The Unlikely Heroes

I’ve been meaning to write something on this subject for a while but I think with my choice of team in FM20 it gives me an opportunity to revisit this topic, using a few examples from previous FM saves but also look at a potential hero for the save i’m embarking on. I can then hopefully keep you updated on their progress and maybe make you think twice when first assessing your squad on Football Manager.

Now most managers out there tend to start their saves by assessing their squad. We use coach reports, star ratings and attributes to assess our players and itentify where we think we’ll need to recruit. How many of us start a new save, look at the squad and automatically write off anyone with poor attributes and poor star ratings? How many of us then recruit players purely based on attributes and our scout’s report? We’ve all done it, myself included.

Over the past few years though the types of saves I’ve been playing have forced me to rethink how I look at a player and this has led to the creation of some unlikely heroes. What I aim to do with this post his share a few of those heroes, both at the club initially and recruited at a later point, and give a brief overview of what they achieved. I’ll finish by looking at an individual in my current save who I hope to help also achieve cult status.

Former Heroes

David Wittredi – Debrecen – FM15

The first example I have of where i’ve looked past player attributes and rating (and been rewarded) came back on FM15 whilst managing Debrecen. I had in my squad a number 9 called David Wittredi and he intrigued me. He’d been given the number 9 shirt in real life so surely that meant there was something about him? Funds were limited and the squad was thin on the ground so I thought i’d give him a go.

He impressed me so much I actually wrote a post about Mr Wittredi back on the old FM Now forum which is no longer there, however I did manage to find my original word document with the article which you can read here (I’m unsure whether some of the links have expired or not)

Ricardo Andreutti – Caracas – FM16

My new outlook towards the non spectacular was quickly evident as FM16 saw me head back to South America to take over Venezuelan giants Caracas. One of the key members of that squad from the start was Ricardo Andreutti. I thought at the start of the save that he’d do a job for a bit before being replaced. In fact he only started to no longer be considered a regular as he approached his mid 30s. By this point he’d won back-to back Copa Libertadores, played in the World Cup and the semi final of the Copa America. Solid but unspectacular, he could always be relied on to provide a shield in front of the defence, allowing the rest of the team to flourish, especially Hugo Ojeda. A real unsung hero of the regime.

Solid but unspectacular, he could always be relied on to provide a shield in front of the defence, allowing the rest of the team to flourish, especially Hugo Ojeda. A real unsung hero of the regime.

Hamdan Al-Kamali – Al-Wahda – FM17

A player that had formerly spent time at Lyon in a youth, but known to be a bit hit and miss in real life. Part of my initial squad he started as playing out of necessity but went on to be so consistent he never lost his place. A classy ball playing defender for both club and Country, he established himself as one of the best defenders in Asia. A record number of appearances for the club, a trip to the World Cup, multiple league and Cup wins and back to back AFCL wins, made him a club legend.

A record number of appearances for the club, a trip to the World Cup, multiple league and Cup wins and back to back AFCL wins, made him a club legend.

Mohammed Al-Ghanodi – Al-Ahli (LBY) – FM18

A player who was transfer listed and shoved in the reserves when i arrived at the club. I would say 99% of FM players would have gotten rid of him in the same way i thought to at the start. Unfortunately no one wanted him other than Al Madina who offered to take him on loan for 50% of his wages. 14 goals in 6 months and a little bit of research led to rethink my opinion of him and i decided to recall him early and the rest they say is history.

The eventual club captain and legend won it all, leading my all conquering Al Ahli side to every piece of African silverware available as well as lifting 2 Club World Championship Trophies. He also scored over 100 goals for the club, 89 of them in the league and scored 11 goals in his 69 caps, including a couple of crucial goals in both of Libya’s AFCON appearances. Sadly he never had the opportunity to play in a World Cup but i’m sure he would have impressed had we ever made it there.

(Super) Lin Liangming – Zheijang Greenton – FM19

The most recent of the unlikely heroes was Super Lin, who arrived in my second season with Zheijang. I found him in the Real Madrid youth team and despite not looking particularly great attribute wise i thought he’d be worth a punt given where he was playing.

I was not disappointed as the speed demon captured the hearts of the Zheijang faithful and FM community alike as his raw pace and long distance shooting saw him give other defenders nightmares. Sadly one nasty injury saw him miss 3 months of his first season but there was still enough time for him to become my favourite player of FM19. He was largely responsible for us finishing second in our first season in the Chinese Super League and he was all set to take the Asian Champions League by storm. It wasn’t to be as he was cruelly taken from me and sold to Beijing behind my back. Thankfully for Super Lin he went on to become a star for them, scoring 13 goals and establishing himself in the Chinese national side but never got to play in the Champions League again.. If I’d kept him FM19 might have been different but for the one season I had him he became a hero.

Future Hero?

Dante Osorio – Potros UAEM – FM20

So this brings me onto who I see as having the potential to be an unlikely hero this year.

In my eyes to be an unlikely hero you need to be a player that isn’t going to set the world alight attribute wise on FM however they have something about them in real life that makes you think that maybe you should past the attributes in order to be rewarded.

Dante Osorio is no exception.

Potros born and bred, he started his career playing for Potros’ semi professional side in the Mexican fifth tier. He scored for fun in his two seasons for the club and was promoted to the first team. Since then he’s been instrumental in the rise of Potros to the Liga Ascenso, scoring an impressive 141 goals in 232 appearances (Wikipedia) and is only 26. On the face of it he’s nothing special from an FM point of view but that’s not stopped me in the past.

What makes an unlikely hero?

The way I normally go about looking at it is how I can get the best out of the player sat in front of me. His record tells me he can score goals so I need to give him the best opportunity to do that. It would be unrealistic to think he’s going to be an all around star of the side, I’ll have other players to do that. What i need to ensure is that he’s in the right place at the right time and give him the best opportunity I can, to do what he does best… score goals.

The first place to start is looking at my tactic the M-Anchor or currently known as “Riding my ponay all night long” and where I expect the goals to come from.

The obvious place for goals would be from my lone striker however as i know from experience, that part of the pitch tends to be particularly crowded and with him not being the biggest, could become anonymous when facing a deep and compact defence. The other area of my tactic that I expect goals to come from is my shadow striker. This would involve retraining him in this position however I think with his movement he’d have more opportunities at getting a shot at goal when operating between the fullback and centre back rather than between 2 centre backs. After all this is where Mohammed Al Ghanodi had a lot of joy on FM18 and I see a lot of similarities in Dante. I’ll have to assess this as I get further into the save and look at how Dante is doing, what he’s doing well and not so well.

The other important element required, in finding an unlikely hero is patience. There is no guarantee that Dante Osorio is going to score 30 goals in his first season, if he managed double figures in our first year I’d be pleased. Ultimately his success will be determined by others and as I improve our creative areas of the team I’d expect him to thrive. He will always have a ceiling and is unlikely to ever go on to represent Mexico but as the club progresses I hope to have him there, ready to come on with 20 mins to go and go out there and bag the winner for the club he loves.

You might call it putting heart over head but sometimes the best saves are made not by a wonderkid or record signing, but a player initially written off who ends up being an unlikely hero.

Whether Dante lives up to his FM predecessors only time will tell, he might also not be the only unlikely hero in the save, there are other Potros academy graduates in the squad that may well upstage him but on first look he is the most likely. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on their progress either way.

Thanks for reading and hopefully this article has made some people maybe rethink the way they look at certain players. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Slack for more live updates on how may save is getting on.

Diego

Posted in Uncategorized

Turning Colts into Stallions (or donkeys) – Una aventura Mexicana

It’s the time of year once more where I write my one and only blog post of the year whilst telling myself that I should find the time to write more but knowing that life will inevitably get in the way. I’ll try though.

Let’s start off by saying that FM19 was not a good vintage for me. Over the past 12 months I’ve only managed to play 4 and a half seasons, 1 and a half with Tobol, 6 months with Al Wehda and 2 and a half with Zheijang. 2 League titles, 1 cup and 3 MOTY awards was all that I had to show for 12 months of Football Manager which left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. A brief love affair with speed demon “Super” Lin Liangming, who’d been written off by members of the community, was one of the few highlights. Even then Super Lin was sold behind my back after 1 season and as such the save never really recovered and I lost interest. The match engine did improve as the year went on but still remained largely repetitive (my good friends Keysi Rensie and FM Grasshopper hit this nail on the head in their excellent review of FM19). It wasn’t just the repetitiveness of FM19 that failed to capture my imagination, I think after such a fantastic save on FM18 with Al Ahli and Libya it was always going to take a lot to get me hooked.

