sudamericana. How will they be able to cope with more games?

Significant players leaving the club this summer were centre-back Pier Barrios (to Ferro Carril) and 35-year old veteran striker presence Mauro Óbolo. On the sportive side of things, you cannot call it a loss, considering his zero-goal year. He returns to Universidad Católica. Belgrano themselves went up and down the talent pool to find new players. Federico Lértora and Mariano Barbieri (both Arsenal) should help, at minimum depth-wise. The most surprising deal of the summer was probably Matías Suárez back home from Belgian top club RSC Anderlecht. Back in 2008, the now 28-year old left the youth system of Belgrano and ended up playing 138 games in the Belgian league. In those, he managed 38 goals and 41 assists.

Outlook: Suárez is a fantastic signing on a free deal for Belgrano. He is the type of player this offense needs in its supporting cast. The rest of the players have scored very evenly last season and need their one go-to-guy. This is why I expect Belgrano to improve next season. After winning just a quarter of their games last season, they will at least move that up to a third despite playing in more games than most of their opponents. 

Club Atlético Boca Juniors

Putting all their eggs into one basket last season, Boca fell on their nose dramatically in the Copa Libertadores semifinal against Independiente del Valle. After a weak start and due to fielding a reserve squad on most of the late matchdays in the league, Boca collected a losing record last year, going 5-5-6 and finishing tenth. 

Of course, everything is expected to go smoother again in the upcoming year at the double winner of 2015. However, firstly the club has to deal with the loss of many of their most important players. Former captain Cata Díaz might have been 37 years old by now, but his experience was invaluable, in particular to the young players. The same goes for goalkeeper Agustín Orión, who was rumoured to leave the club throughout the transfer window, but has not done so yet. MLS club Seattle Sounders bought creative midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro for nearly €5.5 million. Elsewhere, the strikers Sebastián Palacios and Andrés Chávez left the club as well. 

Boca reacted with the purchase of a new #9, Darío Benedetto from Mexico's América for €4.4 million. In 43 games in all competitions in 15-16, Benedetto scored 13 goals. There is room for improvement for the 26-year old that lost his form a little after his strong Apertura. Should Orión indeed still leave, young Axel Werner is his replacement. Santiago Vergini (Sunderland) and Lisandro Magallán (Defensa) throw their name into the hat to fill the vacant centre-back position for Díaz. 

Outlook: Further good transfers including Fernando Zuqui and Walter Bou mean that Boca are nicely prepared for the upcoming season. The creative vacuum of Lodeiro remains seemingly wide open though. A lot of pressure to make up for it will be on Carlos Tévez' shoulders as always. At least he said in an interview that he plans to end his career at Boca before becoming a golfer. 

Club Atlético Colón

The biggest name at Colón will sit on the bench next season. Legendary Uruguayan and Juventus defender Paolo Montero has taken over control and wants to lead the club to more success than 11th place last season. It could be a good appointment, because the defense has been horrible last year and conceded a whopping 31 goals. 

Losing their main man up front that scored 7 in 9, Alan Ruíz, was obvious. He still brought a lot of money into Colón's cash register, costing Sporting Lisbon €5.3 million. New Banfield man Sperdutti will be missed as well, leading to the fact that the club from Santa Fe basically needs a new offense, since left-wing Víctor Figueroa's loan from Newell's ended. New loan deals in return are supposed to make the difference, such as for Rosario Central's central striker Walter Acuña. 

At least talented young centre-back Germán Conti remained at Colón and will have a new partner from the likes of Guillermo Ortiz, Ismael Banegas or Emanuel Olivera. Coach Montero brought the latter along with him from Boca Unidos. Whether he is yet ready for Argentina's top league remains to be seen. 

Outlook: A lot of uncertainties heading into the new season for CA Colón. Will they get their wide open defense under control? How fast will they implement Montero's new ideas? And lastly, who is going to score the goals? A lower midfield position looks the most likely again at this point.

Defensa y Justicia

A new team can also be found at Defensa y Justicia. 14 players freshly arrived to make up for 16 leaving colleagues. As it is the norm for many Argentine clubs, loan deals were Defensa's main activity on the transfer market again. Even if it keeps happening to them, it is a disappointment for Defense to have their successful team that finished fourth in Zone A fall apart again. At least 9-goal striker Fabian Bordagaray remained with the club and keeps being supported by Nicolás Stefanelli. 

Talented youngsters from all of Argentina's big clubs fill up the rest of the squad and hope to receive some playing time from coach Ariel Holan. They will more likely than not do so, simply because of a lack of alternatives. It is a win-win situation for both, as the U21 players can raise their market value and attract the attention of possible suitors across the Atlantic Ocean.

Outlook: Finishing fourth will not be an option in a 30-week season. Their system however is solid enough and the young players should learn fast. Holan is experienced to work with them at Defensa since the summer of 2015. A decent midfield position is possible.

Club Estudiantes de la Plata

Permanently at Estudiantes: Mariano Andujár (Photo:
Estudiantes successfully reached the Copa Libertadores last season in the decider against Godoy Cruz. Since years, they have been somewhat on the edge of topping Argentina, but falling just shy. Former midfield star Juan Sebastián Verón has done well in recent times and built a team that is particularly strong at the back. After conceding 11 goals in 2016, their great defense remains intact for the new year as well, promising an improvement this season. 

