Boca: from Jorge Almiron’s “bewilderment” to Juan Roman Riquelme’s early morning challenge

The night in Mendoza was so long for Boca that it ended at Ezeiza at around four o’clock in the morning. Juan Román Riquelme, vice-president of the club, waited for the squad at the club’s premises, where they returned to get their cars with a grim look on his face. “Not so fast”, the former coach, who will say goodbye this Sunday at the Bombonera, seemed to tell them. They had to talk about the heavy defeat against Godoy Cruz by 4-0, which left Jorge Almirón’s team 22 points behind leaders River.

Riquelme spoke about his concern for the team’s current situation, which, although it has secured its ticket to the round of 16 of the Copa Libertadores, has not yet taken off and…. when it loses, it does so leaving a very bad image.

Godoy Cruz v Boca. 22-06-23

Godoy Cruz v Boca. 22-06-23 – Credits: @Marcelo Aguilar

Jorge Almirón was one of the most worried. He ended up disphonic after the defeat and it seemed that he was not going to speak, but he needed to unburden himself, to say something even if he was not entirely convinced of what was happening: “I still don’t have things clear about the match. It was a strange game. The first goal came when they hadn’t arrived and the second was at the end of the first half. The third and fourth were avoidable, strange. The team was disconcerted, they tried to recover, but they couldn’t. We are all responsible, the first one is me. We are all responsible, and I am the first one. We were never able to find the game and with the confusion we had no depth either”.

That word expressed by Almirón sums up what is happening in Boca: “confusion”. Confusion again prevails in almost everyone. It is clear that the huge number of injured players has an influence: today there are eight (Marcos Rojo, Luis Advíncula, Miguel Merentiel, Luca Langoni, Frank Fabra, “Equi” Fernández, Norberto Briasco and Exequiel Zeballos) and it will be expected that Darío Benedetto -who asked to be substituted at halftime against Godoy Gruz due to knee problems- will not increase the inconveniences. However, of all these names that cannot be in the starting line-up, only two or three have been in the starting line-up with this coach. Then, the rest of the players that are available are observed and the doubts about the group’s formation are raised again.

Then, the urgency is about security. What goes well -as long as the infirmary allows it-, should not be touched. The coach arrived in April and spoke that day of “repeating formations because Boca players must get used to that”. However, he has not been able to achieve it due to his own discomfort and even curiosity as to which name might work best for him. That is to say that he does not have a clear support, but the (few) times he found it, he preferred, then, to turn around to try new things.

One of the clear examples was seen a few weeks ago, when he had not yet suffered the wave of casualties and it was clear that the 4-1-4-1 formation was what worked best for him, but to play against Arsenal, which was positioned last (still sunk), he changed radically to play with two center forwards and lost (0-1) in Sarandí. Or, previously, when they played against Deportivo Pereira, in Colombia and for the Copa Libertadores, with Advíncula at right back when it was already a certainty and a merit to use him as a midfielder: another defeat (0-1), less painful because now they have qualified to the round of 16, but which is present in the irregular numbers of the cycle.

As it is, individual performances vary. What seems to start and accelerate in the fifth, immediately falls to the sidelines in an unintelligible way, without answers, as it has been happening with Nicolás Figal, Marcelo Weigandt or Guillermo Fernández, among others. His stay does not end up starting. The steps forward that he was rightly recognized, he immediately took them backwards, so that the popular point of enthusiasm is not reached: although Almirón is the one who is the least targeted, he is the one who decides the starting line-up of men who have worn out the fans. And people are disconcerted when they look at the details of the 15 matches he has been in charge: seven wins and six losses.

Facing the match in Mendoza, the team had twelve days of work to prepare and feel as little as possible the multiple absences, but everything ended up being a nightmare. This is how they added their third consecutive match without winning in the Professional League (in addition to the defeats against Arsenal and Godoy Cruz, they drew with Lanús) and, on the other hand, they still could not string together more than two successes: they achieved it in two occasions, between the consecutive victories against Racing (3-1) and Colo Colo (2-0 in Chile), and then against Belgrano (2-0) and Argentinos (1-0).

His team has lost goals, having scored only four in the last seven matches, of which none of them were two goals in two. The defensive disorder is noticeable due to the absence of some first team players, although they also conceded seven goals in the same period because Godoy Cruz conceded four. However, in all of them there were unusual mistakes. The absurd handball by Weigandt, how easy it was for an experienced player like Figal to lose the ball in the 0-2, how fragile everyone was in the third (beyond the deflection of the defender himself) and the lack of attention of Facundo Roncaglia to let the ball pass and not realize that Conechny would score the definitive goal behind his back.

Lack of communication, a new chapter of Boquense reluctance and a confusion that abounded everywhere. Even in situations of misunderstanding that ended up being even comical. Pol lifted Valentín Barco in the air when both reached the area to define a loose ball, but they did not talk to each other and kicked together: neither defined. Or in the last play of the defeat, when Weigandt hit a ball in Alan Varela’s face and knocked him down.

Boca takes two steps forward but then falls back an identical number of places. This frustrates the players, leaves Almirón “disconcerted” and angers Riquelme, who will still try (as never before) to get it right with the next reinforcements. There is an “oath” not to fail, since at least five players will be sought. Immersed in doubts, everyone is looking forward to the end of the semester to start playing, at least, in the transfer market.


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