As it was I actually went back to my save on FM18 and had a great time watching the likes of Gaston Gimenez, Lautaro Ramirez, Rais Salah and Bruno Miranda have another unbelievable season.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The culmination of this saw the beautiful team i’d assembled and nurtured over my 7 years in charge, beating Man Utd 4-3 in the Club World Cup Final thanks to a 94th minute equaliser and a 117th minute winner from wonderkid Lautaro Ramirez. After the rollercoaster of our first CWC win, a penalty shootout against Tottenham the year before (brilliantly described and illustrated by FM Grasshopper and Ted Redwood), this was arguably as dramatic if not more as we were actually 2-1 down with 10 minutes to play.

For the hardcore Al Ahli followers amongst you that still have FM18 installed, i’ve attached the PKM here should you feel the need to reminisce. For those that can’t be bothered I’ll leave the screenshot of the moment it happened below.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few months, so my apologies for the lack of tweets and general FM chat. A new version though gives me an opportunity to put FM19 behind me and hopefully get myself back to being as hooked as I was to FM18. The biggest question though is who to manage?

As ever I’ve had a long list of potential clubs and countries that I could go to next (if anyone has yet to pick a save and is looking for some inspiration feel free to have a go with any of these teams). I was tempted by a return to Africa with either Raja Casablanca or Petros de Luanda but then I still feel it’s a little too soon to be heading back to Africa. I flirted with a return to the Middle East, Nejmeh in Lebanon particularly caught my eye, but again I decided it was still too soon. Thailand (Suphanburi), Malaysia (Johor DT), Indonesia (Persyebaya) and Tajikstan (FK Khujand) were also on the radar but decided it wasn’t for this year. I missed the Americas.

Diego Mendoza cut his teeth in South America and it has been home to two of my great saves with Deportivo Cali and Caracas so that was my first place to look for inspiration. I was tempted by Ecuador (America de Quito or LDUP), as it’s not somewhere I’ve managed, and also Peru(Deportivo Wanka) but my eyes had already drifted further north.

The NACL is one of two continental competitions I’ve barely played in, a brief spell in charge of CF America back on FM13 is my only experience of it. (The other is the Oceania CL but we’ll maybe save that for FM21) The more research that I started to do on Wikipedia, Twitter, Instagram and Transfermarkt the more things started to click. With me being the person I am, I was automatically drawn toward Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. All 3 were very strong contenders but when I sat down and worked out what play time I was going to have this year I realised that realistically I’m only going to get 7 or 8 seasons in before FM21 and I think I’d need a lot longer than that to achieve what I want to achieve. So that left me with 2 alternatives? USA or Mexico.

Fate often plays a part in my choice of saves on Football Manager and this time it is no different. Whilst casually scroll through instagram on a Sunday morning, something stood out between the endless pictures of footballers, food and scantily clad women posing with watermelons. Pumas were playing a team in the Copa Mex that wore green. A smart logo containing what looked like a bucking bronco caused me to investigate further. As I scrolled through their wikipedia page I knew I’d found my team, Los Potros de la Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México or Potros UAEM were going to be my destination for FM20.

The last few years I’ve been primarily focused on building the country by using one of the bigger clubs in the league. This year however I’m taking one of the weakest teams in the Liga Ascenco and trying to turn them into a side that compete with the giants of Mexican football. It is hopefully going to be a different challenge to previous years given the strength of the Mexican league.

Potros UAEM

Formed in 1970 in Toluca as a potential rival to the city’s main club Toluca, they had a brief appearance in the 2nd division in 1975 but never really succeeded in gaining much support and eventually disappeared in 1977. They reemerged though in 1990, bobbing along in the lower leagues for the next 25 years. That all changed in 2016 when led by several homegrown players (more on them later) they achieved promotion to the Liga Ascenso, Mexico’s 2nd division. There’s not a lot more to tell and part of the attraction to the club this time around was to try and make some history.

Initial research tells me I’m in for a tough time to start with. Predicted to finish 14th and having very little in the bank I’m faced with a tough start to life in Mexico. One shining light is that they are currently a feeder team for Toluca so hopefully we can take advantage of that link in the short term to take a few of their youngsters on loan. Money is going to be really tight so I’m going to be relying quite heavily on loan players in the first few years. The new rules in Mexico allow for 9 players not born in Mexico to be part of the squad so once I’ve established a foothold and a bit of financial stability, I will no doubt be scouring the South American market for cheap recruits. I’m also going to have to come to terms with the fact that I’m going to have to do a bit more selling this year in order to progress. Gate receipts and sponsorship aren’t going to be enough to compete with the big boys so i’m going to be forced into implementing a buy to sell policy in the transfer market. A decent scouting setup and offering the chance for cast offs to save their career under Diego Mendoza will be the focus. Hopefully with some good performances and being in a country with a buoyant transfer market this will be slightly easier to do compared to Libya, Kazakhstan and the UAE.

In terms of youth I have no idea what to expect.

Mexico

806a60cf17ff1466a2dd30fa0cb07612

I am also, for my eternal suffering, going to take over the Mexican National team in the vain hope that International Football might actually been looked at and some of the long term issues resolved (tournament fitness and inability to control training being the key ones).  I suspect it won’t have so I’ll have to make do.

I love Mexican football, having started back in 2014 World Cup when they were led by the enigmatic Miguel Herrera. Most will remember the wild celebrations in the rain as Mexico impressed with their use of attacking wing backs, their skillful yet industrious midfield and who can forget how good Guillermo Ochoa was in that tournament? Hopefully I can make some new memories this year.

Mexico has always been one of those nearly teams in International Football and it gives me a slightly better chance of trying to mastermind a World Cup win. It should also be fun playing in some of the North American international tournaments and visit a few new places.

Tactics

In terms of how I am going to get my teams to play I’ll be sticking to my guns and trying to implement the classic Mendoza Anchor shape. A high press, high tempo, all action approach that throws caution to the wind. Balls out football or should I say ‘cojones fuera’ (I apologise to any Spanish speaking followers if this is a poor translation).

Given the stature of the club however this style of football just isn’t going to happen straight away and I expect a few bumps to start with and not many clean sheets. I’ll have to adapt both team and player instructions as I go along.

As the game progresses there are several key areas I’d like to explore tactically, primarily focused around certain roles within the tactic and also how I be more reactive with my line of engagement.

I moved away from an Enganche on FM19 in favour of an advanced playmaker but i’m keen to return to trying to get it to work. I also want to look at getting more out of centre backs in our attacking build up but this will most likely come further into the save. Line of engagement was new to FM19 and I never really felt like I truly utilised it fully. My preference has always been to press higher and pin the opposition back which for the most part was very effective from defensive point of view. From an offensive point of view I didn’t create enough space in the final third in FM19 through lack of movement. I’m interested to see how I can tweak things to try and create more against those teams not wanting to actually play football.

Training

I used training in FM19 but I wouldn’t say I played long enough to utilise its full potential and is an area I’d like to spend more time on in FM20. I’ve also seen a bit of debate surrounding mentoring on FM19 and whether it actually worked or not. I want to try and apply some logic to my training schedules and see how various schedules influence team performances, player development and player condition. It does seem to be a popular area that people want to look at this year so I’m fascinated to see the different approaches people take and how they manage the balance of team performance, player development and player fitness.

Personally I think the hardest bit is going to be getting the balance between player development and stopping my small squad having too many injuries. My approach initially is like to keep with a reasonably basic training regime for my first team whilst using my youth teams to experiment with more specific and unique training regimes. Hopefully it’ll see over the long term the team move to a bespoke training regime that produces tangible results. We shall see in due course.

So there you go, FM20 here we come! I’ll not be starting until after the full release as I want to try and get the Mexican lower leagues added in, along with the other Central and North America leagues to ensure that should i reach the continental competitions, the level of detail is as good as it can be. Also if things don’t work out that I’ve got some other places to go in the save. Once that’s all done and tested though I’ll get cracking and hopefully I’ll be back to my happy place.

Updates on the save will be as usual via Twitter and Slack but who knows I may well write a few more blog posts this year or even an instastory (if I can work out how to do one).

Thanks for reading

Diego

 

Disclaimer – Most of the photos were found via google so thanks for those people that took them originally, the kits and Rais Salah are all mine.

Posted in Potros UAEM

Mendoza’s Country & Club

 

For those of you that have followed my FM saves for the last few years you’ll know that, contrary to DGear’s belief, I tend not to manage teams like Newcastle.  Instead I look further afield to try and finding something different that’ll capture my attention.  From Panathinaikos in Greece to Deportivo Cali in Colombia, Caracas in Venezuela to the mighty Al Wahda in the UAE and mostly recently, in FM18, a fantastic save in Libya that saw Al Ahli lift the Club World Cup in spectacular circumstances.

Now there is also a common theme with all of these saves, I not only manage a club but I also manage the country as well. I’ve maybe not quite had the same success with the national sides as I have with the club sides, my only success being a 2018 World Cup win with Greece back on FM14. Granted it’s probably easier to win a World Cup with Greece than it is with Venezuela, UAE or Libya.

