Welcome back to the brand new On the Break! This is the first post I’ve put out since I moved over to my new site, and I’m really pleased with how it’s come out, I hope you guys all like it too! If this is the first post of mine you’re seeing, click HERE to catch up with the series so far.
As I mentioned in the last post, one of our big weaknesses last season was our ability to finish chances. We had the second most shots per game (16.97) of any side in the division, only behind Peñarol, but seven sides had a better conversion rate than us. If we can improve that, we could be in with a shot of really challenging the top two. I also discussed that I was happy with my attacking personnel, so it felt more like a tactical tweak was needed.
Scroll left for the new system, scroll right for last year’s.
Only a couple of player roles have changed, I want the most central of my back three to step in to the midfield and help to start moves so I’ve changed him to a Libero to try and get a little more from that role. You’ll see who’s been tasked with that later in the post. The right hand side is now occupied by a Winger rather than an Inverted Winger, which is only really because the role suits the players available more now than it did before. The last change comes in the centre of midfield, where the CM(A) role which allowed Rabuñal to be such a goal threat last year has been changed to an AP(A). We have an emerging star in Luciano Boggio who I want to get the best from, and he’s far more of a creator than a goal threat, so I’ve tried to adapt for that difference between the two players.
In terms of team instructions, I’ve tried to focus us more on a passing game and less the quick counter attacks we’ve almost relied on in the past. I’ve removed Run at Defence, as I found the attackers were getting too far up the pitch from long balls without the rest of the side and becoming isolated, and have replaced it with instructions to play through the middle and look for overlaps, to try and get the central midfielders playing balls through or out to the wingers. I’ve also put us back to a standard width to try and keep the wing-backs on the touchline and get crosses in, rather than the cutting in I was seeing a bit too much of.
Another year, another youth intake. The preview looked really good last year, we got a good intake at the start of last season, and we had the influence of a truly world class HOYD for one year only, so all the signs pointed to some really good prospects.
I’m very excited. We’ve had a third good goalkeeper come through in 2 years, we’ve got two right wing-backs that could conceivably cover that flank for the next 20 years assuming they don’t garner interest from bigger sides in the mean time, and Christian Colman is the jewel in the crown. At the age of 15 he’s arguably already good enough to challenge the first team strikers, but I’m determined not to rush him through, we have some really good prospects already in the squad so we can really take our time with Christian and make sure he develops fully in his youngest years. A rule forbidding youth contract players to take part in league games will help massively to make sure I don’t get tempted too soon.
Pre-Season this year was a bit underwhelming to be honest. We played three Argentinian sides that aren’t in the playable leagues, plus Boston River from the division below us, and only really looked convincing in one game. 10 goals in 4 games was a promising sign that our changes have helped give us a cutting edge, but an experiment to push the defensive line and line of engagement up was abandoned after shipping 4 goals in the first 2 games, and I was rewarded with two clean sheets once I went back to what we knew in that regard. The main positive to this year’s pre-season was seeing both Christian Colman and Nahuel Paiva get on the scoresheet in their first team opportunities.
Moving on to transfers, and another fairly quiet window for us, with just 3 players coming in.
Mauricio Gómez comes in as cover for Pintado on the right hand side (notice Pintado, not Laquintana 😭). Lautaro Mesa was signed primarily to offer cover on either flank but also gives another option up front, his wages are very reasonable for a player of his quality and he had interest from elsewhere so I was keen to snap him up. Martín Payares is a player I finally found after searching for some more quality at centre back for the entire pre-season period. He’s been asked to step into the Libero role that I mentioned earlier and has done an okay job despite not having the greatest attributes for it, recording a 95% pass completion rate, although I’d like him to step up more than he is at present.
Our average positions with the ball show that Payares (no.6) is staying fairly level with the other centre backs whereas I’d like him to step up and sit at the base of the midfield, somewhere around the purple box.
So let’s address it, my favourite player in the save, the best player we had, arguably the best in the division, is gone.