Because every great team starts with a great goalkeeper, the Argentines picked up some money and invested in Mariano Andujár and made his loan deal from Napoli permanent. It cost the club €455.000. More veteran presence is being introduced to the squad in form of Rodrigo Braña on a free from Quilmes and Javier Toledo on loan from San Martín.

Outlook: There is not much that speaks against Estudiantes at the moment. Defense wins championships and I believe theirs will be one of the best in the league again. A grown, strong team with a coach who knows how to win championships has to be a favourite for the title. It could be theirs this season. 

Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata

The other club from La Plata. They might be less successful than their big rival, but have played another good season last year. After finishing fifth in Zone A, they still have potential to do better. To accomplish higher goals in the future, they purchased offensive midfielder Lorenzo Faravelli from Newell's for nearly €900.000. During his loan stint with the club, he thoroughly convinced and wanted to stay at the club as well.

Ramiro Carrera from Arsenal was brought in on loan and is a tremendous talent in his right midfield position. In addition, 38-year old midfielder Sebastián Romero came over from Banfield and despite his age, he is still able to produce good performances on top level. Gimnasia will need him to either way, considering who the new guys have to replace. Uruguayan international Álvaro González followed his countryman Lodeiro to Seattle and will be missed in central midfield. Walter Bou was responsible for seven of his team's 19 goals and left for Boca.

Outlook: Gimnasia still need a proven striker to compete on a consistent basis. However, the team is good enough to beat any opponent when in form. They will most likely have their downtime during the season again, but should be able to pull off a top 10 finish.

Club Deportivo Godoy Cruz

A little disappointed was not how Godoy Cruz wanted to end their last season, but despite losing the Copa Libertadores decider, they had a tremendous season. Led by Santiago Garcia's and Jaime Ayoví's goalscoring ways, Godoy Cruz are ready to replicate their success again in late 2016.

Fernando Zuqui, a very important midfielder of Sebastián Méndez' team, left to Boca for €2.7 million, but at least the club managed to make the signing of Guillermo Fernández permanent the other way for half of that sum. Another important part of the first XI that needed replacement was left-back Lucas Ceballos. Godoy Cruz managed to sign Marcelo Benítez from Defensa on loan.

Outlook: Since most of their successful team remained at the club, it is likely that they can have a good season again. However, Godoy Cruz have been up and down in recent years and will have to be careful to not find themselves in a negative spiral one day. Santiago Garcia is only 25 years old, a perfect age for a striker and can easily score above ten goals again in 16-17.

Club Atlético Huracán

Huracán's offense relied solely on one player throughout the last years: Ramón Ábila. The big striker was transferred to Cruzeiro back in June and I have no idea how Huracán are going to survive without him. 11 goals in the league and 5 more in the Copa Libertadores were one of a kind and made him impossible to hold onto. It is the typical price of success you pay at an Argentine club.

More money was brought in by the sale of Cristian Espinoza to Spanish Villareal. The Yellow Submarine paid €7.2 million for the young Olympian. With José San Román, a third important regular left the club, him to Dutch ADO Den Haag. Who are their replacements? Nicolás Romat from Tucumán is the new right-back, Ignacio Pussetto the talented 20-year old central striker will be trying to get the goals Ábila used to. Huracán paid €1.25 million for him. A third exciting player is Julio Angulo, one of the surprising heroes of Independiente del Valle's Libertadores run.

Outlook: The personnel losses were big and the new players will need some time to acclimatise in Buenos Aires. While I do not want to call them less talented, they have a lot to live up to with their predecessors' success, especially in cup competitions. Huracán will be strong enough to finish in a midfield spot, but not any higher.

Club Atlético Independiente

New to Independiente: Juan Sánchez Miño (Photo:
Last team in today's part 1 of the preview is Independiente. The record Copa Libertadores winner is named as one of the title favourites year after year, but has not lived up to expectations in quite some time. Why not? While the defense does fine most of the time and only conceded 12 goals last season, the offense was not seen too often.

To change that fact, left-wing Juan Sánchez Miño was purchased from Torino. The 26-year old is supposed to improve the service for the strikers, such as Germán Denis. Independiente have a ton of talent in nearly every position, Emiliano Rigoni being one of them. Last season, the young right midfielder played all 16 games and led his team on the scoring sheet with four.

Outlook: Gabriel Milito is the new coach of Independiente. How will he fare in a traditionally quickly stressful environment? Only important loss was right-wing Rodrigo Gómez who went to Mexico's Toluca. We might see a bit of a shift to the left side with Miño's strengths. Independiente's defense still looks solid, but will that be enough to win the title this time around? They still somewhat lack a striker that scores consistently and I personally think that would be the last ingredient to a closer title chase.

Thank you!

If you are still reading this here, thank you! You rock and if you would like to share it on social media or with your friends, I would appreciate that, because it took me forever to write this. Part 2 will be coming soon with the other 15 teams! 


Post a Comment