We are back to update you on the first season of El Ciclón.
I spent my pre-season focused more on my staff than my players. This was partly because I was somewhat happy with my squad and because I barely had money to spend. In terms of staff I had to get busy as we lacked quality and abundance in several areas. Unusually, the Assistant Manager role was already well fulfilled and I ended up renewing Enrique Carreras’ contract.
As a result of not focusing much on my squad, my friendlies were a total disaster and I started to doubt my journey in Argentina would last more than a season.
As you can see, we had a tour in China and we were clearly not prepared to match the opposition. Furthermore, even when we returned home we had problems with teams way below our level in Argentina. We were scoring goals but we were also conceding them.
Although I didn’t have much money I still wanted to strengthen my squad a little bit. We lacked quality in the left attacking wing and I discovered Leonardo Pisculichi as a free agent. The fact that he could also play at AMC was a bonus and he ended up signing a 3 year deal.
In the recent past I have barely played with two strikers as I always feel my teams get too exposed at the back. I’m not sure why but with Fulham, for example, even after some years in the premier league, if I tried to play with two up top against a championship side I’d get trashed and ended up losing or drawing in goals galore games.
However, given our quality in the Striker position and the fact that lots of Argentinian teams park their buses I had to try this again and make it work. Considering that our 3 Strikers were Gonzalo Bergessio. Nicolas Blandi and Martin Cauteruccio I still had to sign someone to be my 4th Striker as Tomas Conechny and Ariel Fantoni were not ready for first team commitments. As I hold great expectations from these two I decided that a loan was the best way of fulfilling this 4th position. When I started scouting strikers available on loan my eyes glared at a special name: Angel Correa. The San Lorenzo lad returning home even for just one season would be brilliant. However, PSG crushed my dreams in seconds. Right after Atleti accepted my loan proposal they came for him as well and of course I had no chance to sign him.
Luckily there was another player available on loan who caught my attention. One of my legends in FM15 with Fulham: Lucas Boyé. Torino allowed him to join San Lorenzo on a year-long loan and Juan Penetra rejoiced.
These two transfers happened on the first transfer window but I’m gonna fill you in on the January transfer market as well. In Argentina you have a restrictive transfer window where you can sign two players. As I needed a right-wing player to backup Mathías Corujo I decided to sign Ivan Píllud from Racing. The fans didn’t quite enjoy signing one player from them but he’s a really good player and he has been quite good for me.
That was it in terms of incoming transfers. In terms of outgoing transfers I had to sell one player because he was complaining he wasn’t getting enough first team football. Franco Mussis would be a useful player throughout the season but as I hate having players whining all the time I decided to let him go. Monterrey came knocking and he was sold for 1.9M€ and I put him in the reserves team.
Our first competitive match was in Copa Sudamericana. For those of you who aren’t familiar with South America, this competition is the second most important in terms of continental football. It’s like the Europa League of South America. If you wanna know more about SA I truly recommend a recent post by FM_Grasshopper where he details all the intricacies of managing in Argentina. I read after being already in Argentina and I learned a few things myself.
Our journey in this competition was a bit short but I believe it was for our own good. We were unfortunate to draw Lanus right at the second round. The first leg went well with us not conceding any away goals but the second leg was not good enough. We even started winning 0-1 but I was still getting the grip of my team and we just couldn’t comeback when they made the 3-1. Despite the fact the board expected me to reach the final of the sudamericana I believe being kicked out was a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to have a less congested schedule and we could focus on fighting for the league title.
When I looked at the league schedule for the first time I knew our start would have to be very good in order to have any chances of achieving what the board expected. In our first 7 league matches we had to face Huracán, San Lorenzo’s biggest rival, the other 4 constituents of the big five: Boca (A), River (H), Lanús (H), Racing (A) and we also had a trip to La Plata to face Estudiantes. On top of all that, we also had the away game against Lanus for the Sudamericana.
As you can see we did pretty well and got 16 points from out of the first 21. What was very special about this start was that after the first seven games we had already played almost all our competitors and we could build our momentum by defeating less powerful teams.
What did this lead to?
SAN LORENZO ARE CHAMPIONS
Apart from some draws and my most embarrassing defeat in the Football Manager era we managed to beat River and Boca and clinch the title.
If you are not familiar with Argentina’s new league format you might be thinking: ‘You were just thrown out of the Sudamericana and you still get to play the most important continental competition in South America in the same season? These guys are nuts!’
I know this is mental but I’ll explain. The Sudamericana that I lost was referent to the year 2016 while the Copa Libertadores started in 2017. San Lorenzo qualified for the group stage of this competition because they finished second place in the season 2015/2016. So how did we do in this competition? The draw wasn’t very kind with us and we drew São Paulo, Queretáro and Medellín. However, our away performances were decisive and we managed to win the group along São Paulo.
In the year 2016 I didn’t get to play any Copa Argentina games because San Lorenzo were already eliminated when I joined the club. However, in 2017 we got to play two games where I could assess the potential of our youth prospects. These games went smoothly and I was really happy with Ariel Fantoni getting his first goal for San Lorenzo.
I’m really sorry this post was longer than what I’d like. Given the start of the season I always feared I could be sacked and all my writing would have to be thrown out of the window. In the near future I’ll try to do more frequent updates along some live tweeting. What you can expect soon is the update of the next transfer window along with the rest of the two Cups we will play until the end of 2017: Libertadores and Copa Argentina.