Team of the Clausura 2012

(Article first featured on In Our Humble Opinion 02/07/12)

It’s fair to say that the Clausura has lived up to expectations in what has been an exciting and much more competitive season than the preceding Apertura.  Arsenal de Sarandí won their first ever league title just ahead of Tigre, who narrowly missed out on the top spot but more importantly staged a miraculous escape to beat the drop.  Boca and Velez both suffered the fate of continental distractions but 3rd and 4th still represent very good achievements for both sides.  All Boys and Newells over-achieved, while Avellaneda giants Racing and Independiente flattered to deceive.  Olimpo and Banfield were directly relegated – the latter so bad they went down even with a 72 point season included in their average – and will be replaced by the returning River Plate and Quilmes.  San Lorenzo and San Martin took it right to the wire but managed to ensure top flight status after overcoming Instituto and Rosario Central respectively.

So, which players really stood out this year?  Here, playing in an attacking 3-4-3 formation, is the In Our Humble Opinion team of the Clausura.

GK: NICO CAMBIASSO
The All Boys ‘keeper, and brother of notable egg Esteban, gets the nod between the sticks for a great season helping minnows from Floresta to 5th in the league – level on points with Boca and Velez.  Cambiasso was a vital part of the tightest defence in the league, conceding just 12 goals in 18 appearances, and considering that his side averaged just over 1 goal a game, his interventions were all the more pivotal during All Boys season.

DEFENCE:
First in a three man defence is LISANDRO LÓPEZ.  The young Arsenal centre back did his growing reputation no harm at all with assured displays and was integral in helping Arse to a maiden title.  He had a good defensive partnership with Guillermo Burdisso (himself unlucky not to make the starting XI) and even popped up with the title-winning goal against Belgrano in the final game of the season, much to the delight of their tens of fans.

MARIANO ECHEVERRÍA of Tigre joins him as part of a familiar back three employed so well by Rodolfo Arruabarrena.  The experienced 31-year-old was a key component in Tigre’s fight to avoid relegation and unexpected title challenge, making up a defence that conceded less than a goal a game.  They only lost 2 games when he started.

Finally, joining teammate Cambiasso, All Boys veteran EDUARDO DOMÍNGUEZ makes up the defence.  As previously mentioned All Boys had the sternest defence in the league and it would be remiss to exclude Domínguez.  Albeit not the most refined side with bruisers such as Hugo Barrientos in the team, Domínguez’s leadership was vital to a campaign built on an impenetrable defence.

MIDFIELD:
AUGUSTO FERNÁNDEZ had a magnificent season for Velez and is becoming one of the finest players in the Primera.  After an unsuccessful time in Europe with St. Etienne, Fernández has recaptured his form with Velez and is pushing for a national team spot.  Although only featuring 12 times due to the necessary Libertadores-induced rotation, he still struck 4 times and ensured that they finished a very respectable 3rd in the league.

Key to the success of Arsenal were the performances of CARLOS CARBONERO.  The young Colombian on loan from Estudiantes was the break out star of the campaign and his energy, creativity and pinpoint crosses were sorely missed in La Plata.  The leggy 21-year-old often played on the right wing and provided 7 assists, a particular highlight being his performance vs. Lanus when he laid on all three goals. A very exciting prospect indeed.

In a deeper role in this midfield is Boca carillero WALTER ERVITI, whose tireless performances ensured Boca were challenging right up until the last day.  While Juan Roman Riquelme has been the star of the Boca’s Libertadores campaign, personally Erviti has been the most impressive midfielder in a more entertaining Boca side (joint top scorers in the league) than the one we saw in the Apertura.  Clearly trusted by Falcioni, with whom he worked under at Banfield, Erviti has developed into a key player and also chipped in with two important goals against San Martin and Belgrano.

Finally, Newell’s midfielder PABLO PÉREZ gets the last spot in midfield.  Newell’s had a fantastic start to the season under new boss Gerardo Martino but fell away towards the end.  Pérez gets the nod ahead of Víctor Figueroa for his superior goal tally, ending the campaign with an impressive six from midfield.

FORWARDS:
Up front is the Clausura top scorer CARLOS LUNA who was by far and away the standout frontman in the league with 12 goals.  El Chino’s goals were a big part of Tigre’s success and he will be sorely missed now that his loan from LDU Quito has expired.  His magnificent hat-trick to effectively kill off Newell’s title bid perfectly exemplifies the lethal form Luna has been in this year.

LUCIANO LEGUIZAMÓN earns a place for his influential role in Arsenal’s title win.  Despite missing some games through injuries, he returned just at the right time to fire in some important goals – particularly the two against Boca – in the title run-in.  Arse always looked better for his guile and class.

Supporting Luna is teammate DIEGO MORALES who has also had a fantastic season for El Matador.  The wide forward was an ever-present in the Tigre side, contributing 4 goals and 8 assists.  Cachete’s trickery and creativity were a joy to behold and Tigre will be desperately hoping they can cling on to their top player over the break.

BENCH
Cristian Campestrini – the Arsenal stopper had a good campaign, conceding just 15
Juan Sanchez Miño – a fantastic campaign for the youngster who looked assured at both left back and in midfield.  Lack of defined position costs him place in XI
Guillermo Burdisso – As mentioned before, Nicolas’ brother had a very good season alongside Lopez and was a goalscoring threat too.
Julio Buffarini – Despite San Lorenzo’s relegation troubles, Buffarini was one bright light as the No.8’s performances after his move from Ferro were key in saving Los Cuervos.  Very close to making the starting XI
Maximiliano Urruti – the Newells young striker had a great start to the season with six goals, repaying the faith shown in him by Tata Martino
Román Martínez – Classy midfielder another of Tigre’s bountiful attacking options.
Mariano Pavone  – Although Lanus didn’t enjoy the best of seasons, Pavone looked pretty sharp and scored 7 goals.

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