@FM_Throwing is back with his latest post where he previews his squad and points out the talent in it.
Before we get stuck into the season I wanted to give an overview of the players I currently have at my disposal. As always, I’ll disable the first transfer window, so the players in the squad are the ones who’ll be here until at least January. I’ll look at each group and those who might or might not be part of the team long-term. To cast an eye to the future, I’ll highlight the young talent who could break through and form the spine of the team for years to come. Also, I’ll see how the players compare to my desired physical profile for all players coming into the squad. As outlined previously, I’m looking for players who are fast, strong and brave, or excel in one of the three areas.
In the first team squad I have two veterans. The best of the pair is Fernando Pacheco. The 30-year-old Spaniard joined on a free transfer from relegated Alaves and is a very good shot stopper. The backup will be Fernando (yes, two Fernados). This one is 32-years old and in his 6th season with the club. Both are solid options, however, neither are what I like in a three central defender system. I prefer my goalkeepers to be at least 6’3” and really good aerially. The two Fernandos are 6’1” and neither excel at dealing with crosses. Therefore, neither will be considered vital pieces of the team and could be upgraded when the opportunity arises.
Prospect to keep an eye on: There are currently no options in the B-Team or Youth Squad who fits the profile I’m looking for who has the projected talent to be a La Liga standard goalkeeper.
The future of the Almeria defence is clear. In fact, if development goes well, our long term three central defenders are already in the first team squad. Both Chumi and Kaiky are already good central defenders who will only get better. Both are comfortable on the ball and strong enough aerially to compete with most strikers in La Liga. Kaiky, who recently joined from Santos for £7m, is only 18-years-old and at 5’11” still has some growing to do. Mendes is a natural left wing back but has the perfect attributes and physical profile to be a good Wide Centre Back. Joining this season on a free transfer from Lorient, he’s a good athlete who’s brave enough to put his body on the line when needed. Standing in their way are Babic and Ely. The former is a Serbian international, who, whilst not the most technically gifted player, is surprisingly good on the ball. As well as being our most powerful defender, he’s also the only left footer. Ely is a Brazilian who’s previous clubs include AC Milan and Alaves. He’s missed a lot of time over the last four years due to cruciate ligament and hamstring problems. A well rounded defender who likes playing long passes, so could fit the system well. Club captain, Cesar De La Hoz, isn’t naturally a defender but he can play there and has the required attributes to stand in when required.
Prospect to keep an eye on: Clearly, Kaiky is the cream of the crop, however hidden away in the B-Team is another Brazilian. 21-year-old Carlao already has promising mental and physical attributes. He’s a La Liga 2 standard player currently, but I’ll keep him in and around the first team squad and then loan him out as soon as possible to get some valuable experience.
I have three options for the left wingback slot. The best is Akieme, an intelligent and powerful wingback who joined from Barcelona B in 2020. Centelles isn’t far behind and should mount a serious challenge next season if he develops well. Both like to get forward but both also need to work on their defensive game, especially heading. The third option is Martos, a well rounded wingback but lacks determination and has question marks over his ability to make it at La Liga level. He might not be around very long. He starts with damaged cruciate ligaments which will keep him sidelined for 5-7 months.
Prospect to keep an eye on: 19-year-old Arnau Sola is out on loan at Real Murcia. He’s got all the making for a good, attacking wingback. His development this season could be crucial for his future.
I’ve already covered Mendes, who’s likely to be one of the three central defenders due to his physicality. Nieto is a good allround wingback, getting his first taste of La Liga at the tender age of 28, after working his way up the Spanish football ladder. His very good acceleration and crossing makes him a good option for this style of football. Unfortunately, like Martos, Nieto has a cruciate ligament injury which will keep him out for 3-5 months. Pozo is naturally a winger and as such has tremendous pace. At only 23, he’s not as polished as Nieto but has room to improve. He loves to get forward and run at defenders.
Prospect to keep an eye on: There are no exciting players in the B-Team or Youth Squad at this moment.
I have two defensive midfielder slots available in the 3-4-1-2. An Aggressor and a creator.
Eguaras is a wonderfully technical and creative player, however, his lack of pace and mobility hinder his impact in a deep midfield duo. De La Hoz is a fan favourite and club captain so I want to get him involved as much as possible. On the ball he likes to dictate tempo and make short, controlled passes whilst off the ball he’s a tenacious tackler with good defensive qualities. Samu is a very versatile midfielder who fits the Aggressor and Creator roles really well. At just 22, he’s a player I’m excited about. Excellent defensively, he’s also got lovely passing and vision and can run for days. He can also play as an attacking midfielder. Melero is naturally a hard working and very well rounded central midfielder. Luckily, he can play in the defensive midfield strata. He likes to dictate the tempo and arrive late into the opposition area so looks a good option for the Segundo Volante role. He’s our best option going forward so far and has 8 seasons of La Liga experience.
Prospect to keep an eye on: Whilst my coaches aren’t too keen on him, 19-year-old Mo Sylla is an interesting prospect. The former Aston Villa player is a tough tackler and with a bit of progression could be a steady back up. As with Carlao, he’ll be around the first team squad until I can loan him out.
