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

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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.

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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.


							
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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

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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…

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Caracas FC – Too much, too soon? Almost victims of our own success

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So it’s been a good number of weeks(over a month) since my last update as work and Christmas have meant both FM time and the time to write about it have been in short supply.  As i write now I have almost finished my 3rd Season with Caracas and Venezuela and as some of you may have read it’s been a bit bumpy.  Now for those that follow my posts on twitter it’s been a frustrating start to 2016 on FM and a number of problems had started to develop that I struggled to correct.  I want to look at that part in a bit more detail in a separate post but first off I want to provide you with a review of Season 2.

Season 2 Review

Having won the double in my first season in charge expectations were high and if I’m honest it felt like we’d grown as a team and that everyone was now bought into the Mendoza way.

We had the added challenge this year of competing in the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana(this is sadly broken on my game so won’t be posting about it) was going to bring it’s own challenges as we would have to better utilise our squad to cope with the busy schedule the competitions would bring.

I think for the most part we coped very well with both the fans and my expectations and dominated the league in the first 6 months with no one really able to touch us.  New signings Pena, Valoyes and Jimenez were superb, the latter finding an excellent understanding with Andreutti in the engine room, which really propelled the team forward.  Orozco continued his fine form from last season and his dribbling terrorised defences both at home and on the continent.  I was also pleased to see the emergence of Jefre Vargas at right back and both him and Quijada performed well enough to warrant a call up to the national side.  Leo Gioda and Leo Gracian both overcame their injury problems and established themselves as key cogs in the Caracas machine.

The good form in the league also flowed over to the Copa Libertadores, and in a group that contained River Plate, River Plate (URU) and Union Espanola, we managed to finish second in the group.  The highlight came at home to River Plate where we dominated from start to finish and ran out 3-0 winners.

 

I can’t not mention the away leg either where we managed to hold them to a 0-0 draw despite not having any of our international players.

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This saw us drawn against Monterrey in the 2nd round and although a tough opposition I thought with the way we were playing we had a chance. The boys didn’t let me down in the first leg and we came away with a 2-1 win despite Gioda being sent off after only 8 minutes.  Just a solid performance away from home and we’d be in the quarter finals…

Monterrey 5-0 Caracas…4 goals from deep crosses and a penalty and our Libertadores dreams were in pieces.  I mean we’d done well to get that far but I couldn’t help but feel a bit annoyed about the whole thing. We’d not had any problems with deep crosses the whole time i’d been in charge but then after a 5-4 win over Mineros with similar problems I realised that something had obviously changed after that patch that required a tweaking of my tactics.

It would then seem that it wasn’t just deep crosses that had suddenly become a problem but also finishing seemed to rapidly get worse, especially against the poor teams in the league.  Now some of this could be down to the tweaks that were made to the match engine which improved defending but also the boost in reputation following my Libertadores performance will have meant the majority of side in Venezuela will have been even less inclined to take risks against my side.

Either way we had a problem and I had to fix it.  I implemented tweaks to the roles and instructions here and there as I looked to find the kind of form we showed pre-Monterrey.  We continued to get results but more so in part to a decent set piece routine and the odd moment of brilliance from Orozco or Pena.  I knew though that eventually it would catch up with us.

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Fixtures 1,2,3

We finished the regular season 33 points clear of Zamora in 2nd place but in reality our performances had dropped off.  Surely though with that kind of gap we’d find our best form for the playoffs…

We started with a Quarter final against 8th place Aragua which over the two legs turned out to be a reasonably easy tie. Great! Maybe we’d switched into 5th gear again like we did in last year’s playoffs…

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The Semi Final brought us up against arch rivals Mineros de Guayana in what always promised to be a feisty affair with plenty of goals and controversy.  The first leg in Guayana saw us go in at half time 2-0 up and cruising. Maybe we’d overcome our struggles against them? Unfortunately we switched off both at the back and up front and made things a lot tighter for the 2nd leg than I would have hoped.

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Never fear though we were playing in Caracas and surely we’d be able to be strong enough to book our place in the final…

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No away goals rule in Venezuela so it went the bloody distance didn’t it? I was fuming.  Time and time again we failed to finish our chances only for Mineros to score from their first attack of the game in the 68th minute.  Just when it looked like it was going to penalties substitute Zamir Valoyes dribbled past 3 defenders and finished from the edge of the area to send us through.  Despite the moment of magic I refused to celebrate.  I was not a very happy Mendoza and there were some very strong words in the dressing room after that game.  I expect a lot of my teams and they had let me down and could have undone a season of hard work had it not been for a moment of brilliance.

So we went into the final clash with Zamora, who’d finished second in the league but had been beaten comprehensively by my 2nd team just a month before.  We completely outplayed them in the first leg but…

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…yep you guess it our finishing was terrible once more.  I thought that the penalty might give us the luck we needed to push on but again a team managed to score from their first attack against us.

I couldn’t even speak to the team after the match I was so angry.  Valoyes, despite his semi final heroics, was far too inconsistent and had pissed me off for the last time.  He was placed on the transfer list instantly.  Yamil Romero who’d been excellent in our first season had seemingly started to believe a bit too much of his own hype and had become a consistent disappointment. He would be returning to Boca Juniors at the end of his loan spell.

Not to be one to defeated i told myself that it was maybe just one of those games…again.  Surely we’d finish things off in the home leg…

…I said on the deep lying podcast that this game was the closest I’ve come to packing in the save for good.  Again Zamora scored from their first attack, again we failed to finish chance after chance until we were gifted a penalty on the brink of half time which veteran Leo Gracian duly dispatched.  We came out second half and continued to knock on Zamora’s door but we were like a man after 10 pints and a few jaeger bombs trying to put his key in the door without waking his wife up.  Eventually Nico Marquez got on the end of a cross and force the ball over the line to spark wild celebrations in the Mendoza front room. 20 minutes to keep doing what we were doing and we’d be champions…

…then in the 86th minute Zamora had their 2nd attack of the game and well you guessed it…bloody scored.

