Despite being set in the World of Bastardo, this post is something different from my usual 'Return to La Plata' series. It's the long awaited return of the 'A.Bastardo On Holiday' story! A trilogy I started back in FM17, which is making a re-appearance on my blog. You can read the previous parts here:
But this On Holiday post is slightly different, Ángel Bastardo is not the one taking a break. The year is 2020: Bastardo is about to welcome a foreign team for an exhibition match in the summer sun, a team celebrating their 75 year anniversary. It promises to be a game full of emotions, subtexts and history. Will you join us?
Sons of Scotland
I have always been fascinated by people and places. In particular, the movement of people between places: the merging of ethnicities/social groups and the everlasting effects on the 'place'. My FM17 post 'Osu' on Japan looked at this subject at a different angle. Japan was shut off for large periods of its history, which has shaped the country we now see today. But at the other end of the spectrum we have Argentina, the home of my FM18 content.
Argentina is perhaps one of the richest places to study the movements of people. It has been born out of mass immigration from all over the World: Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Wales, Ireland, Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Ukraine, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Bulgaria, Armenia, Greece, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia….and Scotland.
Scotland's impact on Argentina is the main reason why Ángel Bastardo has invited 75 year old Stirling Albion to La Plata. More people claim Scottish ancestry in Argentina, than in any other non-English speaking country (around 100,000 source: The Scotsman*). But it's one Scotsman in particular that stands out from this diaspora. A man who Argentina (and Estudiantes) should be indebted to: Alexander Watson Hutton. Watson Hutton introduced football at the Buenos Aires school he setup, formed Argentina's first competitive league, their football association still running fútbol today (Argentine Football Association - AFA) and gave Argentina his son: Arnold Watson Hutton. A 1st generation Argentine-Scot starting upfront in the blue and white for Argentina between 1906-1913.
Like many clubs in Argentina, Estudiantes and Scotland also have a direct history. After all, they have been managed by a Scotsman: Neil McBain who played for Man Utd & Everton. McBain managed La Pincha for three years: 1949 to 1951, succeeding Estudiantes legend Alberto Zozaya who was the leading striker in the 1930s 'Los Profesores' team. Scotland 'could' be the reason for the the ginger in Jonathan Schunke's beard, the 'Russian' in Santiago Ascacíbar's looks and the grit in José Luis Brown's 1986 World Cup Final performance - three wonderful footballers who have worn the La Plata shirt. It therefore makes sense for Bastardo to invite Stirling Albion over for an epic exhibition match in La Plata, celebrating all things Scotch. Vamos!
*Source: "Scotland's Influence on Argentina, Russia and Jamaica" (C.McCall 2016).
The Interview: Bastardo & Samo
Ángel Bastardo had never met a Scotsman, so there was a certain amount of unknown going into his pre-match catch up with Chris Samson (Samo), manager of Stirling Albion. Samo had brought a huge entourage of clansmen with him, most of them wearing kilts and drinking orange liquid in the Estadio Único's Members Lounge. They were loud folk, most of them seemingly inebriated by the orange drink, but it remained friendly...for now. Bastardo scanned the room, looking for their leader: Samo. Expecting to find Stirling's manager among the rabble, Bastardo headed for the crowd, clenched fist and expecting a confrontation.
Yet just as Bastardo stepped forward, a softly spoken 'Ángel' was heard from behind him. The man to which the voice belonged was nothing like the kilted men on the far side of the room. He was trim, young and dressed with the exquisiteness that only Bastardo could appreciate. This was a man that appreciate the finer details in life, Bastardo could tell. So instead of usual house red, Bastardo ordered the aged Mendoza from the cellar...which can only be brought out in special occasions. It was time for Bastardo to meet Samo...
AB: Samo, Welcome to La Plata, the freedom of the city is yours during your stay. Now onto Stirling Albion, why them in FM18?
Samo: Thanks Señor Bastardo, La Plata is lovely! It's certainly warmer here in December than in Stirling!
Anyway, I knew I wanted to go back to Scotland quite early on for FM18. I'm a big advocate of Scottish football and believe it gets a really rough time just because we so happen to share a border with the richest league in the world.
I like a long term project, and that's exactly what I've planned with Stirling. It's one of the smallest official cities in Scotland, but it is one of our cities that doesn't have a football club competing at the top end of Scottish football. I want to grow the club, I want to get the people living in the city supporting their local club and ultimately gain some success.
Note - All of Samo's FM18 journey can be re-read here: occasionalfm.wordpress.com
AB: How challenging was it setting up the edited DB - As I know you have taken this approach on FM18? Would you recommend this pre-save prep to others?
