Season 1 Review
To bring you up to speed, we finished season 1 in 11th place in La Liga. Despite this being higher than predicted, the last article was mainly me throwing a mini-tantrum about the December update and the negative effect it had on my season. From mounting a challenge for the European places, we found ourselves dropping down the table with just one win in the final fifteen games. But don’t worry, I’ve matured immensely since those days and I’m now ready to dive into some stats to see who were the heroes and villains of season 1 on the sun-kissed Andalusian coast.
In this article we’ll look at:
- Team stats and rankings
- Scoring and assists
- Player performance
- The loanees return
- The final squad
It’s no surprise to learn that Melero won the Fans Player of the Season and a great sign that Belmonte was judged to be the best signing.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get into some stats.
TEAM STATS AND RANKINGS
I find it’s much better to get a holistic view of team performance before looking at player stats, as often it shows you things which individual stats don’t. Starting with the attacking stats we get greeted by an entire ocean of mediocrity. However, for a team predicted to finish near the bottom, it’s quite a nice sight.
Let’s start with the worst stats: We’re ranked 19th for penalties, having won only 1 all season. We clearly aren’t being aggressive enough in getting into the opponent’s area and causing defenders problems. The next stats which stand out to me are the crosses completed (10th) and the subsequent success ratio (15th). Crosses and chance creation by my wingbacks is an important element of my strategy. Naturally, playing the diminutive Largie Ramazani up front will automatically reduce the number of crosses won aerially, but he’s certainly got the speed to get to a yard or two on defenders to meet good, accurate crosses. Therefore I need to pay attention to the crossing stats for my wingbacks and see where this can be improved. Is it down to the players doing the crossing, the kind of crosses or the players in the box? Onto the shooting, it seems we’re getting an average amount of shots per game (11th) however we’re doing a good job of getting them on target (5th). What doesn’t match up though is the rate at which we’re converting those shots into goals (15th). This makes me think that whilst we’re doing well getting shots on target, they’re the low xG kind; probably from awkward angles or headers by strikers who lack the power and technique to make more of them.
As I’m mildly satisfied with the rest of the stats, let’s move onto the defence:
I genuinely might not sleep this evening. Or maybe for the next few evenings. Where to start?
We’re not keeping enough clean sheets, we’re allowing opponents to create way too much xG and we’re letting them shoot too much. We’re not tackling enough, we’re not winning possession enough, we’re allowing too many passes into the final third and what’s up with that press? 13th for passes per defensive actions allowed?
Is that my heart rate increasing? Why does my collar feel all tight? Cold sweats are normal in winter…. right???
As with any footballing statistic there’s numerous factors which could account for these issues. Let’s explore a few:
- Our central defenders are all quite young and as a result showed some inconsistency throughout the season. Therefore, it was hard to get any settled partnerships.
- The midfielders aren’t winning the ball back enough. Whilst the signing of ball winning midfielder Tomas Belmonte was a good one, it’s possible he could do more, or his midfield partners could get stuck in a little more.
- Our pressing isn’t effective enough and therefore teams are finding it easier to play through us. When I last looked at our stats during the World Cup break, we were allowing 3.94 passes per defensive action. Now that’s slipped down to 4.34.
- The (ongoing) lack of good team cohesion could also contribute to our poor defensive performance.
Onto the positives, I’m delighted that we’re winning 77% of our tackles (3rd). This shows nice grit and determination amongst the players. If I can get the brains working as much as the hearts and increase the interceptions per game up to the top 5 or 6 next season I’ll be delighted.
SCORING & ASSISTS
I’ve only included goals and assists for the last 15 games as this is when the patch landed and really, that’s all that counts. From the scoring chart on the left, you can see how I was able to make the most of the pace of Ramazani and Toure and play them in down the left channel. This didn’t happen enough and it’s an area of focus for season 2. I’m disappointed to not get the same production of either goals or assists from the right channel. The plan is for the line breaking midfielder (Melero) to get into those areas, but again, it’s something to work on next season. Another area of concern is that it’s clear we’re very one dimensional in that we’re mainly scoring placed shots whilst only scoring 1 headed goal. I need to address this balance next season. It’s pleasing that our joint most assists come from inside our own half, but it also shows how lacklustre our attacking play in the opponent’s half has been.
