He’s my captain, top earner, and one of our best players, but Martin Rabuñal is under threat from the exciting talent of Luciano Boggio. How do I go about fitting them both into the same side, if that is in fact even the best solution?
Martin Rabuñal and Luciano Boggio are both really talented footballers, but very different in their playing style. Martin is a more well rounded midfielder and an incredible goal threat with his long shooting, as he has shown by contributing 16 goals over the last two years from predominately a CM(A) role. Luciano is a more technical player who wants to be the playmaker of the side, and has grown into the side year on year, already matching his goal and assist totals from last year in just the Apertura stage this year.
In the system that we play, we have two central midfielders with no DM and no number 10. This means that Martin and Luciano are both competing for only 2 spots, alongside the other talent in our midfield (Jorge, Poggi, Nápoli). In another formation with 3 midfield spots, they could play in harmony and probably create a really effective relationship, but they both benefit from being the more progressive midfielder with a more conservative role beside them, and playing them together limits the effectiveness from one or both.
The Uruguayan Gerrard and Lampard!
Martin has been the big casualty this year, there’s no doubt. He missed the start of the season with a twisted ankle, which kept him out for a month and allowed Luciano to take his place. Luciano has performed well and made solid attacking contributions alongside Juan Manuel Jorge, who with 10 assists in 15 games has made himself impossible to drop at present.
It’s still early in the season, but Martin has been disappointing so far.
So we’ve identified that something has to change, I’m not a fan of playing them alongside each other, but is there another way to get them both into the same side? Or do I have to relegate one of them (probably Martin) to an impact sub?
One solution that I have already tried this season is to play Martin in the back 3, taking advantage of his ability on the ball by playing him as our Libero. He is an accomplished centre back already, so we haven’t had to try and force him into that role, and at 6 feet tall and with decent attributes for a central defender, he isn’t a complete liability back there when we’re under pressure. As I mentioned in the last post, I’m not completely happy with how the Libero role has played so far this season, it’s still a bit too passive and not stepping into the midfield enough, so it’s not all down to the individual but Martin didn’t exactly pull up any trees back there.
Over the 6 games the mean of Martin’s average ratings is an underwhelming 6.7.
In 6 games where we won 5 and lost just 1, Martin had fairly poor average ratings, no attacking contributions and not great defensive actions. There’s nothing here that really shows that Martin can be effective as a Libero long term. The only reason to really persevere is the theoretical advantage that a player as comfortable on the ball as Martin is offers in terms of bringing the ball out, but he needs to turn that into tangible advantages and so far hasn’t come close. For reference, Martín Payares, the only other player to feature as a Libero this season, matches the 6.7 average rating that Rabuñal has, and only just falls short of the amount of attempted passes per game, averaging 25 to Rabuñal’s 27. With Payares being a natural centre back, his defensive actions are significantly clear, which makes me wonder whether Rabuñal as a Libero is worth trying again when we have a CB who can match him going forward and comfortably outperform him defensively.
As I said earlier in the post, Rabuñal, Boggio and one from the other three (for now I’ll use Jorge for ease) has the potential to bring the best out of the pair of them. I’ve used the same shape since day one of the save, and it’s been relatively successful, securing back to back third place finishes. Could it be though that a change of shape could be what we need to unleash Rabuñal and Boggio and close the gap to Nacional and Peñarol?
Three different shapes that we could try for the midfield.
I think if I was to try a midfield three I would use the 4-2-3-1 and play Boggio as the 10, as it’s his more natural role and allows Rabuñal and Jorge to play as the double pivot. I do think that Rabuñal as a CM(A) in that system is a risk and could leave us exposed on the break, especially if opponents play quickly and have runners through the middle, it may be that in closer contests he may have to sit in a more conservative role, possibly a BBM.
This is probably the only way to get both Rabuñal and Boggio into the side on a regular basis and get the best from both of them. I have enjoyed the back three and the system does work, but we’ve never been able to hit really good form without then crashing and burning for a while, so maybe now is the time to change shape for a while. I’m not entirely sold though, I’ll probably experiment in the pre-Intermedio friendlies and assess from there.
Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all. I’ve never been afraid to drop a player if they’re in poor form, I’ve done it to three goalkeepers in 2 and a bit seasons after all. This feels different though, Martin Rabuñal still has a lot to offer and I worry what affect it could have on the dynamics to upset him. Rotation is always going to be a factor and if Boggio is injured/unfit then Martin is clearly the option to replace him, even if he isn’t quite as strong technically in the AP(A) role that the system now facilitates. If I can gradually reduce Martin’s playing time without him getting upset then that would be the best possible outcome, because right now he isn’t doing anything to prove he’s worthy of dislodging Boggio or Jorge. Captain or not, he needs to earn his place.
I wanted to write this post to vocalise my thoughts somewhat, rather than just deciding on the fly and not mentioning it. I’ll be honest I’m still not sure that I have a set plan, I’ll toy with a new formation in the friendlies and see whether there’s enough benefit from the midfield to warrant changing the whole shape.
This post is the first in a ‘sub series’ that I’ll be calling Violeta Extra, where there’s no in game action, but some one-off posts talking through decisions like today’s, or talking through my thoughts and methods when it comes to different aspects of the game. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them alongside the season reviews!
Thanks for reading!