My save game date with Estudiantes de La Plata (EdlP) is 19 April 2017, I've survived 10 months in this crazy place without resigning or getting the sack! There are a few things I did prior to kicking off this FM17 save, and a few other things I learnt quickly along the way, which have really helped me. Today's blog is briefly outlining what those things are, with the view to helping anyone else who wants to take the plunge with me into Argentina. The tips presented today are:
- Average Points
- Continental qualification
- The Big 5
- Rotate, Rotate, Rotate
- Lower training intensity
- International players' schedules
- Understanding the Transfer Window(s)
- Do NOT be age prejudice
- 'Keep an eye on the Argentines abroad'
- 'Beware the smaller team'
Know the League...
1. Average Points
Firstly, know that anything from here on out doesn't make sense. The Argentinian league system is complex and at best nonsensical. It is also differs quite substantially with other South American Nations. One thing that has been introduced over the last Decade is the 'Average Points System' to decide on what clubs are relegated from the Argentine Primera División. It's a simple division of the number of points acquired over the last 4 seasons (including the current year) divided by the number of games played. My cynical view is that this system is in place to protect those big clubs who have a really bad season. From the onset of the 2016/17 season you can see that AMSyD Atlético de Rafaela are in real trouble of being relegated with an average points per game score of: 0.88...
Fast forward to my save in April 2017, and you can see that despite 23 points resulting in AMSyD Atlético de Rafaela sitting 26th in the table (and having 4 other clubs under them)...they are still on course to be relegated with a 0.87 points per game average.
The real winners in the above examples are Temperley, who have done an amazing job so far in my save...jumping from 1.00 to 1.07, enough to see them safe for another year! All because they have amassed 32 points with 3 league games to go.
Luckily for me at EdlP, I've not had to worry about this due to them being 6th in the Average Points table from Day 1 of my save. But if you are choosing another club in Argentina...be sure to check this out straight away. It also creates a fantastic challenge for any brave soul looking to take on the Atlético de Rafaela challenge. Go on, you know you want to try it...
2. Continental Qualification
There are many routes into the Copa Libertadores (the equivalent of the South American Champions League) for Argentinian teams:
- 1st-4th in the Primera División gain entry at the Group Stages
- 5th place in the Primera División and winner of the Copa Argentina enter at the First Stage (two stages before the Groups begin, around a month before Group games)
- Winning the Copa Sudamericana. South America's secondary Continental competition, which does not run concurrently to the Copa Libertadores, which if you follow my Twitter posts will know that I am playing both the Copa Sudamericana (from August to December 2016) & Copa Libertadores (most of 2017) in one season. I'm tired even writing it down!
Note - the above is all dependent on Mexico's omission from this year's Copa Libertadores because of scheduling. So I am really unsure if this will be reflected in an upcoming data fix. I told you it's mental!
So the point I am making is, don't try to go for everything if your team is stretched. If the league is looking like a safe bet, then prioritise that. If the cups are looking more likely, then rotate players and do everything you can to qualify that way. You will need luck along the way..so for that I wish you well!
If it helps, here are the 2017 Copa Libertadores entrants from Argentina - with the exception of the Copa Argentina Winners, which is currently in the Semi Final stage in real life:
- Lanús - as League Champions
- San Lorenzo - as League Runners Up
- Estudiantes - as 3rd place in League
- Godoy Cruz - as 4th place in League
- Atlético Tucumán - as 5th place in League
- TBA - 2015–16 Copa Argentina champion (or best team not yet qualified)
(It's also worth noting that Boca Juniors are qualifying into the Copa Libertadores in my save...and I have no idea why. I think this is a mistake, but would need to conduct more tests before confirming).
3. The Big 5
If like me at EdlP, and you don't play as a Big 5 Club then look at for these fixtures. The Big 5 refers to the five most supported clubs in Argentina, they are: Boca Juniors, Independiente, Racing Club, River Plate and San Lorenzo de Almagro. Between them, they represent around 80% of the footballing fan-base in Argentina.
If you're going to get anything out of these games, you will certainly need your best players fit and healthy. The AI can also completely screw you over and put the Big 5 in one successive chunk of the season. Like it did with me at EdlP:
My advice is to ensure you go into these games...either with the aim to push the Big 5 all the way with your best players...OR simply park the bus and hope for the best. For my run above, I had to do a a bit of both due to the intense fixture scheduling (which also had the Copa Sudamericana sandwiched in). But I am delighted with 9 points out of a possible 15.
For those that want to see on a map where the Clubs are located in Argentina, good friend Nestor @talentfactoryFM has mapped them out for you. Be sure to zoom in and out and see just how close some of the Clubs are to eachother...especially Club Atlético Independiente & Racing Club. Please click here or on the map to the right ->
Know your Squad...
4 Rotate, Rotate, Rotate
In my 1st season I am on course to play around 60 games (30 league, 10 Copa Sudamericana, at least 8 Copa Libertadores, at least 2 Copa Argentina games and a 2017 Recopa Sudamericana Final). It is therefore essential that you rotate in order to keep players fresh. In my save, I haven't played anybody below 90% condition...it's simply too much for any player to play in the 80s% and be expected to recover in 3 days time on a regular basis. So in my view, you may as well get used to rotating straight away in your save...ensuring that as many of the squad are match fit.
