Welcome back! Another season down, my first in Mexico with Xolos Tijuana. It’s been another brilliant, epic season. The club were expected to end mid-table, did we exceed expectations? Did the new patch wreck my tactic? Well lets take a look and find out!
Firstly let’s discuss transfers. I won’t go massively in-depth into the out’s, we lost a few but none of them were needed. The squad itself when I took over was quite thin. I did recall a few players from their loans to add a few to the first team squad which helped. Another thing that really didn’t help was the fact I took over 4 days after the Mexican domestic deadline has passed. This meant I couldn’t sign any Mexican players until December! Pretty bad so I had to rely on the boys already here and also add a few foreign players to the ranks without going over the quota of 9 foreign players in the match squad of 18 (12 in the whole playing squad).
So as expected there were quite a few in’s, we were struggling in goal, defence, well actually all over the pitch!!
Transfers In – Pre-Season
Luca Mancuso – Goalkeeper – Free Transfer
With me unable to sign any Mexican players I decided to bring a foreign GK in for nothing who I will look to replace next season. Mancuso was by far the best GK I could find and actually looks decent. His GK attributes are pretty good as is most of his important mentals. A good back-up.
Lehlohonolo Ngcamu – Central Midfield – £725k from Orlando Pirates
When you leave South Africa what’s the best thing you can bring with you? That’s right a bloody awesome South African! We were seriously short in Centre Midfield and with me wanting to play my trusted 4231 I had to improve that area of the pitch. For such a low fee Ngcamu is sensational. A proper hard working, attacking central midfielder.
Jefferson Salazar – Central Midfield – £1.3m from El Nacional
The second CM to come in and another quality one. Salazar is much more defensive minded so hopefully alongside Ngcamu they can prove to be a brilliant partnership. His mentals and physicals are really good as is his passing, tackling and technique.
Marlon Marroquin – Central Defence – Free Transfer
I didn’t massively need Marroquin but when my scouts recommended him to me I had to snap him up. A top quality back-up and for no money.
Jhonnys Barrera – Striker – Season long loan from Atletico Nacional
A last minute loan signing. We only had Nilo and Charrupi as mainline strikers, I had signed one but as he was Mexican he wouldn’t join until December. Barerra joined a month into the season mainly because my Strikers just weren’t scoring enough.
Transfers In – Winter Window
Here come the Mexicans!!!! With me missing the Mexican deadline by a few days I signed a few to make sure they were set to join for the Closing Stage of the League campaign.
Leif Henriksen – Striker – £2.5m (rising to £5m with add-ons) from Pumas
The Striker I really wanted at the start of the season. Neither Nilo or Charrupi has filled me with confidence so I needed a proper quality Striker on a permanent deal. Henriksen fits the bill!
Jorge Arturo Uribe – £2.1m from Pachuca
Another midfielder but he was needed. We managed through the opening stage with my 2 new signings, 2 other CMs who really weren’t good enough and a couple of youth players and with the Mexican player rule I needed other options in the squad. With Ngcamu and Salazar my main 2 CMs Uribe will have to settle for a place on the bench for now.
Edgar Alvarez – Left Back – Free Transfer
Mexican LBs are very hard to find! With Benitez (on loan for the season) as my only first teamer I needed a back-up. Alvarez was signed on a 6 month deal to just fill the squad!
So transfers done, quite a few but if you’ve read the opening post you will know my squad was quite thin, I did recall a few players back from loan, these were RW Kojak, CM Valenzuela and RW/LW Herrera just to give us more options until the Winter window opened.
Now let’s see how the season went…..
First up is the only Mexican Cup Competition. For a normal team there is no incentive to win this, no continental qualification, hardly any prize money as well, but for me it adds another cup competition to gain the “Win 20 Cups” achievement where I’m currently on 15, so not far away!
The cup starts a with a group stage, we were given what looked like a tricky draw where we faced two top tier teams in Leones Negros and Santa Laguna.
