While it is still really, really early in the season, over the past couple of weeks I couldn’t help but watch with keen interest at the progress Famalicão are making and have made so far and ultimately thought it more than fitting to take a closer look at their start to the 2019/20 campaign.
For FC Famalicão, the club formed in 1931 in Vila Nova de Famalicão, life outside of Portugal’s top-flight had become somewhat the norm, with their last top-flight appearance coming in the 1993/94 season and the club finding themselves languishing in the third tier of Portuguese football as recently as the 2013/14 season. The fortunes of this club however, have changed recently for the better. In the 2018/19 season, they finished 2nd in LigaPro (The Portuguese second tier) and were thus promoted to the Primeira Liga, for the first time in over 20 years. Carlos Pinto was the man who led Famalicão back to the top flight, but after completing his objective of getting his side promoted, he opted to once again drop a tier and take over Leixões SC.
With Pinto’s departure, Famalicão called on the promising yet unproven João Pedro Sousa. Best known for being Marco Silva’s long-time assistant, Sousa had accompanied Silva in his beginnings of his career at Estoril and had faithfully followed him every step of the way, most recently taking up the role of assistant manager of Everton. The opportunity to take over Famalicão it seems, was seemingly too good an opportunity to turn down and this project presented Sousa with a step into management without too much pressure or risk.
The big task before the start of the season was to assemble a squad that could cope with the demands of playing in the Primeira Liga. Shrewdly relying on free transfers and loan’s, Sousa and his team have built a solid core squad that are currently working together and for eachother to achieve results.
Fábio Martins, loaned from SC Braga, has already made an immediate impact, with 2 goals and 1 assist in 4 games and the highest WhoScored rating of any Famalicão player (7.65 Per Match Average). With just 39 Liga appearances during his time at SC Braga, it may well be that Famalicão can be the place for the 26-year-old to fully flourish.
Defensively, Sousa has Famalicão well organised and well-drilled despite the relative young age of the back four. Nehuén Perez, the 19-year-old highly touted Atlético Madrid central defender made the loan switch to Famalicão to gain vital match experience, since moving he has played every minute of the Liga campaign so far, as part of the defence that has kept 2 clean sheets in 4. Perez has impressed so far with his maturity and decision making at such a young age and has also chipped in with a goal.
Famalicão kicked off their season away to Santa Clara, where they ran out 2-0 victors, a a superb start to the campaign. Starting off the season away from home is always difficult, especially for a newly promoted side, so to walk away with 3 points and a clean sheet, regardless of the opposition is a great achievement. The following week they hosted Rio Ave, where they had to remain patient and also rely on a little bit of luck as Rio Ave missed a 92nd-minute penalty which would have been the equaliser, Famalicão held on and won 1-0. A 1-1 draw against Europa League participants and well-performing Vitória Guimarães was the biggest indication of how well things were going, to go away to Guimarães and perform the way they did and to come back from 1-0 down to salvage a point will have filled Sousa with confidence and admiration in particular for the character shown by his side. If Sousa wanted any further proof of his side’s hunger and character, then he will have had to look no further than his sides 3-2 away victory over Desportivo das Aves. After hitting the bar and then going 1-0 up, Lionn was given a straight red card in just the 28th minute, a hammer blow. To make matters worse, Aves equalised just 3 minutes later and began to take control of the match. However, despite playing with 10 men they continued to push and take the game to their opponents, winning a penalty which Martins converted before Silva scored the third in the 86th minute. A late consolation for Aves in added time was not enough and Famalicão took all 3 points.
At the time of writing, the international break is about to begin and Famalicão sit 1st in the Primeira Liga, with 10 points from 4 games thanks to 3 wins and a draw. With that being said, it is only 4 games into the season and while I will not get carried away and do not expect Famalicão to be crowned Primeira Liga champions at the end of the season, I do however believe it is right and fair to give them the attention and plaudits that their early efforts into the season they have made. Great job so far from the players and Sousa, I for one cannot wait to see how they do for the remainder of the season.
Aaron – Próxima Jornada