Still in the last 2 versions of FM I was controversially sacked by the UAE and didn’t really make many inroads with Libya, a solitary appearance at the AFCON being my only real achievement in 6 years.  As a result, I thought I’d go back to the start to see if FM19 I could achieve more with the national team than in previous versions.  Where better to start than a post written by the Godfather of Club & Country saves, Shrewnaldo:

https://footballmanagerveteran.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/shrews-club-and-country-guide/

My approach to C&C has always differed to Shrew’s as the club has often come first with me looking to build the backbone of the national side at the club I’m managing.  This has led me to hold on to talented youngsters and lock them in the basement rather than let them move on to the bigger leagues around the world.  The rational has always been that a team is stronger than an individual and that a team of less capable players that have spent their entire careers playing together, is stronger as a unit than 11 individuals playing with different players and styles for their clubs.  Whilst this probably worked for Venezuela and the UAE, it did not for Libya in a continent full of internationals playing outside of their home nation.  This makes me think that my Country of choice for FM19 will have to have a bit more of a blend between the Mendoza ‘Keep them at all costs’ method and the Shrewnaldo ‘Sell Sell Sell’ method.

Another area of my C&C approach that I will continue to do is to blend domestic players with South American talent both young and old.  With Diego Mendoza being South American it seems only right that he should surround himself with South American players and coaches and this is something I will not change as I feel it has served me well in previous jobs.

This is where I get excited about one of FM19’s new features, the new training module.  It should make things very interesting and I’m hoping that I can use some of the veteran South Americans that I’m so fond of, to have more of an influence in the style of national player coming through using the mentoring group system.

The Destination

So with all this talk about how the save is going to go we should probably get to the most important question, where am I going?

Kazakhstan and FC Tobol

thumb2-kazakhstan-national-football-team-4k-logo-grunge-europe

As most of you know I’m not one for the conventional places to manage and I rarely play in an ‘Out of the Box League’ these days. So after much deliberation I’ve settled on coming back to Europe…but only just.  Kazakhstan borders China and geographically is situated in Central Asia, however they joined UEFA back in 2002 and as such it will give me a chance to compete in European competitions for the first time since FM15.

I think one of the reasons I quite fancied a return to European football was the start of the new UEFA Nations League and how that could be quite interesting to compete in.

Kazakhstan

5b7a8bad7990a

So, what do you need to know about Kazakhstani football? Well after the break up of the Soviet Union it formed its own league in 1992 and the National side joined the AFC however after failing to qualify for the 1998 and 2002 World Cup they made the decision to join UEFA.  The National team currently sits 118th in the World, 19 places below my previous employers Libya.  I’m hoping though that with the new Nations League to compete in and myself at the helm that I can quickly rise up the rankings.

What gives me faith is the steps the domestic league has been making in recent years.  The rise in Kazakhstani football has been driven primarily by state funded Astana who made the group stages of the Champions League in 2015 and then managed to finish 2nd in their Europa League group last year before going out to Sporting Lisbon in the last 32.  Unfortunately, the other big sides in the league have been unable to repeat the same feat as of yet but that’s hopefully where Diego Mendoza’s arrival will start to change things.

When I was looking at clubs to manage I thought about going with one of the big ones like Kairat or Aktobe, the main rivals to Astana.  However, the more research I did I eventually settled on a club from Kostanay in the North of Kazakhstan, FC Tobol.

FC Tobol Kostanay

202705_ebb5659894bd6c5e3d1442709554056e

Why FC Tobol I hear you ask? A club located 3,339.9 miles away from my sofa and probably one that not many people will have ever heard of.  Well for starters they have the only Argentine playing in Kazakhstan, Juan Lescano formerly of Liverpool, who is on loan from Anzhi.  They also have a kit that I really like which as some of you may know by now I do base a lot of my club choices on the kit they wear.  There is however a lot more to FC Tobol which I hope is going to make this save as enjoyable as previous years.

FC Tobol Home

Founded in 1967 as Avtomobilist they’ve changed their name several times over the years and despite joining the newly formed Kazakhstan Premier League in 1992 as Khimik, they settled on their current name, FC Tobol in 1995.  The name Tobol comes from the river that runs through Kostanay if any of you are interested. 😊 Sadly, it’s hard to find any other interesting facts given that my Kazakh and Russian isn’t the greatest.

They play their home matches at the Central Stadium in Kostanay with it holding a maximum capacity of 10,000 fans.  Now this is quite a contrast to the 80,000 I could host when managing Al Ahli (LBY) and I’m sure this is going to have an impact on the revenue I receive from home matches.

xBfYbAR4_UY

In terms of historical success, it took until 2002 for FC Tobol to establish themselves as a challenger in the league, with them finishing no lower than fourth between 2002 and 2010.  A cup win in 2007 was their first silverware before eventually winning the league in 2010.  Unfortunately for the team since then things haven’t quite gone to plan as the club has slid back to mid-table mediocrity, finishing outside the top 4 ever since.

It would appear I’m tasked with bringing a former title challenger back into the limelight once more.  Just the way I like it.

 

Players

EIwsoxo3ff0

Of that title winning side from 2010 only 2 players remain at the club, winger Azat Nurgaliyev and veteran striker Nurbol Zhumaskaliyev.  Now 32 and 37 respectively these two would normally be at the end of their careers but as many of you know I love a veteran and as such both will be part of my football revolution in Northern Kazakhstan.  The current squad also contains several Kazakhstani internationals; goalkeeper Nepohodov, defenders Miroschnichenko and Dmitrenko, young and exciting attacking midfielder Maxim Fedin and striker Bauryzhan Turysbek.  It also contains Georgian international midfielders Kankava and Kvekveskiri, Lithuanian Destroyer Zulpa and Central African defender Kassai.  It would be fair to say I’ll be inheriting a half decent squad that contains plenty of experience which will be key to developing the next generation of players to take Kazakhstan to the next level.

 

The South American Connection

Now as many of you know by now, I love South American players and in all my saves whereever I might be managing I always try and bring the flair, passion and entertainment synonymous with South American football and footballers.  How I have managed that in the past is through blending a mixture of Youth and Veterans from the continent into my Youth teams with the hope that over the long term the style will rub off on the local lads.  In the past this has always been a theoretical approach with the only real way to try and implement this being by either tutoring or in more recent times squad dynamics.  I’d always shove a couple of veterans into the reserve squad with the idea being that if I was playing on a pitch week in, week out with a seasoned pro I’d learn a lot more than I would just playing with a bunch of kids.  Whether this made any difference in previous FMs is dubious.

With FM19 this is hopefully going to change, and the new training and mentoring module will give me the opportunity to apply a bit more of my theory.  I hope that a combination of by grouping players with the right sort of mentors in the youth teams, specific training sessions focused on South American-esque skills and blending mentally strong players alongside weaker local players will all lead to the ultimate goal, development of Kazakhstani football.

 

The Plan

It’s always good to have a plan that isn’t just win everything as let’s be honest with the speed I play at Kazakhstan aren’t going to be winning the World Cup on FM19 and Tobol won’t be winning the Champions League.  That doesn’t mean however there isn’t a lot that I can’t achieve and to be honest I’m quite excited about the prospect of a save where the plan isn’t to conquer the world as I did with Al Ahli (LBY).  I’ve split my plan between Kazakhstan and FC Tobol and I think it’ll be interesting to revisit these at the end of FM19 to see how I got on.

 

Kazakhstan

Short Term

  • Break into FIFA Top 100
  • Top Nations League Group

Long Term

  • Qualify for the Euros
  • Have an international player playing in one of the Top 5 leagues in Europe (England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy)
  • Play attractive and exciting football

 

FC Tobol

Short Term

  • Qualify for Europe
  • Develop Youth and Training Facilities
  • Win the Domestic Cup
  • Implement a South American influence to the team

Long Term

  • Become the dominant team in Kazakhstan
  • Produce an international standard player from our Academy
  • Qualify for the Champions League Group Stages
  • Sell a player to a Top 5 League Club (England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy

 

Personal

  • Complete more than 6 season before FM20
  • Don’t break my sofa
  • Stay married
  • Love every minute of hopefully another roller coaster of a year.

 

Real Life

Another part of my saves that I’ve loved over the last few years is following the team and country I’ve managed in real life and this year is no different.  On initial research it was a difficult league to track down however I was not to be deterred and eventually with the help of google translate and some creative googling I’ve come across two useful little resources for Kazakhstani football.

