Argentina Primera Division: End of Season Review Part Two

Duking it out for a much sought-after Libertadores place, Avellaneda rivals Racing and Independiente finished 4th and 6th respectively. While rarely outside the top 10, both struggled for any consistency but managerial changes midway through the campaign prompted upturns in form and strong finishes to the season.

Racing eschewed a cautious approach for a more freewheeling style when Ricardo Zielinski was given the sack and Diego Cocca returned to el Cilindro. Ex-Belgrano boss Zielinski never seemed comfortable dealing with the expectations of a Grande and Cocca – at the helm of La Academia’s 2014 league win – immediately brought more goals and excitement, typified by the 4-3 win v Atletico Tucuman. A final flourish of four wins from the last five saw them sneak into the Libertadores places for what must go down as good season.

Marcos Acuña was arguably the best player in the Primera, with 9 goals and 13 assists, and softened the blow of Oscar Romero’s departure, while Gustavo Bou was reinvigorated by Cocca’s return. La Pantera’s 10 goals earned him a move to Tijuana but in breakthrough talent Lautaro Martinez, Racing have a ready-made replacement who looks set to have a bright future ahead of him.

Nearby neighbours Independiente parted ways with Gabriel Milito around the midway mark too and appointed Ariel Holan, who promptly proceeded to go on an 11-game unbeaten run. A series of wins on the road categorised el Rojo’s improvement and their loss to Boca was their only defeat in the second half of the season.

Victor Cuesta was the lynchpin of the joint-tightest defence in the league with just 23 conceded and left back Nicolas Tagliafico earned an overdue international call-up. Emiliano Rigoni was another star performer with 11 goals from the right wing and Ezequiel Barco emerged as a precocious playmaking talent. However, a final day draw against Lanus saw them miss out on a Libertadores spot by one point and they’ll have to settle for Sudamericana football next year.

Torneo de Transicion champions Lanus were unable to defend their crown but still managed a respectable 8th place finish. Hampered by the losses of Miguel Almiron, Junior Benitez, Victor Ayala and Gustavo Gomez, el Granate could still rely on the goals of Pepe Sand who closed down on his 100th goal for the club and is now just two off his century. Their Libertadores campaign took priority in the second half of the year, taking the focus away from their league exploits, but nevertheless, they managed to ensure more continental football next year with qualification for the Sudamericana.

After a seeming like they would challenge Boca for the title, Newell’s Old Boys sunk like a stone as their form fell off a cliff in the final two months, losing six games of their last nine to finish in 9th place. Expectations were not high at the start of the season after a poor Torneo de Transicion but ultimately it felt like a disappointment, despite the improved showing. Veterans Nacho Scocco and Maxi Rodriguez were reliable as ever and La Lepra would have been considerably worse off without them, while Mauro Formica and Facundo Quignon deserve credit.

At the other end of the table, Quilmes endured a terrible season, finishing 29th in the league and third bottom of the promedios – the average point system that determines relegation – sealing their demotion to the Nacional B. A lack of goals, just 18 all season, was a chronic issue and without the seven strikes by Federico Andrada they would have been even worse off. Hernan da Campo was perhaps the only bright spot but they will be unlikely to keep hold of his services.

Although they finished as high as 16th, Olimpo only managed to survive by the skin of their teeth thanks to five wins and two draws from their last nine games to boost their promedio to 1.115 points per game. Los Aurinegros relied on their strong home form, where they got six of their nine wins, which ultimately kept them in the Primera. Notable performances came from left winger Rodrigo Cablucci, on loan from Douglas Haig, with some vital performances in the run-in, top scorer Fernando Coniglio and defensive stalwart Carlos Rodriguez.

Four places below them in 20th and another side who did well to avoid relegation was Patronato. In just their second season in the top flight since returning to the Primera, the Parana outfit managed 34 points to ensure that they ultimately steered well clear of relegation. The loss of midfielder Gonzalo Espinoza midway through the season was a blow but Damian Lemos kept things ticking over in the centre of the park. Penalty-taking goalkeeper Sebastian Bertoli remained an important figure and even finished as the team’s 5th highest scorer!

Huracan were left looking over their shoulder for most of the season but despite a poor 25th place finish they managed to avoid the drop. Capable of putting in a decent performance against big clubs, as displayed by draws against Boca, Racing and Estudiantes, they were largely inconsistent but could rely on one of the better defences in the league which was fundamental in keeping them up. Many of the new signings didn’t pay off and El Globo will be among the relegation candidates next season again unless they buck up their ideas sharpish.

Safe from relegation worries in mid-table were Gimnasia (LP) who finished in 13th. Los Triperos were quite a streaky side, starting the first half of the season poorly but then embarked on an 8 game unbeaten run which included six victories, before promptly losing five on the bounce. Goals were a problem but they had the second best defensive record in the league and so it was no surprise that the likes of defenders Mauricio Romero, Manuel Guanini and Lucas Licht were some of their best performers. Elsewhere, Fabian Rinaudo dominated the midfield and Brahian Aleman was an excellent signing midway through the season.

Finally, Godoy Cruz were another side who cruised along without troubling either end of the table, ending up settling in 14th place. Probably one of the most inconsistent sides in the league, they rarely drew games and seemed to flop between victory and defeat on a weekly basis. This can partly be explained by their prioritisation of the Libertadores in the second half of the season, a gamble that proved to be worth it given their excellent group stage performance.

Rodrigo Rey proved himself to be one of the best keepers in the league and there was always firepower in the eclectic strike options of Jaime Ayovi, Javier Correa and Santiago Garcia. Throw in the creativity of Gaston Gimenez, Juan Garro and the emergence of Angel Gonzalez and Fabian Henriquez and there a plenty of reasons to be cheerful despite a mediocre league position for La Tomba.