I’m gutted, obviously, but realistically I wasn’t going to be able to keep him and my only regret now is not trying to get a fee for him. He was linked with China for a long time, but I’m glad to see him stay a bit closer to home with Pachuca in Mexico. For context, he is now worth just over 3x more than our entire club(!), and earns 68% of our total wage budget on his new contract. It’s sad, but it’s time to say goodbye Ignacio, hopefully our paths will cross again one day!
With competitive action comes the time to lay down a marker and prove we can be legitimate title contenders, but with Nacional being dominant for 2 years and a resurgent Peñarol winning the Clausura last year, we really need a strong start.
We were absolutely exceptional right from the get go, with the only early blip a home draw against Torque. The addition of Payares to the back line and a return to form of Santiago Mele helped to make us rock solid defensively, with only two goals conceded in the first eight games.
Looking further forward, Pablo López was on fire, banging 9 goals in the first 8 games, 5 of which were assisted by Juan Manuel Jorge, who is quickly establishing himself as a key player for us.
8 games, 7 wins and 1 draw, sitting at the top of the league, who’s next I hear you ask? Nacional… Brilliant.
Of course they beat us!
It’s a disappointing result of course, but as long as the guys bounce back and finish strong we’re still in excellent shape.
Morale Manager 2021 strikes again!
Two wins in the final seven games is unacceptable at any time, but when we were in such a strong position and had a real chance of topping the Apertura table, it’s a real blow and makes me question the mentality of the players. We’re going to need a really strong showing in the Intermedio to shake off our malaise, I’m not going to be satisfied with third place this season.
Finishing six points off the pace after the start we had is a real hammer blow.
We led the division from day one right up until the Nacional game and then capitulated.
Pablo López and Juan Manuel Jorge were undoubtedly the main performers in the opening stage, with Pablo bagging 12 goals in 15 games from an xG of 6.97 and Juan Manuel grabbing an incredible 10 assists in 15 games at the age of 19.
I also need to give a mention to Alan Rodríguez, who has never been much of a goal-scorer, but has recovered well from the broken ankle he suffered last year and decided that he only scores bangers.
For now the Libertadores is nothing more than an early season cash cow, we just aren’t strong enough to make any kind of headway, but the prize money is vital to our finances, and if we could somehow spark a fairytale then we’d be laughing.
Atlético Mineiro are one of the biggest sides we could have faced in this draw, and will be a massive challenge, just like Olimpia were last year. We performed admirably then, and only lost out on penalties, could we repeat that level of performance this year?
We never really threatened to eliminate them, but we can be proud of the fight we gave them. The 93rd minute winner they scored in the first leg was tough to take, but it was deserved and to be honest as great as an away draw would have been I still don’t think it would have been enough to try to hold on to, as proven by the comfortable away win they secured. It puts another £400k towards the debt, which barely makes a dent now, but it’s something at least and hopefully next year with a slightly kinder draw we could cause an upset and progress.
IN OTHER NEWS…
We’ve started to see some of our players get rewarded with international call-ups! I’m very pleased for Santiago Mele, last season he was so inconsistent and lost his place to Matías Dufour on more than one occasion, but this year he’s started strongly and been rewarded with a senior Uruguay call up. My bigger source of pride though, is with the Uruguay U23s, where five of our first team players make the squad, showing the potential we have in our side. Not only that, but all five of them started the save in our reserves squad, which goes to show the progress they’ve all made. Hopefully Paiva, Schneider, Colman et all can join them in the not too distant future.
Last but not least, we’ve finally been graced with the Christening of Pereira-ball! I’d have preferred Maxi-ball really, maybe FM22 will word the question in a way that we can name it ourselves 😉. It’s not a huge achievement of course, but at least it shows the new tactic is making an impact!
So that’s it for this post, hopefully we can shake off our poor form and continue to challenge this season! Let me know what you think of the post and the new site, either in the comments here or over on Twitter.
Thanks for reading.