Being the manager of the Mexican National Team is a thankless job with immense pressure. The media scrutiny is intense and you are expected to win everything in CONCACAF but at the same time, rarely given credit for doing so because CONCACAF is no CONMEBOL or UEFA. Add in a fanbase that expects you to win every game in an enjoyable fashion and it is easy to see why there are few takers every time the position is open. I take all of this into account when I try to keep a level head after a rough Mexico game when El Tri twitter wants to fire Tata. My friends/followers think I’m a “Tata Apologist” but I just never saw the benefit in making a coaching switch. Until now…
I gave him the benefit of the doubt many times over the last 18 months but the goodwill is gone. Too many incidents and questionable decisions, many with no real explanations. My biggest problem is with his player selection.
Every manager has their favorites, especially National Team managers. There is a certain level of comfort with certain players that will raise them on the pecking order. With Tata, it became clear he valued his relationship with Jonathan Dos Santos and would play him over other “similarly” skilled players. I say similarly because Jona had been part of the national team for years and it did not feel like a reach to have him called up or start in front of other midfielders. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and moved on because it was not like he kept playing someone deemed out of their element in a Mexico kit. Over time his insistence on Jona became an issue when the former Barcelona player kept getting minutes when his club form was bad or he was not 100% fit. Unfortunately, this was just one of many roster decisions that Tata has made that have fans scratching their heads.
For the longest time, fans were told that Chicharito was not called up to the national team due to form with his club team. The story checked out because in 2020, Chicha probably had the worst club season he has had in his career. So while many fans clamored for him, I understood the logic behind the decision to not call him up. That all changed once Raul Jimenez fractured his skull and did not play a Mexico game for almost a year. That combined with the resurgence of Javier Hernandez with the LA Galaxy meant it was time to call him up. But Tata had other plans, instead of calling up Mexico’s all time leading goalscorer, he played Hirving Lozano at #9 and waited anxiously for Rogelio Funes Mori to become a naturalized Mexican citizen. All while maintaining the façade that Chicharito was not called in for sporting reasons. Of course, as Chicharito tore up MLS in 2021, that story was starting to look shaky. As with all things El Tri, leaks made it clear the real reason Tata was not calling up Chicharito was due to an incident related to a party in September 2019. Reports have the FMF leaving the decision whether to call him up or not to Tata. Unlike many out there on twitter, I dont think Chicharito will solve Mexico’s current problems but you cannot tell me the team would not benefit from having him on the bench in a sub role or part time starter when Jimenez is out. On one hand, I commend Tata for trying to keep this internal and refusing to comment on whether a team rule was broken but it is ridiculous to keep saying its due to sporting reasons.
The same stubbornness that has kept Chicharito out of the team kept Gerardo Arteaga out of the team for 8 months until his call up last week. Arteaga was seemingly being punished for deciding to skip the Olympics in favor of shoring up his starting position at LB for his club team. A decision that has paid off and one that I have wished more Mexicans would have done in the past. With Mexico seemingly playing a tournament every summer, many players return to their European clubs at a disadvantage after missing preseason. Arteaga has the most minutes for any of Mexico’s European players. Yes, even more than Edson Alvarez. Again, will his inclusion fix all of Mexico’s problems? No but all these little moves add up.
The same can be said of his insistence on calling up exclusively veteran keepers. I don’t think Tata has called up a keeper younger than 34 for any of the World Cup Qualifying windows. Do fans think Guillermo Ochoa should be replaced? Not really, not right now. But they are aware Memo is 36 years old and will be 37 before Qatar. The infuriating part of his keeper call ups is Tata’s recent comments praising the experience a youngster like Julian Araujo is getting by just being with the team, even if he sees no minutes. Again, I’m not calling for one of these keepers to start, just think it would be beneficial to call up one to soak up experience. For example, the US have 17 year old Gabriel Slonina in camp this window. No chance he plays this week but its always good to think about the future.
Even as I say all of that, I’m not 100% convinced that firing Tata will be beneficial but the FMF should have a talk with him and make sure he knows their position. The longer the team stays in this funk, the more Mexico are in danger of slipping into the dreaded playoff spot and that brings more uncertainty for the program. The primary goal is to finish top 3, once that is secured, the FMF needs to take a hard look and decide if Tata is the man for the job. Even if they fire him once they clinch a World Cup berth, a new manager will have 8 months before the World Cup starts in late November 2022. For everyone’s sake, lets hope Tata learns from the last couple months and gets this squad firing on all cylinders.