We were now never going to get a 3rd in the last 5 mins so like the Mineros game we went to extra time.  Though as if the game couldn’t have pissed me off enough, Jeff Vargas then got sent off in the 105 minute and Andreutti went off injured in 112 minute.  We were down to 9 men and staring at the unthinkable, a potential Final defeat.  Zamora sensing that we were wounded badly decided to actually play some football and had 3 shots in the last 8 minutes, more than they’d had in 200 minutes of football previously.

Thankfully for the Caracas faithful we managed to keep them out. The game went to penalties…

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18 year old goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez the hero as he saved 3 of Zamora’s penalties.

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We’d won and the save was saved…by the bloody gloves of my prodigy goalkeeper.  I shouldn’t have to rely on the youngest player in the squad to save the bacon of my under performing “experienced” players.

I needed a few days off before the cup final to avoid transfer listing half the squad and let my blood pressure come back down to a normal level.

So Cup Final day arrived as we looked to secure our second domestic double in a row. Now arch enemy Mineros de Guayana were our opponents and we lined up to clash once more.

Our build up play continued to be excellent and we soon took the lead through now eligible Romulo Otero.  We were soon 2 up when he struck once more after finishing an excellent move.  26 mins and we were cruising…

We continued to knock on Mineros door but couldn’t find a 3rd.  We went in at half time 2-0 up and I naturally told the team to not get complacent and their performance levels drop.  We picked up where we left off in the 2nd half but just couldn’t find that 3rd goal to seal it.  Then Mineros had an attack…cross from deep…goal. 2-1. Balls.

I composed myself and just said to myself keep doing what we’re doing as we’d dominated them for 75 minutes.  Despite the score we looked comfortable and Mineros didn’t look like getting forward.  The clock turn 90 and there would be 3 minutes of added time.  Surely we’d hold on?

Then a pass back to the goalkeeper went out for a corner…in the ball went and well you guessed it…Gioda put into his own net and and out of nowhere the game was going to extra time.  All i’ll say is you didn’t want to be a Caracas player in the dressing room at that point.

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I sent the lads out in the knowledge that if they didn’t come back with the cup they’d be finding employment elsewhere next season.  We huffed and we puffed but the little Mineros piggies sat tight in their brick house, Miguel Aponte stopping everything we threw at them.  They even ventured out to take advantage of our tired legs but Baroja kept them out.

Though just as it looked like it would be penalties again, academy graduate Eduardo Gonzalez, playing his last game for the club, beat Luis Parra down the right hand side and swung a deep cross into the box.  Aponte and Chancellor for the first time in the match made a mistake, neither managing to intercept the cross. At the back post though was 18 year Daniel Saggiomo to poke home only his 2nd goal for the club and save the careers of some of his team mates.

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I mean from a neutrals point of view it was a classic cup final but from a manager’s point of view it was a nightmare.  We’d done it the hard way but we’d at least done it and for all my criticism it does give me some hope that my younger players know when to step up.  Every cloud and all that…

 

Mendoza’s Final Thoughts on Season 2

It wasn’t quite the end to the season I was hoping for after our great start and performance in the Libertadores.  It very much felt like we’d taken a step back rather than forward despite me having seemingly strengthened the squad.

Now I’ve touched upon our main issue and that has been both our finishing and sometimes lack of concentration that has let teams back into games.  It is something that I was scratching my head over and eventually required me to bring in some outside help to suss out what I/the team was doing wrong.  Who better than Cleon to listen to my tales of woe and cast his well trained eye over some of our matches?

I’ll not go into too much detail what he said as I want to save that for a later post however the one thing Cleon pointed out straight away was that a lot of how the opposition plays against you is based upon reputation.  The bigger the difference between the two the more defensive the opposition will be.  When I take this into account we have over performed in the first season and a half which would have seen our reputation rise, especially after getting out of the group stage in the Libertadores.  The trouble with this is that our quality of player and coach has maybe not yet risen as high as our reputation and thus we are trying to break down stubborn defensive walls that require a better hammer/breaker(if you don’t know what a breaker is then google Hilti Breakers and watch the promotional video…a proper man toy).

Either that or we need to adjust approach somewhat to entice the opposition out of their defensive shell.  Questions that will all be evaluated when I look at the problem in a bit more detail, share Cleon’s views on my performances and tactics and look at what both he suggested and I have implemented to take Caracas FC to the next level.  There will also be a separate post on the national teams exploits in their attempt to qualify for the World Cup.

That’s all for now and thanks again for reading and hopefully you won’t have to wait as long next time for an update.

Diego

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Caracas FC – Reflections from a season past and aspirations for a season beginning

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I want to be more reflective with my games this year and get down on paper (well blog page) what is in my head.  Now if you follow some of my tweets you’ll know what has happened recently anyway but I thought it would be good to look back at the season as a whole.  I want to share some of my thoughts of how I think we did, where we can improve and who really stood out for me over the course of the season.

I want to finish off with a quick look at the season ahead, the new faces that have arrived and what I hope to achieve in my second season in charge of Caracas.

Season Review

Being the most successful club in Venezuelan football there is a general expectation that Caracas FC should be challenging for the title every year.  I’m pleased to say that is exactly what we did all season.

Now the way I’ve set the Venezuelan league up is not as it is in real life, I just have one long league campaign with the top 8 teams then playing each other in a Mexican style Liguilla to determine those teams that will play continental football and more importantly the overall champion.

The League

Team Overview

Players Overview

On first glance you could say that it was easy given that we finished 16 points clear of our nearest rival.  Anyone though that has followed my, at times, rather frustrated tweets will know that it hasn’t been as easy as it looks.  A lot of our performances have been below my expectations and at times we have really struggled to break down some of the stubborn defences you find in Venezuela.  We have also looked a tad lethargic and our pressing has been no where near the level that I expect of my sides.