Links

An English language blog covering the Kazakhstan Premier League providing short and sweet analysis of each of the matches taking place on a weekly basis.

https://bergmarque.wordpress.com/

The Kazakhstan Football youtube channel where you can live stream and watch back full Kazakhstan Premier League matches.  I cannot wait for the next Mummy Squad wine night when I can be sat in bed playing FM and watch Tobol play in real life.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMYg33D6x-jgVsn_hxQ_oKA

If you are interested in potentially spending your next holiday in Kostanay, as Myself, Mrs and Baby Mendoza will be next year, then you can check out this short promotional video:

Onwards

With ‘onwards’ being my 1999th word, I thought it only right that I push this blog post over the 2000 word mark and deliver on my promise to deliver my blog post for 2018. 😊  I will continue to keep everyone updated on my save primarily via Twitter, live tweeting when alone or just the odd summary tweet when Mrs M is marshaling the FM playing arena.  I’m going to try and get back to being a bit more active on my Slack channel again (Find me at #diegomendozatv), primarily in the hope that @FMPressure will come back.  I think sadly there is more chance of me winning the Champions League with FC Tobol than that happening.  I will however try and share more matches, screenshots etc. on there until Sheriff Samo rocks up to delete everything.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my blog post and that you’ll enjoy following the ups and mostly downs of managing in Kazakhstan. What have I let myself in for.

 

Қазақстанға келіңіз!!!

Тобылға келіңіз!!!

 

Диего Мендоса

Diego Mendoza

Posted in FC Tobol, Kazakhstan | Tagged , | 1 Comment

A Game Forever Unfinished – The Deportivo Cali Story – Academia de Futbol

In this article I want to provide a very brief history and background of the Deportivo Cali academy, highlighting some of its famous graduates. I will then take a look at my base philosophy, my current in game setup, my staff and my two academy teams.

What this article won’t tell you is a definitive way to create an amazing youth setup where every youngster reaches their maximum potential. There are plenty of articles for that and some have been used to influence my approach to youth development over the years. I will include links to those so that if people want to conduct further reading they can.

Hopefully what this article will do is give you an insight into my thinking behind the Academy in Cali and what eventually i hope to achieve through this approach.

Background and History

I’ve been trying to find more information about the youth setup in Cali but given my Spanish doesn’t extend far beyond ordering two beers, I have been struggling. What I do know is that the Deportivo Cali academy has produced a number of decent Colombian footballers over the past 20 years.

Some of its most well-known graduates are as follows:

Name Caps for Colombia Position
Faryd Mondragon 51 GK
Miguel Calero 50 GK
Óscar Córdoba 73 GK
Andrés “Manga” Escobar U20 ST
Jeison Murillo 4 D C
Brayan Perea U20 ST
Cristian Zapata 31 DC
Abel Aguilar 55 MC
Luis Muriel 5 ST
Álvaro “Caracho” Domínguez 6 AMC
Michael Ortega U20 AMC
Mayer Candelo 11 AMC
Arley Betancourt AMC
Alexander Viveros 34 MC
Víctor Bonilla 17 ST
Hamilton Ricard 27 ST
Fredy Montero 10 ST

It also made the careers of a number of Colombian footballers:

Name Caps for Colombia Position
Mario Yepes 102 D C
Nelson Rivas U20 D C
Carlos Valderrama 111 M C
Gerardo Bedoya 49 M C
Giovanni Hernández 15 AM C
Hugo Rodallega 40 ST

Now I accept the casual fan may not have heard of a lot of those players but for someone who has been playing CM/FM a long time I’ve come across most of those on the list.

It seems only fair that I should try and do the academy justice in my current save with Deportivo Cali especially given some of the gems that have already emerged from the youth intakes I’ve had so far.

Base Philosophy

The classic South American academy model is to produce exports to the European leagues. Players are often trained to maximise individual ability and sales price rather than to fit into a specific club model as they are in most of the top European academies.

The Argentine clubs in particular are renowned for their ability to generate the same type of player out of their academies. This then leads them to be able to market their academy players a being the next so and so and extract a significant amount of income from European clubs. How many Argentine players have been dubbed the next best thing and never made it?

Colombia on the other hand still exports a number of players yet for seemingly far less of a financial gain and as such the league struggles financially. The likes of Juan Cuadrado, Falcao, Jackson Martinez, Freddy Guarin and Eder Balanta have all moved to clubs outside of Colombia when they were young and the majority of them were bought by 3rd parties. Colombia produces talent but the league itself doesn’t benefit financially.

With Deportivo Cali I’m taking a slightly different approach and rather than looking to export at a young age I will be looking to build a team around academy players.

I want those academy players to come through playing the 4-2-3-1 high press, high tempo, short passing, attacking game that the first team play. I want my Deportivo Cali to be the fittest team in South America and as such my academy players must be the same. They also need to be comfortable with the ball at the feet and be intelligent both with and without it.

Staff

In order to promote this philosophy I have to have Academy staff that are both technical able but also are on the same page philosophy wise to make this happen. Currently I’m a club that is growing in stature so don’t have the luxury to pick and choose so the focus is on the most qualified staff attribute wise. Annoyingly it would seem that most of my current U20 staff like to stand off rather than press but in the long term I need to make sure that the majority like to attack and press. This should also hopefully influence the type of player arriving in the youth intake each year.

Let’s then meet the staff.

Academy Director – Gustavo Tognarelli
Reserves Manager – Javier Ochoa
Reserves Assistant Manager – Wilmar Garcia
Under 20s Manager – Leider Preciado
Under 20s Goalkeeping Coach – Faryd Mondragon
Under 20s Fitness Coach – Héctor Helman Perlaza
Under 20s Coach – Roberto Carabalí
Under 20s Coach – Leonardo Abratti
Under 20s Coach – Sergio Almirón
Under 20s Coach – Mauricio Serna
Reserves Physio – Freddy Figueroa
Under 20s Physio – Alexander Peña
Youth Scout – Nicolás Frutos

Youth Squad

There are two squads, Deportivo Cali B which will be the First Team of the Academy and Deportivo Cali U20 which will be Second Team.

Each squad must be made up of a maximum of 23 players, this is to ensure that players are exposed to maximum amount of game time and ensure optimum development. This must contain 2 goalkeepers, 4 wingbacks, 4 central defenders, 2 holding midfielders, 2 roaming playmakers, 2 enganches, 4 shadow strikers, 3 advanced forwards.
Any players deemed by the academy staff not good enough for the first team or that don’t fit with the Deportivo Cali philosophy should be released before their 18th birthday to ensure proper development elsewhere.

All teams must play the same tactics as the first team but freedom is given to the two managers to adjust in match situations.

