Previously in Return to La Plata, the streets of La Plata were a battleground and Estudiantes found themselves 11th in the league.
Football Managers make mistakes. Failing to address & adapt to those mistakes can, more often than not, be their downfall.
For the best part of 6 months, Football Manager Ángel Bastardo had been attempting to play the same way as last year. Except, as discussed last time out, the match winners from last year (Cascini, Dubarbier & Pavone) were no longer there to create, score and lead. Failing to adapt was NOT going to be Bastardo's downfall, it's time to address and adapt to the problem...
One step forward, two steps back
So from last year I had lost a Winger on Attack, a 'Doble Cinco' CM on Attack and a Complete Forward on Support. For the 4141, that's three huge attacking outlets weakened. Was it any wonder that I was struggling at the mid-point of Season 2018/19, languished in 11th place? On reflection it should have raised alarm bells at Pre-Season...but I, like Bastardo, am extremely stubborn. My original remedy was to recruit internally:
Lucas Rodríguez (Winger on Attack). Has some attractive qualities:
- Crossing 14 & Technique 14
- Acceleration 13 and Pace 15
I believed Lucas would do well as a Winger and a like-for-like replacement for Dubarbier, and so it proved this season: 35 appearances (all comps), 9 goals, 7 assists and a 7.27 average rating. However, replacing Dubarbier with a younger and better alternative was not my mistake...we'll come on to those now.
Mistake 1: The imperfect 10
In Season 2017/18 Fernando Zuqui was an effective wide player for Bastardo’s Estudiantes, but I thought I could make use for him centrally this year as a Central Midfielder on Attack duty. I gave him the No.10 role in my 4141. This is quite an honour because, like Argentina has done through its history, I am playing a No.10 in its purest and classical sense. I want the No.10 to adopt the Romanticism of old: Artistry, Dribbling & Risk Taking. So what did Zuqui bring to the role:
- Dribbling 12 & Passing 14
- Decisions 12 & Vision 11
It's distinctively average and not what a No.10 lover would rate at all, and it's mad I couldn't see it straight away. Here is what his predecessor (Juan Bautista Cascini) brought to the role:
- Dribbling 11 & Passing 12
- Decisions 18 & Vision 17
So Technically Zuqui is stronger, but as I champion all too often...it's all about the Mentals. Fernando Zuqui was never going to have the same output as Cascini doing the same role, it was complete folly to even think it in the first place.
Outcome: we needed to sign a proper No.10 in the January Transfer Window.
Mistake 2: Declining Darío
Last year, top scorer Mariano Pavone would win games on his own. He seemed to flourish as a Complete Forward on Support duty as the primary outlet for the team in my 4141. I was pretty cut up about him retiring, he was my MVP and he had at least another year on his contract.
In response to Mariano's retirement, I let my frugal nature get the better of me. I internally drafted in Darío Cvitanich as the guy to take on the CF-S role, and after Summer Signing Maxi Romero’s 5 month knee injury, Darío was my first choice forward. The results were disastrous, just 4 goals in the first 6 months of 2018/19. He simply couldn't hold up the ball, despite being Technically proficient, his Physical powers are on the unstoppable decline at the age of 35. The CF-S is a demanding role, I was asking Darío to do too much and it showed in the match engine. So I needed to think about how else I can attack, and more importantly make use of that ST slot in the 4141.
Outcome: rethink how we retain the ball and attack with it in attacking spaces.
Emanuel In Space
Emanuel Reynoso might not be a household name just yet, but in my Football Manager 2018 save he has been a 2019 Superliga revelation. Picked up in January 2019 for €1.3m from Talleres de Córdoba, who were willing to let him leave, he has become my La Plata Player of the Season (in just 3 months of football)! He is the No.10 I was looking for...capable of dribbling and unlocking a defence with ease:
- Dribbling 16 & Passing 15
- Decisions 15 & Vision 14
Emanuel is playing the Central Midfield role on Attack, I have instructed him to Shoot Less Often, Dribble More and make More Risky Passes, in order for him to be more 'Doble Cinco-like'. He is pretty close to the Mezzala role, just without the expansive movement (Move into Channels & Roam From Position), and slightly less pressing. Note - there's no great need for my Doble Cinco to roam as he has two gazelles either side of him in the 4141: the aforementioned Winger and a Wide Midfielder....who are usually both set to roam.
Time after time, Emanuel is finding himself in space. Able to quick think his opponent with a neat dribble and turn of pace, a genius pass or a belter of a shot if nothing else is on. In the 3 months of football. Emanuel Reynoso's Estudiantes statistics are pretty impressive: 7 goals, 6 assists and 7 Player of the matches...in 20 apperances (all comps). Here are a couple of highlights:
Reynoso Vs San Lorenzo 19/05/2019
Reynoso Vs Temperley 02/03/2019
But Reynoso's instant impact has also addressed my second mistake: the Striker role. I have changed the ST role to an Advanced Forward. The AF can run in behind the backline and stretch the opponent's Centre Backs allowing Emanuel in space to cause more damage. So I needed a runner upfront, something that poor Darío Cvitanich cannot help with.
The unlikeliest of heroes emerged, 21 year old Carlo Lattanzio was recalled from loan for the second half of the season. He might not look amazing, but he has the attributes to fulfill the AF role by:
- creating space by using his Acceleration & Off The Ball 14
- relieving the pressure on the team by retaining the ball: Dribbling 15 & First Touch 14
Carlo has chipped in with a few goals and assists: 5 goals and 3 assists in 16 appearances (all comps), but his real value is found within the Match Engine on Comprehensive highlights. It has reinforced my belief that we're on to a winner with the AF role. We quickly adjusted Team Instructions to More Direct Passing and have increased the Closing Down of the team. This has resulted in more turnovers of play from my fibra warriors, and time and time again Carlo is there to provide that out ball for the team. Glorious.
The two main aims going into the last 3 months of the season were: (1) secure 2020 Copa Libertadores football via the league (meaning a top 5 finish) and (2) progression from the 2019 Copa Libertadores qualification rounds. As discussed last time out, I did not expect to be in this year's Copa Libertadores...but fate would have us enter at the 2nd qualifying round due to San Lorenzo's Copa Argentina win (who had already qualified into the Groups via a league place finish last year).
In short, we did it! A 5th place league finish, an improvement of one place from last year! Plus we also got through the two qualifying rounds and entered the Groups as 4th seeds. We found ourselves in a challenging group, but did enough to win it. Three straight wins sealed our place in the knockouts where we will face Atlético Mineiro - for a two legged knockout match that will kick off in August.
It's taken around 18 months of tweaking and finding the right players to get this 4141 firing, but we now look good. 18 wins from 24 games since the January/February break leave me with hope that we can push on next year...in what will be a mammoth campaign. Season 3's domestic league will be 46 games, as 24 teams will now play each other home and away. Combine that with Continental football & the Copa Argentina...and we could easily be playing well over 60 games next season. It's finally starting to feel like a proper South American save at last :-)
Roll on season 3.
Thanks for reading/sharing/caring,