There has been a lot of head scratching, analysing, tweaking, more scratching, more tweaking and normally ending up back where I started.  Now as I do with every version of Football Manager, I read as much as I can from around the community.  I find there is always a little tweak or idea that I hadn’t thought of that can be applied to my tactic.  In this case it was after reading @Cleon’s article on possession and him giving his goalkeeper the instruction to the roll the ball out to his centre backs that i decided to reapply…simple I know but suddenly everything just clicked.  On reflection now it’s obvious, the centre back having the ball from the goalkeeper rather than the striker pulls all the opposition forward and opens up space for my attacking players to work in. Anyway I’ll not get too technical in this post but just want to illustrate that sometimes you are just one instruction away from that tactical sweet spot.

So as you may have guessed by my recent relatively positive mood on twitter  that the playoffs went pretty well…

We were drawn against Mineros de Guayana in the quarter final who’d surprisingly finished 8th but were a team i’d not actually beaten yet.  They play annoyingly effective 4-3-3 with 3 very dangerous strikers and an exceptionally effective 41 year old right back assist machine.

We started the quarter final with an away trip to Guayana…

I know i’ve just talked about my tactical changes to the 4-2-3-1 narrow, but given the problems i had against Mineros in the past I decided to go with my strikerless triple pivot to hopefully negate the threat of the triple striker.  Things started very nicely with us going into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Hernandez and Gracian.  Mineros though got back in it before half time with that man Vallencilla providing the cross for Luis Gonzalez to tap home.  Things got even worse when Seijas crossed from the left flank for Blanco to tap home.

We’d thrown away a 2 goal lead and I was fuming but it is times like that where a player can make a name for himself.  Yamil Romero did exactly that when in the 90th minute he hit a cracking effort from outside the box and give us the advantage going into the home leg.

The home leg turned out to be a similarly tough affair but thanks to goals from Hernandez again and Giacomo Di Giorgi we fired out way into the semi final.

The Semi Final saw us drawn against Llaneros FC, another team who we’d yet to beat this season so was going to be in no means and easy route to the final.  Thankfully though in the first leg we blew Llaneros away and the 3-1 scoreline could have been a lot bigger in our favour.  It meant that just a solid performance at home and we’d be into the final.

Solid indeed, a great performance from the lads and it would see us up against our biggest rival, Deportivo Tachira, in the final.

The Championship Final

Given our position in the league it meant we got to play the away leg first and I think I actually looked forward to playing Tachira more than Llaneros and Mineros given our record against them.

Even so I’m not one for being complacent and Tachira had definitely up their game since our last meeting when i beat them 4-0.

It looked like it’d be one of those games when Mea Vitali missed a penalty in the 2nd minute but thankfully the team rallied and we came away 2-0 winners thanks to another penalty from Leo Gracian and a tidy finish from up and coming star Nicolas Marquez.

We were one game away from being crowned champions and with a 2 goal cushion I was confident that we’d be able to see it through.  I wasn’t expecting what happened in the 2nd leg though…

We were absolutely sublime, literally the best performance I’d seen since I’ve been Caracas manager. We were everywhere and absolutely obliterated Deportivo with them not even managing a shot on target and having to resort to fouls just to stop us.

Below are two of the best goals we scored from the match, the pressing and general build up place is what I’ve been striving from my team all season.

We’d done it, despite a stressful season the team had come good when it mattered and I was buzzing.

A week later we also had the smaller matter of a cup to win too and we carried our good form from Championship Final to beat Zuila 3-0 and complete the double.  It was exactly the boost I needed to press on with the challenge.

For those of you that are interested you can find all our fixtures here 1, 2, 3, 4

The Players 

With Sebastian Peratta, Yamil Romero, Yhondry Ozorco, Leo Gracian and Jamie Bustamante being the five signings I made at the start of the season, the squad at my disposal was pretty much what I started with.  It is by no means the finished article but there were some very promising performances.

Stats

The stats confirm what I already knew about the need for our shooting to improve dramatically, the percentages are far too low.  I think we can definitely get our passing and tackling accuracy up to the 80% mark next season.  If we’re going to challenge the big guns in South America we have to be accurate in everything we do at all times so these will be good indicators to see the progression we are making next season.

In terms of players I was impressed across the board but really the 5 that stood out were Miguel Mea Vitali, Ricardo Andreutti, Yohandry Orozco, Yamil Romero and Nicolas Márquez.

Mea Vitali and Andreutti were superb in midfield and I will be taking a look at Andreutti’s role in future posts.  Orozco and Romero were constant goal threats from midfield and both were capable of scoring important goals too which is invaluable to have those kind of players.  With both of them being young they can only get better this season coming.  Finally I’ve included Márquez because I had little or no expectations for him this season and really he only found himself in the side due to injury.  He took his chance though and finished the season with 20 goals, scoring 1 every 120 minutes which is bloody impressive.

Márquez was also 1 of 11 Caracas FC academy players to play for the team this season, Daniel Saggiomo, Elvis Zambrano, Andris Herrera. Winter Rivas, Roberto Garces, Leonardo Flores, Wuiker Farinez, Sergio Cordova, Leomar Pinto and Jefre Vargas all gained first team experience which is great for the future of the club.

I have included the detailed stats of the main first team players below (sorry they are not in position order just order of screenshot).

Players

Andris Herrera

Nicolás Márquez

Miguel Mea Vitali

Yohandry Orozco

Sebastián Peratta

Rubert Quijada

Yamil Romero

Andrés Sánchez

Jefre Vargas

Ricardo Andreutti

Jaime Bustamante

Francisco Carabalí

Giácomo Di Giorgi

Diomar Díaz

William Díaz

Leandro Gracián

Evelio Hernández

Looking forward

After a great season we’ve got even more to look forward to this year as we tackle challenges both at home and abroad as we will compete in both the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.  With this added commitment I’ve moved in pre-season to add a bit more experience to the squad.