We started off with a decent 2-0 win over Leonos but then were brought back down to earth with a 2-0 defeat to Laguna. At the half way point we all sat on 3 points. After a little break we played our final 2 games, a 2-0 win over Laguna was followed by a drab 0-0 draw against Leonos, that draw meant we had topped the group.
Into the knockouts we go and as you can see below we breezed into the final. It started with a comfortable 2nd round win over Toluca. In the Quarters we lost the first leg away to Atlas but smashed them at home 5-0 in one of our best performances of the season.
Into the Semis and we faced a tough test against Pumas, the first leg once again was away and we played amazing to win the game 3-1 giving us one foot in the final. In the home leg we didn’t play well but a late Barrera goal nicked a 1-1 draw. Finalists!
Where we face a 2-legged tie against Monarcas Morelia who were down in mid-table in the League.
The first leg (as always!) was away and we managed to grab a 2-1 win courtesy of another late goal, this time from new signing Uribe.
Then came the 2nd leg, home advantage and a lead to look after. The games itself was scrappy, no one could finish a chance but just before half time that man again Uribe picked the ball up on the edge of the box to smash past the keeper into the top right of the net! 1-0 and 3-1 on aggregate. Now all we had to do was hold on!
They came at us and got a goal back with 15 minutes to go courtesy of poor defending from a corner. We switched to cautious, got everyone behind the ball and it worked a treat, the whistle went and we had done it! COPA MX WINNERS! An amazing feat in my first season in charge!
So a cup win in the bag but could we do something even better in the League?
The League season is split into an Opening and a Closing Stage, at the end of each stage the top 8 go into a knockout phase to decide the overall winner of each stage, that winner gets automatic qualification to the North American Champions League.
Liga Bancomer MX Opening Stage
With us predicted to end 13th and with a slightly thin squad until my Mexican players came in I wasn’t confident on how the Opening Stage would go and when we lost our first game 3-0 against Guadalajara I was really worried! A switch in style to gegenpress seemed to work and we won our next 3 scoring 12 goals along the way. Form throughout this stage was good but it was also littered with poor draws or shoddy defeats, somehow as we entered the final couple of games we sat top but the League was so tight, 3 games left, we could end top, we could end 10th, there was 5 points separating all those teams!
We managed to win 1 and lose 2 of our final 3 games but it didn’t matter, we hadn’t ended top but we had qualified for the knockouts which was my aim.
4th place is a fantastic achievement but if we hadn’t lost those 2 games at the end we could’ve ended top!
Into the knockouts we go and we started with an absolute kick in of Morelia but we were to come unstuck against Pumas in the semis. We played well to win the home leg 1-0 but they showed their class to come back and win the tie 2-1 on aggregate.
Liga Bancomer MX Closing Stage
Now to the Closing Stage and with the Opening one going so well I was confident for another good run.
It started well with 2 wins out of 2 but this is where the wheels seemed to fall off. 4 games, 1 win, goals being conceded all over the place which hadn’t really happened before. I can’t put my finger on what went wrong, the main thing I noticed was the amount of late goals we were conceding, in those 4 games we lost or drew with a last minute goal in 3 of them.
A team meeting was called, I told them to not drop their heads, it boosted morale and boosted results. A 6 game winning run came from nowhere and we also had stopped leaking goals.
With 7 games left we sat top of the League once again but with the Copa MX games coming thick and fast we seemed to lose our way. 1 defeat was followed by a win, followed by a defeat, rinse and repeat! A 4-1 win in our final game over Cruz Azul was amazing and with that we had ended one place better than the Opening Stage.
Into the knockouts! Where we would face Pumas (who beat us in the Opening Stage Knockouts) in the Quarters, well it’s safe to say we didn’t get our revenge, a 1-0 defeat in the away leg meant we could go into the second leg at home with half a chance but we managed to put in our worst performance of the season to lose 2-1 and 3-1 on aggregate. A really frustrating end to a brilliant campaign.
