Welcome back to On The Break! If you’ve missed the previous parts of this series, click HERE to catch up. I wasn’t going to do a pre-season post, but there are a few bits to talk about so let’s cover them now before my very first Primera División campaign!
GETTING THINGS IN PLACE
As I mentioned in the last post, I need to make quite a few additions to the staffing team before I can start to properly assign responsibilities the way I want them. We started with no scouts, no analysts, no HOYD, all key roles in running a successful club. I established a shopping list, and have now slowly started chipping away at hiring some staff to fill these positions.
Head of Youth Development – Still Looking
Performance Analyst – Hired Head Analyst
Recruitment Analyst – Position Filled
Chief Scout – Position Filled
Scout x2 (minimum, ideally 4) – Two hired
Technical Director – Position Filled
Physio – Position Filled
Sports Scientist – Position Filled
As you can see, I’ve made a pretty good start. Most of the key positions are now filled, with the exception of the HOYD. There are definitely candidates out there that I could have hired by now, but for reasons I’ll explain later in the post, I’m very keen for their preferred position to match mine even if it’s at the expense of a couple of attribute points. The rest I’m pretty happy to work with for now, we supposedly already have the best scouting network in the division with space to hire 2 more scouts, and our coaching was okay to start with. I would like to swap out our worse fitness coach for a general coach to spread the workload a bit more fairly, but that can wait until June when his contract runs out.
I’ll be honest, I don’t really have the money to have done all this work on the staffing right away, but they’re all on 5 month contracts, I couldn’t offer any longer, and many of them were dirt cheap. I just have to hope it doesn’t ruin the finances, or I can make it up by shifting a player or two, there’s definitely dead wood in the squad.
The main area that I really wanted to involve myself in more this year was training, as for years I’ve just left it to my assistant and got on with the rest, which is of course isn’t how things run in the real world. Having watched the fantastic series of training videos by FoxInTheBoxFM, link HERE, I learned a few things that I either thought I understood or had never known before, the big one being that none of my sides since training got overhauled in FM19 have probably ever done a Match Prep session!
I’ve decided to start by trying to follow Foxy’s train of thought on training and set up schedules monthly, with one unit being the main focus for the month. I started with attacking, and my first month of schedules looks like this.
I’m fairly happy with it, I think it’s covering everything I need it to, and if not it can always be tweaked. One thing I have already noticed is that a few of the defensive unit are unhappy that they aren’t getting enough attention, so that’s something I may have to monitor and make a decision on over time, maybe alternating weeks might be a better plan long-term.
It’s not an area of the game that I need to involve myself in more like the others are, but every save needs at least one tactic!
That’s all I have for now, just the one, I decided fairly early on that I wanted to try and play with a back 3/5 at some point in the save, ideally at the start if I could, and the squad just about has the players to do it now so I’ve gone for it.
I’m starting with a cautious approach, using the preset instructions from a Fluid Counter Attack, but in pre-season when we’ve played weaker sides we’ve still been able to dominate the ball and look to take more risks to break a side down. I’m reluctant to push the defensive line any higher for the time being as two of my starting CB’s are 32 and 37 and some of the younger options are badly lacking in pace and/or acceleration. Longer term I’d like to look at moving the CM’s down to the DM strata, mainly because I’d love to have a really effective, game changing Segundo Volante, but right now this is what we’re starting the season with. Martín Rabuñal already looks like the star of this side and could one day be that Segundo Volante.
So while progress was being made off the pitch, we were also busy on it, getting some much needed match sharpness into the player’s and seeing how the tactic played out.
We have to be relatively pleased after what was a rough start. Not beating the Second XI isn’t as disastrous as in previous editions of FM as the sides we put out we’re fairly equal, although we still should have won the game, we just lacked the finishing to punish them. Colón were a very tough side to play, they just tore through us time after time, and to be honest 3-0 flattered us. They are however, 8th in the Argentine Primera División and played us with a fully fit squad as they’re already approaching halfway in their league campaign. After that, we started to look a lot better, a lot more composed in front of goal, before our other biggish test, a 2-1 win away at CA Rentistas from our division. The friendly was arranged as Rentistas started the save as our feeder club, as did Danubio, but since being in the same division should cancel the links, I’ve since cancelled them myself.