Edgar Jiménez returns to the club that he started his with from Carabobo.  This will take some of the creative weight of Mea Vitali and in fact I suspect he’ll most likely start ahead of Mea Vitali.

Zamir Valoyes returns to Caracas as well from Colombia to add a bit of experience to our front line.  A natural goalscorer he was add both experience and be a useful tutor for the young guns coming through the Caracas academy.

Grenddy Perozo was a great signing as i’d also been looking at him for the national side however he got knee tendonitis 2 days before the start of his contract so i’ll have to wait 7 months until he can play.

Angelo Pena again was signed for his mental toughness and leadership in the attacking midfield part of the side.  He is also a former Caracas player and will be a useful player to have in tough matches.

We also have as i mentioned in my opening post Edder Farias, Romulo Otero, Alain Baroja and Jhonder Cadiz to return from loan in June so our squad will be looking very strong by that point.

Tactically I’m now settled on the below formation and tactic and this is now being used by all Caracas teams as i look to bring through the next generation with the Mendoza way flowing through their blood.

Other than that it will be case of keeping doing the things we do right and improving the areas we could do we being a bit more accurate in.  The one interesting bit of news for Venezuelan football in general was the tycoon takeover of Second division club Urena SC.  Overnight they are now the richest club in Venezuela by miles, having over 22 million in the bank which is huge for Venezuela.  Should make things very interesting and hopefully will only benefit Venezuelan football as a whole.

I will follow in the next couple of weeks with a look at the next generation, an update from the National team and a more detailed analysis of some of the key Caracas and Venezuela players and their respective roles.

For now though I hope you enjoyed reading my update and feel free to tweet me if you have any questions.

Diego

Posted in Caracas & Venezuela | 1 Comment

Reflections from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru.

So our World Cup qualification is underway and to say we are the ranked outsiders would be an understatement. Now ranked 56th in the world we’re no expected to get anywhere near the giants of South America.  The only thing I’m hoping for is to do the country proud and beat Bolivia.

There are no easy games in World Cup qualification in South America, no San Marino or Andorra to get an easy morale boosting win against.  Our first 3 games of qualification are against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay before travelling to Peru for our 4th.

Nice easy start…

Anyway what i’m planning to do on going is rather than wait weeks between doing posts, i’m going to take a leaf out James aka FM Pressure’s book and post more regular reflective posts.  Though rather than it be on selling my best player (as if i’d do that 🙂 ) it’ll more often focus on my previous night(s) play and what thoughts and ideas are flying around my head whilst sat away from FM.

So here we go then, my thoughts from our first 3 games of qualification.

Venezuela vs Brazil

So when I saw this was my first World Cup qualifying match I chuckled really as lets be honest despite how poor they’ve been in recent years they are still Brazil.  Neymar vs a defence plying their trade at Malaga, Nantes, Middlesbrough and FC Sion is never going to be pretty.

Even so I’d give it a go and see how we got on, at least with no expectations there was no chance of me getting pissed off…

I was wrong, it could piss me off.  We were excellent defensively only to be undone by incredibly bad luck.

The highlights of the goals are below:

 

Argentina vs Venezuela

So as you can imagine my initial reaction was to be frustrated to have such a good chance of beating Brazil only to balls it up.  Anyway I thought rather than dwell on it too much I should move on to my next match against Argentina.

Again considering I expected nothing to come that close once more just made me feel even worse.  On paper this one wasn’t as close as the Brazil match and the goals Argentina scored were actually pretty decent so fair play to them.  That’s not to say though we didn’t have our chances at the other end and had it not been for a couple of world class saves from Rulli at the end we could have had something out of the game.

Highlights

So two games, two losses that maybe hurt more than they should but there you go.

Venezuela vs Uruguay

A night’s sleep and a new day…

We welcomed Uruguay to Caracas and if i’m honest thought it would be a tougher game than when Brazil came to visit.  At least with Brazil you know that their expansive and attacking play is going to create space to exploit.  Uruguay is a whole different ball game, disciplined and aggressive you know it’s going to be a tough game and with the likes of Cavani up front we were always going to be under pressure.

Just need to keep it tight and not concede any more silly goals and make sure we take our chances.

As expected it was a bloody tough game and Cavani was a pain in the backside throughout but we managed to get our first point, even if for the 3rd game in a row we’d given up a winning position.

Highlights

So 3 games down, Goal scored 4, conceded 6 and 1 point.  You could say we’d done no more than expected so far but our next match was going to be the most important as I would classify Peru as being more at our level than the other three.

Peru vs Venezuela

So I decided given that Peru were more at our level to revert back to 3 AMs rather than than 3 DMs and play a youthful looking side.  It seemed to work and we were excellent first half and went in at half time 2-0 up thanks to two goals from Pedro Ramirez…

Yep so you guessed it for the 4th game in a row we threw away a winning position.  You’ll see from the highlights below the goals I conceded were enough to make my blood boil once more and had to hold back the colourful language to avoid the wrath of Mrs Mendoza and “it’s only a game” comments.

Highlights

We’d literally not given Peru a sniff until their ridiculous lucky goal and that just seemed to make us full apart and we were lucky to even get a point.  We managed 11 shots in the first half, 1 in the second and no matter what I tried tactically I just could not get any fight or energy out of my side and Peru walked all over us.  Rincon getting sent off was the cherry on the top and he’ll miss our trip to Chile in the new year.

What’s gone right and what is going wrong then?

The whole point of this post is to be reflective and more than anything help me think through everything that has happened, what is going wrong and try to fix it somehow.

