After the departure of important players like Drazan and Schimpelsberger then I guess it was always going to be difficult to maintain the very high standards of last season and some sort of drop in performances was to be expected.
Some of this might also be down to the stagnation of the 3-4-1-2 and a move to a new tactic which I have included in the post below.
As well as detailing all the results and the new tactic, I’ll give a break down of every (important) player in my Rapid Wien squad, followed up in the next post by a breakdown of non-Rapid international players. I’ll try to do this the year following every World Cup for however long this save lasts.
For now, let’s look at how we did this season…
As always, we’ll start with the league table:
As I said, we ended up winning the thing by 13 points but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. Mattersburg capitulated horribly, winning only one of their last seven games and gifting me the title after pushing me quite close right up until half way through April. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why as they only had a couple of injuries to unimportant players but, all of a sudden, their fantastic goalscoring record dried up and their leaky defence caught up with them.
Despite winning by such a margin, we actually accumulated 3 points less than last season and scored 15 goals fewer but improved our defensive record by 9 goals. We won the same amount of games but turned 3 draws into 3 losses, most of which came through a really poor spell in November.
To me, this was partly because we were distracted by an excellent Champions League performance, something which also seemed to cost me success in the domestic cups as we went out to Hartberg in the Youth Cup and then LASK Linz on penalties in the Austrian Cup quarter final.
That excellent Champions League performance can be seen here:
In truth, we were very fortunate to progress. It’s unusual to see a team get out of the group with 8 points and even more so when they’ve got a negative goal difference but we won the key game coming to the end of the fixtures and then got a major helping hand when Marseille and Sevilla drew in the final game.
The highlight of the group was clearly the 4-3 victory over a Chelsea side that had Eden Hazard sent off in the opening 10 minutes and although they thumped us 5-1 in the return game, we managed to take 4 points off Marseille to confirm our progress.
We were unfortunate to draw Man City in the first knockout round and, despite a heroic 2-1 home loss, went out 5-1 on aggregate but the best thing about this campaign is that we’re likely to get an easier group next year given the expected seedings boost.
As I said, I had a feeling that our Champions League adventure negatively impacted on our domestic performances but I also felt that the 3-4-1-2 / 3-4-2-1 was going stale and the number of backpost crosses we were conceding was beginning to worry me – so much so that I implemented a new tactic from Christmas onwards. This tactic saw us lose just one league game for the rest of the season, a diabolical 3-0 loss at home to Admira Wacker that came on the back of our Austrian Cup exit.
The basic tactic looks like this with the wide alternative shown to the right:
It’s really more an evolution from the 3-4-1-2 than a completely different system as the wide midfielders have moved back one level to become wingbacks whilst one of the centre backs has pushed up to become a DM and complete a diamond in central midfield.
This second change has allowed me to move the playmaker at MLC into a more advanced position than the previous deep-lying playmaker role, thereby allowing the AMC to get further forward and giving me an extra runner into the box when needed.
This goal is a fine example of how the tactic CAN work offensively:
The wider version simply drops a striker and the AMC wide whilst I’ve also changed the ball-winner in central midfield into a ball player as it tends to be used against more defensive teams that have packed the middle.
What you’ll notice is that there isn’t a lot of advanced settings changed within the TC for these tactics. I usually tweak quite heavily but I’m quite happy with most of the default settings here and I tend to use shouts and in-game manual changes these days rather than a standard set of tweaks.
Probably the most common shout I use is “work ball into box” in order to cut down on the number of pointless long shots that are made. I also make liberal use of the shouts which focus our attacks through the middle or out wide, change our defensive line, go narrower or wider and pass into space. When looking to close out the game I implement a series of shouts including retain possession, take a breather, stay on feet, pass to feet and drop deeper. All fairly self explanatory.
There are a few additional changes which I have considered including dropping the DMC into a libero role behind the two centre backs, hoping to get him to push forward and support the midfield but this is for another time when I have more suitable personnel.
Rather than look at individual players of the season now, I’ll go through a full breakdown of the squad including the up and coming young players that I hope to introduce to the first team shortly. This will also cover players that I’m willing to let leave, identifying weak areas and potential areas of investment.
Lukas Königshofer – 26
He’s a solid enough goalie as evidenced by his 57 clean sheets in the last 3 seasons but I’m not convinced that he’s going to be truly top class which is what I’m going to require.
I’d like my ‘keeper to be a bit more aggressive in sweeping up behind the defensive line but Lukas’ relatively low rushing out and decisions attributes have made me wary of employing this tactic. I’ve had him on a training regime to improve his handling and now that it’s at a decent level, I’ve changed this to a standard “sweeper ‘keeper” focus to try and make him more suitable for an aggressive role.
He’s clear number 1 for Rapid just now but as soon as I find a really promising prospect, he’ll be moved on.
The fact that I don’t have any other ‘keepers to show you highlights the fact that this is a worrying area for the club. I have Thomas Dau in reserve but he’s average at best and a new, young ‘keeper is a priority… I just need to find one.
Mario Sonnleitner – 28
Club vice-captain and all round stalwart since I’ve taken over, Mario averaged 7.61 this season which is a remarkable effort and boosted by the 410 interceptions he made as well as an 85% tackling success ratio and winning 79% of his headers, 68 of them key headers.
I’ve currently got him on a specialised training regime to improve his marking but, at 28, he isn’t going to develop much further but he consistently out-performs my expectations.
In contrast to other experienced players, I’ll probably keep Mario at the club as I don’t feel that he’ll develop any further with game time in a big league. This is the right level for him and he fulfils an important role in bringing the experience to a very young side.
I’ve taught him the “plays short simple passes” PPM which has been vital in preventing him from simply thumping it long all the time. It’s something I do with a lot of my central defenders and I’m keen on continuing this trend.