Deportivo Cali B 2015

Name Position Nat Birth City Height (cm) Weight (kg) Age Media Handling Personality Value Total Tec Total Men Total Phy Total Key Attributes Aggressive Pressing Rating Attacking Style Rating Passing Game Rating
Luis Hurtado GK COL Cali 186 78 21 Media-friendly Balanced £30,000 51 125 98 274 61 115 47.92% 103 36.79% 113 43.46%
Manuel Loaiza GK COL Cali 186 80 20 Level-headed Balanced £825 38 103 65 206 43 84 35.00% 78 27.86% 81 31.15%
Octavio Hurtado SW, D (C) COL Pasto 188 80 17 Reserved Determined £38,000 143 131 105 379 58 131 54.58% 139 49.64% 143 55.00%
Alexis Pérez D (LC) COL Barranquilla 181 72 21 Media-friendly Balanced £21,000 133 140 97 370 68 135 56.25% 144 51.43% 146 56.15%
Vladimir Cárdenas D (LC) COL Cali 185 84 18 Media-friendly Casual £1,200 96 113 71 280 59 119 49.58% 110 39.29% 111 42.69%
Juan Quintero D (C) COL Cali 183 79 20 Media-friendly Balanced £1,400 73 122 87 282 65 127 52.92% 105 37.50% 109 41.92%
Dayro Córdoba D (C) COL Santander de Quilichao 178 75 17 Level-headed Fairly Loyal £15,250 130 122 87 339 53 128 53.33% 130 46.43% 128 49.23%
Víctor Asprilla D/WB (R) COL Cali 175 70 20 Media-friendly Balanced £1,000 111 129 76 316 69 126 52.50% 136 48.57% 120 46.15%
Alan Sosa D/WB/M (L) ARG Hernando 172 67 18 Media-friendly Balanced £3,000 111 98 77 286 33 105 43.75% 115 41.07% 89 34.23%
Javier Viáfara DM, M (LC) COL Medellín 188 80 17 Media-friendly Balanced £65,000 126 120 96 342 61 120 50.00% 146 52.14% 141 54.23%
Brayan Lucumí DM, M (C) COL 170 68 21 Media-friendly Balanced £625 97 119 76 292 54 104 43.33% 121 43.21% 122 46.92%
Kevin Balanta DM, M (C) COL 179 77 18 Level-headed Light-Hearted £11,500 123 162 86 371 72 130 54.17% 157 56.07% 147 56.54%
Jesús Quintero DM, M (C) COL Bello 174 70 17 Media-friendly Balanced £67,000 156 153 78 387 77 144 60.00% 152 54.29% 149 57.31%
José Velasco M (C), AM (RLC) COL Candelaria 175 67 17 Media-friendly Fairly Determined £56,000 144 139 99 382 62 116 48.33% 182 65.00% 157 60.38%
Deiner Quiñónez M (C), AM (LC) COL Tumáco 170 70 19 Level-headed Fairly Loyal £40,000 129 125 80 334 57 105 43.75% 145 51.79% 127 48.85%
Andrés Ramírez M/AM (C) COL Cali 172 64 16 Level-headed Light-Hearted £19,000 172 155 90 417 72 139 57.92% 170 60.71% 154 59.23%
Ronald Manjarrés AM (RLC), ST (C) COL San Fernando 168 66 17 Media-friendly Fairly Sporting £22,500 131 124 66 321 46 93 38.75% 155 55.36% 123 47.31%
Jown Cardona AM (C), ST (C) COL Cali 170 64 20 Media-friendly Balanced £1,100 106 114 65 285 60 102 42.50% 136 48.57% 107 41.15%
Juan Balanta AM (C), ST (C) COL Caloto 173 65 18 Level-headed Balanced £16,500 112 126 87 325 66 113 47.08% 161 57.50% 131 50.38%
Albeiro Sánchez AM (C), ST (C) COL 182 75 17 Media-friendly Balanced £10,250 111 111 88 310 58 102 42.50% 142 50.71% 122 46.92%
Miguel Murillo ST (C) COL Cali 184 80 21 Media-friendly Balanced £3,200 113 130 92 335 53 104 43.33% 143 51.07% 132 50.77%
Harold Preciado ST (C) COL Tumáco 182 70 21 Media-friendly Balanced £1,200 110 116 69 295 51 86 35.83% 134 47.86% 118 45.38%
Deportivo Cali U20s 2015
Name Position Nat Birth City Height (cm) Weight (kg) Age Media Handling Personality Value Total Tec Total Men Total Phy Total Key Attributes Aggressive Pressing Rating Attacking Style Rating Passing Game Rating
Didier Trujillo GK COL Montería 183 78 17 Media-friendly Unambitious £2,500 46 91 73 210 44 74 30.83% 66 23.57% 81 31.15%
Jheovanny Caicedo GK COL Manizales 190 87 17 Level-headed Sporting £5,000 47 97 74 218 42 82 34.17% 76 27.14% 95 36.54%
Francisco Javier Acevedo GK COL Guacarí 180 77 16 Media-friendly Balanced £5,000 46 94 62 202 46 80 33.33% 81 28.93% 97 37.31%
Carlos Flórez D (R) COL Armenia 182 72 16 Media-friendly Balanced £5,750 130 118 98 346 63 126 52.50% 133 47.50% 135 51.92%
Brayan Sicachá D (RL) COL Ocaña 183 74 16 Media-friendly Fairly Loyal £6,000 117 102 92 311 50 109 45.42% 120 42.86% 114 43.85%
David Díaz D (LC) COL Jamundí 185 77 16 Volatile Fairly Determined £4,500 98 100 80 278 55 121 50.42% 93 33.21% 93 35.77%
Carlos Alberto Jiménez D (C) COL San Gil 187 79 16 Level-headed Resolute £3,600 112 111 76 299 46 110 45.83% 108 38.57% 108 41.54%
Juan Ramírez DM, M (C) COL Cali 181 77 17 Media-friendly Fairly Professional £8,250 109 107 67 283 46 93 38.75% 110 39.29% 102 39.23%
Bayron Palacios DM, M (C) COL Buga 176 74 17 Media-friendly Ambitious £3,400 107 100 61 268 43 88 36.67% 101 36.07% 100 38.46%
César Marulanda M (RC), AM (C) COL Cali 175 66 16 Level-headed Fairly Sporting £6,500 96 115 84 295 63 107 44.58% 122 43.57% 99 38.08%
Omar Cagueña M (L) COL Manizales 170 64 16 Level-headed Balanced £8,500 115 94 66 275 58 98 40.83% 130 46.43% 104 40.00%
Héctor Palacios M (C), AM (RC) COL Jamundí 159 52 16 Media-friendly Balanced £35,000 103 123 74 300 58 113 47.08% 146 52.14% 122 46.92%
Gabriel Bermúdez M (C), ST (C) COL Bogotá 196 93 17 Media-friendly Determined £5,250 92 116 83 291 54 106 44.17% 92 32.86% 92 35.38%
Eloy Castaño M/AM (L) COL Pradera 171 64 16 Media-friendly Fairly Ambitious £3,800 82 78 69 229 29 67 27.92% 108 38.57% 89 34.23%
Reinel Pérez M/AM (C) COL Yumbo 180 74 17 Media-friendly Fairly Determined £2,900 94 105 77 276 37 89 37.08% 118 42.14% 90 34.62%
Edwin Perlaza M/AM (C) COL La Tebaida 176 70 16 Volatile Balanced £5,250 104 107 66 277 56 97 40.42% 136 48.57% 116 44.62%
Bréiner Clavijo M/AM (C) COL Puerto Boyacá 173 66 16 Media-friendly Balanced £4,800 113 78 62 253 46 84 35.00% 107 38.21% 88 33.85%
Ronald Salazar M/AM (C) COL Bogotá 176 68 16 Volatile Driven £6,500 128 123 80 331 55 110 45.83% 145 51.79% 119 45.77%
Jhon Alejandro Candelo AM (L), ST (C) COL Neiva 181 71 16 Media-friendly Balanced £13,500 97 114 86 297 47 101 42.08% 122 43.57% 108 41.54%
Edwin Valderrama AM (L), ST (C) COL Caloto 180 75 17 Level-headed Unambitious £9,250 84 94 66 244 37 83 34.58% 117 41.79% 85 32.69%
Darwin Rada AM (L), ST (C) COL Medellín 179 72 16 Media-friendly Balanced £15,750 96 116 71 283 53 97 40.42% 121 43.21% 97 37.31%
Jairo García AM (L), ST (C) COL Candelaria 182 76 16 Media-friendly Temperamental £2,900 96 93 67 256 56 83 34.58% 109 38.93% 94 36.15%
Edgar Parra AM (C), ST (C) COL Manizales 183 79 17 Reserved Unambitious £4,000 101 107 73 281 60 92 38.33% 117 41.79% 104 40.00%

Training

This team should primarily be focused on high Fitness, Attacking, Tactical and Ball Control with a 3 month rotation being in place between the three. Match preparation should be set to teamwork and individual training should be set to light. Position retraining should happen during a players time in the under 18 squad.

Individual routines – Should be defaulted by position unless a specific attribute needs drastically improving.

All goalkeepers must be set to Sweeper Keeper – All duties

All Central defenders must be set to Central Defender – All duties.

All Full backs must be set to Fullback – All duties.

Midfielders must be allocated their duty dependent on their role within the team. (Central Midfielder (All duties), Roaming Playmaker or Enganche)

AM Cs should be set to either Shadow Striker or Inside Forward – All duties dependent on attribute focus required

Strikers should be set to Advanced Forward – Attack

Tutoring

The expectation will be that where possible each player will have at least 6 months tutoring from a member of the first team squad before graduating from the first team.

Affiliate Clubs

Affiliated clubs Depor FC and Boca Juniors (COL) will be used to send those players between the age of 19 and 21 that are outside of the squad of 23. They will be given one year on loan to impress before either being released or given a place in the first team squad.

Loans

Loans will be considered for academy players where they are guaranteed first team football at a top division club. A recall option will be include to safe guard against a player not getting the game time required. The Academy will also look to loan Colombian Youth internationals currently playing in foreign academies if management deem this will strengthen the team. Ideally this will lead to a permanent transfer if the player impresses and acquiring him is within the clubs means.

Tactics

Starting in 2016 all academy sides will be playing a new 5-1-3-1 attacking formation which can be found in this thread in the Tactics section. They must continue to be familiar with the First Team 4-2-3-1 tactic to allow future tactical flexibility. The Academy First team will also play every match of the Copa Postobon to aid their development and eventual transition to the first team.

Long Term Goal

The whole point of putting a lot of effort into my academy is to get something out of it and as such i need to have goals to show that I’m achieving something from my theory. The goal of the save has always been to dominate Colombia, to win the Copa Libertadores or Sudamericana and put the Colombia league on a par with the Argentine and Brazilian leagues.

Now given the players that have come through my youth intake in the first couple of years, I have been given the opportunity of trying to winning these continental competitions with a team primarily made up of Deportivo Cali Academy graduates. I also want to classify those players who have played for the club on loan for over a season until they are 21 as academy graduates too.

