South American Journeyman Recap #10

Hey guys, how’s it going? I hope you’re staying strong, staying at home, taking care of yourself and your loved ones, me myself doing as much, trying to take it one day at a time, enjoying a lot of FM, family time and keeping the mind busy. Welcome to a new (late) monday recap. Sorry for the lateness, I actually struggled to find a proper moment to wrap up the episode, stuff just kept happening as I moved forwards…

A summer is busy…

As you might know, the brazilian season runs from January to September/October, coinciding with the beginning of spring here in the southern hemisphere. That meant that after the heartbreak of last season we had the rest of the year to think over our movements on the market.

The main objetive was reducing expenses, as the club was running head first into a huge debt. I was hopeful that, with the promotion, Serie B economics would aliviate that. But with my contract ending in two months it wasn’t my problem… unless I signed an extension. After much thinking I felt that if I left without winning at least one piece of important silverware (or getting the team promoted) I would be selling myself short, so the deal was signed, putting us under contract until 2022.

Main culprits were the GK Rafael Santos who was (as mentioned) on a whooping €190K a year, which made him the best paid player in the club, and the starting CBs who were booth on over 100K per annum. In total the club was paying over €1.9 millon a year, an unsustainable figure when you realize last that year A.D. Confiança made a little over €2.1M, only a €200K profit, and that’s before you count all of the staff’s salaries and other expenses. That needed to change.

Starting in November, as contracts finished and expenses reduced, I started fishing for replacements on lower contracts, trying to lose as little quality as possible. I went for youngster in and outside Brazil who were getting to the end of their deals and could provide quality at a lower price. Having finally set up a working Scouting Network over the 2020 season, we started to yield results. It was a busy summer. Let’s take a look at who our main new adquisitions are…

First off let’s talk about Paulo Henrique. Signed free on a pre-contract from now regular victims Ferroviaria (see The Livorno Series for another capture), the 26yo gives us a solid option between the sticks. Not quite on the level of our former keeper, but on nearly €90k less, I’ll take it.

Next up, from the land of the Banda Oriental, argentinian striker Luciano Nequecaur, signed on a pre-contract from Danubio. With Leandro Kivel retiring and Renan Marques asking a big time role on the team (at 38), we needed a big lad up front to win balls and nail headers, so the former Nueva Chicago and Marítimo man was a great choice.

Coming for €75k from Flamengo’s reserves and thus becoming our second ever money signing, Otavio seemed like a great option to rejuvenate our aging back line (which was an average of 34yo last season). He needs to improve and develop his overall game but being 1,90cm at 18 is always gonna make you a decent defender for starters. Nice Acc. and Pace also, so he’s not just a lamp post waiting to be overrun.

Last but not least, a new Libero was needed. Top man William Soares was calling it a day so we had to bring someone with quality to take over. My choice was Rafael Matteo dos Santos, AKA Rafael Goiano AKA Rafael cause I didn’t have any other Rafaels…or any other Goiás natives actually. The moment I saw him I fell in love with him. Those tecnicals, those mentals, those wage demands… it was a signing at first sight.

That wasn’t the last of them but we could be all day discussing new signings as I brought over 16 new players, incluiding some replacements for those leaving the first team, and a few youngsters from Uruguay and Brazil to beef up the Reserves. Even after that buying spree our total salaries end up just shy of €1.6M, a much healthier sum.

A tactic is experimented with…

When it was the turn to begin the season I felt like doing some tactical experimenting (again). After the great results the 5-3-2, I thought maybe we could turn the screw just once more. There were a few things I didn’t like about the last set-up, like how the CM-A could become the main focus of the attack in certain matches, or how dependent on crosses we had become.

The libero was working wonders, so, what if we went attacking? Of course that meant moving the DLP forwars, so what about an AP on the hole? And the wingbacks, the wingbacks were kicking ass…so let’s have more of that. And with a younger, more capable player in Nequecaur as the dropping striker maybe we could go for a DLF? Ideas popped around my head like a crap Guardiola on meth.

This is what I settled for right before the first match of the season.