Uh ho… that tightness in my chest is returning. What screams out here is that we’ve conceded a massive 14 goals from around the penalty spot and the assists seem to have come from just outside the area. As mentioned earlier, it’s possible our press is not effective enough. It also seems our mid-block is too passive. Another cause of potential high blood pressure is the huge number of goals we’ve conceded in the last 15 minutes of games. Obviously this could be the inexperience of a youthful team or general late game fitness issues. Although it’s probably due to my game management, which can always improve.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a season where the backup played so many games. But, thanks to first choice Fernando Pacheco being dropped for a few games due to poor performances and then suffering an injury which kept him out the last month of the season, that’s what happened. The backup, also called Fernando, played in 12 games and actually outperformed Pacheco when it came to goals prevented and save percentage. Despite my defensive issues outlined above, both ‘keepers performed admirably and the data hub backs this up.
Verdict: Both are safe and will be retained for next season.
Left and Right wing backs are one of many positions where we have two equally talented players for each spot. Therefore, I wanted to use this first season to allow each to stake a claim in the future of the team. On the right, Neito missed the first couple of months due to a long term injury and went on to miss a further 7 weeks due to various niggles. Not a good sign which may factor into my decisions. Pozo played more than double the number of minutes (2206 vs 910). On the left flank, both Akieme (1996) and Centelles (1634) played a similar number of minutes because both were pretty inconsistent through the season. Neither were able to put themselves firmly in my plans for next season.
You can see from these Per 90 stats that there’s not much to choose between either sets of players. Akieme seems to have performed slightly better than Centelles whilst on the opposite flank, Nieto was the better passer, whilst Pozo used his pace to dribble downfield and was slightly better defensively.
Verdict: From watching them play and looking at the stats above (and the data hub which I haven’t bored you with, but trust me it wasn’t pretty) it’s clear to me that I need to make an upgrade. Afterall, wing backs are a vital part of my system. However, I don’t feel like through the course of the full season that I gave them the best opportunity to succeed. Therefore, unless a good player becomes available at a price I can’t refuse, they’ll all be in my plans going into season 2.
After the sale of Rodrygo Ely (31) mid-season, our remaining Central Defender corps were quite young. Babic was the elder statesman (27) whilst Chumi (24) and Mendes (25) were coming into their prime. Kaiky, the baby of the group at 19, showed lots of promise in what was ultimately an inconsistent season for him.
Interestingly, you can see that the Left and Right sided CBs, Kaiky and Mendes, are almost identical stats-wise. The central Destroyer role was split between Babic and Chumi, but you can see there’s little comparison with the younger man performing much better.
Verdict: This is a tricky one. I’m hesitant to stunt the progress of the three youngsters, but feel some veteran leadership could be a vital part of their progression as game time is. I’ll be on the look for an upgrade who can bring some experience and consistency to the back line.
I’m pretty happy with the Central Midfielders at my disposal. To jog your memories our tactic has three roles:
The destroyer has the job of breaking up opposition attacks and shielding the back three. Key stats I’ve chosen here are tackles, interceptions, blocks and clearances per 90. Team captain De la Hoz filled this role for the first part of the season before Belmonte joined in January.
Our playmaker/creator has the job of collecting the ball from the defence and moving us forward, either with the ball at his feet or by passing to those in more advanced positions. Robertone has been the mainstay here, although he has shared playing time with Eguaras. I’ve also included Puigmal who has an asterix because he’s only played 403 minutes, mostly against inferior opposition and therefore data could be skewed. Key stats combined here are assists, open play key passes, progressive passes and chances created per 90.
The third role is that of the line breaker. Their task is to be our most attacking midfield option and support the strikers. Therefore, they are expected to create chances as well as being goal threats. For this I’ve chosen shots on target, non-penalty xG, goals per 90 and pressures completed per 90. Melero and Samu have been the constants in this role all season.