Samo: Restructuring the Scottish leagues is something I've done as far back as I can remember, even before I started writing about FM. Everyone in Scotland has an opinion on what the structure of our leagues should be, I'm no different, and I'm not saying my way on FM18 is necessarily the way I think it should be structured, but for the purposes of the game of FM, I like it and think it works.
I'd recommend it to anyone. Again, similarly to going back to Scotland and then going Stirling, I always knew I wanted to restructure the leagues. I played 10 seasons with Morton on FM16 and the way the SPFL is set up doesn't lend itself to a fun environment to play a long term save. You usually end up playing more than the 4 league matches against some teams with the two cup competitions as well.
AB: How long did it take to do - I imagine there is a great deal of testing/experimenting?
Samo: I've basically activated the vast majority of Scottish clubs, so putting them all together in a league system, based on their positions in the leagues they played in last season, took a fair bit of initial planning! I took a bit of an easy way out in terms of time taken though because I didn't introduce any regional splits of leagues, so teams from the most northern points of the country could well end up in a league with teams from the most southerly points. I'm more than happy for this to happen in my game, but in reality, it'd never happen in Scottish football. It'd never be agreed on! Grateful to FMPressure and Acidphire2185 for letting me run some ideas and questions past them on all things FM18 Editor. I've used the editor a bit more than some I imagine, but I'm by no means an expert and it can be an absolute minefield. My advice is to keep it simple if you're thinking of using it.
AB: Sounds complex, for those that didn't want to re-create the wheel are others now using your edited Scottish DB?
Samo: Nobody is blogging it right now, although @InvWingbacks did have an attempt early on with Third Lanark. There's a fair few playing it though, with them occasionally updating me on Twitter or Slack. It's great because they've been able to feedback on potential issues too which I've been able to go in and fix for others downloading it in future.
AB: Yeah, that's awesome. Now onto your save, what's your most successful achievement so far?
Samo: I think qualifying for the Europa League group stage, going through three rounds of qualifying to do it, is certainly up there. Beating Southampton in the last group match was a big achievement too, although we were already out. Gaining promotion to the top tier, my newly resurrected SPL, was up there too, in addition staying in the league was a huge achievement in my first season at the top tier.
AB: And you most ambitious target yet to achieve?
Samo: I'd love to topple Rangers and Celtic and win the top tier. The amount they spend on player wages and transfers absolutely dwarfs what we do though. That next bit of silverware would be amazing, alongside the Division Two title I won in my first season. Another ambitious target is to have a new stadium be built, we're unable to buy our current home and expand it. It's needed massively to be able to sustainably compete.
AB: How are you approaching this exhibition match? Do you know much about Bastardo's Estudiantes team, any threats/weaknesses you care to share with readers?
Samo: I’m approaching it like I approach most matches I play, we’ll set up in the way we like to play and see what happens. I don’t set any aims to win certain matches. It’ll be a great occasion to play against Bastardo’s famed Estudiantes side. A proper exhibition match celebrating our club and the special relationship our country has with Argentina. In terms of threats, I know all about Maxi Romero up top, and goalkeeper Mariano Andújar is on an incredible stretch of not missing a match. It’ll be tough to get past him. I’m also intrigued as to whether the 4-1-4-1 will be their starting formation, or whether our 4-4-2 will be matched up with Bastardo’s from the off, that he usually switches to to chase a game.
AB: So we're using the Versus mode in FM. Do you think this is an underused mode in FM? It's not often you see FMers go head-to head like this.
Samo: Versus mode is certainly underused, and it’s even more underused than before now they’ve relegated it from the full game into a standalone FMTouch game. SI resources seem to have gone into the draft mode as opposed to this one, where you get to export your actual team and face off against other FMers doing the same. It’s a shame, because I’d much rather watch two teams I know from reading and watching content battling it out rather than two randomly put together teams.
AB: Totally agree, it's a special kind of excitement: knowing I am going to face-off against your Stirling Albion side that I have read about for the best part of 5 months. You mentioned the Fantasy Draft mode, this is yet to take off as an 'e-Sport'. Will it ever? Why/Why not?
Samo: There's been a lot of discussions around FM as an eSport, and of course there's been a few quite successful attempts so far at turning it into a spectacle from the Set Pieces and SI themselves. I don't think it'll quite take off in the same way that Fifa has as an eSport, or exploded like games such as League of Legends has, but there's probably a bit of space for it to keep operating on the smaller scale it has been in comparison to other more established eSports. The problem is usually the set up, the Set Pieces had SI's help with it and obviously SI ran their own one. But if they're not involved, how do you ensure a fair match when it's only really the manager's abilities facing off against each other, rather than one team being far better than the other?