At first it worked, but as matches passed I realized wasn’t terribly sold on the Libero on Attack. Sure, he was stepping more into midfield, spraying passes forwards but…wasn’t he doing that on Support too? And the gaps he was leaving behind himself became an issue more often than not. Very much a case of deminishing returns.

In similar fashion, the AP wasn’t having nearly as much an influence on the game as the DLP. He overlapped with the DLF for a series of unending sideways passing. I also didn’t really like how the other roles in the midfield worked. I’ve always been a believer in balancing the “lane-filling” business with the “shape-holding” end of the deal. The CAR was meant as more of a holding midfielder role, while the BBM had license to push forwards, but it ended up stranding whomever played as the Carrilero and adding yet another avenue for the side-passing festival…

Great movie. Terrible football tactic.

On the other hand, the CWB I was loving. Give me those hard pushing, defence neglecting motherf*ckers any day of the week. I might just have to revert to regular WBs against the Copa do Nordeste big guns and Serie C tougher competition but lemme enjoy them for now.

Eventually I settled for this:

The Poacher makes a return as the AFs movility was causing more havoc to our set up than to opposition defenses, plus I’m enjoying having a fixed option up top with this tactic for the Libero (once again a support role) and any long pass to find. The AP drops back to the CM as this stops him from getting bogged down in a “you take it, no you take it” contest with the DLF (and pretty much any deep attacking player). BBM has been asked to take more risks, the CAR has been told to take less of them and everything else pretty much stays the same. Not perfect, but working, and also (I think) a better fit to our current talent pool.

An prize is collected…

So after all that tinkering and thinking and rethinking and hitting my head against the wall, where are we? Well…

We started with a nice groove having only one goal scored against us in the first 5 matches, including great win vs. Bragantino at the cup. Then came a new Ser-Con Derby. Sergipe had been on fire lately, matching our points tally and just second on goals. It was a close match, as we weren’t at our best. Their 93rd minute winner really hurt, but losing always gives good perspective and thusly began the tactical tinkering session. I much rather drop the ball early on an “easier” tournament as the Sergipano and learn from it…

The good days kept rolling as we claimed an easy qualification to the 2nd Stage. The guy who does the matchups forgot the long-standing feud between our families and we were handled an easy duel against 4th division Luverdense in the Copa do Brasil 2nd Round. An 88th minute tie left the whole thing stinking of last seasons bottle-jobs but this time we were up to the task on the shootout and that set up arguably the biggest series on this run… a 3rd Round, two-legs duel with giants Fluminense.

Fluminense sent us home rather easily, although I felt like a draw was on the cards on the second leg match at Maracanã. Regardless, we collected a much appreciated €315k participation prize, which totals a nice €729k earned during the cup, a much required aid to our economy.

On the league side of things, a tricky draw with major 3rd-wheeling Itabaiana and yet another dissapointing loss at the Derby got us looking from the outside-in on qualification for the title playoff.

In the end, Sergipe lost (gifted?) their last and only match vs Itabaiana on the last matchday meaning we had to win vs Maruinense by 2 or more goals to take the 2nd spot for the Playoffs. It was all nice and dandy, we had the match undercontrol with a 2-0 win…but on the 78th minute the locals got one back… What’s this taste in my mouth? Oh! It’s good old Choke-a-Cola… Luckily we found some of the garra charrúa Nequecaur picked up while at Danubio as the big man came up with an 88th goal and another one just 5 minutes later for good measure.

With the table looking like there wasn’t a milimeter to give up, it’s the goals average that gets us through. Not sure how it would have been split up had we tied as we were on the same amount of goals conceeded and scored, and the match between us was a draw, but luckily I don’t need to find out.

So, it’s gonna be a two-legged affair to take the Sergipão in a Ser-Con Derby for the ages. It’s been 18 years since Sergipe beat Confiança in a Sergipão Final. Here’s to keeping the tradition going!

As always, thanks for reading and take care!

P.S.: Sorry for the “Kominsky Method”-style titles, couldn’t resist.

Published by fromero92

Argentinian writer and journalist

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