Toulouse – 13/14 update – l’OM capitulate

So we’re in an incredibly strong position to secure that elusive title but, to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t feel particularly satisfying. If we do win, it’s going to be a case of doing it by default because Marseille have imploded horribly in the last few weeks.

We’ve got 8 league games left to play whilst there are still a number of cup matches left, including at least one final and we’ll have a busy run-in. The high number of games hasn’t been bothering us as much as last season though because of the depth that we now have in the squad and it’s nice to have at least two striking options that I have faith in; both Fletcher and Bezus have been scoring goals fairly regularly without reaching huge numbers.

In this update, I’ll quickly run through our current situation and also cover the reason why I’ve settled on the flat 3 DMC’s as my standard formation, deciding against moving the playmaker into the MC role.

Usual start with the league table:

It might look fairly tight but we’ve got a game in hand and a reasonably generous run-in with the 3 hardest games (Lyon, Marseille and Lille) all at home. So we’ve got a real prospect of opening up that 5 point gap despite a few slips on our part. The biggest factor has been Marseille’s disastrous form and the team is clearly missing the impressive Didier Deschamps, who left to take over the national side in October.

It’s disappointing because, as frustrating as their incessant winning was, it was a great battle at the top of the table and I feel a little like they’re handing me the title rather than us winning it on our own merit. It once again looks like we’ll narrowly miss out on my sub-20 conceded target but the 65 goals scored target is definitely within reach. This is despite games like that against Dijon, shown to the right, where we’ve created masses of chances but failed to take any number of them.

This is my biggest gripe so far this season, with Fletcher being a bigger culprit than Bezus. The Scot may score important goals but he’s prone to missing his share of sitters. Here are the strikers’ stats:

Looking at the stats in isolation you would certainly think that Bezus is automatic first choice but he is not yet a big game player and Fletcher is still best at bringing others into the game. Bezus is more selfish, perhaps aiding his improved scoring record, and makes for a fine super-sub in the big games if I’m chasing the game and need a goal.

It’s not just the league where we’ve been impressive, we’re still in each of the cups including the Champions League:

Cracking stuff, particularly the Man City games in the Champions League where I expected to be roundly thrashed. We rode our luck in the first leg but things went the other way at the Stade Municipal as we were the better side, Man City took their chances but we managed to see it out.

You may notice a couple of new names on the scorers lists there and that brings me to the transfer business we did in January.

Nicolas Isimat-Marin

I’d already identified Congré as a possible weakness in defence who may need replacing in years to come. When he tore his hamstring, putting him out for 3 months, my hand was forced and I invested £5m in Nicolas Isimat-Mirin.

I really like him with high attributes in key areas like marking, strength, work rate and anticipation; he’s quick and tall with decent aerial ability. The only minor worry is his relatively low positioning and tackling and I’ve chosen to work on the former which I see as the key defensive attribute.

Gael Kakuta

The second signing was Gael Kakuta, the Chelsea youngster who caused so many problems for the club when he initially left France back in 2007. He’ll contest the right wing position with Neri Cardozo and, at just £3m, should prove to be a massive bargain.

He’s already been providing a goal threat with his pace, dribbling, flair and technique combining to make him superb to watch. 5 goals in 9 starts is an excellent return and he’s settled in almost instantaneously. As long as he keeps scoring goals like this then I’ll be perfectly happy… (remember to select high resolution)

Lastly, I brought in Israeli Eyal Golasa for just £150k. This is nothing more than a cash-cow signing as I anticipate being able to sell Golasa for at least a couple of million in a few years while he provides valuable cover in the time-being.

With both Isimat-Marin and Kakuta being French, my gradual Francofication (word?) of the squad continues. With the exception of the lone striker role I have a French first-team option for each position and only Abdennour, Cardozo and Fletcher / Bezus can really count themselves as first choice foreign options. The squad is well balanced for the chosen formation too which brings me on to the overall formation.

For those who don’t know, this is my chosen starting formation and it’s served me well so far. Following a review of possible techniques, and with particular reference to FM Analysis’ review of the tactic, I had considered moving the central DMC, the deep-lying playmaker, into the MC role. I do this on occasion and switch the DLP to a defend role but, having given it a 15 game trial, I’ve decided that it is only preferable in certain situations. Having studied the games closely over the last couple of months I can now try to point out why.

As I’d alluded to before, I felt like the wider DMC’s played more attacking when the playmaker was in the DMC line alongside them rather than in front. Here’s a couple of examples:

Here you can see the DLP, playing in the MC position, ringed in red with the wider DMC’s ringed in purple. The wide DMC’s seem hesitant to get forward and I would prefer the DMC’s to be 10-15 yards further forward and providing a real attacking threat. As they are, they are simply in position to collect clearances which is fine by itself but not as offensive as I would like.

Here you can see the opposite happening. The DLP here is playing in the central DMC role and the two wide DMC’s, ringed in purple have broken forward at will. The far-side DLP is in acres of space with an easy pass open for N’Zonzi to find him in space. Over-loading the defence can be very effective in this manner.

Again here, the DLP in the DMC role has dropped deep centrally when the ball is recycled to the centre halves. Rather than being 10 yards further forward with the wide DMC’s offering themselves to the defence, the DLP is in a more advantageous position to collect the ball and spread it wide. The opposition midfield is being pushed back by the advancing DMC’s giving the DLP a little more room to work in.

I’m not denying that the tweak has it’s place though. Whenever I play against a 4-3-3 with an AM and two MC’s, I tend to switch to the amended Téfécé tactic with the DLP pushed up and then focus the passing down the flanks to take advantage of the additional space we can exploit here. By attempting to break the connection between the two MC’s, I have more success in denying the opposition the lion’s share of possession whilst still starving the room available to the AMC by utilising two DM’s and employing a high line.

Regardless, tweaks continue to be made but the deep 4-3-3 remains the basic shape and will be what I use as we try to push for that elusive title. With Bayern to come in the Champions League I think we’ll crash out at the quarter final stage but that would still represent a successful campaign whilst we still have both domestic cups to contend, including Lyon in the Coupe de la Ligue final.

Things are looking promising for Le Téfécé and let’s hope we can finally secure the silverware I feel our progression deserves.

Allez le Téfécé!!!

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