Aventuras Américas | Part 36 | Newell’s Old Boys #2: Golden Generation

Newell’s Old Boys enjoyed a new manager bounce in the second half of the 2037/38 campaign under Robinho Lazaró, who led his new club into the top six of the Argentinian second tier. But their performances were overshadowed by financial ruin with a bank balance of minus £5 million and £15 million of debt that won’t be paid off until 2053 (15 years away).

That situation was assisted by the likes of left-back Luis Acevedo, goalkeeper Nicolás Cantarelli and midfielder Emanuel Contreras taking at least 50% wage cuts and striker Emmanuel Pedernera signed a new deal that reduced his wages by £1,200-per-week. While exciting young talents Agustín Ortíz López, Darío Fabris, Darío Sequeira, Marco Caballero and Jesús Mercado all extended their deals at the club.

That, combined with 11 players being released, saw Lazaró slash the weekly wage spending to just £34,000, having been £15,000 over the allotted £44,500 budget when he joined the club, and the bank balance below minus £1 million. And, as a result, he apparently managed to pass the objective of preparing the club’s financial damage.

First full season in Argentina

Newell’s began the 2038/39 season with only six players aged over 23, 14 players aged 21 or under and eight teenagers in the first-team squad. As a result, they slipped to 10th in the media’s Primera Nacional prediction.

Pedernera was suspended for the opener after getting booked in the final game of last season (which is a silly rule), and it showed as they lost 2-1 to Olimpo. However, he scored on his return in a 3-1 defeat at league favourites Quilmes and the only goal at home to Alte. Brown to get Newell’s up and running for the season. They also beat Gimnasia y Tiro 1-0, courtesy of a Lautaro Arsenidis goal, despite having 32 shots and 14 on target! And that inability to convert hurt them in consecutive 1-0 defeats.

Tactical tinkering

Lazaró was furious with his side’s lack of cutting edge, so he moved away from the 4-2-3-1 he’d used so far in Argentina. He tinkered with a few ideas that, eventually, led him back to his old trusty La Caosbala approach.

Its first outing came at home to Belgrano but didn’t make any difference as the visitors scored from their only attack thanks to some dreadful defending. Lazaró lost his rag, launching water bottles around the changing room and laying into his players for hoofing the ball when he’d told them to make short passes. It initially got a response as Pedernera equalised but they offered nothing else and gifted a late winner. And they were even worse in a 1-0 loss against All Boys. So the gamble was swiftly cancelled!

Instead, Lazaró decided to try out a 3-4-3 meets 5-2-3 approach. That worked a dream as, out of nowhere, Newell’s beat league leaders Douglas Haig 3-1 then won 3-0 at Colón, in which midfielders Contreras, Juan Navone and Enzo Gutiérrez all scored their second goals of the season. And in those two games, star winger Diego Cabrera bagged four assists after none in his first six games.

Normality was resumed as they wasted 24 shots to lose 2-0 at home to Unión de Santa Fé, which saw them drop to 14th in the league. And all of a sudden, Lazaró’s job was on the line as the media claimed a home game against Lanús was pivotal to him keeping his position. And they somehow drew 2-2 despite again having 24 shots to 10 and conceding to Lanús’ first two shots.

That only ramped up the pressure heading to bottom of the league Nueva Chicago. And yet another tactical tweak saw Lazaró go to a more solid-looking 4-3-3, with 17-year-old defender Mariano Franco making his debut. And it worked as Newell’s dominated and won 5-1 led by a brilliant Pedernera hat-trick.

They took that into a big 1-0 win over fellow mid-table side Almagro, which was just the fourth clean sheet in 16 games. They fell back into their old ways by conceding early at Talleres but responded well and nicked a draw through winger Gianfranco Díaz.

That left Newell’s sitting firmly in mid-table at the halfway point of the Primera Nacional season. They’re only two points behind the board’s target of the top half and 10 off promotion, with 22 points from 17 games. Their tally of 20 goals conceded is only bettered by five teams in the league, however, goals were a little hard to come by with the exception of Pedernera’s 10 in 17 games.

Exciting youth talent

One positive about life at Newell’s was the club’s youth focus as the latest intake produced a “golden generation” of at least six so-called elite talents and three more top talents. The 2038 class enjoyed a 5-0 thumping of the under 20s and the pick of the bunch was striker Diego Gómez, along with centre-back Nehuén González, midfielder Martín Almirón, winger Mauricio Scognamiglio (who scored a hat-trick against the under 20s), Colombian winger Edgar Motta and right-back Héctor Giménez. So the future is definitely exciting at Newell’s! That is… if Lazaró can hang around long enough to realise it.

Can Lazaró improve Newell’s Old Boys fortunes heading into the second half of the 2038/39 season? Join us next time to find out!

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