In the boardroom, things have seldom been calmer at River Plate. Daniel Passarella became the club's president at the end of 2009, and recently his board of directors approved an ambitious new refinancing programme. The fans, alienated and angered by the corrupt and bumbling administration of previous president Jose Maria Aguilar, had almost forgotten what it was like not to feel irritated by the board.
Sadly for them, they've merely been given reason to transfer their ill feeling away from the directors' box and towards the pitch during recent matches. After an impressive start to the season, which saw them top of the Apertura table after four matches, River have slipped away and now languish in mid-table. More seriously though, thanks to Argentina's bizarre system, they're also falling off the pace in their battle to rise clear of the relegation struggle.
In Argentina, teams are not relegated according to the current season's league table, but according to the average number of points they've won per match over the last two seasons, plus the current season, in their current division. Big clubs (or indeed any club who manage to do well for a season) don't get punished for one bad season. River, though, finished 15th in the season-long tables - which, since the championships themselves are disputed over half-seasons, are used solely to decide the teams who go to the Copa Sudamericana - for both 2008-09 and 2009-10.
That's dragged their points average down and, at the start of the current season, the standings for 2007-08 stopped counting. During that season, River had won the 2008 Clausura, so they plummeted down the relegation table. Nothing less than a title challenge during at least one of this season's two campaigns will be enough to steer them comfortably clear.
After that impressive early start, inspired by Angel Cappa, the manager they hired in April to see immediate results, they've stalled severely. Rogelio Funes Mori, the young centre forward who spent part of his childhood in the United States and won a place in FC Dallas' youth ranks through an American TV show, has attracted reported interest from the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Internazionale with some early goals, but in recent weeks he's returned to his previous form (woeful), scoring only once in the last seven matches.
Funes Mori has himself admitted he's a confidence player and, on Wednesday, Cappa reportedly took him to one side in training specifically to work on his finishing - work that, for all his other technical abilities, is sorely needed. One player River might be better off resting, though, is Diego Buonanotte.
I wrote about Buonanotte for Soccernet a couple of years ago when he was first coming into River's first team and he seemed destined to have moved to Europe by now. Last Christmas though, he lost control of his dad's car, killing his three best friends, who were his passengers, and putting himself - the only one wearing a seatbelt - in intensive care for a month. A blood test was taken at the time which ruled out alcohol as a possible cause, but in September, the judge in his hometown in Santa Fe Province, where the accident happened, announced Buonanotte was to be tried for triple manslaughter.
In spite of the pressure, he's still playing. As such, quite aside from the fact that the accident meant Atletico de Madrid weren't able to complete his transfer (they signed Lanus' Eduardo Salvio instead), Buonanotte perhaps shouldn't be playing for River at present. When he has done, he's looked understandably preoccupied - with the exceptions being when he's come off the subs' bench, in which matches, the most recent being Monday's 0-0 draw with relegation rivals Gimnasia La Plata, he's terrorised the opposing defence.
A poorly-functioning creative spark and a misfiring centre forward aren't the best elements to have in your team when you need a title challenge just to keep your head above water in the relegation struggle. With just three points from their past four matches, River's points average has dropped and they're currently in 17th out of the 20 top flight clubs in the Promedio (the name given to that fiendish relegation table) - a position which would oblige them to play off against a team from the division below should they finish there.
At the start of the season, it seemed that they'd have enough about them under Cappa to lift themselves well clear. A quarter of the full season has now passed, and realistically they're at least three or four points down on the total they'd have needed to be feeling comfortable by this stage.
The irony is that this is coming at a time not only of relative institutional stability, but also just as River's legendary youth system appears finally to be spluttering back into life again. River had allowed their production of young talent to be overtaken by that at great rivals Boca Juniors in the last decade or so, but now have a number of promises pushing through the ranks.
In spite of the likes of Erik Lamela (who interested Barcelona when he was just 12) and Manuel Lanzini pushing through though, the two most important players at River presently are both veterans: Ariel Ortega and Matias Almeyda, the latter of whom was brought back out of retirement to strengthen the midfield last year. With Almeyda injured at present, the team simply don't look the same.
Cappa's reputation in Argentina for producing good football is taking a knock and, although he insists he'll not allow himself to become too results-oriented, he needs to accept that points on the board are more important, for the moment, than good football and more draws against teams River dominate. The previous directors gave River fans quite enough practice at protesting daft decisions. If Cappa can't get his players firing on all cylinders soon, he'll surely discover how effective they can be.