top of page

Argentinos Juniors: The pride of La Paternal chasing Copa de la Liga success

Argentinos Jr

Albert Hilton

The past 12 months saw plenty of highs and lows for Argentinos Juniors.

By the end of 2023, the club had managed to achieve qualification to the Copa Sudamericana through the Argentine annual table. Their journey into the competition, however, wasn’t easy.

Beloved manager Gabriel Milito shocked Argentine football when he resigned in August, despite leading the team to a respectable 10th place finish in the Primera División.

The head coach has now moved to Atletico Mineiro.

After his departure, Argentinos spiralled in the Copa de la Liga campaign, as new manager Pablo Guede only managed to amass 10 points from 11 games.

The poor finish to 2023 looked to continue into the new year as speculation persisted around the future of star man Federico Redondo, who opted to evade Europe for the time being when the opportunity to link up with Lionel Messi at Inter Miami was too good to turn down.

Despite the negativity, the club has pulled through their tough period. A squad with a new look head into the semi-finals of the Copa de la Liga. El Bicho are flying, and Albert Hilton is on hand to tell us their story.

Argentinos Juniors’ impressive youth system

To understand Argentinos Juniors, you have to understand the importance of their academy.

Undoubtedly, they’re one of the best clubs in the world for producing young talent, something that fans hold with great pride.

The key role that the academy plays in the clubs identity gifts them the nickname ‘El Semillero del mundo’, roughly translating to ‘the seedbed of the world’, as their home in the neighbourhood of La Paternal is viewed as the perfect place for talent to be nurtured and brought through.  

Stars that have sprouted out of El Semillero include Juan Román Riquelme, Alexis Mac Allister, Esteban Cambiasso, Fernando Redondo, Nicolás González, and of course, Diego Armando Maradona.

Something that Maradona and Argentinos alumni have in common is where their footballing journey started out as a child at an amateur indoor football club called Club Social y Deportivo Parque.

A deal was previously in place from 1980 until 1996, which gave Argentinos exclusive rights to hand pick any talented youngsters from Club Parque. However, in 1996 Boca Juniors president Mauricio Macri bought the rights and struck a deal that ran until 2010.

Fortunately, after eight years of negotiations Argentinos and Club Parque have reignited their relationship and come to an agreement where El Bicho will once again be able to exclusively pick the most promising players and guide them into professional football.

The deal which will no doubt be hugely beneficial for Argentine football as a whole.

Even without the deal in place, Argentinos have continued to prove themselves as one of the best academies in Argentina, as 12 homegrown players have made at least one first team appearance in 2024.

Three standout academy graduates this season have been 17-year-old centre back Tobias Palacio, 20-year-old left back Roman Vega, who spent a year on loan at Barcelona B, and 21-year-old right back Thiago Santamaria. Three names we’re sure to hear more of as the season progresses.

Now you’ve caught up

After 17 wins from 40 games in 2023 Gabriel Milito decided he couldn’t take Argentinos Juniors team any further and left his role as manager.

The breaking point came after El Bicho was knocked out of the Copa Argentina to second division side CA San Martín.

As the dust settled on Milito’s exit, club president Cristian Malaspina spent just nine days searching for his replacement Pablo Guede, the former San Lorenzo and Colo Colo head coach. 

Although the turnover was quick, especially with such a surprise exit, Argentinos’ intent was clear. They didn’t want someone for the short term as Guede was given a four-and-a-half-year contract and the trust to build a long-term project.

In his first press conference as manager Guede outlined his key objective.

“There will be no change in scheme, the idea is to continue Milito's work. At this moment [the club] have to try to maintain how well they are working football-wise."

A quote that was sure to win over any unsure fan.

Guede got off to a great start, winning his first two games 1-0 and 3-1 respectively, with players such as Federico Redondo, Leonardo Heredia and Marco Di Cesare carrying on performing as they had under Milito.

Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse as Argentinos didn’t manage another win in the remaining nine games of the year.

Guede seemed to take his promise of continuing Milito’s work a bit too literally as he applied a very similar system to his predecessor by using a 3-4-2-1 or a 3-5-1 for the majority of games.

Argentinos had been found out.

Although their season had come to a somewhat disappointing end, El Bicho managed to hold on to a Copa Sudamericana qualification place after finishing in 12th place in the annual table, the last remaining continental slot.

A team in transition

The off-season for Argentinos came at a good time for Guede.

