Our form across the last three months drastically picked up with the shift to the new tactical approach. Could we maintain that over the course of the rest of the season though? Have a read on to find out how we did in my second season in charge of Vitória on FM19.
Fernando Cardozo is really starting to settle in to the complete forward role up top and make it his own. He started the month by scoring three in three and hit another against Belenenses which took his tally for the season to 13 in all competitions.
When Giorgi Arabidze scored at Goodison Park to put us 2-0 up on aggregate in the Europa League 1st knockout round tie I was delighted but I knew it wasn’t over. Football Manager has this funny way of knocking you right back down again. Being 2-0 up going into the last 45minutes of the tie with a teamtalk in front of you is a tricky position to be in. Everton scored three in the space of 10 second half minutes just after the break and controlled the rest of the match. It’s a valiant effort in our first foray into continental competition with me in charge. Just days after knocking us out they went on to win the Carabao Cup.
Arabidze is another who’s relishing the tactical shift, I pointed him out in the post explaining the new approach, and he had a brilliant month as our IF on the left. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to make his loan move permanent, but it’s always nice when temporary deals work out well for your club.
Setúbal sat in against us with four players across the defensive midfield line in front of three central defenders, the first thing I chose to do was move our DM up to form a midfield three. My thought was that this would give us the upper hand in the middle of the pitch. After we hadn’t created much in the opening exchanges, despite focusing the previous tactical post on trying to have us not relying so much on crosses, I decided playing wider and stretching the play even more would open up a few holes in their solid defensive block. It paid off as Rafa Soares fired a cross across the penalty area for Jhon Murillo to tap in at the back post. Grønli placed a long range effort into the bottom corner and we used his set piece prowess to good effect for Thaciano to grab his first goal for the club.
Our league form across the month sees us ending it 3rd after Braga lost twice against Boavista and Nacional. It also earnt me second in the Manager of the Month, I’ll win one eventually!
We’ve been unable to beat Benfica so far during my time at the club, with three losses out of our last four against them. I gave this one a bit of a build up on my Slack channel, but fully expected the usual defeat, especially as the Estádio da Luz. Two well-taken goals in the first 20 minutes from Guillermo Celis, who’s really played his way into my first 11 with all action displays compared to captain André André recently, and winger Jhon Murillo see us leave Lisbon with all three points.
We were hit by international call ups in the first leg of the Taca de Portugal semi final. No Víctor Garcia at right back, no Grønli in the middle, no Murillo on the right wing and no Ferreira as an option off the bench. The team was still strong but it wasn’t as full strength as I’d like going into a domestic cup semi. Luckily, we played brilliantly and remarkably went 3-0 up after just 15 minutes against what looked like a strong Benfica side too, similar to the one we’d beaten two weeks before. Conceding two goals in the 2nd half makes the tie look much trickier than it could have been in the 2nd leg with away goals in play, we’ll do well to make the final.
Despite beating Benfica twice this month we were then unable to defeat mid-table Maritimo. Three of their four shots on target, and six shots overall, went in while we had 61% of the possession and 26 shots. They sat in well, kept us at bay and hit us on the counter when they could. We need to be winning these games if we want to progress to the next level. Sérgio Conceição pips me to yet another Manager of the Month award. His Porto side have won their last 14 league matches to be fair though. Despite that loss to halt our unbeaten run in the league, I was offered a new two-year contract by the board which I duly accepted. We’re onto something good here.
The start of April belonged to January signing, Mohamed Daramy. He rescued a point for us off the bench against Boavista, another match we entirely dominated but struggled to break down a stodgy defence, and hit the only goal in an important 1-0 away win against Moreirense in the Cidade de Guimarães derby, again after coming off the bench. Unfortunately he picked up an early injury when I decided to start him against Braga but we luckily didn’t need him this time, triumphing in another Minhoto Derby against my friendly foe, André Villas-Boas. We benefited from the cracking own goal below against Braga, it’d be the last gift the game gave us this month.
