Welcome back to On The Break! Click HERE to catch up on the previous posts in the series. Today’s post brings the first competitive action of the save, as we dive into our first Apertura, or Opening Stage, campaign. Before we get into that though, we have a few other things to talk about.
OFF THE PITCH
I think I’ve screwed the pooch with this one.
The finances weren’t great when I joined Defensor, we are dealing with a pandemic after all, but in trying to make some changes to the infrastructure of the club I’ve put our expenses up without bringing in any extra revenue. That means that our financial situation currently looks like this.
Our projection doesn’t make for pretty reading either.
We need a couple of things to fix this, one being a KILLER youth intake, and the other being continental football.
Entering the preliminary round of the Copa Sudamericana earns a side £232k, and the sides that qualify from the group stage earn another £776k on top, which would clearly make a massive dent in what we owe. Should we then get a youngster through the intake that can score us a couple of million, we’ll be right back on track.
The issue with all of this is that neither would be immediate, even if we could achieve them. Our youth intake isn’t until January, and next year’s continental football doesn’t start qualifying until January (Libertadores) and March (Sudamericana). For now, we’re just going to have to tough it out and try to survive, like many other clubs around the world.
One of the things I found most interesting when I started the save and looked at the squad was how many of the players are on a full time, month to month contract. I was worried at the start that this would mean key players could just be poached, but so far other than a couple of U19’s players, nobody has received offers from other clubs. Maybe everyone is in the same boat we are, but if we had the money I’d definitely be out poaching players, so I do find it slightly odd. As time has progressed though, we have lost some players from the squad, some my choice and some not.
With the exception of Álvaro Navarro who we talked about in the last post, all of the players above the green line are players I actively released to help get the wage budget under control. They were all reserves on over £100 a week who weren’t ever likely to play and were past the point of developing further. Below the line are 5 first-team squad players who weren’t regular starters but offered decent depth and had made a few appearances between them, mostly Lamas at CB and González covering in midfield or at wing-back.
Three of the five players that have left the first-team are central midfielders (González, Cardacio and Cristóbal), which left us light of cover in the middle, so we’ve called up Vicente Poggi from the Reserves to add some competition. Arguably Vicente is good enough to have been called up sooner but I wanted him getting regular games which I don’t think he would have before the departures, and he started the save playing U19s football so it’s testament to his development that he’s progressed right the way through in the space of 15 games, irrelevant of the circumstances.
Potentially our first big money sale?
One decision I’ve been trying to put off is regarding Juan Albín. He’s the highest earner at the club on £1.1k a week, the same as manager Maxi Pereira, and is definitely on the decline. My timing is terrible, because he’s just about to restart full training following 3 months out with a torn thigh muscle, but he’s not likely to make the impact on the pitch that my highest earner should. For reference, Martín Rabuñal is the only other player at the club earning over £1k a week and he’s easily been my best player and recently appointed captain. I love that Juan is at the club, I have fond memories for snapping him up from Getafe in his younger days, but the money I pay him could fund 4 or 5 arrivals, which we definitely need, and as it stands the players we’ve lost/discarded still haven’t got us under the wage budget.
It’s sad, but I think it’s time to say adiós to Juan Ángel Albín.
ON THE PITCH
For my first campaign in Uruguay, I’m really pleased. It could have been a whole let better though, as we were sitting in the top 3 for the first 7 games of the season, topping the league on a couple of occasions. Our cautious, counter attacking style was suiting us well and we were proving hard to be, with only Danubio scoring more than 1 goal against us in the first 6 games.
Things started to unravel when we travelled to Nacional though, where we succumbed to a 4-1 defeat. We were really poor in that game, and didn’t look like we could cope with them, leading me to question whether we were good enough defensively to keep the best teams at bay.
We started work on a slightly more progressive version of the tactic, still a long way from how I see the side playing long term, but we need recruitment for that, no doubt about it. We also played this system in the majority of games from Nacional to the end of the Apertura, and we looked good at times, but found it more difficult to break sides down, drawing a remarkable 5 of the last 8 games, only picking up 2 wins. Tough to beat but a bit toothless, I mainly put it down to a lack of depth in attacking areas, which I talked about in the last post. Chávez and Viudez were both excellent, but nobody really held down a place on the left wing, and the rotation options weren’t up to much.
Looking at the league as a whole, both Nacional and Peñarol started the season really poorly, loitering in the bottom half of the table. Nacional starting their recovery slightly quicker than Peñarol, starting with their demolition of us, to finish level on points with newly promoted Montevideo City Torque and force a decider which they won on penalties. Peñarol had to settle for 7th in the Apertura, and with one game left before the break decided to part with manager Mario Saralegui. Montevideo City Torque were the clear surprise package, having finished level on points with Nacional in their first stage after promotion, but shout out as well to Club Atlético Cerro, who were 800-1 outsiders at the start of the season and finished the Apertura in a very impressive 9th.
We have the Torneo Intermedio coming up in July, so we’ll play a few friendlies before that and get prepped. I’d like to do well in it obviously, but I’m also using it as an extra opportunity to tweak the tactic ahead of the Clausura, as finishing as high in the overall table as possible is my priority. I want a continental spot!
In terms of the squad, we really do need to get some of that depth back. There are options in the reserves, most notably Matías Ocampo and Benjamín Rodríguez who may well get called into the first team squad, but they’re a bit raw to instantly improve the side, so if we can use any of Albín’s wages to bring in a free agent or a loan then we may look to do just that.
Ocampo and Rodríguez – Our newest stars?
So that’s it for now, the next post will be at the conclusion of the 2021 season, where we’ll hopefully bring home some continental football and fix the finances!
Thanks for reading.