Cruzeiro – going down, but on the way up.

Good day to you all!

As you all know, it’s been a disappointing season for Cruzeiro, finishing a frustrating campaign in 19th in Division 4, condemning them back to Division 5 football next season. Boss Robérto Downinho was relieved of managerial duties to give the board time to plan what the next step is for the leadership of the squad. After 6 intense hours of deliberation between midnight and the following sunrise the board elected to reinstate Downinho as the only suitable candidate for the job, stating his commitment and passion for the club as the reasons.

Season 14 definitely goes down as a failure in the eyes of the majority. A step back, and back to square one. However, it’s very easy to see past the progress the club has made in the last year. Downinho is by personality a modest man, normally not one to blow his own trumpet. However, some data has surfaced showing the improvement of the Cruzeiro players and squad since the very beginning of his tenure, and the results are pretty impressive.

This spreadsheet shows the team when Downinho took over, and what has happened to the players’ ratings since.

With no disrespect to the previous Cruzeiro manager, Josh, upon analysing the squad, Robérto decided a squad overhaul was the objective. Josh had achieved playoffs near promotion with this squad, which was a fantastic achievement, but Robérto felt the majority of the players were too old and on a downward trajectory, and the rest had very little potential or immediate chances of rising. Looking at the column of the players ratings now, it appears Downinho was right.

In the 12 months + since then the team has undergone numerous transitions and player trade-ups, with the objective always to improve the first team rating and reduce the squad age if possible. This kind of change takes years to maximise and is still a continuous work in progress. The team has come on leaps and bounds since the start, the boss is always looking for trades, always scouting for talent around the world, which will only add more value and interest to the team. Here’s how the team looks now.

The charts show a respectable average rating increase and a dramatic average age decrease.

The first team average rating has increased from between 85/86 to 87/88, a big difference in the starting 11 in relation to being able to compete with other teams. Just as importantly this includes 5 players rated between 88 and 90, a huge improvement on our best player formerly being 87 (and over 30 years old). It’s almost 100% factual that the higher rated players perform better and provide match winning contributions, and players like Haller, Traoré and Golovin certainly give Cruzeiro a better chance. This group of players is almost fully consists of players that are not yet passed or reached their peak, with a couple of experienced veterans thrown in for rating balance. In most of the team there is still room for rating growth.

Whilst Robérto has done his very best to build a first team with solidity and longevity, the same dedication has been given the the youth team and young players. Belief that there’s always hidden gems out there in the external market makes the manager resilient in his quest to unearth them. In plenty of countries and divisions can you find a young player gathering good gametime, take the gamble on them, then time will tell. An ordinary example of which is Piero Hincapie, signed cheaply from Talleres at the beginning of the year, became an undisputed starter for club, then made his international bow. Subsequently he’s put in stellar performances for Ecuador in the Copa America, and is now highly sought-after both in real life and in Top100… (can’t go a day without getting a bid or a counter for him!) There may well be more like this in the youth team, that will either become valuable assets for the future or trade bait.

So the season has been poor, Downinho accepts that, though also placing blame on injuries, suspensions and early red cards ruining matches, feeling the SM match engine has rained down its fair share of misfortune on the team. Another couple more wins and Cruziero would have been safe, a couple of better tactical implementations on matchdays could’ve done that too. But Robérto is positive going back to the drawing board for the new season. Late season form has shown improvement from the new signings and strengthening of the team, and the players seem to have finally gained a bit of cohesion. Bounce-back promotion is an uncertainty at this stage, as there’s sure to be a lot of strong teams to compete with, as well as a slice of luck required here and there. But one thing is guaranteed, Cruzeiro will be stronger and will continue to build to be better until results do finally come.

Thank you for reading!

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