It is by no means an easy challenge but I think that if I stick to my philosophy, mold the staffing setup around that philosophy and continue to pay attention to all my players’ development and not just the superstars, then I hopefully can achieve that.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A time for reflection – Analysing Al-Wahda’s exit from the 2021 Asian Champions League

For those of you that follow me, you’ll appreciate that it has been a very long time since I’ve written anything more than a 150 character tweet or slightly longer paragraph about my save on Slack.  You will also hopefully be aware of what’s happened in the 6 years I’ve been in charge of Al-Wahda.

For those of you that don’t, I’ve turned Al Wahda from a team on the fringes of Champions League football into the best team in Asia.  We’ve dominated the UAE Gulf League ever since we pipped Al Ahli to the Gulf League title on the final day of the season in my 1st year in charge.  A surprise Champions League win against Guangzhou followed the year after and we’ve gone from strength to strength since then.  We have gone on to win another 2 Champions League titles and have had 1 Final appearance in the Club World Championships where unfortunately we were taught a footballing lesson by PSG.

It is fair to say that in 2021 Al Wahda is starting to become a team with a global reputation and following. As such we went into this year’s Asian Champions League as defending champions and strong favourites to retain the crown.  We would of course face the inevitable challenge of strong teams from China and Korea as well as an emerging force of teams from Saudi Arabia.

We sailed through the group stages without much problem and dispatched Iranian side Sepahan comfortably in the 2nd round.  There is then a 4 month break before the Quarter finals take place.  We were drawn against Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad, who’d knocked us out a few years ago on their way to eventually winning the Final.  That season they even went on to lose to Arsenal on penalties in the Club World Championships final.  A difficult draw…

On paper we looked a lot stronger than the Saudis and with Facundo Colidio, Angel Correa, Danny Villalva and Omar Abdulrahman there was the potential for plenty of goals in the tie.

A trip to Jeddah was the 1st hurdle to overcome and despite temperatures reaching 43 degrees, a sole goal from Omar Abdulrahman gave us a vital 1-0 away win to take back to Abu Dhabi.

Now normally the Al Nayhan is a fortress and I might be right in thinking that we haven’t lost at home in any competition for almost 4 years. What could possibly go wrong?

 

Al-Wahda 0 – 2 Al Ittihad

 

Now again for those of you that follow me on twitter you’ll know that I don’t take losing games particularly well, especially important games like a Champions League Quarter final.  I was furious.  What had happened? We were setup perfectly from the first leg, how had we managed to throw that all away?

Al Ittihad had scored their 1st goal from a long speculative effort that had come off Rodrigo Marzooq’s backside.  The 2nd was again from outside the box that crept under Abdullah Hasan’s left arm when at full stretch.  At the other end we’d missed several clear cut chances and Facundo Colidio had hit the bar when it was easier to score.

I was fuming.  My last big challenge is for Al Wahda to lift the Club World Championship and we’d gone and ballsed that up without even getting to the semi final of the Champions League.  I received the inevitable yellow card from Mrs Mendoza for throwing my toys out of the pram in the living room over “just a game”.  Luckily she was in the room else the poor sofa would have been seeking a new home once I was done with it.

I had to walk away, cool off, get my head straight and get back to work.  I put the match to one side with the promise to myself that I would go back at some point and look at what really did go wrong.

Anyway here I am, a few weeks later, starting to pull apart what went wrong that night and what i can learn, if anything, from that hugely disappointing night.

 

The Game in more detail

The Al Ittihad Goals and Initial Thoughts

Before I get into looking at my own team I thought I should start with the Al-Ittihad goals as ultimately they were the most important reason we lost.  The 1st goal had a hint of good fortune about it but I would argue that we weren’t quick enough to close Grassi down.  Given our whole game is built around an aggressive pressing game, this should be our bread and butter.

The second goal is more of the same and what is really disappointing is the fact that a lot of our issues are caused by several stupid mistakes.  For starters it is obvious which player is going to receive the ball from the throw in yet for no reason whatsoever Ghanem runs away from him at the last minute.  He then makes amends by initially winning the ball back but is a bit soft and just gives it straight back.  There are certain players sitting far too deep and actually making no attempt to move whatsoever.  We started too deep despite having a high line on our tactics and were too slow closing Al Ittihad down.  I can’t help but feel that our defenders were overly complacent in their approach and their lack of aggression hasn’t helped either.

We were playing at a normal tempo at the time but maybe in pressure matches like this in future I should look to up the tempo a bit more at the start of the game. We didn’t put the opposition under enough pressure early on and paid the price.  That can’t happen again.

Both passages of play leading up to the goal came from set pieces and I think potentially the defensive positioning setup on set pieces, especially throw ins could be looked at. Saying that normally we rarely concede from set pieces so that makes me think that there aren’t any drastic changes required necessarily, just to ensure that any opportunity for the opposition to have room to shoot from outside the box is eradicated.

Annoyingly there weren’t really another goal scoring opportunities to analyse, was just typical the two they had they scored from.

These things do happen in football and despite being 2-0 down after 34 minutes we still had the attacking prowess to turn games like these around.  We didn’t though.

Match Stats

Looking at stats alone we should have won that game.  Obviously stats alone don’t win games but ultimately we should have taken the chances we had and then the 2 goals Al Ittihad scored wouldn’t have mattered.  We didn’t though and so instead I need to look at why we conceded the goals we did, why we didn’t create more chances and what can I learn to avoid it happening again.

 

How did both teams line up?

The Al-Ittihad formation is not quite as negative as the Al-Shabab monstrosity but is very much setup to play on the counter.  The 3 key players for Al-Ittihad were Grassi, Madu and Al-Biladi.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For those of you not familiar with the Al-Wahda players (shame on you, you should be!) these were those who started:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A more detailed look at our tactic can be found below (apologies the screenshot is taken a few weeks later so players are different but approach is the same)

What went wrong in attack?

The one stat that does jump out is that we only had 53% possession when normally we average between 60% and 70%.  There is only one team that restricts us to that low amount of possession in the Gulf League and that is Boring Boring Al-Shabab.  It tells me what i already knew, Al-Ittihad, despite being 1-0 down, had come to defend for their lives and hope they caught us on the break.

This is nothing new to me as most teams fear the Al Wahda war machine when it rolls into town. When we hit our stride we can annihilate teams, as we did to Hatta a week after this match when we put 10 past them.  There are still those teams that are incredibly good at frustrating us and Al-Ittihad like Al-Shabab are one of those teams.

 

Initial Observations

Despite a reasonably standard looking formation it was clear very quickly that the opposition were playing defensive.

The use of their wingers to tightly man mark my attacking wingbacks caused all sorts of issues as one of our usual main passing outlets was taken away from us.  Granted i still think our fullbacks made it a little easy for them by not really making too much effort to break from their marker.

It was clear that chances were going to be hard to come by as whenever we had the ball we were met by a wall of black and yellow.

Chances

That wasn’t to say we didn’t create some chances, a few of which we should have really put away and the woodwork played a part too.

Maybe not the easiest of chances but on any other day i’d have hoped at least one might have gone in but it wasn’t to be.  Normally however I would have expected us to have had 3 or 4 that could have gone in which makes me think that maybe our general play wasn’t as good as it maybe should have been.  Time to look at things in a bit more detail.

General Play

Win or lose after every game I look at the individual player stats to see how everyone did and where players either excelled or didn’t meet my high expectations.  It is even more important when we lose to see who didn’t meet expectations and then look to understand why and prevent that happening in the future.

Player Stats

Passing Game

20170707073913_1

A big part of our game now is our passing and keeping the ball and the player stats above can tell me a lot about how well we were doing that.  I tend to set a standard of 85% pass completion as an indicator as to how well things have gone to plan.  Bearing that in mind my initial reaction is I’m pleased with how we kept the ball well in the middle of the park.  How things should work in theory is that the ball is worked out from the back with Ghanem acting as a pivot and keep the ball moving out of own half without having to resort to punting forward.  Once we’re over the half way line, Bawazir will take over and link up with Correa and Colidio in order to form openings for the two shadow strikers or wing backs to exploit.  From the stats it appears this was working however the number of passes completed is maybe a bit lower than I would have expected.  I will need to look at Ghanem and Bawazir’s pass maps to see exactly where those passes were going in order to establish whether them being restricted prevented us was creating more openings.

Sticking with pass completion rates i can see that the shadow strikers, Omar Abdulrahman and Daniel Villalva, and wingbacks rates are well below the 85% threshold mark.  Normally our shadow strikers and wingbacks link nicely in order to create space for the hugely talented Baek Jung-Soo to put dangerous crosses into the box.  Al-Ittihad have obviously spotted this from the first leg and have targeted this interaction by getting their winger to man mark the wingbacks and hence stop the link between shadow striker and wingback.  Without even looking at specific examples I know that without a clear passing option out wide the shadow striker, when in possession, would be forced either to try a risky pass or instead look inside and be met with the 7 man wall in front of him.  Another area to look at in detail.

