Hello and welcome back to “El Fortín”, our journey as manager of Velez Sarsfield, Argentina.
The intention of this blog is to guide you through our second season in charge in Latin America. Following on from what can only be seen as a success in season one, which, if you haven’t seen how we got on remember to catch up on that blog first, or don’t, it’s entirely up to you
Ahead of the season, the board via the club vision provided us a set of objectives to achieve, these were as follow:
- Finish in the top half of the table
- Begin to repair the financial damage that the club has
- Reach the second round of the Copa Libertadores
- Reach the semi-final of the Superleague Cup
As such, throughout this post, I will cover whether or not we were able to satisfy their expectations.
Given the above objective of beginning to repair the financial damage that the club has, you’ve probably got an inkling as to what sort of transfer budget I had to work with.
That’s right, absolutely nothing and to make matters worse we were spending a significant amount more than the weekly wage budget already.
However, this didn’t stop us from adding to our squad bringing in three players in the summer transfer window and a further three in the winter transfer window. Despite the number of signings made, we still only spent £0.1m.
How were these signings funded you may wonder? Well, there were a total of thirty-eight total outgoings. Thirteen of them on permanent deals and the other twenty-five on loan deals.
This raising us a total of £7.75m in transfer fees. Most of that coming from one sale, of a defensive midfielder, Marcos Enrique who joined Atlas Guadalajara for an initial £5.25m with a further £0,5m in instalment payments.
This was a devastating blow at the time, but given the financial situation and the board expectations of getting back to the black, it made sense to allow Enrique to pursue his Atlas dream.
Thankfully, not only did this satisfy the board of repairing the financial damage to the club, but three years ahead of schedule it also allowed us to sign a young Uruguayan replacement, in Manuel Ugarte.
As you may remember from the last blog, the Copa Libertadores spans across two seasons and saw us take on Sporting Cristal of Peru in the Second Round.
A 5-1 first-leg win at home courtesy of four Juan Martin Lucero goals gave us a perfect platform heading to Lima where a 91st-minute goal from Christopher Olivares, to complete his hat-trick and to seal a 3-2 Sporting Cristal win was enough to see us through to the Quarter Finals.
The Quarter Finals saw us take on fellow Argentinian side River Plate, again we played the first leg at the Jose Amalfitani Stadium and again we gave ourselves a great platform heading into the return leg with a 3-1 victory courtesy of another Juan Martin Lucero hat-trick.
The similarities continued into the second leg which saw us defeated 3-2 by River Plate by saw us go through with a 5-4 score on aggregate.
I was very pleased to more than exceed the board’s expectation of reaching the Second Round, but the Semi Final saw us drawn against arguably South America’s most notable side, Flamengo, our friends from the group stage, where we both enjoyed a 3-1 win against each other at home.
Could we replicate our group stage victory and progress to our first Libertadores final on our first attempt?
No, sadly Flamengo were just too strong for us beating us both at home (1-0) and away (2-1).
I was pleased to even put up a fight but the Flamengo team which starred Gabriel Barbosa, Lucas Piazon and Bruno Henrique just had too much class for us and went on to defeat Club Independiente Del Valle of Ecuador, 2-0 in the final.
We started the season off well, with an opening day victory over rivals San Lorenzo followed by a boring draw with Talleres, who seem to remain our bogey side, which saw July rounded off.
It was not until Gameday 4, where we faced Banfield that we tasted defeat for the first time, in what can only be described as a terrible display from Lucas Escobar, the young goalkeeper who was given the gloves that day and conceded an absolute howler, this saw him dropped and he failed to make a further appearance for the rest of the season.
After a stern talking to and the choice to replace Escobar with another nineteen-year-old keeper in Emmanuel Gomez Riga, we would win seven games in a row and remain undefeated until Gameday 22, where Independiente put us to the sword, defeating us 4-2.
However, the defeat to Independiente had little effect on the league situation, as we had already had the league sewn up after a 2-0 victory against River Plate in Gameday 21 and Boca Juniors losing 1-0 to Argentinos Juniors bringing the title home to Liniers for the first time since the 2012/13 season.
