So it’s at this stage of the season, 10 to 15 games in, that I would usually take some time to analyze how things have been going. Particularly with a new club or a new tactic it can take this long to get a fair impression of what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong and what improvements I’ll need to look at in the transfer window which is approaching.
I’ll apologise in advance as this is going to be statistical overload in parts and many readers may find that dull although I’m hoping that it may show an alternative approach to others and I know some people who will definitely enjoy the stat attack (hi Dan!!).
To give you an idea of what’s to come, I’ll first look at the overall performance of the club before analyzing the tactic from front to back, then look at the personnel involved before diving briefly into other areas of the club such as finances, the youth team, etc.
So the first thing to look at is how we’ve been performing on the pitch and the only statistic that matters – results:
With two top half and two bottom half teams yet to play before the reverse fixtures, that would seem to be a fair indication of our true performances. The media predict we will finish 8th and the board want a mid-table position so 3rd has to represent a successful opening stint.
Other things to note: we have the joint best defence, the 4th best goal-scoring record, we seem to score slightly more in away games and St Etienne are having a shocker. For my part, I’m absolutely delighted with that. I set out to have a stingy defensive record and that’s exactly what we’ve got. We’ve kept 10 clean sheets in 15 games and, I have to say, not by luck. Even in those games where we’ve conceded goals we’ve rarely given away many chances or allowed the opposition to make many attempts on goal. We had a slightly sticky spell in October when we lost to Sochaux and then got thumped by OM before conceding a late equaliser at Lorient. The morale slumped and we were in danger of heading into a job-endangering downwards spiral before lucking out with a penalty victory over second tier Clermont in the cup. From then on, we’ve been imperious and are currently on a 5 game winning and clean sheet streak.
So, how has this been achieved, well it’s time to delve into the tactic.
The combination of the back 4 and 3 DMC’s has been working an absolute treat. In 15 games so far, we have only given up 32 shots on target (doesn’t include shots off target / blocked), an average of a little over 2 a game. That has to be a good start.
As you can see, we have yet to concede a single goal from a cross. Also, with just 6 assists attributed to the opposition, there were 4 un-assisted goals (including our mistake) which means first time hits where we’ve given it away or the opposition have collected a clearance, i.e. shots from distance.
Looking at a breakdown of the defensive statistics, the one on the far right is the most pleasing. When I use my first-choice defence, we are conceding less than a goal a game with Congré proving himself to be a key figure. There are, however, some worrying statistics. Whilst the defenders’ pass completion ratios are starting to improve (thanks to a deeper striker and my lowering their creative freedom), the successful tackle ratios for the two centre halves are worrying low. As a result, Congré has been put on a heavy individual training schedule to improve his tacking (13) but I’m keeping Abdennour’s on passing for just now.
Secondly, Fofana’s successful headers ratio is shocking at just 59%. The obvious villain here is his jumping (just 10) and so he has also been placed on a heavy personalised training schedule to improve this attribute.
Other than that, I’m very happy with the defence and the only personnel changes possible are the replacement of Ninkov with youngster Aurier who is proving an adept option; and the introduction of Fofana at centre half, rotating with Congré or Abdennour to maintain fitness.
The midfield hasn’t quite worked out how I intended it to when designing that tactic but, quite by accident, I have stumbled upon an alternative successful system. I’ve changed up the central of the 3 DMC’s from a defensive deep-lying playmaker to a supporting deep-lying playmaker. I just felt that he was being too negative with his passing and was about to alter the instructions myself before wanting to see how the TC change would work.
With both Capoue and Sissoko having the “gets forward at all times” PPM, they really provide drive and attacking intent through the middle whilst returning to their standard DM positions when we lose the ball. It works very well although it is energy sapping and also negates my initial intention to have 3 deeper midfielders rotating the ball from flank to flank and facilitating our domination of possession. Having said that, I’m really starting to think that the reality of the tactic is much better than the theory.
The obvious standout from that is that Neri Cardozo has been a cracking signing. £375k for 11 assists and 3 goals in 14 games is a fantastic return and the inside forward role suits him perfectly. HOWEVER, many of those assists have come from set pieces where we’re strong and so the stats are slightly skewed. Sissoko has been offering a good goal-scoring threat from centre mid with his powerful long range shooting and all three DMC’s aren’t shy at getting stuck in.
The one big let down, and it pains me to say it, has been Daniel Braaten. 5 assists isn’t a bad return but he’s yet to score despite getting into some great positions and a better finisher would have had 5 or 6 goals by now. His finishing attribute shows little sign of increasing despite the heavy personalised schedule and I think I’m going to need to replace him sooner rather than later.
