Last time out in Return to La Plata, Ángel Bastardo set out his aims and objectives.
Happy Fibra Friday [for tomorrow] everyone, today's blog is a short one and is the last intro post before I begin my FM18 adventure with Estudiantes de La Plata. Today I discuss my (1) squad review and how it (2) shapes my recruitment and (3) governs the tactical system I need to use in my first season in La Plata. It's essentially a brain dump of some things I need to think about on Fibra Friday (tomorrow!) and how I reached my conclusions during the FM18 beta.
(1) Squad review
Ángel Bastardo's first headache is not having a recognised Right Back in the squad. For a man that loves a back 4, this has to be the No.1 priority during the Argentine Winter transfer window. The screens in the 'Team Report' section really help evaluate the shortcomings in the Estudiantes squad (below):
We're also short at Centre Back and a Creative Midfielder (not necessarily a playmaker...but at least somebody who can pick a pass and be composed on the ball every now and then). In addition to this, I will also have to think about succession planning for the key players in my team. They're an old bunch, some only having 12-18 months of a career left as pro footballlers.
The four most influential players in the squad are Mariano Andújar (GK), Leandro Desábato (DC), Rodrigo Braña (MC) and Mariano Pavone (ST). Luckily Mariano Andújar in goal should give me at least 3-4 seasons, but the other 3 players are at the twilight of their careers.
So my recruitment plans are pretty much laid out before me:
- Right Back - a 1st choice RB who can free up Facundo Sánchez to play his preferred RM/RW role.
- Centre Back - to step up once 1st choice Club Captain Leandro Desábato calls it a day.
- Central Midfielder. Somebody more dynamic going forward than what I currently have.
- A young(ish)* Striker, who can lead the line and also complement Pavone.
*I will be using the term 'young' very loosely in this save. To me, a youngster is anybody up to the age of 32 :-)
I've told you what I need. Next I'll show you what I have in order to get it.
For those that are unaware, Santiago Ascacíbar was Estudiantes' shining light for the first half of last season. He has since made the big move to Germany to ply his trade with VfB Stuttgart. Defender Juan Foyth also made a rapid rise into the Estudiantes 1st team at the tail end of last season and was sold to North London's 2nd best team.
In reality the excess monies are being re-invested to settle outstanding debts and loans. Real life loans that are taking Estudiantes back to their spiritual home of 1 y 57 (Estadio Jorge Luis Hirschi), a circa 20k capacity stadia in La Plata. This would put an end to Estudiantes' current arrangement at the Estadio Único where every few weeks the Buenos Aires Province kick them out for rock concerts. Luckily this level of realism isn't in FM18, nor is the planned new stadium. So onward I go with the Ascacíbar/Foyth money, which equates to around €5.5m at the start of FM18.
You will see above that I have re-jigged the money around, freeing up around €150k a month for extra wages (Note - this is for both players and staff wages). In Argentine terms, I am pretty rich and I could bring in around three €1m players and offer them sizeable wages. However, my fibra policy doesn't always favour the more expensive player and I have a number of targets to complement my squad. I'll only introduce the Right Backs and Central Defenders for today's post, to avoid this becoming cluttered with images!
From left to right: Aldo Cozo (61 fibra), Leandro Jara (55 fibra) and Lautaro Geminiani (fibra 55). Despite Cozo having the stronger fibra, Leandro Jara is my number 1 target. Jara is ex-Estudiantes and 6 months away from contract expiry, so Boca might consider selling. I would be foolish to overlook him. Geminiani is also a solid option and Argentine too.
Perhaps all three of these targets are out of my reach. But this doesn't stop Bastardo dreaming for the next upcoming Argentine rock at the back. Fausto Grillo (far left) leads the way with 65 fibra, up next is Alexander Barboza (middle) with 57 and then Germán Conti with 56 (far right). In real life, both Barboza and Conti had a good previous season. Grillo, on the other hand, has never really impressed me when I have watched him live, but in FM he continues to be ridiculously overpowered.