AB: Interesting. SI have recently launched their own Twitch account, so we will have to watch this space in the coming months. Anyway, there's a highly anticipated friendly to play: Estudiantes de La Plata Vs Stirling Albion, Argentina Vs Scotland...Bastardo Vs Samo. Vamos!
It was great talking to Samo before the match, but I was keen to keep hold of my tactical plans and not give him too much insight ahead of the kick off. We'd match his 442 man-for-man: Maxi Romero as a Target Man to complement the shining light of the Estudiantes Academy: Advanced Forward Carlo Lattanzio. One surprise for me going into the match was seeing #Rog as the Deeper of the front two for Stirling, with Ryan Hardie playing as the Advanced Forward. I was happy not to see #Rog making regular runs in behind Diego Polenta, who struggles with this type of pacy player.
Ultimately Bastardo & Samo are mates, but neither one of us wanted to lose this one. This was a friendly played out in the hotbed of La Plata...Fire Vs Ice. It is now time for me to have a go at some FM analysis and report back on this match. Disclaimer: this analysis is entirely from my viewpoint, as Ángel Bastardo. In order to get a feel of what Samo’s 442 is all about then I suggest reading his great piece here.
I often pause in the first few seconds of a match, usually to look at the starting positions of players…and also to make sure I have the right widgets enabled for the game ahead. Unfortunately, I do not have a great deal of screen space and usually have just 2-3 enabled. For playing Samo’s Stirling, I thought it was essential to know his formation. By having that widget enabled I can see what tactic he is using, but more importantly, I can see when he makes subtle changes to players’ or team mentality. Other favourites of mine are ‘Estudiantes Team Stats’ (in order to see player condition and Av.rating at a glance) and Match Stats (namely to look at in-game possession stats, as my Estudiantes tactic seem to hit optimum efficiency around 38-45% possession).
As mentioned previously, Maxi Romero was shifted alongside Carlo Lattanzio in a 442 system to match Samo’s Stirling. After 1 minute, I was getting what I wanted out from it…Romero using simplicity in his game to take the ball and create space for his team mates by laying it off, classic Target Man role behaviour.
- Romero accepts Zuqui’s crossfield ball and moves in field before making a simple lay off. Stirling’s Right Back, MacPherson, gets dragged infield.
- This gap opens up space for my Winger on Attack duty (in yellow), Jesus Medina, which sadly is ignored. But the signs were there from the 1st minute that the Target Man was working.
4 min – GOOOOOL. Estudiantes 1-0, Carlo Lattanzio
On 3 mins and 9 seconds, the young starlet Lattanzio put Bastardo’s Estudiantes 1-0 up. At a quick glance it’s a very simple goal, all fingers point to Czech Centre Back David Jablonsky for his mistake. But football isn’t simple. Here’s the goal:
But a wider look at the whole pitch shows Estudiantes’ pressing and positioning was a driving factor in limiting Jabolnsky’s options. Yes he mucked up, but we forced a difficult decision on him…which combined with Composure 13 and Decisions 10, led to an opportunity.
Above shows our 442s clashing, mano-mano style. Not a great deal for Jablonsky to work with, and it’s not overly critical on Samo’s setup…we have to acknowledge that I have the stronger team ‘on paper’.
9 min - GOOOOOL Estudiantes 2-0, Maxi Romero [pen]
I have sympathy for Samo here (although I didn’t tell him that during the audio call), yes the 1st goal was some relentless pressing and flaky defending…but the second is nothing you can really control. A bit of a scruffy melee saw Irishman Aaron Bolger haul down Alexander Barboza defending a freekick. Was this really Samo’s gameplan? Did he really think he could rough it up in Bastardo’s back yard, ‘the cauldron of fire’?
Naaa mate, 2-0. Romero making no mistake from the penalty spot.
44 min – GOOOOOL. Estudiantes 3-0, Carlo Lattanzio
Things got cagey in the remaining 1st half, until a great Estudiantes move made it 3-0. It featured the most beautiful parts of Bastardo-ball: No.10 Reynoso dribbling, as he is instructed to do more often, in the CM-A role who fed our Target Man Romero. Keeping his simple game up, Romero unleashes the devastating Advanced Forward, Lattanzi-gol, with a one touch through ball.
