06 June 2019
Buenos días. This is the penultimate post within my FM17 Argentine adventure, reviewing Ángel Bastardo's third and final season as Estudiantes de La Plata (EdlP) boss. For reasons discussed last week I need to take a sabbatical from Football Manager and Blogging, but I do hope to return later on in 2017. Bastardo's journey however is reaching a natural conclusion, his time in La Plata is now up and he marches off with his Chilean posse for the 2019 Copa América (next week's blog post). But before we play those Copa América games, let's see the conclusion to Ángel's time in La Plata...
Season 3 Climax
Argentine Primera División 2018/19
Last week I let Roberto Amigo, Chief Sports Writer for El Día (La Plata's daily newspaper) take over the blog. He produced a scathing attack on my Estudiantes team. In truth, the severity of my predicament was exaggerated...EdlP were 4 points from leaders Boca Juniors and were on an unbeaten league run of eight games. We were still VERY much in a title race.
Eventually we did run out of gas though, watching Boca win their 2nd title in three years. Too many draws against lesser opposition was our downfall, but we've shown an incredible amount of strength continuing that unbeaten league run to twenty one games. We finish my third and final season in La Plata as Runners Up, continuing the encouraging progress EdlP are making as a club (4th in 2017, 3rd in 2018 and now 2nd).
A lot of the title challenge can be attributed to alternating a defensive line from a low press (against the bigger teams) to a high press (against lesser teams). I must thank Lee @ElCholoFM for his help here, he really got my thinking during the mid-season break about approaching things differently against certain opposition.
I also had a short conversation with James @FMPressure, where we discussed the combinations I was making between my Deep Lying Forward and his teammates. Eventually I opted to move Rodrigo Bentancur infield into the AMC strata and play him as a Shadow Striker. It was a bit of a gamble, as usual DLF Lucas Viatri was injured for 4 months and usual Advanced Forwards Carlos Auzqui & Facundo Colidio were out of form...so I removed this duo (and role) from the tactic completely.
This meant new £1m January signing Nicolas Blandi replaced Viatri and partnered Bentancur upfront in a 4-4-1-1. The decision was vindicated with Bentancur scoring 8 in 21 games (all comps) since returning from the Dec/Jan break. He was a major success in this role, with some exquisite link up play between the Blandi (who himself grabbed 9 goals in all comps since joining in January). I just wish I had made the switch earlier on in the season, I could now be writing this as a 2019 Primera División Champion!
2019 Copa Libertadores
We're also through to the Knockout Rounds of the Copa Libertadores for the 3rd consecutive year. We faced my FM17 curse (Grêmio) and sadly couldn't beat them to 1st in the Group. But the good news is that the next manager in La Plata has a favourable match in the next round: a tie against 2016 Copa Libertadores Runners Up Independiente del Valle from Ecuador.
La Plata Remembers
If you have followed this blog regularly, you would know that we've won two trophies: the 2016 Copa Sudamericana & the 2017 Recopa Sudamericana. We also got to the final of the 2018 Copa Argentina...but that ended in penalty heartbreak at the hands of River Plate. We also had upsetting exits in the 2017 and 2018 Copa Libertadores, losing to Grêmio on both occassions at the Quarter Final stages. All of the triumphs and tears can be re-explored here: www.fmgrasshopper.com/fm17.
But trophies do not always define a legacy, after managing 137 competitive games Ángel Bastardo leaves La Plata as one of their most iconic managers. Bastardo's aggressive style is an ode to the glory days of the 1960s Estudiantes team, which shocked the World (mostly those in Manchester and Milan). Here are the career stats from Bastardo's time in La Plata:
I have looked quite in depth at Bastardo's record throughout the three years in La Plata. The most impressive stat I have found is that Bastardo's Estudiantes never lost from a losing position in the league and only once in all competitions (a 2-1 home loss against bogey team Grêmio in the 2017 Copa Libertadores). During the 3 league seasons, only 9 league points were dropped from losing positions, remarkable stuff. My bastards really did see games out, demonstrated by the amount of clean sheets: 76 in total (that's over half of games played). The most common scoreline from these clean sheets is obviously 1-0 ["to the Bastardo"], shown in the accompanying pie chart.
The Bastardo legacy isn't limited to the football field. The less visible impact is the financial fire power the club now has. Much of this has been due to the Santiago Ascacíbar sale (rising to £55m, read all about it). Santiago was sold but continued to feature heavily in my team for the whole of my 3 year stay due to loan back agreements. Quite an odd story and a really questionable AI transfer strategy!
To the annoyance of the club's fans, the financial capital from this sale was not directly re-invested into the playing squad. I've been recruiting a certain type of player...not dictated by his transfer value or wage demands (read more). So signings were relatively low key dometic players, with the exception of Rodrigo Bentancur, Nicolás Tripichio & Lisandro Ezequiel López (approx. combined value of £10m).
The wage bill has also been kept in check during the three years of Bastardo's management. I've tried to keep it cost neutral against the combined income of gate receipts & TV revenue (which can generally be profiled quite accurately). For the income in Season 3, both gate receipts & TV revenue equated to £11.2m. Meaning that this can pay for the whole wage bill in one clean swoop.
We've also improved our Youth Recruitment to 'Established' and increase the Youth Training Facilities to 'Superb'. The platform is now set for a new generation of 'students' to come through the Estudiantes Youth Academy. A new generation of bastards :-)
Bastardo in Brazil
A.Bastardo now travels to Brazil to manage the Chile squad in the 2019 Copa América. I plan to live tweet each Chile Group game (and hopefully subsequent QF, SF and Final) from Saturday 21 January. One game every night on full 90 minute highlights until my bastard journey is complete. The schedule:
- Saturday 21 January - Peru Vs Chile
- Sunday 22 January - Chile Vs USA
- Monday 23 January - Chile Vs Paraguay
All games to kick off at 2100 UK time (subject to Mrs Grasshopper approval and no incoming baby Free Transfers heading my way).
We also go to Brazil equipped with two beautiful Chile kits, again designed by the wonderful Marc Bowen. Even if the 2019 Copa América is a Chiliean ninghtmare, at least my bastards will look pretty swag when they flop! Cheers Marc.
The Future of Bastardo
I have enjoyed being guided by the fibra model, but my main regret with Estudiantes is that I couldn't devote the time it merits in finding & developing quality fibra regens. Three seasons (in only 3 months playtime) just isn't enough. For sure, the Chile challenge will give me a taste of managing some World Class fibra in Alexis Sánchez & Arturo Vidal. But it feels like I am driving somebody else's car.
I therefore intend to continue the Bastardo persona and I have plans during my FM downtime, notably travelling the World and visiting a few other FM Managers. I want Bastardo to grow into a better MANager, with a wider cultural outlook to football and life in general. He'll therefore be featuring in an upcoming "A.Bastardo on Holiday" series. Posts will not be frequent, but I hope they will be a good read.
At some point, there will be a moment in my life when time allows me to play AND write alongside each other again. This is the moment where I hope to reawaken the spirit of Bastardo and unleash bastardy on the FM world once more. Before that, let's attempt to win a Copa América.
As always, thanks for reading.