I have to focus on the positives first and at times we have played very well, have scored some good goals, have been effective from attacking set pieces and have defended well against some of the best attacking forces in the world.  The performances of Juanpi, Pedro Ramirez, Alain Baroja, Osvaldo Vizcarrando and Tomas Rincon have also been pleasing, at times.  We have 2 points from 4 games but have not been embarrassed yet and that seems to have kept  Mr Chavez happy so no one is calling for my head just yet.

What is clear is that we cannot hold a lead.  Now we’ve had a lot of bad luck, i’d say half of the goals we’ve conceded have been lucky and the other 3 were easily avoidable had it been for a little more concentration.

Two player attributes scream out here as being a potential problem, determination and concentration.  I decided to take a look at some of my key players mental attributes to see if there were any areas of the team that I could change to address this.

Goalkeeper

Alain Baroja – 14 Concentration, 13 Determination

Defence

Roberto Rosales – 12 Concentration, 12 Determination

Gabriel Cichero – 13 Concentration, 11 Determination

Oswaldo Vizcarrando – 11 Concentration, 11 Determination

Fernando Amorebieta – 13 Concentration, 12 Determination

Defensive Midfield

Tomas Rincón – 15 Concentration, 18 Determination

Manuel Schmiedebach – 10 Concentration, 17 Determination

Franco Signorelli – 10 Concentration, 12 Determination

Attacking Midfield

Ronald Vargas – 9 Concentration, 13 Determination

Juan Pablo Anor (Juanpi) – 11 Concentration, 7 Determination

Juan Arango – 9 Concentration, 7 Determination

Josef Martínez – 12 Concentration, 14 Determination

Pedro Ramírez – 12 Concentration, 11 Determination

Striker

Salomón Rondón – 14 Concentration, 12 Determination

Straight away I can see our issue, our defence averages 12.25 concentration and 11.5 determination which is pretty low and could well going some way to explaining why we continually throw away leads.  The question is what can I do about it?  On paper those 4 are our best players defensively but that’s not to say we won’t benefit from a mentally stronger alternative.

The Alternative Defenders

Alexander Gonzalez – 12 Concentration, 9 Determination

Mikel Villanueva – 13 Concentration, 10 Determination

José Velázquez – 12 Concentration, 12 Determination

Andrés Sánchez – 13 Concentration, 8 Determination

Andrés Tunez – 14 Concentration, 13 Determination

Layneker Zafra – 13 Concentration, 12 Determination

Victor Garcia – 11 Concentration, 13 Determination

Rolf Feltscher – 8 Concentration, 10 Determination

Franklin Lucena – 14 Concentration, 16 Determination

Grenddy Perozo – 10 Concentration, 10 Determination

So it would seem we don’t have many alternatives to what we’ve already got…other than Franklin Lucena and Andres Tunez.  Even then they are not miles better mentally than my current pairing but given their experience could be a better option to Velazquez and Sanchez.  It is definitely something I will try against Chile, Lucena especially could prove a useful Half back.

Tactics

I’m already using quite a defensive mentality and rarely get above counter, it’s all about keeping it tight and hit the opposition on the break.  If I can’t easily fix the issue through different personnel then I might have to look at tightening up my back line in the centre at the expense of more crosses coming into the box.  This may well have it’s own problems but I need to try something different otherwise the save could fast become just a club game.  The other option is to go for a Middle finger approach and just go for it but I somehow think that will make things worse.  Might make me feel better. 🙂

Team Talks

The other thought i’m having after the Peru game is my team talks need a rethink.  I think after FM15 it had become the norm that if we were leading at half time I’d always tell my side not to get complacent because if I didn’t then guaranteed we’d end up drawing or losing.  I’ve not changed so far in FM16 and for the most part it has worked, well that was until Peru.  Now i’m thinking that maybe I need to soften up a little and that international players react better to praise than a kick up the backside given how much less time they spend with me as a manager.

Sadly from a player interaction level there isn’t a lot more I can do at an international level to mold the squad into the type of players i want them to be.  That is where establishing the core of the national side from Caracas players will be key to ensure success in the future.  I need players that live and breath the Mendoza way and will always give 100% all the time.  As much as he annoyed me for getting sent off against Peru, I do wish we had a team of Tomas Rincons.

Anyway that’s everything out of my head and on to paper.  Onward to the Championship playoffs and hopefully wrap up a title for Caracas FC.

Thanks for reading,

Diego

Posted in Caracas & Venezuela | Leave a comment

Los Rojos del Ávila et La Vinotinto – A South American Club & Country Adventure

nota1

Background

With every release of Football Manager there is the inevitable build up where names of clubs and ideas for saves get banded around twitter and the forums.  As most of you will probably know, FM15 saw me fall in love with South American football and have spent many an hour both playing with teams from South America and reading about their real life goings on.  Initially I did think about returning to Europe for FM16 but then with so many interesting sides currently playing in South America I decided I wasn’t desperate to rush back across the Atlantic.  The only question was who was I going to manage in my first save and what type of game was I going to play.

FM15 finished with me finally securing a Copa Libertadores title with Defensor Sporting only for the save to corrupt the following day, a fate shared with my other great save of FM15, Deportivo Cali.  I think what frustrated me the most was how much potential these saves had only for them to be cut short.  I won’t be letting that happen this time that is for sure. Rolling autosaves and file history switched on and hopefully FM16 will not see a repeat.

So after a many hours research, discussing and contemplating i decided that my first save of FM16 will be a Club & Country save.  If you hadn’t guessed from the title I will be managing Caracas FC and Venezuela.

Venezuela

History

The Federación Venezolana de Fútbol was founded in 1926 and became a FIFA affiliate in 1952. The national side is a relative under achiever in the footballing world; given it has a population of 33 million, with their best result coming in the 2011 Copa America where they reached the quarter finals. Their highest FIFA ranking came in August 2014 when they were ranked 29th but has since dropped to 69th.

