I’m so glad January is over. What an absolutely abysmal month it was for us. It included a 3-1 league defeat against our rivals and being knocked out of both domestic cup competitions, falling short against Nacional in the Taca de Portugal 6th round (quarter final) and the semi final of the Taca da Liga against Porto.
This post has a tactical tweak, more player signings and our best month of the season so far. What a treat. Read on!
Tactical tweak time.
And it is just a slight tweak. One of the two behind the striker has been shifted forward to the front line to make it a two up top. I’ve tweaked the attacking midfielder role to be just that, with a few edits to the instructions. Asking him to be more direct in his passing (getting it in to the forwards quicker) and asking him to shoot less often (being more patient rather than snapping at opportunities). The change instantly pays off with Welthon scoring his first goal since November and laying on another assist in a comprehensive 3-0 win over Carlos Carvahal’s Rio Ave. Youngster, Mário Ferreira also made his debut off the bench, slotting in to that AM role.
Mateo Cardona comes in for a four week trial. I’m quite surprised he hasn’t been snapped up yet as I’ve heard big things from fellow managers across the world, especially Diego Mendoza and AccordingtoFM, so I wanted to see how he’d get on.
Would you sign someone just for their set piece ability? Probably not. My coaches don’t particularly rate Cardona at all, and have him down in sixth for his ability to play AM versus the rest of my squad. I decided to offer him a deal and have him playing for either the u23s for the remainder of the season, or get him into the B team squad if I could. Unfortunately, personal terms couldn’t be agreed. I’ll not have players hold me to ransom like that.
In other post-window transfer news, I’d been looking for another striker to add to the squad, and my scouts came back with the recommendation of Luiz Phellype.
He’s starring for Pacos Ferreira in the second tier after their relegation last season. Luckily I won’t be paying that estimated potential cost of £1.1m as his contract is expiring in the summer. I think he looks like a good option for us, and my scouts certainly think so too, estimating him to be our best striker. Ex-Porto forward, Kléber, is also playing well in the second tier for Estoril with his contract expiring at the end of the season, but his wage demands were too high for me at the current time.
Back to match action. I’d already mentioned we followed up the Santa Clara win at the tail end of that awful January with a brilliant 3-0 over Rio Ave. Wins against relegation threatened Feirense and mid-table Moreirense followed. January signing, Pará, made up for his penalty error that knocked us out of the Taca de Portugal with a thumping volley in the 94th minute to secure the 1-0 win after we’d battered them without scoring. That was the Cidade de Guimarães derby too, they play in Moreira de Cónegos which is in the principality of Guimarães. Always good to to get three points in a derby.
The thumping win over Tondela ends the month with 10 goals scored and zero conceded and has us sitting in 3rd place. I count that as a very successful month. While the opposition wasn’t strictly any of our direct rivals, you can only beat what’s in front of you. Those results leave us 17 points behind Porto in 1st and 16 behind Benfica in 2nd, who’re both still absolutely flying and battling it out for the title. Unfortunately Sérgio Conceição also guided his Porto side to four wins this month, so I had to settle for 2nd in the Manager of the Month award. They conceded a goal! Should’ve been me.
The big news ahead of the last game of the month was Sporting sacking José Peseiro with them sitting 5th in the table. A league defeat against Benfica left them 20 points behind Porto in 1st place and they were knocked out of the Europa League 1st knockout round against Bordeaux in the same week.
It would be a tough feat to match last month with a home match against Benfica followed by an away match in the Dragão. We took one point from six earlier on in the season in these matches. Two points from six would be a treat this time round.
I’ve been on the lookout for a new goalkeeper. Douglas has been solid for us between the sticks so far this season, but he’s 35 and I’ve decided not to renew his £3.9k a week contract which expires at the end of this season.
I think I can get a bit more out of 22-year-old, Jori, than America Mineiro have been. He’s largely been their back up keeper, and had become unhappy in that role. His handling, reflexes, one on ones, agility, jumping reach, kicking and throwing is all better than or equal to Douglas’, alongside his concentration, decisions and determination too. He’s one inch taller, but has a worse aerial reach. He’s joining in the summer on an eventual £250k deal worth £1.6k a week.
Benfica destroyed us down the wings in the first half, playing a 4-2-4 formation with Cervi getting a double for them from wide left. After our strong showing across the five games prior to this one I hoped we would put up more of a fight. In truth we barely threatened. The same can’t be said for the Porto match.
We were excellent throughout, outpassing and outplaying our opponents in their own backyard. They’d only conceded six league goals in 23 matches before this one, really tough to breakdown but we had a few other really good chances to score before Davidson popped up in the 81st minute to head home a brilliant delivery from Rafa Soares.
It would’ve been great to make it two wins on the bounce but I did expect Portimonense to cause us trouble. They have some really dangerous players including Jackson Martínez and 24-year-old Japanese international, Shoya Nakajima, and it was the latter who fired in a second half free kick to give them all three points. We’ve got to be more clinical. 25 shots with 13 of them off target, including hitting the woodwork twice.
Two months of the season left, the business end is fast approaching. How’s the league table shaping up?
Despite their home defeat against us, Porto top the table by two points. After their win against us, Benfica drew their next two matches against Belenenses and Santa Clara. Both clubs also crashed out of the Champions League this month in the 1st knockout round, Benfica against Real and Porto against Liverpool. Our brilliant February form and the Porto three points drags us back up to 3rd from 5th at the end of January. Paulo Sousa has started well at Sporting and Belenenses continue to punch well above their expected position of 9th. Abel Ferreira becomes the sixth managerial casualty of the season at Braga, with the board citing a poor league position as the reason. I’d better watch out in future seasons. Brutal.
In other news, ahead of the Portimonense match to round off the month, I made the decision to sack B team manager, Alex Costa, with the team floundering at the foot of the LigaPro table six points from safety with eight matches to play. I can’t sit back and watch them get relegated. I wanted to take charge alongside my first team manager role until the end of the season but the game didn’t seem to want to let me do that, despite me setting it as my responsibility. Ex-Sturm Graz goalkeeping coach, Martin Klug, has been hired as the man to try and save them.
Thanks for reading and for all the interactions around all the posts so far. Next time I’ll be finishing off my first season in charge of Vitória, see you then.