The Cruz Azul gamble

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Photo Credit: Itzel Segura / Prost Amerika

By: Jonny Rico
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Cruz Azul, one of the historic ‘Top 4’ of Mexican soccer is in serious trouble. And their future may lay in a 50/50 gamble. At this moment there is a simple “yes or no” question for Cruz Azul. Should the team let go of new manager Paco Jemez?

Jemez arrived at Cruz Azul last November following the team’s participation in the 2016 Apertura season. The current 2017 Clausura season is his first season in Mexico. Managing Cruz Azul is his first adventure outside of Spanish football. The 46-year old played for six different teams in Spain during his playing career before moving on to management. He has managed six different clubs in Spain and now leaves his homeland for the first time.

Cruz Azul has been notorious for hiring managers from inside of the usual manager pool in Mexico. And this is the first time the club steps outside of the box in recent history. The team is desperate to win a league title. It has not won a championship since 1997, they have however finished runner’s up five frustrating times since then.

Along with Jemez came in four interesting signing to bolster the squad as it looks for that championship run. Gabriel Peñalba, Angel Mena, Martin Rodriguez and Martín Cauteruccio all arrived at Cruz Azul during the winter transfer window.

The Spanish coach is known for his ultra-attacking playing style and made an immediate impact in the playing style of Cruz Azul. “At least there is some excitement now in the playing style of Cruz Azul,” said Jason Marquitz, a Cruz Azul supporter and founder of SoccerMexicana.com, after the first couple of matches.

After eight matches played in the 2017 Clausura season, Jemez has really provided Cruz Azul with a new look. In almost every game Cruz Azul has looked like a dominant and powerful team. A team that pushes forward and controls the game. The only problem is that Cruz Azul has not been finishing up their solid performances with solid results. Cruz Azul currently sit second from bottom with only six points in those eight matches.

The unusual system of competition in Mexico allows Cruz Azul the luxury of a little time to fix things. Though the 2017 Clausura regular season is already half way done, Cruz Azul still has more than plenty of chances to turn things around and make the playoffs. Cruz Azul with its six points is only six more points away from a playoff position in the league table (8th place Queretaro with 12 points). And we all know that any team that makes the playoffs has just as good a chance to win the league title as any, well except Cruz Azul who have proven to be their own worst enemy in playoff matches.

As hopeful as the Mexican league system allows Cruz Azul to be, because all it takes is a small run of good results and they’d be once again in the fight for a title, the reality is really dark if the team were to string along its current run in bad results for just a few more games. A continued losing streak for Cruz Azul will result in deeper involvement in the relegation possibilities.

As things stand at the moment, Cruz Azul is fourth from bottom in the percentage table. Only 10 points away from last place Monarcas Morelia. The relegation threat for Cruz Azul is real and it is at the doorstep.

THE DILEMMA – TO FIRE OR KEEP JEMEZ

Whatever Cruz Azul does now will ultimately be a gamble. Paco Jemez has brought in some noticeable improvements to Cruz Azul. The team is playing well, they are arguably playing their best football in years. The argument can be made that a team that plays good football but doesn’t get the positive results is just a few games away from having it all click together. Good results are bound to come in when a team plays well.

Paco Jemez might just need a little more adaptation time to Mexican soccer. He has only been in charge of Cruz Azul for eight games. With a little time and more understanding of the league Jemez could have Cruz Azul firing on all cylinders.

The problem now is that Cruz Azul might not have the time that Jemez requires to fully adapt to Mexican soccer. There are nine games left in the 2017 Clausura regular season and Cruz Azul need to forget about trying to make the playoffs. Cruz Azul now need to focus on surviving the relegation drop. Cruz Azul is only four games away from sitting at the bottom of the relegation table.

The team might be in need of a manager who fully understands Mexican soccer and its particular relegation system.

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