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“Nothing here and nothing there”

February 28, 2011

Rex Gowar in Argentina on how Boca’s fans turned on their team.

Riquelme celebrates after scoring against Bolivia

Bewildered Boca Juniors, their promising wins in mid-season friendlies a distant memory, are grappling with tactics that led to fans turning against them during Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to modest All Boys.

Chants of “Riquelme, Riquelme” rang down from the stands in the packed Bombonera during Saturday’s miserable performance from fans who had welcomed the appointment as coach last month of Julio Cesar Falcioni.

Their gripe is not yet with Falcioni’s overall work — he has not been there for more than a few weeks — but with his omission of playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme on Saturday for tactical reasons that blew up in his face.

“The functioning of a team depends on the ball and the ball on the players. Boca, with these players, with this team, never knew what to do with the ball,” wrote former Boca, Tenerife and Argentina midfielder Diego Latorre in a column in the sports daily Ole.

Boca, Argentina’s most popular club, thought they had overcome the difficulties of the Apertura championship under coach Claudio Borghi in the first half of the season.

Falcioni fitted the mould as a Boca coach far better than Borghi, who was appointed after steering Argentinos Juniors to the Clausura title last season.

Wins against top rivals like River Plate in the traditional summer friendlies added to the feeling among their fans that the choice was good and Falcioni’s team were billed pre-Clausura favourites.

The 4-4-2 game he plays has few frills but worked very well when he steered modest Banfield to their only league title in the 2009/10 Apertura.

However, he brought his favourite midfielder Walter Erviti with him from Banfield and fans’ mouths watered at the prospect of he and Riquelme running the midfield in tandem.

Instead, Boca’s opening match of the championship at home to Godoy Cruz two weeks ago turned into a nightmare – a 4-1 rout in which they were hit on the break while squandering a string of chances created mainly by Riquelme.

A 1-0 win at Racing Club last weekend with Eriviti conveniently suspended and Riquelme nursing an injury helped Falcioni decide to drop Riquelme, slower than in his prime as Argentina’s midfield general, with the excuse he still needed to get fitter.

Balance was the catchword, but as Latorre put it: “No-one can deny Boca were a balanced side (on Saturday), nothing here and nothing there.”

Falcioni will return to his drawing board this week with question marks hanging over the merits of two holding midfielders parked in front of the back four as against two playmakers creating havoc in the opposition’s defence.

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