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SPORTS | 16-03-2023 23:06

Time moves fast in Argentine football, with little margin for error

With just over a quarter of the 2023 campaign now complete a number of front-runners have reared their heads above the rest, while at the other end the fight to beat the drop has begun in earnest.

When does a league really begin to take shape? Marking the point at which the random collection of title-chasers and relegation battlers from the opening few matches of the season start to acquire a sense of rhythm and order is never an easy task, even less so in a division like the Liga Profesional de Fútbol, where the capacity for surprises is sky high. But with just over a quarter of the 2023 campaign now complete a number of front-runners have reared their heads above the rest, while at the other end of the table the fight to beat the drop has already begun in earnest.

San Lorenzo in particular have every right to be proud of their early-season form as the Ciclón look down at the rest of the league from the Liga summit. A resounding 4-0 win last time out over Gimnasia was their fifth in seven matches to kick off the new year, keeping them a point ahead of River Plate in first at this milestone.

Few commentators had San Lorenzo on their radar during pre-season, and justifiably so. The last few years have been miserable for the club, whose last Primera División title came under Juan Antonio Pizzi back in 2013 and who have seen eight coaches come and go in the last three years, all the while battling serious financial hardships.

But under Rubén Darío Insúa, a club favourite as both player and coach who returned last year for his second spell in charge, the outlook in Bajo Flores has taken a distinct turn for the better. In 2022 Insúa's well-drilled unit battled to sixth place in the Liga and Copa Sudamericana qualification, a dramatic improvement from 21st in the season before his arrival.

Whipping the defence into shape was the coach's top priority upon taking command, and it has shown. Solid last year, the Cuervo backline has been near-airtight at the start of the new season, giving up just three goals in seven games to form the backbone of their early success. Further up the pitch, there are few thrills about San Lorenzo but in Adam Bareiro and Andrés Vombergar they do boast an attacking duo with a knack for finding the net, two of the stars in a young squad that has blossomed over the past 12 months.

Behind the leaders lie River, on a roll after a few teething troubles at the start of Martín Demichelis' reign; and, thanks to Lucas Beltrán, finally in possession of a free-scoring striker. Then a gaggle of teams remain in the hunt further back, from Defensa y Justicia, characteristically free-wheeling and offensive-minded, down to Boca Juniors in eighth, who once more cannot be ruled out despite their underwhelming start to the campaign. At the bottom of the table, meanwhile, Arsenal and Platense's average points predicament shows no immediate sign of improving; the third relegation position, which will be occupied by the worst team of 2023, is currently filled by Colón, the only side yet to taste victory at this point.​

Elsewhere, the coaching revolving door has already started spinning with a vengeance, with well-travelled (and tanned) veteran Néstor Gorosito stepping into the breach at Colón and both Vélez Sarsfield boss Alexander Medina and Estudiantes' Abel Balbo sent packing. The former has been replaced by none other than Vélez legend Ricardo Gareca, fresh from a lauded Peru stint but with rather less talent at his disposal than his last, triumphant spell in Liniers at the turn of the last decade. Time moves fast in Argentine football, with little margin for error, suggesting that there will be plenty more changes on the bench in the weeks that follow.

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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