03 January 2019
Today's blog comes from fictional guest author Roberto Amigo, Chief Sports Writer for El Día (La Plata's daily newspaper), who will be evaluating the previous 6 months at Estudiantes de La Plata (EdlP) in Season 3 (2018/19). I've reluctantly let him post on this blog, despite him being a bit of a c***. But the bosses of El Día have paid well. Over to you Aimgo...
Turmoil has engulfed La Plata. After two top 4 finishes in the Argentine Primera División, Season 3 was to be THE year Ángel Bastardo finally broke the Boca & River monopoly (the 2017 & 2018 Champions respectively). Club Chairman Juan Sebastián Verón expects the title, saying as much in a June 2018 interview with El Día:
"Ángel Bastardo has our full backing. We're committed to the title and that's exactly what we will deliver. This will be a special season, one that every pincha will remember forever"
Yet at the mid-point of the break EdlP sit 6th in the Primera División, 4 points off leaders Boca Juniors & Club Atlético Independiente but miles away in terms of excitement and quality. This is evident in the four uninspiring 0-0 draws:
The increasingly dwindling numbers within the 'Bastardo I Trust Brigade' would be keen to point out that EdlP are still 'only' 4 points away from the league leaders...but the style has to evolve if Verón is to be proved right. Some in La Plata might like the re-invention of the 1960s anti-fútbol, but the rest of Argentina is laughing. Bastardo is digging up the ugly past of Argentina's history - reminding us that he is as much a relic, as the football he replicates.
Despite the impending doom, Barstardo has shown an awareness that he needs to change. He adapted his tactics whilst maintaining the core principles of narrowness and counter attack. As demonstrated in tactical tweaks to his usual 4-4-2 system starting from the Ferro home game and subsequent league matches against Defensa y Justicia, Gimnasia LP and Unión de Santa Fe:
Moving up the defensive line: to ensure the counter style begins further up the pitch, suffocating the opposition.
Dropping the Advanced Striker completely, instead favouring Rodrigo Bentancur in the AMC strata as a Shadow Striker. Thus becoming an asymmetric 4-4-1-1.
Getting 'Stuck In' with the aggressive talents of two Ball Winning Midfielders, Gastón Gil Romero & Santiago Ascacibar.
The football has mildly improved and is now similar to Barstardo's Chile side, which are three matches unbeaten under Bastardo, a Club/Country agreement that Verón is very clearly against:
"We had just beaten Lanús 1-0 and instead of celebrating with the side after the match, Bastardo has gone home to pack for a flight to Hungary. It's my duty as Club Chairman to fill this void...for now"
(Verón after the 1-0 win against Lanús in the Estadio Único, La Plata)
With the new December signings of Nicolás Blandi & Lisandro López joining the side, both of which have been sanctioned by Verón, there's hope that Bastardo can turn fortunes around for every pincha come May 2019.
There's the general feeling that Bastardo's contract would have been extended by now if it not for the big game cup exits in the Copa Argentina and Copa Libertadores. Abject performances on the grandest of stages have highlighted Bastardo's major weakness: the big game mentality.
2018 Copa Argentina
After limping into the Copa Argentina Final, with some average displays, Bastardo had his chance to deliver against an out-of-form River Plate. A team he beat in the El Monumental only 3 weeks before.
Estudiantes fans must have been wondering what on earth had happened to their side. The most deafening cheers I heard from them on the night was at 93 mins...when Carlos Auzqui had their FIRST shot on target. Ironic cheers engulfed the Florencio Sola stadium in Banfield. "93 mins of football?" I heard one young fan question to his Dad. His Dad had no reply.
Penalties begun in wild fashion, with EdlP’s Luca Vaitri and Emanuel Insúa giving a huge advantage to River Plate. With this advantage, River couldn’t quite capitalise during the first 5 penalties, they had obviously been brought down to EdlP’s poor technical level. Yet in the Sudden Death penalties, quality shone through. With Carlos Auzqui blazing his penalty wide allowing Jorge Moreira to finish the job and complete a Domestic Double for River Plate.
2018 Copa Libertadores
Grêmio were once again Bastardo's tormentor. A successive Copa Libertadores Quarter Final where the Porto Alegre came out on top Vs the team from La Plata.
Even the most die hard Bastardo fan would admit that the 2018 was nowhere near as close as the 2017 showdown. EdlP were outclassed in every department, easily dispatched by South America's most expensive domestic player: Luan Guilherme de Jesus Vieira aka 'Luan'. Luan scored all 4 Quarter Final goals, with artistry and flair rising above the darker arts of Bastardo’s anti-fútbol.
6 months to save Bastardo
There’s 6 months left for Bastardo to do the unthinkable, change ways and win a league title…the first in La Plata for 9 years (since the 2010 Torneo Apertura). I for one won’t be disappointed to see the back of him, and if 2018 is anything to go by, nor will the fans.
Chief Sports Writer for El Día
Club de Gimnasia Season Ticket Holder
A note from FM Grasshopper
Thanks for reading this blog, something different for 2017 I guess. Ever since starting this FM17 save, I’ve tried to do things a bit different - mixing up the writing style and bringing freshness to my work and Ángel Bastardo in general. He’s rivaling my affections as my most favoured in-game persona, even after the legendary FM16 personality of Swiss born Loïc Swartzendruber.
Now the gut-wrenching bit…
For happier circumstances, I am taking a self-enforced break from Football Manager and blog writing during the next 3-4 months. My wife and I are expecting our second child, a mini-Grasshopper boy expecting to arrive in the 1st week of February. Back in 2014, my wife took a long while to recover from the birth of my daughter, for reasons I will not bore you with today. But the best thing to do (and most importantly the right thing) is to break. It will give me a chance to reflect on the next chapter of my FM writing and think about football, FM and life in general. Whether I return in the Summer of 2017 or arrive back for FM18’s release, I simply do not know.
Whatever the outcome in Season 3, Ángel Bastardo will finish his time in South America representing Chile as their Manager in the 2019 Copa América Finals in Brazil. I will therefore continue to tweet and write over January…wrapping up his third season in two final blog posts (expected on the next two Fridays: 20, 27 Jan). I am actually REALLY looking forward to seeing how his final few months pan out, as I write my blog posts alongside my save and rarely have to retrospectively go back and review.
This also doesn’t mean the end for me as a functioning FM addict. I’ll still be on Twitter/Slack, I’ll still be reading, enjoying & sharing your content and I’ll still be there to chat all things FM. This game will always be a part of my life, and if there is any opportunity to play the game...I will do so. It just will not be with Bastardo, Verón et al. Their story is reaching a natural end, for what has been another great story.
I would like to thank everyone for their support, previously or in advance. You’re all top people and I wish you a good year ahead.