Ideally, each player will excel in their specialised role and also perform well in the next role on. For example, Destroyer and Playmaker, Playmaker and Line Breaker. This should show they have more than one dimension to their game. Belmonte is performing well as the destroyer and also looks after the ball well. Melero does well in all three metrics and interestingly Robertone does better in line breaker stats than he does as a playmaker. Eguaras is a pure playmaker and does below average elsewhere.
Verdict: Like the wing backs, unless someone who’s a big improvement becomes available at a price I can’t resist, I think the midfield will remain intact. Eguaras isn’t happy with his playing time so might leave, which will be more opportunities for Puigmal – although he’s been pestering for a loan move for a few months.
As you know we’ve had issues when goalscoring at various points this season. No doubt this is because Toure found his season peppered with niggles and I was constantly trying to mix and match, looking for that perfect partnership. As each player has played as the Scorer and Deep Forward roles at various points throughout the season, we should get a balanced overview of each player’s abilities. I’ve also added pressing stats in here too in an attempt to see who’s not pulling their weight.
- Lazaro: 5 goals, 0 assists
- Toure: 8 goals, 5 assists
- Ramazani: 9 goals, 1 assist
- Embarba: 3 goals, 2 assists
- Baptistao: 2 goals, 4 assists
- Sousa: 2 goals, 4 assists
With Lazaro (21), Toure (21) and Ramazani (22) we have a very promising young trio. Toure was a victim of the patch, as he looked a completely different player afterwards. Ramazani (22) finished as the top scorer and struck up a nice partnership with Baptistao (30) towards the end of the season. Sousa is our only Target Forward-style striker and at 33 brings some veteran leadership. Embarba is (31) another who suffered a few injuries and when fit produced some good moments, however they were too far and in between.
Verdict: This is a tricky area. Both Ramazani and Toure have proven they can score when they find form so I’m likely to let them share the scorer role next season. The deep forward position isn’t as cut and dry. Lazaro isn’t yet producing the stats to be depended on although I’m sure he’ll be a great understudy. I like Sousa’s physicality but he lacks pace and was often left being speedier striker partners and failed to get into the area to support. Baptistao and Embarba are now both surplus to requirements and should leave before season 2 commences.
Verdict: I’ll be on the lookout for someone who is an all rounder. Strong and agile, whilst being able to create and score goals. I expect this is where a majority of my transfer budget goes.
THE LOANEES RETURN:
This season we’ve had 15 players out on loan. Most of which were already agreed before I took charge. Naturally, there’s the hope that one or two will have developed enough to take a slot in the first team squad, allowing us to sell someone else and generate some more money for transfers. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case here. Giant striker Marko Milanovanovic did well in La Liga 2 with Huesca, scoring 6 goals in 18 games. Hopefully a good loan next season might get him ready for the first team squad. Englishman Arvin Appiah had a great season with Tenerife with 10 goals and 7 assists in 45 games. He’s still full of promise but he wouldn’t get near the line up so might send him on loan again next season as he’s still got some developing to do. Other than that there’s no one who excites me. As most are in their early 20’s I might get them off the wage bill and collect any transfer fee I can.
Armed with a transfer budget of £14 million I set out to improve the squad with the aim of signing players who fit my desired physical profile. Any new arrivals should be quick, strong and brave… or excel in one of those areas. With my main target being an all-round striker, I quickly went about creating a not-so-shortlist of 35 players. After going through the scouting report of each, I managed to refocus the list down to a main core of Watford’s Joao Pedro, the transfer-listed Divock Origi, Martin Satriano and Facundo Colidio from Inter and Tim Prica from WSG Tirol. I made Pedro my priority. Despite not quite being able to afford him, I made enquiries, however Watford wouldn’t even enter into discussions so I turned my attention to Satriano. Inter were demanding £12.5 million – almost all my transfer budget but I put Director of Football, Wellington, on the case and he got the job done for £9.25m. Good negotiating from the Brazilian.
