Racing’s 3rd consecutive and most painful loss against Gallardo’s River Plate has re-opened a discussion amongst Racing fans. Although it could be said to be the opinion of a minority and an immediate irrational post-match reaction, there are some hinchas out there asking for Coudet to be sacked after the 1-6 at El Cilindro on Saturday night.
“He doesn’t know how to win big matches” and “He is not good tactically and doesn’t have a plan B” are two of the most common criticisms heard from those who want the manager out. While the earlier argument should be slightly revised after the 3-1 victory in the last clásico de Avellaneda, there is something quite true behind the criticism based on the lack of tactical flexibility and alternatives showed by Coudet so far.
Although one could say the first three goals on Saturday came from individual mistakes and incorrect player positioning on the pitch and that there is little a manager can do in these kind of situations, River dictated the game during the 90 minutes and once again, Coudet’s tactics struggled to find a response to Gallardo’s high pressing game. In addition to this, it seems Coudet’s team has become very predictable in the last 10 matches to the extent that weaker oppositions such as Union and Boca Unidos have realised how to neutralise Racing’s attacking game.
Whether this is enough to sack Coudet…the answer is definitely NO. After all, Coudet is still a young manager with room for improvement and already has a very good record in Argentinean football which includes 1 league title with Racing in a season and a half in charge and 2 Copa Argentina finals plus a league 3rd place with Rosario Central during a 24 month spell. Numbers that are even more significant and impressive if we look at the state of both Rosario Central and Racing before Coudet took over.
The second reason why Coudet should not be sacked is the type of football he has brought to Racing and the philosophy he communicates to his players. In comparison to the 3 Racing teams that won a title for the club after 1967, Coudet’s team plays the best football or at least as good as Basile’s Supercopa 1989 champions. The difference between the 1989 Supercopa winners and the 2019 league winners is that Coudet replicates tactics and game styles that one can see week in week out in the European leagues.
Although people may see Coudet as a Menotista and another reincarnation of what is defined by Jonathan Wilson in Angels with dirty faces as “la nuestra”,Coudet is closer to Bielsa and to a more modern/European game. In fact, one could say Coudet is a good mix of the romanticism of “La nuestra” and the Bielsa style. A reflection of this is well described by Alejandro Wall in his book Ahora que somos felices where he mentions the balance between playing attractive football and the importance that Coudet gives to data and the analysis by his coaching staff.
The lack of flexibility from a formation and tactical perspective is something that was also or is even still present in Bielsa, however, assuming that Coudet won’t learn from his mistakes or improve in this area is akin to predicting through a crystal ball and unfair on the Racing manager. In fact, Coudet already showed pragmatism to a certain degree during the last Superliga in comparison to his first 6 months in charge at Racing.
For those who look at results and do not buy into the idea of styles and football philosophies, then there is a third argument. Coudet won a title with Racing during his first full league/campaign in charge. The team became league leaders after 4 matches and remained so until the end, scoring the highest quantity of goals and conceding fewer goals than any other teams. There is one more relevant piece of data: Coudet has the 2nd highest winning percentage (60.81%) of any Racing manager ever(*).
A fourth argument relates to options and finances. Have the Racing fans who want Coudet out thought about a realistic replacement? Leaving aside Gallardo, it is hard to find a master of tactics in the Argentinean market, not to mention the budget restrictions that all teams face (except for River and Boca). The option is then to gamble on a young manger with potential (such as Davove) but surely that cannot be a better option than keeping Coudet and support a medium-long term project that has already delivered a domestic title after 18 months.
If the local market is restrictive, the idea of looking for a manager abroad is beyond reality. It would be great to follow Flamengo’s approach and hire a manager with a pedigree in Europe like Jorge Jesus but looking for options abroad is utopic considering the financial crisis in Argentina.
The last and most important factor we should consider before asking Coudet to leave is the institutional impact for Racing. New structures, ideas and ways of working have been introduced by Diego Milito and his team. Supporting a project and giving time to a manager to develop is part of it. For many years Racing was a revolving door of managers. Sacking Coudet, thereby ignoring his and the team’s achievements that are not just a league title, would mean going back to the short-term days and going against the new club policies and working methodologies.
If a couple of bad results against River Plate, two Copa Argentina early eliminations and a Copa Sudamericana early exit means more than the benefits we have reaped under Coudet, sacking him would be going back to square one. If we want Racing to challenge for next year’s Copa Libertadores then we should first aim to have a consolidated domestic project, give Coudet more time to improve and results will come in the same way the Superliga title landed just 5 months ago.
(*) Diego Cocca in the only Racing manager with a better record than Coudet (62.2%)