You may notice the impressive goal difference that we achieved that undeniably led to our title. This leads on from my previous post about wanting to be strong defensively, which by only conceding fourteen goals in twenty-two games you could argue is exactly what I was looking to implement.
What I wasn’t looking to implement was such an attacking mindset, which saw us score fifty goals in 22 games, an average of 2.3 goals per game. But who’s going to complain about that, right?
Earlier, I mentioned Gomez Riga, who was a nine-teen year old keeper rated highly by my coached who I called upon when my initial first choice, Escobar, let me down.
Gomez Riga, who is highly determined and has a driven personality, a great combination, in my opinion, wen on to repay my faith in him by keeping 11 clean sheets in 19 league games and a total and new club record of 20 clean sheets in 40 games across all competitions.
At the other end of the pitch, there were two standout strikers that fired us to the title and I bet you’re wondering if you play a lone striker formation, how do you end up with two key strikers?
Well, I’m glad you ask, it’s because the main man in the first half of the season Juan Martin Lucero, was only on loan to Velez (pre-signed before FM21) and he returned to Xolos Tijuana in January 2022, despite me asking for an extension. Before parting way with us, Lucero bagged 10 goals in 15 games in the league and a further 8 goals in 6 games in the Libertadores. This performance led to him winning Argentinian Domestic Player of the Year.
I was obviously concerned where we would find our goals once Lucero departed, but again placing my trust in my young stars I headed to the youth team and plucked Nazareno Bazan Vera, the name did help him stand out. What he lacked in standout attributes, he made up for in goals bagging himself a new club record 20 goals in 20 games across all competition and 9 goals in 10 in the league specifically.
Following on from the league success, I was intent on leading the team to victory in the Superleague Cup. After very late final day drama where a very late Indpendiente goals versus Argentions Juniors secured us a place in the Semi Finals on goal difference.
This meant we would face Newell’s Old Boys, who we had already beaten 3-1 in the opening stage of the season. The Superleague Cup Semi Finals are two-legged, which I didn’t know having not qualified the previous season.
A 3-0 victory in the first leg at the Jose Amalfitani Stadium courtesy of Alvaro Marin, on his debut nonetheless. Marin was called upon at the last minute due to injuries to Almada, Monzon and Bazan Vera and Pellegrino being on international duty with Spain U21’s. However, he showed his worth and added his fourth goal of the season in the return leg which saw us triumph 2-1 at Coloso del Parque.
This set up a final with Boca Juniors, no surprise who eased passed Rosario Central in their Semi Final. Unfortunately for us, we fell at the final hurdle with a 2-1 defeat thanks to wonderkids Medina and Carrizo each grabbing a goal. You will be pleased to know Marin also grabbed a consolation goal taking his tally for the season to five from three games.
Having made a very early exit from the Copa Argentina in our first season in charge, much to the displeasure of our board it was important we progressed to the Semi Final this time around.
The games in the national cup don’t seem to be very frequent, with us only playing one in the season, which saw us defeat Quilmes 1-0 to set up a tie with Argentinos Juniors in the Sixth Round in July 2022.
So, overall an excellent season exceeding expectations initially set out whilst rebuilding our defensive solidarity and somehow scoring for fun. Here I’m going to look at some of my top performers from season two (all competitions):
- Goals: Nazareno Bazan Vera (20 goals), Juan Martin Lucero (18 goals) and Thiago Almada (12 goals).
- Assists: Thiago Almada (14 assists), Francisco Ortega (9 assists) and Ricardo Centurion (9 assists).
- Average Rating: Thiago Almada (7.48), Nazareno Bazan Vera (7.32) and Francisco Ortega (7.30).
Again, I think this blog wouldn’t be complete without some #GIFgoals some of which you may have seen featured on my Twitter page.
One of these was selected as our goal of the season, but which one do you think it was?
Once again, thank you for joining me in outlining our successful second season at Velez Sarsfield in Football Manager 2021.