My final observation on our passing completion rates is my two centre backs who are also below the 85% threshold.  This on first viewing indicates either poor decision making from them or that the opposition has pressed them when in possession, forcing them to go long rather than use Ghanem.  Final area to look at.

I have therefore 3 areas to look at in more detail:

Bawazir and Ghanem

20170724201447_1

I was slightly concerned that although Ghanem and Bawazir had made a lot of passes that many of them would have been back rather than forward because of how Al Ittihad were setup.  Looking at the above graphic it does seem that the majority of them went forward and that both were looking to stretch the opposition by moving the ball out wide.  No drastic changes required here I think.

Abdulrahman, Villalva, Marzooq, Baek Jung-Soo

Looking at the above player passing graphic and the passing completion rates in the match stats I am drawn to the fact that the four wide men have got quite a few passes intercepted. I mentioned earlier in my initial observations, Al Ittihad were man marking my two wingbacks so I wanted to check where those intercepted passes were:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On first glance I’m slightly concerned by Marzooq’s two passes that have gone long as he shouldn’t be passing that long in his own half unless he was under pressure.  Baek has also had a long pass intercepted from inside his own half and it clear that the two Al-Ittihad wingers were very much setup to make my two wingback’s life uncomfortable.  Something to bear in mind should we play them again.

Having seen on the team passing map the low number of passes that were actually made into the Al-Ittihad box I was interested as to why both Villalva and Abdulrahman struggled to penetrate the Al-Ittihad defence.  In most games that we dominate, both my shadow strikers link up with the wingbacks to get balls into the box for Colidio, Correa and the opposite shadow striker to attack.  Below you can see some of the scenarios faced that prevented them from getting the ball into the box.

Abdulrahman intercepted Pass 1

Omar breaks forward but Al-Ittihad’s man marking limits his options and ultimately we lose possession.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Having re-watched the match several times it’s clear that Al-Ittihad’s plan was not to allow us to stretch the play and instead turn our width against us by packing the channels with defenders and as such cut off our shadow striker’s passing options.  It was a very clever tactic that would explain our lack of real chances.  We’d need to do something different in the future to narrow the channels and bring our players closer together to hopefully create more passing options.  Definitely food for thought.

Al-Kamali and Al-Meqbali

We like to play out from the back to help us dominate the game and as such I need my centre backs to get the ball to the right players.  When looking again at the passing map our two centre backs had 21 passes intercepted.   When looking at each one the majority were from defensive headers after a goal kick or long clearance by the Al-Ittihad defence.  There were however a few passes made by Al-Meqbali that stood out.

20170724201543_1

The whole idea with the tactic is for the defenders and attackers to use Ghanem, Bawazir and Correa as pivots in each of their respect thirds of the pitch.  As much of a beast that Al-Meqbali is physically, he’s not the brightest and that showed with some of his “attempts” at a hollywood pass, one of which you can see below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’re just surrendering possession with stupid passes like that and one takeaway could actually be to use one of my less physical but more technical centre backs (Khalifa) for games like this.

Al-Kamali on the other hand was excellent throughout and as i’ll now cover in our defensive play continues to be one of our most important players.

Defensive Play

On the whole we defended reasonably well, other than the two goals that I touched upon earlier, given that we restricted Al-Ittihad to 8 shots, 5 of which were from distance.  We won 83% of our tackles and made 62 interceptions which I’m pretty happy with. We did still lose so we can’t have been that good.  A re-watch of the match on full highlights definitely showed examples of  both the good and bad parts of our defensive play.  The below illustrates that nicely:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One area that we weren’t at our best was at pressing players in the middle of the park and some of that may have been down to me setting our defensive line one notch off the highest.  The idea behind that at the start of the game was to avoid the ball over the top whilst still pressing.  In practice it didn’t quite work like that and the Al-Ittihad midfield had far too much time on the ball.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Again more food for thought about what defensive line we should be playing against Al-Ittihad.  They are the sort of team that can create something out of nothing so if we are giving them something to work in then we are only going to create problems for ourselves.

I think for the most part we defended reasonably well and the more I watched the more I appreciated that their lack of threatening shots on goal were down to our good defensive work.  On another day we’d have kept a clean sheet, the game would have finished 0-0 and we’d have gone through 1-0 on aggregate.

Conclusion

Initially this was a result that drove me mad with frustration and anger but after having a few weeks of re-watching and analysing the match itself I now think I understand where we got it wrong.

  1. We were sluggish out of the blocks and our tempo was too slow meaning we didn’t match Al-Ittihad for intensity.
  2. We were playing too wide and Al-Ittihad exploited that defensively by plugging the channels and preventing us from getting the ball into the box. A more balanced width and higher tempo would probably be more suitable to bring our players closer together and allow shorter, quicker passes to not allow the opposition time setup their defence and hopefully find ways through.  We definitely have the technical players to operate in close quarters so it is something I will be considering.
  3. Our defensive line needed to be higher as we didn’t press enough for both the goals and also gave Al-Ittihad’s central midfielders far too much room.
  4. Appreciate that Al-Ittihad are a bunch of bastards and not to underestimate them.  There is a reason why they won the Saudi Arabian League, Champions League and almost won the Club World Championships a few years ago!

I don’t think anything is needed drastically for our overall tactical approach as for the most part the way we play is very effective and that is why we are the best team in Asia.  However we can always be better and the Al-Ittihad showed me chinks in our armour that needed to be mended.

I’ve found the process of going through the game with a fine tooth comb really interesting as it’s given me plenty of insight into where we can be exploited and ideas for what we can do to turn things in our favour when things aren’t going to plan.  It is a very useful exercise that I would recommend to anyone either struggling with results or just looking to improve.  The time and effort is definitely worth it.

Now conveniently when the 2022 Asian Champions League draw was made we were draw in a group with our good friend Al Ittihad.  Time for revenge…

(For those of you that follow me on twitter or Slack you will know that I’ve actually played both games against Al-Ittihad now, implementing some of the things I’ve picked up when I’ve been writing this post.)

As much as I’d love to promise to write a post on those 2 games to show you how changing/not changing things made a difference I think it is highly unlikely I’ll have the time given fatherhood is rapidly approaching.  My plan instead will be to post the pkms on my slack channel #diegomendozatv and then have it as an open discussion to analyse what worked, what didn’t and where we still have work to do should we face them again.

So that was a bit of a mammoth post in the end but I have thoroughly enjoyed it.  Maybe, just maybe you might get another one before 2018. 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Diego

Posted in Tactics | 2 Comments

Diego of Arabia – Mendoza leaves Caracas for a Middle Eastern Adventure

n-3bn8-s

As many of you will have noticed time has been in short supply over the last few months and I’ve not been able to really write much at all.  That doesn’t mean my love for FM has waned at all and I’m very much excited to get cracking with the full game once it’s released next Friday.

It is no secret if you follow me on twitter as to who I’m going to manage this year but for those of you who don’t pay attention I’ll be managing Al Wahda (UAE) and the UAE National team.

Not a South American team you say? Grab the pitch forks! Well after Caracas and Venezuela last version and Deportivo Cali/Defensor Sporting the version before I feel like it’s time for a slight change of scenery.  Fear not the South American influence will not be disappearing and my plans for my time in Abu Dhabi will have a definite South American flavour to it.

So why the UAE and why Al Wahda?

In recent years the oil rich clubs of the Middle East have started to attract more and more high profile players and managers.  When looking at some of the squad lists of the Saudi Arabian, Qatari and Emirates clubs the names of Xavi, Vucinic, Boussoufa, Lima, Asamoah Gyan (I know, I know but his scoring record in Gulf League is unreal), Seydou Keita, Carlos Eduardo etc. all jump out.  Furthermore nearly all of the managers in the big 3 leagues are European or South American and it seems to be a region where football is definitely on the up.

There were however two names that stood out the most and they were Jorge Valdivia and Balazs Dzsudzsak…

I’m not sure which is my favourite but both have been a key part of one of my sides at some point on FM over the years.  So to have both of them in the same team was a no brainer when it came to picking a Middle Eastern club to manage.  Also a clubs kit is always a big influence on my choice and by playing in a maroon Adidas kit without those bloody side stripes made Al Wahda the perfect choice for me.

alwahda_football_03

I also like a Club & Country save and despite my vocal frustrations of the lack of attention International Football has had from SI over the last few years I have decided that it is still an area that I enjoy and as such will be managing the UAE national side as well.

My decision was slightly swayed by watching youtube videos of this guy:

Messi? No way Lionel could pull off that barnet so i’ll be referring to him as my Arabian Valderrama.

Anyway he’s not the only talent in the squad as there is also the 2015 Asian Footballer of the Year on hand to finish the chances Omar creates.

So two very exciting talents to build a nation around and with both players still playing their football in the UAE something to build the league around as well.