In this summer’s Copa America they started so well, beating one of the tournament favourites, Colombia, 1-0 in their opening match. Sadly a 1-0 loss to Peru and a commendable 2-1 loss to Brazil saw them finish bottom of the group.  It wasn’t all doom and gloom and there is definitely hope for the future.

Venezuela's footballers pose for pictures before the start of their 2015 Copa America football championship match against Colombia, in Rancagua, Chile, on June 14, 2015. (L-R, back row) Alain Baroja, Jose Rondon, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Fernando Amorebieta, Andres Tunez, and Juan Arango, and (L-R, front row) Alejandro Guerra, Ronald Vargas, Tomas Rincon, Roberto Rosales and Luis Seijas. AFP PHOTO / PABLO PORCIUNCULA

Venezuela’s footballers pose for pictures before the start of their 2015 Copa America football championship match against Colombia, in Rancagua, Chile, on June 14, 2015. (L-R, back row) Alain Baroja, Jose Rondon, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Fernando Amorebieta, Andres Tunez, and Juan Arango, and (L-R, front row) Alejandro Guerra, Ronald Vargas, Tomas Rincon, Roberto Rosales and Luis Seijas. AFP PHOTO / PABLO PORCIUNCULA

Venezuela’s key player, Salomón Rondón, is now playing in the Premier League for West Brom and is definitely the closest Venezuela have to an international superstar.  They are not a 1 man band however as some may well be familiar with the likes of veteran playmaker Juan Arango, tenacious midfield Tomás Rincón, towering centre backs Oswaldo Vizcarrando and Fernando Amorebieta, flying fullback Roberto Rosales and former Anderlecht and Club Brugge midfielder, Ronald Vargas.

There is a also a bit of potential in the side with some of Venezuela’s next generation making their way to Europe via Switzerland, Portugal or Spain. The most notable being Josef Martinez who moved from Young Boys to Torino last season and finished the season with 25 appearances and 3 goals.  Juanpi at Malaga, Jhon Murillo at Benfica and Victor Garcia at Porto are all very promising talents who are in the right places to maximise their development potential.  I also have to keep an eye on the likes of Alexander González and Pedro Ramírez who both play in Switzerland and I think have potential to step up to the bigger leagues.

Lots to consider for the international side but whatever success I have with the national team will be determined by ensuring that football grows at home as well.  I need to have the structure of Venezuelan football improve to ensure that the quality of youth player coming through increase each year.  This is where the club side of things come in…

Caracas FC

Caracas_FC

 

 

Caracas FC are the most successful clubs in Venezuela having won the title 11 times.  Formed in 1967 they turned professional in 1984 and have gone on to be arguably the most famous team in Venezuela.  Now you might ask why I didn’t go for a team a little less established and really the answer is that I don’t have the time these days to bringing a team and a country up from the bottom.  The priority is to grow the country and the base I have with Caracas will give me the best opportunity to do that.

That’s not to say it’ll be easy as Caracas have not won a title since 2010 and have fallen behind the likes of Deportivo Tachira, Mineros de Guayana and Zamora FC in more recent times.  None the less they still possess an excellent youth setup and being based in the capital city should hopefully see us get the pick of Venezuelan newgens.

Facilities wise Caracas play at 24,000 capacity Estadio Olímpico de la UCV, a ground owned by the Central University of Venezuela.  Caracas own their own ground, Cocodrilos park, however this is now only used for training and for the B team.

 

The Squad

cara01

The team is reasonably strong, though their best 4 players have all recently left on loan (Rómulo Otero, Edder Farías, Alain Baroja and Jhonder Cádiz).  I should have them back at the end of June 2016 but that is still 18 months away and it means that i’ll have to work with what I’ve got until then.  Caracas are strong defensively with Andrés Sánchez the key man at the back, a player that may well find himself involved in the national setup as well.  They have 3 very talented fullbacks in Francisco Carabalí, Rubert Quijada and Jefre Vargas all of whom have the ability to make an impact.  In front of them I’m blessed with the experienced trio of Miguel Mea Vitali (formerly of Lazio), Ricky Andreutti and Giácomo Di Giorgi.  However on the attacking side of midfield we are little light with Evelio Hernández and Diomar Díaz the only players likely to get a look in.  Armando Maita and Fabián Bordagaray are our experienced front men but neither excite me much and I will be looking to replace as soon as possible.

Youth wise we have one of the best in Venezuela and I can see several of the younger players getting a look in this season, especially given the lack of depth we have in some areas.  Wuilker Farinez is a 17 year old goalkeeper who has become Caracas no.1 in real life and is definitely one for the future but needs a decent tutor and gradual exposure to the first team.  In defence Winter Rivas is the one to watch, having played for the U17 national side in the recent U17 Sudamericano, he looks like he could become an excellent partner for Sanchez in the future.  Midfield brings us several talents, 17 year old Daniel Saggiomo also played in the U17 Sudamericano and wore the coveted number 10 shirt.  Plenty of development still needed but in real life he recently scored his first goal for the club and is definitely a player i think that can make it for club & country.  We also have three attacking midfielders that look like future Caracas players.  Elvis Zambrano, Leomar Pinto and Andris Herrera all look like they could make the step up to the first team this season. Zambrano and Herrera look like with a bit of hard work and focused development could become very handy shadow strikers.  Pinto on the other hand looks a far more creative player and could well have his eye on the enganche role in about 20 year time.  Finally up front we have Sergio Cordova and Ronaldo Pena, both of whom will make excellent front men, the question is who will make the better one.  Pena is slightly older and already playing for the U20 national side so will likely head out on loan.  Cordova on the other hand will most likely lead the line for the U20 side and potentially make a few appearances in the cup.

The Plan

So I’ve tried to keep my overview reasonably brief and I know this intro has been a long time in coming but don’t worry a lot has happened already so hopefully it won’t be as long until my next post.