I’m going to something different here and tell you my Best XI for the season. I won’t post screenshots for every player but just the ones you haven’t seen already in either this post or the previous one, I will however talk a little bit about each man in the XI.
Goalkeeper – Assael Sifuentes – He was picked out as a key player in my previous post and I’ll be honest he could’ve been better. He averaged only 6.87 in 41 games. 11 clean sheets in 30 League matches and 17 overall is decent but I end up slightly disappointed in him.
Right Back – Felix Fischer – One of, if not my player of the season. This youngster is incredible. 44 games played, a 7.19 average, scoring 2 and getting 7 assists. Will I have him next season? Well If Man U, Arsenal or Liverpool have their way it’ll be a no!
Left Back – Roberto Benitez – The on-loan full back had a decent season, playing 35 games, averaging 7 and getting 8 assists. We won’t be seeing him next season though!
Centre Back – Gonzalo Goni – I picked him as a key player and he proved to be exactly yet. The Player of the Year played 41 games, averaging 7.20 and grabbing 3 goals along the way.
Centre Back – Bruno Amione – Another player I picked as a key man in my previous post and just like Goni he didn’t disappoint. 44 games, 2 goals, 3 assists and an average rating of 7.18. What a partnership!
Central Midfield – Jefferson Salazar – No surprise with who my midfielders are. New signing Salazar was just amazing all season. He was tired a lot so only played 33 games but averaged 7.14 and chipped in with 2 goals and 3 assists. 91% pass completion as well! Sexy!
Central Midfield – Lehlohonolo Ngcamu – And this guy was brilliant as well. I expected more goals from him, he only managed 3 in 42 games and got 8 assists. He started slow but grew into his role in the team as the season went along.
Right Wing – Brayan Barron – 9 goals and 10 assists in 36 games from the 34 year-old right winger. Game in, game out he was solid and always looked a threat. As he is pushing on I may look to replace him next season.
Left Wing – Pedro De La Vega – Another key man picked in the previous post and he was quality as expected. 17 goals and 10 assists in 36 starts, averaging 7.14, when he was good he was incredible but he was up and down in some games, something to keep an eye on.
Attacking Midfield – Luciano Torres – The 28 year-old was brilliant this season, especially with youngsters Iturbe and Uribe knocking on the door. 36 games, 4 goals, 10 assists, averaging 7.14.
Striker – Jhonnys Barrera – It was so difficult to pick between Barrera and Henriksen but the former nicked it because of his consistent performances in the opening stage. He dropped out the team when Henriksen joined but in his 23 starts (11 off the bench) he scored 22 goals averaging 7.31. His loan is now over and he probably won’t return.
So overall a bloody fantastic season. Expected 13th we managed to end 4th and 3rd respectively in the Opening and Closing Stages losing in the semis and the quarters, add to that we won the Copa MX which means it has to be considered an successful campaign.
I somehow managed to turn a thin looking squad into a squad capable of taking on the big boys, let’s hope that can continue into next season! There is one thing I need to talk about and that’s finances. Boy have they gone downhill!
If it wasn’t for the £5m in sponsorships and £5m in investments we would be right in the shit. Because of this we currently have a bank balance of just under £1m. Over the season we were losing over £1.4m a month, that is madness! It all boils down, in my opinion, to gate receipts. £2.2m over the whole season (we had an 83% average attendance), add to that £3m in prize money and around £5m in TV Revenue and that doesn’t even equal what we spent on player wages (£13m), absolutely crazy!
Now because of this the board have given me next to no budgets for next season. Although the news item doesn’t seem to have popped up, the finances page shows I have a transfer budget of just £220k with a wage budget of £385k p/week which gives me about £80k p/week of spare budget.
So in’s will be solely dictated by out’s! I would love to bring in a replacement LB and a Striker but unless I can sign players for nothing or get a couple of loans in I may have to rely on what I have!
Anyway that’s all from for now, I hope you enjoyed the read