The still relatively new manager was given the chance to build a team that suited his footballing philosophy.

Argentinos made full use of the summer transfer market as they moved 19 players out of the door.

With so many players leaving Estadio Diego Armando Maradona, it was inevitable that Guede had to bring in some fresh faces. With the support of president Malaspina, nine new arrivals came in.

Among those brought in was former wonderkid Maximiliano Romero, who was signed on a two-year loan from Racing after a failed stint in the Netherlands with PSV. He arrived with a point to prove.

Many of the signings made by Argentinos were very astute, with five players coming in on free transfers. The most cost-efficient player brought in was goalkeeper, Diego Rodriguez, who was signed from Godoy Cruz and has been a commanding presence behind an inexperienced back line at times.

With so much movement in the transfer market, it was always going to be intriguing to see how Argentinos fared in 2024.

Story of 2024 so far

Argentinos couldn’t have had a more difficult opening fixture to kick off 2024 as they faced reigning Primera División champions River Plate away at El Monumental.

However, Argentinos went on to get a deserved 1-1 draw after Santiago Montiel (cousin of Gonzalo), scored in the 84th minute, slotting the ball past Armani to haunt his former side.

From then on, it's been clear to see the work that Pablo Guede has done behind the scenes.

This year, Argentinos have mainly used a variation of a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-3-3, with the goalkeeper distributing to the centre backs who then play into the most centrally based midfielder, creating a diamond shape which has been extremely hard to press.

When the ball is worked into the midfield, Argentinos tend to play very narrowly with short quick passes between the three central midfielders, where occasionally an attacker will drop in to add an extra player into the midfield.

With such narrow and short passing, Argentinos lure the opposition into the crowded middle of the pitch, leaving room for a long direct pass into the attacking third where the attacking minded fullbacks pick the ball up.

The fullbacks in question have mainly been the two academy graduates, Roman Vega and Thiago Santamaria. Between them they created 24 chances in their first 12 matches of 2024.

Building through midfield is something that Argentinos do just as well as any other team in Argentina. With their midfield being arguably the most vital organ in the body of the team, the three midfielders this year have complemented each other perfectly.

Former Racing midfielder Nicolás Oroz (30) is the most experienced of the three.

Franco Moyano plays alongside him, where the 26-year-old may be the most important player in Guede’s system as he has the responsibility to receive the ball from the centre backs and progress the play into midfield. As well as his work on the ball, he is tasked with being the man that breaks up the play when the opposition are in possession.

To his right is 22-year-old, Alan Lescano, a standout player in the Argentinos side this season with six goals and 14 chances created in the Copa de la Liga.

Without a doubt he’s the most attacking minded midfielder of the three, however, Guede has made all three midfielders warriors as seen with Lescano’s 82 recoveries and 59 duels won in the Copa de la Liga so far this year.

Attacking armory

In the final third Argentinos have been deadly, scoring the 2nd most goals in the Copa de la Liga ahead of their semi-final clash. The narrow approach from the front three has been a nightmare for defenders not wanting to leave their positions.

After Leonardo Heredia got injured seven games into the season, Gastón Verón, Maximiliano Romero and Luciano Gondou have been the main three players occupying the forward line.

With yet another academy product in Jose Herrera playing the impact substitute role, who continues to add vital first team minutes.

Much like the midfield, their ability to work together has been a joy to watch.

Usually, Verón drops into a number 10 role with Romero and Gondou playing in more advanced goal scoring positions, with all three forwards staying fairly centrally, creating space out wide for the attacking full backs.

Continental & Copa de la Liga contention

Argentinos are through to semi-finals of the Copa de la Liga after a very impressive group stage campaign and then a hard fought win on penalties in quarter-finals against Defensa y Justicia. Goalkeeper Diego Rodriguez saved two penalties before stepping up to score the winner. 

In the Sudamericana an impressive 3-2 away win against Nacional of Paraguay, but a shock 3-0 home defeat against Racing Montevideo may have been the humbling reminder they needed.

Although Argentinos have come a long way in the last 12 months, the next few weeks are crucial in their season. Guede could see his warriors crowned as champions of the Copa de la Liga and into the knockout stages of the Sudamericana, or they could be left with nothing. 

The immediate future may be unpredictable, but El Bicho’s academy is almost certain to continue to flourish.

The Copa Club on YouTube

Catch up on our latest episode below and subscribe to our channel.


bottom of page