Previously in Return to La Plata, Ángel Bastardo reviewed the squad and counted the Argentine pesos.
“Life is the thing that happens when you’re busy making other plans”. A John Lennon lyric from the 1980 song ‘Beautiful Boy’, perhaps never intended to be used in a blog about Football Manager 2018. But there I was, 5 games into a league season with El Presidente Juan Sebastián Verón breathing down my neck. Despite all of my meticulous plans, it had been an awful start...just one league win in five (W1/D2/L2) and a Copa Sudamericana exit to Fluminense (losing both home and away).
Whilst I was busy making plans about using a 442/4411 system all summer, I threw it out of the window when I felt the heat of Verón, the players and the fans. Ángel Bastardo adopted his third tactic, the 4141 and changed a lot of the approach (defensive line, mentality etc). Sometimes in this game you just have to adapt in order to survive. Today therefore, I discuss my 'angels and demons' - a reflective look back at the first 6 months in La Plata…
My first match was a competitive Copa Sudamericana away tie in Venezuela against Deportivo Anzoátegui. My AI predecessor had already established a 2-0 1st leg win, but I remained desperate to start well for the fans. Luckily I had an in-form Mariano Pavone turn up that day in a 2-1 away in (4-1 on aggregate), assisting both goals for Gastón Fernández & Fernando Zuqui in my 442 'doble cinco' system.
We pretty much played this 442 all pre-season, however I did also mix in a 4411 variant and a 4141 DM. I always prefer to have all three tactic slots setup with different systems and combinations, to make my teams adaptable against the AI. Here are my results:
I was quite happy with what we were able to do in the Transfer Window too, using a large portion of the cash reserves (€3.6m) that I spoke about in my previous blog post. The signings, coming in just under €2m:
- Playmaker Abel Aguilar (60 fibra) - €135k from Asociación Deportivo Cali
- Central Defender Diego Polenta (58 fibra) - €500k from Club Nacional de Football
- Full Back Leonardo Jara (55 fibra) - €1.3m from Boca Juniors
As most of you will know, I’ve been using a strict recruitment model for 2 editions of FM now: what I call the ‘fibra model’. Whereby I sign players who offer a great deal of sacrifice, both to the team but also from their individual resource. All three signings meet my [slightly revised] fibra criteria, that is: a cumulative attribute score of 55 from Aggression, Bravery, Teamwork & Work Rate (for 25s and over). Read more on my FM18 fibra model here.
I also used a significant slice of this year’s budget to enhance the backroom staff, bringing in 11 staff members which increase our monthly staff wage bill by €33k to €116k (29% increase). Some of the guys I brought in were mainly for the romance.
Take 1986 World Cup Winner and ex-Estudiantes defender Josè Luis Brown as an example, who arrives as Bastardo’s Assistant Manager. Newly recruited scout, Luciano Galletti is another staff signing who has Estudiantes within his heart: a Homegrown La Plata winger who lit up Estudiantes as a teenager before making the move to La Liga in the 2000s.
August-September: Del cielo al infierno en un mes
From Heaven to Hell within a month. It's the clearest way to describe my first month of competitive fixtures in one sentence.
Racing & San Lorenzo represent 2 of the 'Big 5' clubs in Argentina, so starting with them was always going to up an uphill task. We didn't help ourselves either, three red cards in the first 5 league games from Bastardo's Bastards. 5 points from a possible 15...shite.
We were also incredibly poor in the Copa Sudamericana 3rd Round too. Facing a club from Brazil were always going to be tough. After all they are Bastardo's demons...but we made life easy for Fluminense by being extremely wasteful in possession. Against a Brazilian side this simply cannot happen! Hopefully in time I can get my revenge on Brazil in this FM18 save, and exorcise those demons for good!
But first Bastardo had to deal with a more immediate demon: El Presidente Verón, who was piling more and more pressure on Bastardo...
October-December: El Presidente, Bastardo & The Estudiantes Spirit
The Club President-Manager relationship between Juan Sebastián Verón and Ángel Bastardo lasted just 88 days. Having such a huge persona as a Club President was always going to cause issues for Bastardo. After all, there can only ever be one alpha male running things at Estudiantes de La Plata. So, what do you do when there's a man above you threatening to give you the sack? You sack him.
Both the performances and results were not good enough, El Presidente simply had to go. But how was this made possible? Well, luckily the upcoming Estudiantes presidential election gave Bastardo the opportunity to work a few moves and put enough dirt on Verón. By the time Bastardo was finished, Verón was unelectable - his legendary status questioned, after a series of damning reports about extramarital affairs, money laundering and tax evasion.
With a new puppet Club President in place, Mariano Del Bono, Ángel Bastardo got to work on a new system: 4141 - used widely around Europe and the FM scene as a 'hackz' tactic. Luckily the form picked up, four games unbeaten from making the switch and only a narrow loss Vs River Plate at home. Bastardo had found his place again.
After that River loss, a further four games unbeaten followed (D/D/W/W). Culminating in a 1-0 away win in the Clásico Platense derby. 38 year old evergreen Rodrigo Braña scoring the only goal to see Estudiantes go into the Summer break buoyant and full of hope. The Estudiantes spirit had returned.
Bastardo's Estudiantes currently sit in 7th place after 14 Argentina Superliga games, as we move ahead into the December/January Transfer window. We have around €1m to spend, should we wish to bring somebody in. However, we have to be mindful of the squad dynamics...which seem to be a bit volatile if players do not get gametime in FM18. So I will review any gaps in our squad first, to avoid an over abundance in a certain playing position.
The second half of the 2017/18 campaign will see the Copa Libertadores return to La Plata. Personally the most interesting competition to be part of in South America, so I am particularly looking forward to that. We'll have a minimum of 6 group stage games to play, but hopefully I can progress into the knockout rounds. This has to be the target.
Please stay updated to my Slack/Twitter channels for progress as 2017/18 continues. My next blog post is likely to be the end of the domestic season in Argentina. Can it be as eventful as the first 6 months? I wouldn't bet against it.
Thanks for reading/sharing/caring,