A key position in our 3-4-1-2. He’ll be expected to help the front two with our counter-press and get back and support the two defensive midfielders when we’re out of possession. With the ball he’ll be part of our front 3 and provide both a creative and scoring threat. Basically, I need an allround attacking midfielder with a good engine and strong sense of teamwork.
As you can see I’m blessed with a lot of options for this spot. We’ve just covered Samu and Melero, who are both accomplished in the AMC slot, but better suited in a deeper role. Robertone, an Argentinian in his third season with Almeria, is the main candidate to be the starter when the season commences. He’s blessed with exceptional vision and off the ball abilities and is also a strong finisher from long range, as well as in and around the area. He lacks the desired pace and dribbling and at 25, I’m not sure if he can improve there. At 32-years-old, Portillo is our joint-oldest player. Having spent time with Getafe, Betis and Malaga, he’s got 13 years of La Liga experience. Skillful and creative, he’s not as quick as Robertone but is better at dribbling. Brazilian, Baptistao, is naturally an attacking midfielder but he lacks the work ethic to trust him playing in the AMC role for any extended period of time. Which leaves us with two exciting youngsters. Puigmal, formerly of Man United (and known as “Arnau” in the match engine) and Lazaro, another Brazilian, are both definitely ones to watch. Both are creative and have good finishing abilities. Lazaro joined this off-season from Flamengo for £6m and is also an option for a striker role in the longer term. A wildcard option for the AMC position is Embarba. Joining for an undisclosed fee from Espanyol, he’s naturally a winger but has all the qualities needed to be great at this position. However, he’s 30-years-old and “unconvincing” in the position. Can I teach an old dog new tricks?
Prospect to keep an eye on: Federico Oliva is currently in the youth team. The 18-year-old American is a wonderful prospect. Very technical with lots of dribbling ability and flair, his only downside is his lack of speed. If I can get his pace and acceleration up a couple of points he’ll be a terrific player. Another prospect is 21-year-old Javi Robles, currently on loan at Fuenlabrada. 6’2” tall with very good pace and agility, he could be quite the player if he can improve the technical side of his game.
There are two striker slots available. The players filling these will need to be capable of running into the channels and either holding the ball up or running at the defence. As we want a balanced attack I prefer one quick, skillful player and a larger one who is an aerial threat.
Ramazani has electrifying pace and is a good finisher, but needs to develop elsewhere. The second of our former Man United academy players, he’s naturally a winger so is good on the ball and strong with both feet. When he’s in the line-up the key will be finding ways to get him open in the channels. Portuguese veteran Sousa is my kind of striker. Strong, good in the air and brave. He’s no slouch technically either. At 32, his best days are behind him but he should give us some good performances this season at least. He’s also a perfectionist so will be an excellent mentor, potentially to Milovanovic. The 19-year-old Serbian stands at 6’5” and is certainly one for the future. Handled correctly he could be a powerhouse in La Liga. We’ve already covered Baptistao and Lazaro, who are both naturally attacking midfielders but could be a really good fit as strikers in my 3-4-1-2. Both quick, skilful and good finishers. Which brings us onto Toure. A recent £8m signing from Stade de Reims in France. Fast, powerful and with good technique, he’s our most well rounded striker and the only one who could fill both striker roles.
Prospect to keep an eye on:
I could easily choose Milovanovic here, however, I’ll pick the Uruguayan duo I mentioned in the first article. Christian Olivera, on loan at Boston River in his homeland, is a tricky winger who can also play as a striker. Juan Manuel Gutierrez, on loan at Nacional is the more polished of the two. A very good passer and crosser with a great first touch and burst of acceleration.
Before I finish I wanted to give an overview of how the squad stacks up against the rest of La Liga and how it might affect my tactical plans. At least in the short term.
The goalkeeper situation isn’t as bad as I thought it might be. We’re above average for Handling, Throwing and Agility. Aerial Reach, however, is below average. Not ideal.
Worryingly, we’re well below the league average for everything apart from Jumping and Acceleration. Although a natural inclination at this news would be to play a low block, I’ll keep a standard line as I don’t want to allow too much of a gap to appear between my defenders and the pressing strikers. I’m not expecting to be anywhere near the top of the defensive charts, but fingers crossed I can try to negate any deficiencies.
As a team expected to be in the bottom half at the end of the season, it’ll come as no surprise to see we don’t stack up well at all in the middle of the park. The place where games are won and lost. In fact, our midfield is the league’s worst at Tackling. This will no doubt need to be an area of great focus for the scouting team.
Worst in the league for Finishing and Off the Ball movement, but well above average for Heading and Jumping…It doesn’t take a genius to see where our strengths lie and what I’ll look to exploit this season. As a result, Nieto would’ve gotten the nod as starting right wingback due to his superior crossing, if not for his injury. This gives Pozo a real chance to claim the spot as his own. Another advantage is that having three central defenders gives us an aerial advantage over opponents at set pieces
So there we have it. That’s the squad of players who’ll represent Union Deportiva Almeria in their first La Liga season since 2015. The board wants us to become an established La Liga team this season, whilst the fans desire a top half finish… As you can see from the squad comparison, it might be a tricky task… but we’ll give it our best shot.