South American Journeyman Recap #25

What’s up guys? Welcome to a new Monday Recap of the South American Journeyman. First of all I want to apologize for the lateness of this episode. The way I have it planned, the episode should be written by Saturday, so Sunday I can focus on the finishing touches and scheduling; however, I was delayed, and when I got a massive headache on Sunday, it was impossible for me to sit and put this together.

On a different topic… We’ve reached the 25th chapter of our South American adventure! I just wanna thank you guys for all of your support throughout the ups and downs of this blog and this series. You’ve been fantastic and I can’t thank you enough.

When we left off last time, we had just reached the halfway point of the season, with Cienciano in a comfortable 5th position, just outside the Copa Libertadores qualification spot. Let’s see how things went from there!

Highs and lows of life at the Andes

After our good run at the Copa Bicentenario, I trusted we could carry some of it into the Closing Stage of the league. Effectively, wins vs. Universitario and Universidad Técnica de Cajamarca followed by a draw at Sport Boys put us in contention for the Clausura title. 

However, that quickly unraveled. Our August form was dismal, taking just 5 points out of a possible 15. It was all crowned with a rather frustrating loss vs Sport Boys that sent us out of the Copa Bicentenario, pretty much ensuring we’d remain without silverware for the season.

After that, our game was inconsistent at best. For every top performance like our 4-0 dismantling of Comerciantes, we had results like our absolute no-show vs. Alianza Lima or a total colapse vs Ayacucho in the last matchday. For every hard-fought won like the one we got vs. Cantolao, a mediocre performance like the ones vs. bottom half sides like Manucci and Alianza Universidad.

It was also very clear to me as the season progressed how toothless we had become in terms of opening up defenses and clinging on to results. With our mid-season signings failing to make any significant impact, we had to rely on some degree of tactical improvisation, which yielded very little results.

They main take from this is that we’re too dependent on the wide players managing to take over the game, with other avenues for chance creation proving highly inefficient. In terms of penetrative runs and combinations, we were very static and passive, which takes us back to the drawing board for next season, as we look for a set-up that provides inside runners, and the opportunity for them to shine.

In the end, we just barely made it into the top 8, which should get us a Copa Sudamericana spot. The only rule that could get us outside has to do with the winner of the Copa Bicentenario winner taking a spot, but as that was claimed by 3rd placed Alianza Lima, which should therefore get a ticket for the Copa Libertadores. It’ll be confirmed as soon as the league Play-Offs finish.

The final table after all 34 matchdays. We finish 8th, which should be enough to claim a Copa Sudamericana ticket, but I’ve seen fishy stuff happen so maybe we won’t. Universitario and Alianza Lima claim 2 and 1 extra points respectively as their youth sides won the Reserves league, cause this is South America and we can’t keep weird competition formats away…

Injury Time

As you might recall, I took over the managing of general training for the first time after reading my mate FM Parloq’s guide on the subject. It was a fairly complex experience as I had never worked on it, finally developing a steady work methodology inspired on Jose Mourinho’s application of the periodisation concept.

Whilst I’m still figuring stuff out on that front, and still looking for ways to improve, I was very attentive to see what effect the change in methods had on the players. It’s early days to claim much improvement on the footballing sense (though some outliers like goalkeeper Galo Portilla seems to be benefitting already), but there might appear to be a very clear consecuence on a different front, the squad’s fitness.

Five key players missed 6 or more weeks injured during the season, which forced us to do some very experimental rotation. That, mixed with some very bad luck concerning suspensions, forced us to name a 14 player squad for a match once, namely the 11 starters and just 3 substitutes. 

Taking a look at the injury history screen, it seem a high porcentage of these were muscular problems, sustained while on training, which very much gives grounds for the training argument. In any case, it sets this season as a benchmark for the next one to compare over, and then we’ll be able to make better judgements.

Whilst I’ve always preferred a short squad, where you can guarantee solid minutes for every player, if we end up proving our new training regime was to blame for our injury woes, a larger list of players might prove necessary, particularly if we make it into continental competition. 

What’s next?

With the season nearly over, it’s time to plan for the next. In terms of future, and also luckily squad rotation, we had our first Youth Intake. I was a bit dissapointed that our HoYD wasn’t able to imprint his personality on more youngsters, but still I was able to salvage some kids. 

I’ve also made the effort to sign some youngsters for the Reserve side, to grow a solid youth team from which the club can draw going forwards, and will continue to do so. For the first team, however, a few more chances are coming. As I previously pointed out, I was quite disappointed with my mid-season signings, and already built the basis of our side, it wasn’t hard to find how we could improve

I’ll be looking to move our first couple of top signings, as now it seems evident that they’re on massive deals, and with better players spotted, those two foreign spots could be better used.

So glad Neil deGrasse Tyson took some time to comment on my squad building. Wasn’t aware he was into peruvian football though… or FM blogs…

Places where I’ll be looking to bring players will be the wingbacks, where no one looked a settled starter despite heavy rotation and chances, the centre backs, which probably account to our weakest spot overall with quality hard to find in the Peruvian market, and the deep striker, a spot where we probably lack and ideal fit after we had to get a striking partnership together anyway we could last time around. 

With December just about to start, it’s a great moment to think our next moves and plan ahead. We’re still probably a couple of steps away from a title winning side, but after finding basically the shell of a club on arrival, to finish 8th and take (hopefully) a continental spot seems a great first season, and the ideal spot to build upon.

Until then, thanks for reading.

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