This is the area of the tactic that still needs most work. Bulut and Floro Flores have each been given their opportunities but I can’t settle on a role that I want the lone striker to play as I like certain aspects of each type of player but find myself limitations in them all. In some ways, the fault for the strikers’ lies with myself as much as the players themselves but it’s very typical of me – in nearly every tactic I’ve ever created there is one player that I just can’t decide what I want to do with.
From that, I’m now convinced that I’m going to give Bulut his chance. Averaging almost double the number of shots per 90 minutes than Floro Flores, his goals per 90 minutes is similarly twice as good. My latest attempts have been to use him as a supporting targetman, a position for which is attributes are ideal. It should also give the fullbacks a focal point for their crossing rather than the smaller and less aerially adept wingers.
I’m still unconvinced that either Bulut or Floro Flores are the long term answer and I am almost certain that I will not take up the future fee in the latter’s loan deal. Whether I make a move for an alternative striker in the January window is up for debate though. I can’t foresee me having settled on a role for the lone striker by then and I’m not keen on wasting good money on a player than may become obsolete within months.
Very, very happy thus far. I’m made small tweaks here and there through the season to the defence and midfield and I think they’re now more or less settled. The only remaining alterations are up front with both the inside forwards and the lone striker, particularly the latter. Using Bulut as a targetman, I’m going to experiment with giving Braaten a more winger-like role which will both suit his attributes and help take advantage of the targetman’s moderate aerial ability.
What comes next is keeping a note of what mid-game alterations work against the various formations that I face and from there attempting to pre-empt the AI with proactive / reactive tactics.
Personnel and transfer targets
The screenshots above show the majority of the personnel at my disposal. The only remaining position is in goal where Ahamada has come into the team and has yet to concede a goal. Needless to say, I’ll be sticking with him and hoping to develop the potential my coaches see in him.
I’m generally happy with the squad depth in defence and midfield; the only area that I can see me strengthening is the deep-lying playmaker position. Didot has been okay without excelling. I would prefer a player that simply recycles the ball square and rarely plays a pass further than 15 yards whereas Didot has the “tries long range passes” PPM which is preventing him from doing this. It’s not critical though and my limited funds will be best used elsewhere.
Similarly, I will be looking in the long-term for a replacement striker but, as detailed above, I’m going to wait until I decide what I want from him before investing. More likely to see immediate activity is the right-wing position currently occupied by Braaten. Neither Riviere or Regattin are tempting me to use them whilst I get the feeling that Braaten could be so much more dangerous with some finishing ability, Loic Rémy would be in double figures by now in that role. Should I be able to find it in January then I’ll be investing in a long-term replacement. With Cardozo capable of playing on the right as well as the left, then I have an option to bring in a player on either side.
I do not, however, have masses of money to spend which brings me on to the next point…
We’re losing small amounts every month although I’m not hugely worried by this. Much of the loss can be attributed to the agent fees that I’ve had to pay in order to tie-up key players to long term contracts: Abdennour, Capoue, Sissoko, Fofana and Aurier amongst them. The £1.2m I’ve paid out will be returned many times over by those 5 players alone, not to mention the savings in potential transfer fees.
What concerns me more is that my wage budget is around £400k more than my monthly gate receipts. As we only took in £2m in season ticket sales, we’ve only covered 5 months of losses. Again, this is due to me giving the players longer contracts and I’ve redirected the transfer fees that I’ve received into the wage budget as a result. This means I have a little over £1m to spend in January and that is likely to mean I’m priced out of nearly every player who can strengthen my squad.
Therefore, I’m likely to simply wait for the first batch of newgens and keep my money unless I can find another Cardozo-esque bargain. Come the end of the season, I’m hoping to be in European competition and attracting more fans to Le Stadium Municipal which has thus far averaged 65% capacity. That, combined with a couple of high earners leaving such as Pelé’s retirement, should give me enough wiggle room to do some serious business.
The other option is to sell in January and Everton are sniffing around Braaten. I would be sorely tempted by a decent offer and anything north of £6m would be impossible to turn down.
Lastly, I’ve been looking at my squad management which I think is currently in pretty good shape. The full squad has 51 players which isn’t too high although 9 rotation players and 13 back-ups means that we still have room to trim.
The key area that is lacking for me is in the youth squad. We have a few real prospects such as Bangré, centre-half Amiot, Akpa-Akpro and Aurier who I’ve already used in the first team, Castaing and Dabase. However, there are still a few areas where there aren’t any youth players that I can reasonably expect to make the first team in a few years: ‘keeper, defensive mid, left wing and up front could still do with strengthening. Therefore I’m keeping an eye out for youth bargains and will be sending my scouts around Africa to find the best newgens shortly. Even a few who won’t make the first team but can be sold for significant profit would be handy as we look to boost the finances.
As we’re a relatively small team, and certainly can’t compete with the finances of Lyon, OM and PSG, youth development is our best long-term policy and it’s something that you’ll probably see repeated throughout the updates.