The Plan

Philosophy

Rather than start with what I want to win (everything), I’ll start with the development approach I’m going to try and implement.  I said there would be a South American flavour to the save and my intention is to have South Americans involved in every element of the club alongside young, up and coming UAE players and staff.

I’m allowed 3 foreign players (plus one Asian foreign player) in the first team and as such I will have at least 2 that are South American.  I’ll also look to bring in a few veteran South Americans to play with the reserves, tutor some of my youngsters and the long term plan will be to have them join the backroom staff once they retire.

Ideally i’d also like to establish a feeder club in South America to be able to send young UAE players across to learn the South American way.

What I’m hoping then is that some of the South American influence starts to wear off on the UAE youngsters coming through and that we ultimately become the Chile of the Middle East.  An Arabian Hugo Ojeda would be nice too, I can but dream.

Competitions

Trophy wise the goal initially has to be for Al Wahda to win the Arabian Gulf League which is by no means and easy task given the teams around us. Al Ain and Al Ahli are very strong and Abu Dhabi rivals Al Jazira have some great players and will be tough opposition.  If you then throw former Champions Al Wasl, Al Nasr, Al Shabab and Al Sharjah into the mix you have got the makings of a very competitive league.  If you are interested you can read a real life preview to this season’s Gulf League on the excellent Ahdaaf website.

Perform in the league and then we’ve got the next challenge of the Asian Champions League.  I thought the Copa Libertadores was competitive but given some of the money flying around Asia over the last few years the ACL could well be just as competitive if not more.  Al Ain is the only UAE club to have ever won the competition and with the players now playing for the Chinese sides it is going to be difficult to overcome them as well as the usual challengers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Japan, Iran and South Korea.

On an international stage the first priority has to be to try and qualify for the 2018 World Cup whilst looking ahead to 2019 Asian Cup that’ll be hosted in the UAE.  Realistically the 2022 World Cup has to be the competition we look to really try and put our mark on the world stage.

Updates

I love writing blog posts but the reality of my life these days is that I don’t have the time to consistently produce blog content so as such I’m not going to make any false promises about regular blog content.  If I find the time to write about an element of my save in a bit more depth than I will but i can’t realistically commit to regular season updates.

I am however going to be keeping a constant update of my game on twitter.  I’ve really enjoyed sharing my day to day thoughts on Caracas and the resulting interaction with everyone that follows my save.  I will continue to share my thoughts on my save, tactical conundrums that I consider whilst walking the dog, screenshots of players, stats, moments and any other interesting/funny parts of my save to keep everyone in the know.

Also as most of you know I’m an emotional manager who will always be vocal about the highs and lows of Football Manager.  So expect rants about players not being able to finish chances, opposition scoring their 1st shot on target, frustrating 0-0’s and also excitable tweets about last minute winners, wonder goals,  and all round beautiful footballing moments.  Live tweeting of big games or when Mrs Mendoza is at yoga will also definitely continue.

Good or bad, I plan for my ride on the Al Wahda and UAE roller coaster of emotion to be as enjoyable as Caracas and Venezuela was last year.

I’ve got a few weeks before I can start the save as I need the editor and a few of the league updates from Claessan before I can get started but as soon as they are all in and ready to go then you’ll know about it first on twitter.

Thanks for reading,

الذهاب الوحدة

Diego

 

P.S. Thanks for the opening image Marc Bowen, great stuff.


							
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Previously in Caracas…

So I’ve been pretty rubbish at posting over the last few months as real life commitments have meant a lot of my time previous reserved for writing no long exists. That said with all the great stuff coming out at the moment it feels right to join the party again and get something down on paper/wordpress.

For those of you that follow me on twitter you’ll know that it’s been an eventful time in Venezuela recently.  It’s almost run away with me so much it’d have taken a small novel to bring you up to speed with whats happened.  So rather than go back through the past 4 years I thought over a series of posts I’d just give you a snap shot of where we are at now, a personal insight into the Caracas squad, a more detailed look at how we play and what I still want to achieve before FM17.

Caracas, November 2020

Caracas2

A lot has happened since I last updated the blog and the past 4 years have been a bit of a whirlwind.  We have become the dominant force in Venezuela, winning everything domestically since I took charge of Caracas.  On the continent we went through a few rough years before getting our act together and surprising everyone to win the 2018 Copa Sudamericana.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with the competition, it is the South American equivalent of the Europa League and was famously won by Jorge Sampaoli’s (my FM idol) U de Chile side in 2011.  It was great to emulate that side as I’m trying to follow the Sampaoli model in developing Venezuela as a whole into a decent footballing country.

2019 saw us grow more as a team, helped by the fact i’d managed to retain a number of our key players (more to come on them later), and we managed to follow up on our Sudamericana success with a superb run to the Copa Libertadores Final.  We were however well beaten over the two legs by Boca Juniors who had also made light work of us in the Recopa as well.  Our attempts to retain our Sudamericana crown were also thwarted by Independiente in the Semi Final. I was gutted by both results but at the same time encouraged at the progress we were making.

The national side also started to see an improvement in results and despite not being able to win away from home we went into the 2019 Copa America full of hope that we might cause a few upsets.  Despite an awful opening loss to Chile we upped our game, drawing with Colombia and then dramatically beating Argentina to reach the quarter finals.  Japan B were easily dispatched to setup a meeting with Uruguay.  Despite a decent performance we missed too many chances and were punished unsurprisingly by Luis Suarez.  Peru having surprisingly beaten host Brazil in the other semi final went onto lift the trophy whilst Brazil and Neymar carved an exhausted Venezuelan defence apart in the 3rd place playoff and a 4-1 loss saw us finish 4th.  Not a bad result though prior to the start of the World Cup qualifiers.

2020 brought new hope as having gone close in a number of competitions in 2019 I felt that with a few additions we really could go all the way this time.  We dominated our group in the Libertadores beating Barcelona, Nacional and Cruz Azul to top our group. This setup a second round match with Olimpia of Paraguay.  They were comfortably dispatched to setup a quarter final match with Velez Sarsfield, a team that now contained former Caracas superstar Maxi Romero.  What happened on that Wednesday night in Buenos Aires was truly breath taking.  We put 8 goals past Velez in what was at the time one of my greatest nights on FM.

Despite this healthy lead the home leg in Caracas was a bit of a disappointment as we drew 0-0.  Still we progressed to the Semi-finals with Queretaro standing between us and a second attempt at the Libertadores crown.

The Mexicans put up more of a fight than Velez and we fought hard for our 2-0 win in Mexico.  Again we lacked a bit of quality in front of goal in the home leg, drawing 1-1.  Still it was enough to get us to the final .  Our reward? A consecutive final against now arch rivals Boca Juniors.

Unlike 2019 we’d travel to Argentina for the first leg, which given Caracas to Buenos Aires is a 3,800km round trip is no easy first leg.  Even so we’d give it our best shot and if we could keep it tight in La Bombanera then there was a chance we could win it in Caracas.

Now it is a rarity that I can treat myself to a proper cup final night these days but I was home alone so made the most of it. The laptop was hooked up to the TV, full match highlights selected and a cold stella/nut platter were on standby.

What happened next was beyond my wildest dreams and if you followed my updates on twitter that night you’d have seen the excitement unfolding in the Mendoza household:

 

The highlights of the first leg can be seen here, good goals too.

We held our nerve in Caracas and when that final whistle blew it finally sunk in…We’d only gone and won the Copa Libertadores!!!! Not only that but it was a superb 5-1 aggregate win against Boca Juniors, a team we’d not beaten in 4 attempts previously and are one of the strongest sides in South America. In true Mendoza style though you can see from the below screenshot that i still wasn’t happy that we only won 1-0 at home. Plenty more we can improve on…

Caracas4

There was however still a party at Romulo Otero’s house that night I tell you and am sure some of the images will have found their way to the Caracas tabloids (if they exist).  It was my best moment on FM this year and felt so good after what has been a long 5 years. (About 8 months in real life time.)

So a very quick update to get you started of where I’m at with Caracas and Venezuela.  Progress is definitely being made and at least now I feel like I can post again without there being a massive section missing.  Fear not I will be looking at both the Velez and Boca games in more detail in due course to put some context behind the wins and show they weren’t necessarily a fluke.  Mendoza Magic V8 deserves its own post.

It’s not all about tactics but also about the players that interpret my words of wisdom and with that in mind I’d also like to talk a bit more about the squad that made it happen. I’ll also share what I have planned for them and some of the young guns looking to break into the team.  This is already in progress so you can expect something within a week or so.

I also have the small matter of a World Cup to qualify for with Venezuela…8 games to go and we’re very much in with a shout.

 

For now though keep an eye on twitter for up-to-date goings on and hopefully a few more posts to come in the near future.

Any comments or questions let me know.

Diego

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment