Kids. Who’d be daft enough to have them? Well, quite a few people as it happens, myself included. The problem with kids is that there’s a lot of years when they aren’t all that good at doing stuff. I’m not talking calculus here, I mean the basics. I’ve lost almost a weeks worth of sleep of late because my 18-month-old is sick and can’t blow his nose. So why do we bother? Potential of course, right now he could be anything, a footballer, doctor or superstar blogger like his dad. The point is that it could be easy to dismiss someone before they’ve become the person they were meant to be. Now, developing youth is not a new concept for many Football Manager players but I have never been great at it so this is more me setting out how I plan to integrate the youth already at the club.
I moved to South America to not only seek a new challenge but to also fulfil my fancy for the more experienced player. Hoping to field a side whose average age was higher than my own, all with mentals higher than most newgen ages. But this isn’t as sustainable as I had hoped. Sure, my ageing América side gets stick in the press conferences due to their advancing years but with that comes other issues. They all carry influence in the dressing room and if they don’t get the minutes it kills the morale.
In past editions of the game, I would almost ignore the youth we have already at the club. Not necessarily in favour of established players but at least for players I have brought in myself. This time, however, many of my back up players this season have come from the youth sides. I want to first of all trial these players and see if any will make the step up before dismissing them. There will be a few who get unfairly cast aside for not fitting the system or being too far down the pecking order for their position.
I have highlighted a few younger players (25 or less) who are not regular starters but who I aim to bring through more over the coming seasons. They have mainly featured in the Copa Colombia this season but also regularly come off the bench in league ties. The Cup begins as a four-team group unless you are one of the sides who have a bye to the next round. It is your standard six-game group so plenty of game time ahead, even if we didn’t advance. Only the top side are certain to progress with the four best second-placed sides joining them. From there it is straight two-legged knockout football so the potential for adverse effects from fixture congestion would be high without a deep squad.
We performed well this season and hit our board set target of round three. Unfortunately, we were dumped out by a late goal, one of those where you save right after, turn the laptop off and don’t play for a week. The best part of our run was knocking out Millonarios in the second round. The two games came a matter of weeks after they had beaten us in the Phase One Final to lift the title. It was important for us to prove we can beat them should we meet in the same stage again in the future.
So who performed well and could be in line to make a step up for more regular first-team action? I earmarked a few younger, sub 25 years old, players before the start of the season and hoped to keep an eye on them. What follows is how these players have compared to their first team counterpart in the limited time they have been given.
Given that I currently operate with a two-man central midfield places are limited and the player’s used need to be adept at a few areas in order to give balanced play overall. Juan Quintero had stood out as good in some areas such as tacking, decisions and work rate. He was, however, not ready for the first team as generally, his attributes were quite low. Nine months into the game he has improved in some areas but the 20-year-old is perhaps still a back up for another season or two. He is competing for a place with one of my best players in Jonny Mosquera so, for now, he will not dislodge him. Only time will tell how long Mosquera will remain at the club though as he has already started to attract interest from other clubs in the league. We do not need to sell though, and I will do all I can to hold on for now until Quintero is ready
From the above it is clear to see that he is not yet able to cut it on attributes alone, but how does he stand up when we look at his stats compared to Mosquera? the below table shows a comparison of a few key stats for the position and role I want them both to play, deep-lying playmaker.
Now, we must take into mind that Quintero was not afforded game time in the important games against top opposition so this may skew the data a little. As we can see Quintero has a better tackle success ratio than his more experienced counterpart. He does, however, fair worse in headers won per 90 minutes and is winning a header less every two games on average. Quintero is also down on interceptions made per 90. There are differences but they are not all that clear on the defensive side. Perhaps Quintero is not yet ready to start every game but I shouldn’t avoid giving him more time for fear of him being a barn door in the centre of the park.
What about the other side of the game, creating and providing support? Quintero’s pass completion is 10% less than Mosquera which seems bad on the face of it, but an average of 77% is quite good for any player so it could be the case that Mosquera’s is higher than the average. His key passes are lower, but given that he has played almost 2,000 minutes less than Mosquera, a difference of 20 is not bad.
Overall I have been pleased with Quintero but I would not go into the next season with him as my main midfield option. If our América side is to push on and challenge for the title and continental competition then I believe we need a back up who is similar to Mosquera. It may be worth getting a player in on loan to cover so that Quintero can develop more over the next season, perhaps doubling his game time, and be ready for first-team action in 2019.
I went into the season with three experienced central defenders and two backups. In January I believed that Efrain Cortés would be my main CD and, after viewing his attributes, believed the 33-year-old would be a permanent fixture. Soon into the season though, he injured his knee and would be out for five months. Being down to just two first-team options I had to assess who would be there should another injury or suspension happen. Eder Castaneda had promising attributes, more so than Quintero, but possibly not yet ready for regular first-team action.
Castaneda’s attributes are what I would expect as a minimum for my central defender for América’s level. 11-13 ratings in the key areas are acceptable but will be unlikely to excel. At 25 there could be a small improvement to these but can his stats stand up to the older and more experienced Cortés?
At just under half the minutes played the younger Castaneda is already outperforming Cortés in many areas. Although he attempts fewer tackles per 90 minutes, he is more successful when doing so, missing just 10% of tackles made. He has attempted and won more headers per 90 minutes also, and made around a third fewer mistakes, even when taking into account his reduced game time. Overall, I would be prepared to use Castaneda as my main rotation option next season. I believe that he has shown himself to be useful at this level and outperformed a more experienced player.
Edit – I had thought to move Cortés on at the end of the current season already due to his poor injury record, however, the player has decided to retire so the need for Castaneda to step up is far greater now.
Another player who will be leaving América during the next season is Dario Bottinelli who has been my top performing player all season. He has the highest number of assists and is the top scoring non-striker in the squad, all from the wing position. We do not own Bottinelli as he is on loan from Liga MX side Deportivo Toluca and with a value of over £5m, we will not be able to bring him back. Replacing Bottinelli cold be key to our next season, but do we have someone already waiting in the wings to take over?
20-year-old Franky Montano could be an effective replacement in the future but from what I have seen so far from him, he is not ready to become one of the key players to our team. Admittedly I have not granted him too much time on the pitch, just 353 minutes all season and so perhaps another season or two as back up would be best for his development. Montano’s 15% cross accuracy is the same as Bottinelli’s over the season, but he is far down on the number of dribbles attempted and passes completed. Another option is needed to replace Bottinelli for the 2018 season.
Special mention goes to 17-year-old forward Mayer Vidal who has scored 32 goals in 34 appearances for the under-19 side. At the start of the season, I had not factored the U-19’s into the first team game time plan for the 2017 season but Vidal’s record was hard to ignore. His minutes have so far been limited but over the coming season will be involved far more.
Overall I am excited to see where the youth can take the club. We have some interesting prospects outside of the senior side and with a little more game time and care we can help to bring them through. Youth intake day is due to be at the start of next season, in early January. It will be interesting to see what sort of players we get from that and hope we can bring them through in a similar manner.
Too long; didn’t read? We gave the youth players some time in the cup and have some viable backups for next season and one player who is ready to be a rotation option.
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