On Wednesday Eduardo Domínguez stepped down from his post as coach of Independiente, after occupying the hotseat for barely six months. Highly rated following his title-winning stint at Colón, Domínguez fell short in Avellaneda. A disappointing run in the first half of 2021 in the Copa Liga Profesional and Sudamericana was followed by four defeats in seven games to kick off the league campaign and ever-increasing pressure to step down. Ultimately the decision came as no surprise, accelerated by Sunday's clásico defeat by Racing Club in which Gabriel Hauche's goal proved the difference.
Domínguez's toils neatly sum up the almost impossible job those who step into the breach at one of Argentina's 'big five' face. Almost exactly a week earlier the Boca Juniors job had become vacant when Sebastián Battaglia received the sack following his side's Copa Libertadores elimination, with Hugo Ibarra taking over as interim until the end of the year – just as Battaglia had in August when Miguel Ángel Russo was forced out.
Both Domínguez and Battaglia walked or were pushed out before even eight games of the current league season have been completed. With Rubén Darío Insua taking over at San Lorenzo prior to the start of the Liga, that means only River Plate's Marcelo Gallardo and Racing's Fernando Gago have managed to maintain their positions through both competitions in 2022 out of the big five, while league-wide just 11 of the 28 participating teams have not changed their coach in the first seven months of the year.
The reasons behind such abrupt changes in the case of the big guns are clear enough. For San Lorenzo and Independiente, operating in a financial straitjacket imposed by years of mismanagement coupled with Argentina's latest economic problems means precious little investment in players, while at the same time fan expectations remain as high as ever, making even relative success almost impossible. At Boca the cash restrictions may not be as stringent but the demands are greater still: Battaglia left unmourned by almost any supporters despite delivering two major trophies in his 11 months in charge – much like his predecessors in the role who won everything except the Libertadores, the one that really counts.
As has been mentioned many times Gallardo is clearly the outlier. With nine months in charge of Racing Gago lies second in the list of long-serving big five bosses, and ninth overall in the top flight. The River coach recently celebrated eight years at the Monumental, a remarkable feat made only more unique by the rampant job insecurity suffered by all his peers. But could time be running out even for the Millonario legend?
There is no doubt that River are at their lowest ebb under ‘El Muñeco.’ Sunday's defeat at home to Godoy Cruz was their third in the last four games, a slump which has seen the club not only fall into the bottom half of the league table but also out of the Libertadores, though Wednesday's Copa Argentina win over Barracas Central at least brought some respite from the general atmosphere of doom and gloom around Núñez.
Gallardo's latest contract is up in December and while the club will put another in front of him – “We will do everything possible to make him stay,” Rive Vice-President Ignacio Villaroel affirmed this week – he seems closer than ever to the exit, floundering in the league, out of the Copa and reeling from the loss of the club's two brightest gems, Julián Álvarez and Enzo Fernández.
Should this be the year he finally walks away, after one of the most successful periods in River history, the Millo should brace themselves: judging by the rest of the league and their rivals in particular such long stints are the exception rather than the rule, and for Gallardo's successor making it to a year in charge would be no mean feat.