There’s quite a bit to talk about here, for what is a very quick counter attackng move. Romero in the Target Man role will often drop deep into the AMC strata (as does other striking roles like Treq & F9). This causes a dilemma for Stirling’s Centre Backs. Specifically, for Jablonsky who was once again exposed in his decision making.
- Bastardo’s No.10, Emanuel Reynoso (who I wrote about here)…runs into space. His Dribbling is terrifying, opening up a window to make a pass into Romero.
- Romero has positioned himself centrally, ready to receive the ball.
- Carlo Lattanzio in the Advanced Forward role is only making one run…in behind Jablonsky towards goal.
- Romero is pressured by Jablonsky, but there is enough time to pick a perfectly weighted pass to Lattanzio.
- I’ve highlighted how the space has now shifted towards the AF in yellow, with Jablonsky’s pressing.
Lattanzio has everything in his locker to bring this under control and slot home (on entry to the 6 yard box): First Touch 14, Dribbling 15, Finishing 15, Composure 14. Goal number 2 for him on the night.
45 min – SCOOOOOOTLAND. 3-1, #Rog
This half wasn’t going to be all doom and gloom for Stirling, a good little move saw them hit one back on the cusp of Half Time. I was always weary of Spanish dangerman, Arnau Puigmal in the centre of midfield. He has high attribute scores in technical attributes First Touch (16), Passing (16) combined mentally with Decisions (15) and Vision (14). We had tighter marking on him, but Puigmal found space during an attacking corner, showing calmness to release Winger Lewis Vaughan. A good cross fell to Roger Griffiths (#Rog – the only FM18 Newgen with a dedicated hashtag), who was offered two bites of the cherry by La Plata Captain Marinao Andújar. Samo’s Stirling had a lifeline. Estudiantes 3-1 Stirling Albion as we entered the dressing rooms.
50 min - SCOOOOOOTLAND. 3-2. Arnau Puigmal
Arnau Puigmal is clearly too good for this Stirling side. It’s another move starting from a set piece, before homegrown academy boy Kevin Cairns whips in a dangerous ball. La Plata Left Back Álvaro Pereira makes a real hash of his clearance and it falls to Puigmal. The Spanish playmaker still has a lot to do…but he shows his class, shifting it onto his favoured right foot with a delicate touch. It’s fired home…could Stirling create an upset?
61 min – LANTANZIGOOOL. 4-2 Estudiantes, Carlo Lattanzio
Samo was probably hoping to leave David Jablonsky in La Plata after this match. Once again, a blip of concentration was enough to let Carlo Lattanzio find space to fire home his hat trick. It’s great wing play from Jesus Media, cutting inside and driving at the heart of the Stirling Centre Backs. But I imagine Samo would have wanted Jablonsky to perhaps be a bit tighter in his marking.
It was 4-2 and Samo rung the changes. Jablonsky (!) being hauled off and two surprises: Lewis Vaughan and Kevin Cairns who had a hand in each of Stirling’s goals. Samo kept faith with 442, whilst I decided at this point to go 4141 in order to place another guy on Defence Duty to help stifle Hardie & #Rog at DM. Hat Trick hero Lattanzio would be the man to make way for Defensive Midfielder Raul Rolón.
I brought out the dirty tactics in the final 15 mins. Time Wasting activated on the Defensive mentality, it was now all about disrupting the flow of Samo’s Stirling whilst adding caution to our own game.
The match petered out, like a dying fire. But the embers were still enjoyed by the Stirling fans. Quite incredibly, 41% of Stirling’s entire population had travelled to celebrate their club’s 75 anniversary. They witnessed a cracker: 6 goals, absolutely no yellow/red cards in a backdrop of Argentine Summer sun. Stirling’s fans should be optimistic of what’s ahead for them, they have a loyal manager…a man keen to build on their meteoric rise up the Scottish league system. If Samo’s Stirling returned here in 5 years’ time with Champions League money could it be a different result? Quite possibly.
But they did not: Bastardo 4-2 Samo. Bragging rights remain in La Plata, with the Sons of Scotland :-)
Return to La Plata
So my next post will be a return to the regular La Plata series, but I hoped you have enjoyed the slightly longer and in-depth nature of this Bastardo On Holiday series. Big thanks again to Samo for the interview and the time out of his busy podcasting duties to play that epic Versus match. It's a game mode that sadly feels a bit wasted on FM Touch and I hope to see it return one day to full fat FM, we live in hope!
Thanks in advance for the likes/RTs/comments, Chapter IV has been fun.
Ángel Bastardo/FM Grasshopper