Martin Satriano – a complete forward
The arrival of Satriano fits the board objectives of signing players 22 or under, as well as my own objective of signing another Uruguayan. Standing 6’2” tall, he’s good in the air as well as being technically good enough to play as the deeper of the two strikers. He scored 6 goals in Serie A, on loan at Empoli, against an xG of 10 so I’m hoping he was underachieving and will become a regular goal threat as well as using his creativity and anticipation to feed his strike partner with some nice chances. This large outlay reduced the transfer budget to just £5m, but with £210k per week of unused wage budget I was able to adjust the budgets to generate £12m whilst still having £100k p/w spare.
My focus then turned to enhancing the defence and scouring the scouting reports for a Central Defender.
After being informed my #1 priority wasn’t for sale under any circumstances, I handed the task of securing the signing of #2 target Toulouse Central Defender, Anthony Rouault, to Welington, after his good work landing Satriano. After an £8m bid was rejected, our offer was increased to £9.25 which was accepted. Unfortunately, the bid became public knowledge and a host of other teams, including Fulham, entered bids also accepted by the Ligue 1 team. It took two weeks for the young Frenchman to decide, but ultimately he chose the Premier League and ended up signing with Fulham. Luckily, I had a shortlist with 5 other more than capable replacements, including the Brazilian, Lyanco. Having joined Southampton from Torino for £6.5m in 2021, he clearly wasn’t fancied by manager Marcelino as he failed to make any appearances last season. He’s the kind of defender I like, however, and managed to grab him for a bargain £1.2m. I’m a fan of the winds up opponents and brings the ball out of defence traits.
Welcome to Almeria, Lyanco
As Lyanco cost only a fraction of what I was willing to spend in upgrading the central defence, my mind went back to my #1 target again… after going cap in hand to the board I managed to secure extra funds and went back to Hertha Berlin. With the money on the table, they yielded and agreed to sell Omar Alderete for an initial £8m which could rise to £12m. The Paraguayan is very strong in the air as well as on the ground and is incredibly brave and tough. As an added bonus he’s left footed!
Omar Alderete – my kind of defender!!
Of course, with some players arriving, some must leave .After the season finished I had a mild falling out with three players! Unfortunately, one of them was club captain, Cesar de la Hoz, who wasn’t happy with not being played in his desired role, despite only being a squad player. He wanted to leave so I accepted a bid from Norwich of £1.5m. Sad to see him go as it’s a team leader who’s departing, but he wanted to leave. Next to leave was right wing back Nieto. He wanted first team football which I couldn’t guarantee him so was allowed to join relegated Rayo Vallecano for £700k. The final of the three who left under a black cloud was striker Embarba. Luckily, KRC Genk got wind of his unhappiness and put in a bid of £4.3m which i accepted. These are all veteran players who brought leadership and experience, which had me getting nervous. So, you can imagine how I felt when Osasuna bid £1.3m for Eguaras. However, I can’t turn that money down for an ageing midfielder with pace of 7! Other departures of note were defender Martos who joined POAK for £800k.
Ok…one more in…
Just as I was settled and happy with the line up going into the season when just before the transfer deadline, Puigmal reminded me he was expecting to go out on loan. I’d planned on giving him the backup role to Robertone as the Advanced Playmaker, but if he wants a season in La Liga 2, he can have it. Naturally, this left me short so I made one final move for a player I’d had my eye on since near the end of last season. I didn’t think I needed to make a move for him yet and was planning on holding out until at least the January window. With the player valued at £13-£15m and just £5m left, I put in a bid of £4m with two more yearly payments of £4m.
He’s more talented than Melero so will fit into the attacking Mezzala role and hopefully provide a goal threat as well as being able to create chances.
THE FINAL SQUAD
So that leaves us with a final squad of 22 players. A few less that I’d like but I have options out on loan should an injury spell hit. We’ve managed to strengthen the spine of the team with two central defenders, a midfielder and a striker. Roll on the season two…