Choosing which team to manage in any iteration of the Football Manager series has never been easy for me. However, this year seemed an even more onerous task. Especially as I had to consider how much time I would realistically have to play, as not to end up in the situation where I never managed to round off my time at Nice as I would have liked.
This being due to real-life pressures of having my first child and still working through my accounting exams, which are now nearing a close but will still likely have an impact on playing time on this version of FM, hopefully, the last version to be impacted by exams given my finals are to be sat in July 2021.
My first idea was to play a club and country save, with my chosen team and country being Rosenborg BK and Norway. However, I have decided to leave that to FM Samo who will be playing as Valerenga and Norway. Samo was more than happy for me to also pursue my save and had no impact on my numerous changes to my plans.
My second idea was then to play something closer to home and manage a Welsh club, however, given the realistic time restraints I thought opting for a save with Connah’s Quay in the Cymru Premier division would see me fail to make the necessary inroads into developing a team to overturn TNS and make a run at a European competition.
My other idea flirted with having a crack at managing Wrexham, who are in an interesting situation presently with Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElehenney set to become majority shareholders of the third oldest football club in the world, which is currently supporter owned.
But again, I opted against this due to the time it would take to make an impact with them as they currently sit in the Vanarama National League.
The more I thought about it, the more I thought that I should consider expanding my horizons from my standard European save and I began to consider the South American region.
Thanks to Nestor in my slack channel, I was able to read South America: The Football Manager 2020 League Guide produced by FM Grasshopper for FM20, so slightly out of date at present but I am assured there’s an update on its way if anyone else is considering a South American save in FM21.
From reading this I had settled on Argentina, which was also supported by From_Eleven_One, Nestor and SoggFM over on slack. From FM Grashopper’s guide, I saw his recommendation was Velez Sarsfield, so that was my first port of call in researching which Argentinian team to select for FM21.
Little did I know, this would be the one. Having read across numerous clubs, except for the Big Five, I had decided on either Velez Sarsfield or Huracan FC but opted against the latter due to them likely being a longer-term project.
Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield
Velez are a team with great history in Argentine football, founded in 1910 in Liniers, Buenos Aires the club has spent the majority of its history playing in the top flight of Argentine football, currently known as Primera Division.
The club plays its home games at the 49,540-capacity Jose Amalfitani Stadium since 1951. However, the stadium was not renamed to the Jose Amalfitani Stadium until December 1968, in honour of legendary club president by the same name who served the club in two spells spanning 30 years.
The club hasn’t been without success over the years, winning a total of 10 titles since their first in 1968, but haven’t won one since 2012/13. They’ve also won a single Copa Libertadores, in 1994, which was undoubtedly their finest era.
Argentinian football is going through a period of change at the moment. The Primera Division was home to 24 teams in 2019/20, where teams play each other just once. The re-shuffle continues in 20/21 where only 23 teams compete, 21/22 (22 teams) and 22/23 (21 teams).
The transition completes in 23/24 when the division is whittled down to 20 teams that compete in the European-style double round-robin format.
The league is usually fairly competitive. Boca (34 titles) and River (36) are the teams most will recognise, but Racing (18), Independiente (16) and San Lorenzo (15) have all enjoyed periods of success, while Estudiantes, Newell’s Old Boys and Lanus are all capable of performing well so this will be no walk in the park to the Primera Division title.
There seems to be an abundance of potential across First, Reserve and U20 teams. FM recognises the club’s history of producing players and that’s reflected in the club’s academy status (excellent).
Thiago Almada is the cream of the crop and I think it is going to be a tough task to hold on to him for the majority of this save.
Lucas Orellano, Florian Monzon, Facundo Cacers and Marcos Enrique also intrigue me with their potential.
Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone
When researching Velez, I came across some notable youth products who participated for Argentina in a FIFA World Cup, however, one player on the list stood out to me and that player was Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone.
Simeone was regarded as a tenacious, versatile, hard-working and complete two-way midfielder who was mobile, good in the air and capable both of winning balls and starting attacking plays, also having a penchant for scoring several goals himself, which was indeed the case seeing him notch 12 goals in 76 appearances for Velez from central midfield scoring goals like this!
Simeone went on to make over 100 appearances for Argentina and had a very successful career in Europe playing for the likes of Sevilla, Inter Milan and Lazio, but most notably Atletico Madrid whom he has been the manager of since 2011.
Arguably, you could say Simeone has been as successful as a Manager as a Player, leading Estudiantes La Plata and River Plate to an Argentine Primera Division a piece before finding more success with Atletico Madrid winning a La Liga title, a Copa del Rey, Supercopa, two UEFA supercups and two UEFA Europa League titles.
Each of his teams have become renowned for what has become known as ‘anti-football’ of which a common feature is defensive compactness and quick counter-attacks. Their defending consists of two stages: deep defending in their own defensive third in a narrow 4–4–2 consisting of two closely connected defensive lines of four players, and counter-pressing in their opponents’ third to win the ball high up the pitch.
When the ball is won, the team attack as a unit, deploying their fluid 4–2–2–2 formation, with the forwards often shifting to the flanks to create even more space. In defense, the key idea is to force opponents into wide areas, gain numerical dominance in the ball’s zone and steal the ball or force the opponent into a backward pass.
Counter-pressing consists of reducing an opposing team’s space, disrupting their build-up and reducing the number of “safe” positions for opponents’ movement on the pitch, thus eliminating goal threats.
Other instances of this being used effectively would be Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City team who shocked the Premier League in 2015/16 by claiming the title having been long outsiders at 5000-1 at the start of the season.
Therefore, here is how I plan to set up my Velez Sarsfield side initially, however, I am certain that by the time we get to the start of the season the tactic will be nuanced slightly to meet the needs of the team.
Thanks for joining me in outlining my initial plans for Football Manager 2021.
P.S – Come and join me over on Football Manager Slack at #cc-fm for more of an in-depth record of my stewrdship of Club Atletico Velez Sarsfiled.