What a fucking finish this is btw.
— FMSamo (@FM_Samo) January 5, 2019
Sigurd Grønli has been nominated for the Primeira Liga Young Player of the Year, which is well deserved. The favourite for both Young Player and Player of the Year, and who I voted for, is Benfica’s Dani Olmo. I wish I could rescind my vote after playing our Taca de Portugal 2nd leg against his side. I knew a two goal lead wasn’t going to be enough to take to the Estádio da Luz. We’d made it to half time without conceding, and I was confident of going through when they went down to 10 men with Germán Conti red carded with half an hour still to play. I shouldn’t have been. It gave Benfica even more impetus to go for it and I made some poor tactical decisions in hindsight. Why did I drop our wingers back and shift our formation to a standard 4-1-4-1? Why did I drop our mentality down to cautious? We had the upper hand and up until that point we were playing fine. Dani Olmo fired in a second half hattrick to send them through to the final where they’ll play Braga. The all important second goal came in the 91st minute, and when I attempted to throw everything at them, they countered two minutes later for their third. When that first appearance in a final, and hopefully first trophy win, eventually comes, it’ll be great.
The Benfica match was the last match I played on a Saturday evening, and the Tondela match was the first match I played on the Sunday morning when I woke up again. I took a little break from the game after that. We went 1-0 up, then 3-1 down, then got it back to 3-3 before we conceded in the 94th minute to lose 4-3. Fuming doesn’t really cover it.
We’ve secured a top five finish ahead of the last three matches of the season in May, but we still need results to secure our second consecutive 3rd place finish and our passage into the Europa League group stage again. We’re currently five points ahead of Braga and one of the sides promoted from LigaPro last season, Estoril.
After we took first half leads in both of those matches against Pacos Ferreira and Estoril I thought we’d kick on and secure all three points with a few more goals, only to be pegged back in the second half in each of them. Both of those results, and results elsewhere, means we’ve secured 3rd place. We somewhat sleepwalked our way to it, but I’ll take it nonetheless. It pleased me that the players kept their concentration up in the last match of the season against Sporting, Venâncio scoring from close range following a scramble after a corner.
Despite our second consecutive 3rd place finish I don’t think it’s quite the case of us taking Sporting’s place in Os Três Grandes. They’ve had a shocking season, granted, but it’s more like Os Dois Grandes. Porto and Benfica are a level above the entire league and both bettered their points tallies from last season this time out. Porto retained the Primeira Liga title, but Benfica took home both cup competitions. They had to overcome the toughest of teams to get there, obviously.
Estoril complete a magnificent return to the top flight by finishing 4th and qualifying for the Europa League. AVB’s Braga had a decent season too and they’ll enter into the early qualifying rounds too. Like I said already, Sporting had a season to forget. Luis Freire got hired in December after Paulo Sousa’s sacking and arguably did worse and is lucky to still be in the job at the time of writing this. They’ll be no Clássico Vitoriano derby next season as Setúbal go down along with Gil Vicente.
Looking at our season compared to last we regressed by one point, losing an extra game. We scored exactly the same number of goals but conceded eight more over the course of this season. We definitely looked more solid defensively last season with the three at the back formation, so something to think there. Looking at our defeats, a few were certainly preventable.
I would say we were only outclassed and outfought in that Porto loss early on in the season. The Benfica 90+9 defeat is still a sore one, Estoril beating us in the 94th minute and Tondela doing the same in April are equally as painful and defeats that we should, and definitely can, be improving on. Setúbal obviously eventually went down, while Maritimo finished a lowly 14th. If we can start to turn these defeats into wins, or even draws, I’ll be much happier. Who knows, it might even see us challenging for the title…
Next week I’ll bring you the same stat review of the season which seemed to go down well for last season. Then we’ll get stuck in to my third season at the Vitória helm.
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