As for midfielders and strikers, well keep your eyes on my Twitter or Slack channel (#fmgrasshopper) for confirmed signings :-)
The decsions from my squad review are a bit like dominoes, when one decision is made another one falls into place, leaving me with a tactical system made from necessity as much as choice! For instance, Mariano Pavone is perhaps the perfect Defensive Forward in Argentina, it would almost be criminal not to use him in this way. He's good in the air and can be used as an effective battering ram upfront. But can he effectively run in behind? I think not.
38 year old Rodrigo Braña is a special player too, who is a great fibra warrior in midfield. Perhaps La Pincha's best player in real life so far this season. But he'll need to anchor and hold...I cannot expect him to regularly make contributions offensively.
The Centre Back pairing of Desábato & Schunke are experienced heads, capable of man marking well and are strong in the air. Their weaknesses lie their mobility, they cannot be expected to cover ground quickly. They're also not great with the ball either. I think their football would be best if it's more workmanlike and defensive. So how does the above dictate my expected system?
Front 2 and floating some crosses
Pavone as the DF/Target Man means we're not going strikerless (sorry Guido), Pavone will need support in and around him too. Somebody to run beyond him. Therefore I am leaning towards an AF-DF combo. Let's also float some crosses...in order to make use of Pavone's physicality. For that we probably need to use some wide players, which we have.
Braña holds, others run
Braña holding means I need runners around him. I still need to decide if he'll be residing at DM or at CM. I also have a distinct lack of competency with the ball at our feet, so we're not going to be possession orientated.
Deep & Counter/Defensive
My slow CBs means we go deep, as it would be fatal to exposure their weakness to the AI. Let them defend and do what they do best, let's not ask too much of my boys. I don't want them getting caught high up, so we go a structured team shape too.
So to recap:
- Two Strikers up top
- Wide players to float crosses in
- A defensive central midfielder
- Deep line
- Defensive/Counter mentality
- Structured shape
We're looking like an El Bastardo 442 or 4411 - something simple to start off with, on which I can build upon. I may also look to have a dirtier version for the big crunch games Vs the likes of Boca and River....perhaps go 4141 and deploy anti-fútbol in all its glory :-)
I've got a few pre-season games to get something working via Full 90 minute or Comprehensive match modes. I will also be simulating a save that ensures Estudiantes drop into the 2017 Copa Sudamericana (to get this close to how the 2017 Copa Libertadores Group Stages unfolded). As discussed last week in my Argentina guide, this will mean that the Copa Sud 2nd Round Leg 2 knockout match will be my first game in charge! A 1st game with no tactical familiarity whatsoever, we can only hope for the best.
One other thing that I have decided to do each season, perhaps a bit quirky (or even a bit sad), is re-number shirts 1-11 each season based on the formation and best XI on paper. Argentine football developed its numbering from within its own bubble, away from the uniformed approach of Europe. So the 442 system will be numbered based on the 1960s Estudiantes 442, a team of champions (Copa Libertadores winners in 1968, 1969, 1970). The most notable change from today's European convention is along the midfield, with the 10 occupying the ML slot and our box-to-box designated any number from 11-99. He is known as the 'doble 5', it's an ode back to Eduardo Flores bombing forward as the doble cino with Carlos Bilardo (later a World Cup winning manager in '86) anchoring as the '5' during that maiden Copa Libertadores win Vs Palmeiras in 1968.
At the moment I have made my new Flores an '11', but should another number thematically fit...I can adjust.
FM18 is [almost] here!
I am looking forward to returning to La Plata again, in this crazy league. But this year, I'll admit, it's slightly terrifying. The major worries are Dynamics and getting the tactical system functioning. Luckily, for me at least, I play slow...any decision with be methodological and scrutinised. For this reason expect my FM content to slow down to one or two posts a month, as I usually write concurrently with my save's game date.
You can catch up with all the previous intro posts over at fmgrasshopper.com/fm18. You can also stay up-to-date on my save's progress via my Twitter feed or Slack channel, which I update regularly (practically daily!).
Thanks for reading.