My initial focus will be all about building the club side whilst also finding my feet with Venezuela.  Tactically I want to bring the Mendoza way to Venezuela in the same way Sampaoli has to Chile. I suspect this will be far harder a challenge than Sampaoli has had but then I enjoy a challenge.  For those of you that read any of my FM15 stuff, my philosophy is very similar to Sampaoli in that I like my teams to press and be energetic throughout.  I also focus a lot on my academy and focus on players playing together from an early age so that they develop as one unit rather than individuals.  In order for my philosophy to work I need a core group of players that know my style and share my determination, work rate and mental strength.  This is something I will also have to build over time, particularly through the use of coaching and veterans.  More detail to come on that as the game progresses and i can get into the nitty gritty.

The target for my first season is to at least secure continental football for next season.  If I’m going to bring through the next generation of Venezuelan players, they need to be playing in the Libertadores and Sudamericana as soon as possible.  The financial benefits will also hopefully help grow both the club and the league and  I need to start performing in an area Venezuelan sides have been notoriously poor in over the years.

My second season needs to be focusing on the World Cup qualification with Venezuela and although i don’t expect to qualify, I need to build some momentum for the Copa America in 2016.  Progress is going to be slow and I will need to stay patient (something i’m not naturally good at) to ensure that we are constantly building and growing as a team rather than reinventing.

Times will change though and Venezuelan football will be on the up.

Thanks for reading,

Diego

Posted in Caracas & Venezuela | Leave a comment

Defensor Sporting – One Last Shot At Continental Glory

 

  

 

So it’s been a while since I’ve written anything after my Universitario game was ruined by poor accountancy (or there is an error with the tax rates in Peru). Essentially I was close to clearing the debt after my 2nd season but was then slapped with a 12 million tax bill which was seeing me lose around 2.5 million a month. The league had become a bit of a doddle but given the club was falling apart behind the scenes and completely out of my control it lost its appeal.
Anyway I had a little venture back to Europe with Dinamo Bucharest and Romania with the idea of writing an article specifically on the exploits of Adrian Mutu. It was all going swimmingly and had just qualified for the Champions League group stage and was looking good for European Qualification when the save suffered the same fate as Deportivo Cali, corrupted save.

To lose 2 games in 1 version was a bit soul destroying and I mucked around for a while with other teams in Europe without really settling. Then I noticed that in real life Universitario were playing Defensor Sporting in the Sudamericana, a game which they ultimately lost but gave me that South America craving once more. I’ve also started reading the below book, which is written by a Uruguayan, and made me decide Uruguay was a good place to have one last crack at continental glory in South America.

The Club

Formed in 1913, the club turned professional in 1932 and has since gone on to claim 4 Uruguayan league titles and most recently reached the semi final of the Copa Libertadores where they went out to dalenichol ‘s Nacional (PAR). Defensor Sporting are a club, like Danubio, that have historically been in the shadow of the big 2 in Montevideo but are probably most famous for producing a number of Uruguayan internationals over the years.

Training facilities are pretty crap and there is no money in the bank (even though in real life according to transfermarkt they sold around 7 million quid’s worth of players in January, seems SI missed that) but will have to make do and get the most out of veterans, focus on the academy and making money on fringe players whilst retaining the core of the squad.

The Story so far

So i’m already a season and a half to the good. If anything the first season was a bit of a breeze as the clubs around me failed to find any form of consistency and we comfortably secured Defensor’s 1st title since 2008 and 5th title overall. I’m not going to go into too much detail as i’m going to be picking things up from my second season but it was mostly dominated by the form of my two veterans, Nicolas Olivera and Leandro Gracian. They were a delight to watch but also were a great influence on some of my emerging youngsters (more to come on them later). I qualified for both the Sudamericana and Libertadores so will have plenty of continental exposure next season which is what we like.

You can see a few of the highlights of goals scored in our first season:

 

 

 

2015/2016 Squad

So after our pretty successful first season things were pretty good on the pitch but not so good on a financial side. Now i’m not one for selling as I grow quite attached to my players and i like to build a team that knows each other inside out rather than chopping and changing each season. I have however decided to give selling a few players a go and it’s actually made things a bit more challenging which is good. The bank balance has finally gone back into the black again and will only improve should we receive decent sell on fees for the players we have sold.

So first of all these are our transfers so far this season:

As you can see we’ve pulled in 2 million quid of transfers and we still have a number of players out there with 30-50% sell on clauses so hopefully that can bring some financial benefits over the next few years.

Most of the players that went were fringe players but Robert Herrera stands out as being arguably the biggest loss. He was our top defender last year and I think we have missed him this year as we’ve shipped a few too many goals for my liking. The arrival of Magallan in January though should hopefully compensate for that loss.

So then the squad…

Goalkeepers

Martin Campana
Yonatan Irrazabal
Gaston Rodriguez

I’m very lucky to have 3 excellent goalkeepers with a few younger prospects coming through the ranks as well. Campana is number 1 but has not been at his best this season and could well find himself under pressure from Irrazabal and Rodriguez.

Defenders

Wingbacks

Emilio Zeballos
Enrique Etcheverry
Mathias Suarez
Maximiliano Padilla

Zeballos and Suarez are first choice and both have had call ups to Uruguay this year which is really positive. Zeballos could be a bit quicker but he makes up for it with an accurate cross and excellent work ethic. Suarez is a really live wire and is often found cutting inside and running at the opposition fullbacks, it’s just a shame he can’t finish else he’d be deadly.  Etcheverry is Uruguay’s answer to Rory Delap and can cause massive problems with his long throw and is a talented prospect.  Padilla is on loan from Boca and possesses a fantastic work rate and left foot, he’s very much the dark horse of the 4.

