The title says it all really as we ended an epic campaign by securing our second Alpine League title. You can find the first update here to give you a bit of background on the save if this is your first read.
This season was, once again, dominated by our offensive players as we scored goals for fun but left a lot to be desired at the other end of the pitch. We conceded the same number of goals as last season at a rate of greater than one a game but thumped our goals scored record with 10 more than last term.
Much of this, and certainly the defensive vulnerability, was down to the experimentation with the Baldrick tactic as detailed in my last update. It keeps a hell of a lot of possession, usually 65%+, and with our front four that’s going to spell trouble for any team. However, I just couldn’t get the DR-DC-DL and 3 DMC’s combination to provide any sort of defensive stability against the better sides and even average sides were finding it relatively easy to create high quality chances with their limited possession. All of this has convinced me to return to a standard back 4 with the two protecting midfielders varying between the DM and standard MC line depending on opposition.
The most pleasing aspect of this season was that we managed to see it out despite our last three fixtures being what you might consider to be “a fecking nightmare”. Juve (A), Inter (H) then Bayern (H). Not the easiest run-in I’ve ever had. 5 point, including an absolute battering of Inter in the top 2 showdown was enough. Just. You can see our fixtures since Christmas here.
You’ll notice from our fixture list that we’ve finally relented on our status as cup specialists. For the second year in a row, Lyon defeated us in the First Knockouts of the Champions League. This time they didn’t need an away goal advantage though, just a ‘keeper in Hugo Lloris who is practically unbeatable on his day and effectively “superkeepered” me in both games. God I hate him.
The Rolex Cup was even more disappointing as we went out to Nurnberg, a team that I always seem to struggle against and then went on to thump me in the league a few weeks after. At least we got to the final of the Fiat Cup, and in some style as we scored 17 goals in the preceding 5 rounds. Defying logic, then, we conspired to lose 2-0 to second tier Bologna.
There’s no doubting where our strengths lie. Going forward we play some fantastic stuff and you can see from the screenie above that part of our effectiveness lies in the sharing of offensive duties between the four. Rogalski is the creative force playing in the trequarista role with Sturm wide on the right playing as an out and out winger, hugging the touchline and throwing in dangerous crosses. Leitner, on the other flank, cuts inside to offer a different attacking angle whilst Zeh is the focal point and main goal scorer. The one thing Zeh lacks is raw pace, although he’s improving, and so Kyle Thomas is the alternative – with raw pace, flair and dribbling to get in behind.
Paul Marz is an interesting one. He started life at Sturm Graz and, due to our rivalry, was never interested in moving to us. Instead he went to Fulham where he was never going to play. All of a sudden he decided that playing for Rapid might not be so bad but Fulham were wanting something like £6m for him whilst he Marz himself was demanding £20k per week. There was no chance I was going to spend that on an untried player but I still fancied him as a prospect so I’ve taken him in on an 18 month loan for which there was no fee and I only have to stump up £2900 a week ro cover his contract at Fulham. I’ve also put in a £5.75m future fee. So I get 18 months to decide whether he’s worth it, saving £1.3m in potential wages and no-one else can sign him until I make my mind up. Win all round.
Plans for next season…
Well, quite frankly, I’m sick of our defence being awful. Our best defensive record came in 2014/15 when we conceded 27 goals, a total I’m still not entirely happy with. On top of that we were anaemic going forward and played hideously stale football. So I have to come up with some way of maintaining the free-flowing football in the final third which is so entertaining to watch AND effective; but tighten up at the back. Whether this is by further experimentation with the Baldrick tactic or amending the standard 4-2-3-1, I’m not yet sure.
One thing I can’t do is look to bring in new personnel. There aren’t any Austrian alternatives in defence and the newgen intake was again poor for defensive recruits. It was, however, utterly magnificent for the attacking players once again as the quite brilliant Michael Strobl will soon be strutting his stuff at the Gerhard-Hannapi.
Speaking of the stadium, I am sorely tempted to ask for a new one now. We sell out every week and have more than enough money thanks to my frugal nature, boasting nearly £70m in the coffers. It won’t be named after me though as I’m still only a club “icon”. My ego will probably just have to deal with that disappointment.
Gaston Ramirez will be leaving the club on a free transfer this summer as I don’t think his rotation status justifies the £30k per week he wants and Thorsten Hammer put in some eye-catching performances during his loan spell at Wacker, enough for me to give him the first team opportunities he wants next season.
So a successful season all told with a host of youngsters getting their chance and more than a few of them proving worthy of my faith in them. All of which bodes well for the national side who are so far progressing serenely through qualification for World Cup 2022, that is if a 6-3 away victory in Turkey, a country not famed for it’s hospitality towards Austrians, can be called serene. There’s very little else to report on the national side, though, so I’ll keep concentrating on Rapid for just now, particularly since the international squad is now made up of 19 Rapid players plus Alaba and then some dross to fill the numbers.