Atlanta drew nil-nil against Merlo in a yawn inducing game this saturday afternoon in Villa Crespo, against a struggling team as Deportivo Merlo, resigning points in the race for the title. Some positives were left of the occasion, of course– as far as the author managed to stay awake.
This saturday afternoon managed to witness a crowd of about 2.500 people in Villa Crespo as Atlanta managed to draw struggling side Deportivo Merlo, a side that returned to Primera B Metropolitana along with Atlanta, and that with a low- budget, high- spirited team managed to stave off of all Atlanta’s offensive ambitions.
Cassano’s choice of team for this match has been odd, not to say awkward, to pick a balanced yet fighting side that had pushed towards a win against Chacarita in the last match, playing a 4-4-2 formation (very apart from the 4-3-2-1 or 4-3-3 formations Atlanta has been playing since Méndez left Atlanta). Somehow this tactical choice backfired against Cassano’s struggle for order and balance in the midfield. The team started as follows:
PERUJO DIAZ VILLAN PELAEZ PINTO
GALEANO SARDELLA PALISI NANÍA
We follow this formation as accurately as possible. Nevertheless, some facts have to be marked around the way Atlanta played under this formation:
Saudade at the back – Atlanta’s version of defense this weekend must have been one of the must patched- up versions of the formation in recent history. With captain and central defender Emanuel Francés relapsed from a ripped calf muscle he had suffered twenty days ago, and now also central substitute defender Nelson González must be added to the roles also with a ripped calf muscle with an estimated recovery time of 8 days minimum for both players. Cassano has solved this puzzle by moving wing-back Cristian Peláez ‘into the cave’ as argentine football usually states, bringing back left wing-back Gastón Pinto into the ranks. This has not proven to be a fully worked out solution: sure enough, Peláez docked in well with Díaz Villán (better than faltering Alejandro Alemandi did in the Los Andes game for Copa Argentina), but Pinto’s performances as of late have been worrying. With a low average of plays, lost balls, lost players, and one yellow card and one red card in three games, states that the player has been in his worst form since Rondina’s tenure at the helm in Villa Crespo.
Trouble at the middle – Sum to the usual run of the game the fact that under this 4-4-2 formation Galeano eventually returned to his usual form as well as usual well of playing. In the middle, passing to the sides, stealing two passes and losing five for each one he recovers and not finishing plays but rather discharging on already struggling strikers. The team missed the more offensive gameplay Atlanta had dragged along before with the 4-3-3 formation (and also the advantage that given way of playing carries along): with only Maraschi and Godoy as strikers, not working with one another, and not having attacking midfielders besides Nanía, all Galeano’s playing was wasted. Nanía, as well, going for the goal but failing to place the right passes and find his forwards for clean plays.
Another piece of worrying participation is what to do with three central midfielders, in terms of knowing if their places and roles are completely cleared. Sardella owned the center of the field, giving Galeano the right side and Palisi the left side. But neither Galeano nor Palisi really went for passing and playing or actually pressing and defending for that matter. Cassano will have his work cut out for the Fenix game, placing his soldiers in order, and knowing if he will bring back Guzmán or Acuña for a more offensive strategy, or if he will keep the three central midfielders and put them in order and in role. (The substitutions in the second half turned a bit more towards the first purpose)
Godoy & Maraschi – The two strikers pivoted around each other around and inside the area. Though, their functions do not seem to be fully stable and marked: Maraschi hasn’t played for his side forward as an assister: hasn’t got used to sending floaters and passes to a Godoy that doesn’t accept his role as target-man or centre striker easily, struggling too much outside the area to drag defenders out, expecting for offensive breaks from his fellow players. Why do we think this isn’t working? Because almost all chances created by the team were shots from mid-area zones (our even outside), but unsuccesfully, from both strikers, with no cooperation between them. They were also kept out by ever-lasting Rodrigo Llinás, the second goalkeeper with the longest clean sheet after Vega, and an icon at the club that achieved promotion back on 2011.
The game itself?
First half started with offensive yet not fully finished functions from Atlanta trying to dominate the game unsucessfully against a well protected Rodrigo Llinás, managing to end the first half with only five chances created against goal, two of them on-goal. Merlo’s defense managed to press with two players for each Atlanta forward, with a team already struggling to get to goal, and with many harsh tackles on the process not fully caught by Barraza’s eye. The most remarkable item about the first half was a one-on-one chance between Godoy and Llinás, marked as off-side by the linesmen as Maraschi was on the verge as well. Dubious (and untaped) situation as well. On this first half Atlanta failed to make the advantage of an open wide right side only played by Perujo, with no defending whatsoever on that side, whilst they chose to attack on the left side.
On the second half Deportivo Merlo struggled to earn more plays for themselves, with a more active involvement from the forwards, particularly Fernando Pasquale, who had been struggling at chances on the first half and whom backed out of the area to help re-gain the ball for his partners to push forward. From the twenty minute-mark and from then on, Deportivo Merlo held Atlanta against the ropes until the Villa Crespo side finally reacted fifteen minutes later yet failed to make the most of the result, though with some good plays helped by Guzmán’s runs along the right side, pushed forward by Acuña to carry the ball, and a re-born Marcos Godoy provided by all midfielders to try to score. Nevertheless, Deportivo Merlo’s goal was already pretty much safe by Llinas’s efforts to close the game at last.
Merlo’s campaign has been above expectations: a hard working team, led by a veteran goalkeeper and a team not afraid to roll up their sleeves has left them with very needed draws and victories in their struggle against bigger (and better kept) teams.
The 4-4-2 maintained by Cassano since the victory against Chacarita has not served well: a recipe used by Rondina once against proven ineffective. The midfielders are not feeling their places and the forwards were not fed enough good passes.
Nueva Chicago’s only three points away, with Atlanta having played one game less. Will victory in Campana be served against Villa Dálmine on Wednesday night?
March 1st, 2014. 17:00 hrs.
ATLANTA (0): Vega; Perujo, Díaz Villán, Peláez and Pinto; Galeano, Sardella, Palisi (subbed on 64m by Guzmán) and Nanía (subbed on the 72m by Acuña); Maraschi and Godoy.
Subs: Quirós, Alemandi, Flores, Collavini and Lazzarini.
Manager: Sebastián Cassano – Leonardo Magarelli.
DEP. MERLO (0): Llinás; Lago, Casini, Ferro and Floris; Cristian Bustos, Biglia, Batarás (subbed on 66m by Mauro Bustos) and Torresi; Rodríguez (subbed on 55m by Ada) and Pasquale ( subbed on 78m by Maldonado).
Subs: Ferrero, Randulfe, Cristian Bustos and Batallini.
DT: Marcelo Straccia.
Yellow cards: Pinto (ATL) and Floris (DM).
Referee: Julio Barraza (4, bad performance, missed two penalties, and allowed dangerous tackling all through the match)
Field: León Kolbowski (Villa Crespo), in regular condition.
Weather: Cloudy, 27 degrees celsius.
Gate: Circa 2.500 people.