Centrebacks

Ramon Arias
Mauricio Lemos
Joel Rodriguez
Lisandro Magallan
Guillermo Fratta

Arias and Lemos are first choice however I have been a bit disappointed in Arias so far this season and Magallan has been brought in from Boca Juniors to shore things up at the back. Lemos is young but is showing real promise and i’d not be surprised if i’m receiving interest very soon.  Joel Rodriguez is on loan from Boca but is very much a squad player and unlikely to stay longer than a year.  Fratta is another prospect who will mostly see reserve team football but could find himself around the fringes come the end of the year.
Midfielders

Defensive Midfielders

Diego Ferreira
Martin Rabunal
Juan Carlos Amado
Andres Fleurquin
Carlos Diogo
Facundo Ospitaleche

Ferreira is first choice in the CM-D position and also vice captain. Rabunal is showing real promise and is likely to feature more heavily next season should Ferreira be sold. Ferreira though has really started to perform in the last couple of months and we are lot more solid with him in the side. Amado and Fleurquin are mostly backups who rarely get a look in this season, they see more action should i play with 3 DMs and no striker. Diogo is a veteran utility player who switches between midfield and right back, always solid but not a first team starter.  Ospitaleche looks one for the future and is a reserve player at the moment but, like Fratta, will most likely step up to the first team towards the end of the year.

Roaming playmakers

Mauro Arambarri
Mathias Cardacio
Federico Gino
Franco Pizzichillo

Arambarri is a real star and is another who’s made their way into the Uruguyan setup. He is however not guaranteed as former AC Milan player Mathias Cardacio is just as talented and can bring a bit more experience in the tougher games. Gino is a player who was highly rated but just has never real set the world alight and is not helped by being in such a competitive area of the team. Pizzichillo i have high hopes for and could well end up at RPM or as an Enganche dependent on how things go.

Shadow Strikers/False Nines

Brian Lozano
Guido Vadala
Adrian Luna
Agustin Camacho
Leonardo Pais
Victor Blanco
Brian De Souza

Now the wide AM/ST positions are mostly rotated between Lozano, Vadala and Luna with support coming from some of the reserve attacking midfielders. Lozano and Vadala’s are the stars of the show with Luna also starting to find his form. Victor Blanco is the future and at 16 is already pushing for a slot alongside either of the main 3. This is probably our strongest area of the team.

Enganches

Leandro Gracian
Nicolas Olivera

The veterans who guide the rest of the team with their creativity and experience, key members of the team and when they play well the whole team does.

So that’s the tactics and the squad, pretty strong with a good blend of youth and experience.  Olivera and Fleurquin retire at the end of the season some I will need to find some suitable replacements at some point.  I’m also likely to have to sell a few players in order to keep the finances ticking over in order to get closer to upgrading our facilities.

2016 Apertura Review

So as i mentioned earlier we started the new season as Champions having had a reasonably easy first year. I knew the second year was always going to be tougher as we’d have to balance the league alongside our continental competitions. The Apertura would see us also compete in the Copa Sudamericana, a first for me as the winner in Peru only qualified for the Libertadores and the competition didn’t work before the January patch so it never worked with Deportivo Cali.

Anyway I’ve already given you an overview of the squad at my disposal so will get down to the nitty gritty of it all. To put it simply, the league was much tougher this time around with the big 2 very much sorting themselves out and were very competitive throughout the Apertura. Diego Maradona took over Penarol in the summer and it seemed to have done the trick as the actually went unbeaten for the whole tournament. Nacional upped their game and were in the mix right up until the final day.

Our ability to win games though made the difference as we secured the Apertura with a final day victory away at Danubio and won the title by 2 points from Penarol and 4 from Nacional. The table can be found below:

Fixtures

For those that like the stats these can found at the following links:

Team Stats
Players Stats 1
Players Stats 2

The star man was very much Leandro Gracian with the veteran enganche pulling the strings throughout but also weighing in with 11 goals which is a cracking effort from the 34 year old. Sadly some bar steward broke his leg in the 2nd to last game of the Apertura and he’ll therefore spend the next 6 months on the sideline.

The Clasicos

Having won all 3 last season we only managed 2 out of 3 this time around, impressive against Danubio and Nacional but outdone by some dodgy referring against Penarol. You can watch the highlights below:

Defensor Sporting Vs Nacional

Penarol Vs Defensor Sporting

Danubio Vs Defensor Sporting

Copa Sudamericana

As you can see in the fixtures we were given a tough first qualifying round match against U Catolica. A 2-2 draw in Chile followed an end to end game in Montevideo that eventually saw Defensor win the tie thanks to goals from Gracian, Cardacio, Vadala and Amado. Our efforts rewarded us with a slightly easier trip to Venezuela to face Zamora FC, a team I knew from my Carabobbo save. We came back from Venezuela 4 goals to the good and although we’d conceded a stupid goal against the run of place i felt confident enough to play a second string at home and we won 1-0.

This setup a date with River Plate in the next round…

We traveled to Argentina to play our game but not do anything stupid…

Balls. You can see all the goals below but it was just set a let down to concede so many stupid goals. It would seem our dream was over before it’d had begun.

With nothing to lose i thought i’d just go for it at home and just to annoy me even more we got bloody close to taking it to extra time. Typical.

Just a bit more luck and concentration (story of my FM life when it comes to South American contintental football) and we’d have been looking at a quarter final spot. Plenty to work on for the Libertadores and Sudamericana in 2016.

Transfers

With the end of the Apertura comes a mid season break where I’ve looked to wheel and deal to strengthen the squad. Ramon Arias and Adrian Luna have left for Cesar Vallejo and Union (SF) respectively bringing in 1.7 million and plenty of future fees. Coming in is Lisandro Magallan on loan from Boca and Diego Gustavino on a free transfer. Good piece of business if i don’t say myself and if you follow me on twitter you’ll have seen that they’ve been doing pretty well.

So there we are the story so far, onward to glory.

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