Whilst managing EdlP, I am often thinking 2-3 games ahead, and the likely combinations of players that I will be using. It's certainly a polar opposite scenario to my FM16 Grasshoppers save...where the most common break between games was 7 days (with a lovely 2 month Winter Break half way through the season).
5. Lower training intensity
There have been times in the save where the intensity of the training has been set to 'Low'...mainly because there is hardly any time to train between playing Continental away ties and the league campaign. I have found players pretty exhausted during these runs. In the months of September, October and November I played 19 games...which is around a game every 5 days.
I haven't tested the impact if I were to leave the training as Average or High...but I assume that I would run the risk of players becoming jaded or increase the likelihood of injuries during training. To further my paranoia I've been insistent on a mandatory Rest Day after matches throughout the season, and have also at times ensured the team rest the day before the game.
6. International players' schedules
Check what International players are in your squad...because the relentless Primera División will pause for nobody. Luckily at EdlP, only new signing Lucas Cavallini is a Senior International (with Canada). But the risk isn't just with the Senior National Teams, as the South American U20 Championship 2017 takes place in January 2017. At EdlP, I lost Santiago Ascacibar for a whole month...but the impact could be greater felt at Clubs like Boca Juniors and River Plate who have a wealth of young talent.
So my tip is to look out who is getting called up in your squad...and note down the dates that they'll be absent. Also be aware that players from major tournaments may come back jaded, like what I experienced with Santiago Ascacibar...who was rested for a few weeks to recuperate.
Know your Transfers
7. Understanding the Transfer Window(s)
There are two Transfer Windows in Argentina, similar in months to the European Windows (a Summer and a Winter)...however they quite different with their restrictions. In Summer, Managers in Argentina will have July and August to work the transfer market. You can make as many transfers as possible.
In the Winter, you can only make 2 incoming transfers from mid December to mid February, but you can make unlimited sales. Only being able to bring in 2 transfers requires an assessment of your playing squad and possibly tough decisions having to be made. For example, there might be a Wonderkid available on the market...but if he doesn't address a part of the team that is weak in quality or number...then you might want to think twice about signing him.
In Season 1 of FM17, the transfer windows are:
Summer: 01 July - 31 August 2016
Winter: 17 December 2016 - 10 February 2017
8. Do NOT be age prejudice
Some of the best players in Argentina are over 35 years old. It's the same at EdlP, with Club Captain Leandro Desábato and Midfield General Rodrigo Braña playing into their 38th years. Older players can offer a lot in this league and shouldn't be ruled out. One of the burning desires in FM17 is to recruit a certain type of player (those with ample 'fibra'), and older players are generally full of it!
'Do it like Diego': Mendoza's top two bonus tips
The next two tips come from Diego Mendoza, who was a real inspiration for me in deciding to come to South America. He had a great save in FM16 in Caracus, Venezuela and he's doing equally great stuff now in the Middle East. Do check his blog: passthebloodyball.wordpress.com.
9. 'Keep an eye on the Argentines abroad'
This is a great shout from Diego:
"Keep an eye on the contracts of experienced South American players playing abroad. They might not seem interested initially but will most likely join when they are released by their European club".
It can be quite demoralising asking for a player to come with them frequently rejecting even discussing terms. But there is hope that when a big players leaves and goes on a Free Transfer he may become more agreeable (or desperate) to a return to Argentina.
I do hope that in my EdlP save, I can at least attract 1 or 2 big ex-National Team players and bring them back home. Perhaps Fibra-infused Javier Mascherano...
10. 'Beware the smaller team'
"South American football on the whole is quite defensive and will only increase as your reputation increases. Beware the smaller team"
It's something I have also noticed since being in Argentina. I very rarely come up against a front 3, instead teams are quite deep and reserved in attack. The implication for this is that you need to be aware of the Counter Attack and hope you have enough quality in the final 3rd to break down teams. At EdlP, I have set myself up to be deep, narrow and defensive (normally in a 4-4-2, but sometimes in a 4-1-4-1 DM) embracing Anti Fútbol as much as I can. Often I am using Time Wasting and Stick to Positions. But even then, I have had some rather embarrassing loses to Belgrano and Defensa y Justicia (both 0-1s), where the smaller team has won.
So that's 10 tips which should help you on your way to success in Argentina - I do hope it encourages some readers to consider Argentina, or even South American in general. It is so much fun. But in unusual fashion, I finish today's blog with a Disclaimer regarding all contents above...
Disclaimer: the above information (to the best of my knowledge) is relevant to the 2016/17 season at the time of writing (November 2016). However there are certain changes proposed within Argentina's league structure. The Argentinian Football Association (AFA) have announced plans to trim down the league structure over a 5 year period, with the eventual aim being a top league of twenty-four teams in 2019.
As the AFA stagger the changes year by year, it's clear that this kind of review would need to be made for each yearly edition of Football Manager. But at least the stage is [partly] laid out for FM17 users above. I hope some of you can join me...