We played okay, of course we’re still settling in and working on the tactic in training, so it wasn’t going to be perfect, and an away win at a side in our league is always going to be a good result. The xG is a bit flattering here as our first goal was a penalty, and in fact besides that we struggled to create any high quality chances, showing that we aren’t necessarily as wasteful as the stats would suggest, we just need to work on creating chances we’re more likely to score from.
There are no signings to talk about in this pre-season, between having no money and no scouts, recruitment wasn’t really an option. Instead, I’ve taken a look within the club to see how I can tweak the squad.
Starting with probably the biggest problem area in the squad, a lack of natural wing-backs. They’re crucial to the system I want to play, so why am I persisting with it when this is the problem area? Well, because I see a light at the end of the tunnel.
On the right hand side we have Ignacio Laquintana, who started the save as an already competent wing-back, and has played their all pre-season, developing to become accomplished in the role already. I think he has really good attributes to be a really exciting wing-back at this level, and as time goes on I’d love to develop the tactic to really give him free reign to bomb up and down that right hand side and dominate games, much like James Tavernier does for Rangers in real life. He’s backed up by Emilio Zeballos and Álvaro González, neither of whom are natural wing-backs either, but offered enough to cover there when necessary. I want to give Ignacio every opportunity to really grow into that role, so he is my undisputed first choice.
The left is a more interesting situation, as we do have a natural wing-back in the squad, Rodrigo Rojo. He’s pretty solid and very well rounded, but there was zero cover for him. He can’t do an entire season in a role as demanding as wing-back with no rest. Even playing a back 4 wouldn’t help, as there weren’t even any left backs I could shift forward a bit. Dipping into the reserves, I found Mauro García, who is a very promising looking left-back, who hopefully can develop into a quality wing-back with a bit of training. He hasn’t looked all too comfortable in pre-season, struggling massively at times, so when I went asking my DOF for suggestions for an emergency signing I could make and he came up dry, I decided to dip into the reserves again for a plan C. Gonzalo Nápoli is another player who could make a very handy wing-back one day, and certainly has the attributes to compete with García while they both learn the role.
I don’t think our attacking options are bad, but they aren’t perfect, and there was an opportunity to get a very promising youngster into the squad so that’s exactly what we’ve done. Starting with Cristian Chávez, who is on loan from Independiente and will start the season as first choice. He’s a very good player for this level, but probably better suited to playing out wide, as I worry that his composure and decisions will let him down when it matters with big chances. Then we have Tabaré Viudez and Kevin Méndez who can both fill in up front but are natural wingers and will get most of their game time there, making them less available to play up front. That leaves Ignacio Colombini as the only other natural striker in the squad, who is a decent option, but feeling a bit light I’ve promoted Facundo Milán to offer competition for places. Former club captain Álvaro Navarro was also a part of the squad, but he didn’t strike me as someone who could make an impact, and when I warned him about taking the captaincy from him he became unhappy, so he took the opportunity to leave due to being on a month to month contract.
The amount of talent and potential in the Reserves and U19 squads is really, really exciting. Shown above are the five players considered closest to first team call ups, having already called up three. Below that, there are another 19! players considered to be worth thinking about. All of those players are still a bit too raw to really be considered yet, but the potential in that group of players is outstanding.
Only 5 shown here, but there’s plenty of talent on the brink of the first team!
The media prediction for Defensor when I started this save was 6th, with the board aiming for a top half finish. As I checked the season preview just as pre-season was wrapping up, I noticed we had been bumped up to third, which to be honest makes me nervous since we haven’t brought any new players into the side. We do however have three players in the Media Dream 11, which makes me feel better about the strength we have.
With no prior knowledge of the division, things like that give me a bit of confidence that we should be able to deliver what’s required from us. The board still only want a top half finish too, so there’s slightly less pressure to succeed in that sense. If we could finish the season only behind Nacional and Peñarol then we’ll be very very pleased indeed.
ONE LAST THING…
Just one last small thing to show off is the squad view I’ve put together for this year, because I’m really pleased with it and the amount of information it gives me at a glance.
I wanted to get more training information and performance stats on the screen, so I’ve taken a few general info and dynamics columns out from last year, and I think it gives me a more rounded overview that should mean having to dive into other screens less often.
So those are my thoughts as I approach my first ever campaign in South America, hopefully you enjoyed! Next time we’ll cover the 2021 Apertura campaign and look forward to the Torneo Intermedio.
Thanks for reading.