Lukas Rath – 23
Another whom I’ve taught the “short simple passes” PPM, it works very well as the centre backs look to offload the ball to the more talented DM or to the wingbacks.
A £700k capture from Mattersburg at the start of the last campaign, I’ll definitely keep him for at least another season. He’s recently broke into the national set-up but my coaches don’t think he’s got any progression left in him. I’m hoping this is inaccurate as I’m desperate to increase his jumping and heading attributes before potentially offloading him to a bigger club.
David Domej – 19
I did a slightly naughty thing with Domej, and Grbic in his similar situation, by using by powers as club boss to remove him from a Croatian friendly squad in the hope that I could then call him up for my own national side. Unfortunately, he (and Grbic) refused and have since been called up by Croatia again.
I’d like his teamwork and work rate to be a little higher so have just left him on a standard central defender training regime.
Domej is definitely one of those that I’d be willing to let leave despite his obvious potential. Simply thanks to his choice of nation, anything from £3m up with a juicy future fee bonus will see him move on.
Christoph Habith – 18
One of the reasons I’m so disappointed that Domej has decided to stay Croatian is the relative lack of young central defenders coming through our system. Habith is currently one of the best and has some clear standout attributes in his pace, positioning and decisions.
However, his height, or rather lack of it, is clearly holding him back and a catastrophic ratio of winning just 33% of his headers gives clear evidence of this. If he doesn’t start growing soon then he’s going to have to get moved out of defence or simply be sold and with a poor passing attribute then I really can’t see him being suited to a more advanced position.
Lukas Spendlhofer – 21
When I had Lukas on loan from Inter, I said I was holding back from giving him a permanent deal as I was unconvinced by him. This still holds true and he’s definitely a back-up only and I wouldn’t have brought him in had it not been on a free.
His lack of pace is the main concern as he’s actually got fairly decent attributes defensively. He’s also done well in the DMC position when called upon even with the relatively low 9 for passing.
As such, I’ve put him on a defensive midfielder training regime to try and give him a rounded development but his position is by no means secure. He’s simply a filler whilst I try to bring in more talented newgens… whenever they appear.
Yannik Bauer – 17
Giant newgen Bauer, at 6’8”, is one of my outside hopes for coming through. For me, his attributes are too low in too many areas for him to a be a massive hope. If it was just one or two attributes then I could probably train this out but his pace is relatively low, his marking needs improvement and his anticipation is very low.
Still, the potential is definitely there and he’s better than the others by a country mile. With his aerial presence, he’s a real threat in the opposition area from set pieces and has 5 goals for the under-18s side this year.
What should be clear from the above, though, is that we really need some centre halves to start coming through the academy to give us a proper succession policy in this area. Bauer is decent but he’s only one and it’s a situation which isn’t much improved when you consider other clubs’ Austrian youth… but that’s for a later update.
It should first be noted that I brought in a right wingback on loan from Atalanta, Stefano Cason, in January as cover and he actually performed so well I couldn’t drop him with 15 appearances racked up but I won’t include him here as he returns to Italy in a couple of weeks.
Patrick Farkas – 22
With Schimpelsberger having left us in August, the right side of midfield was always going to be significantly weakened. Farkas has actually performed fantastically well in the ball-winning midfielder role and, with Cason playing out wide, actually played centrally more often.
However, he’s currently our best permanent option for the right wingback position, hence why I am looking for a long-term option here and it will be a main priority over the summer.
There are a few areas where Farkas is lacking but the key for me is the relatively low first touch and technique attributes. With the wingbacks being the only players starting in default wide positions, they really need to be able to hold onto the ball if support is slow in coming. Therefore, I see first touch and technique as vital and am alternating between the two for training focus.
Peter Brandl – 26
You can never really expect much in modern football for £12k but Brandl certainly hasn’t let me down when called upon. As I said when I signed him, he’s never going to set the world alight but he’s done a fine job when called upon – normally in the “easier” league games although he played in 5 of the group stage games in the Champions League, averaging 6.76. Not bad for peanuts.
As there is no progression level left and there are too many areas that need improvement, I’ve simply left him on a defensive winger training regime.
Thomas Schrammel – 27
And yet I’m not renewing his contract this summer… why? Well to start with he’s 27. Secondly, he’s never going to make the national side with Alaba and Fuchs currently holding down that position whilst I’ve arranged a new signing to challenge Potzmann at club level.
He’s going to be a victim of the club and country format because I’d definitely keep him as back-up otherwise.
Marvin Potzmann – 21
His crossing is clearly excellent and it is this which has brought him the 7 assists, a very decent return. He also scored twice in the memorable win over Chelsea and is equally comfortable playing from left wing.
With his positional retraining, I’m currently holding off on any attribute training but once that’s complete there are a few attributes I wish to work on – mostly defensively to give us more solidity on the left. Physically he’s fine but his tackling needs some work and I’d really like his anticipation to keep increasing. Ideally, his off the ball could be higher but he’s got plenty of progression left.
Will he ever be good enough to usurp Alaba from the national team? Almost certainly not but with Fuchs now 29, Potzmann could happily provide solid back-up to our one world class player at international level. Either him or…
Marcel Ritzmaier – 22
He’s quite similar to Potzmann as he’s more suited to an offensive role he’s got masses of progression left and he’ll be put straight onto a defensive training regime to bring that positioning up to scratch with some work on his strength also expected. I really expect to see quick progression next year as the game time should see his CA soar.
It’s worth noting that Spendlhofer and Farkas, both detailed above, can also play here.
Simão – 26
The first bona fide foreigner in the first team in a position where we are really lacking for Austrian options for both the club and country. We have a number of players capable of performing the DMC role but they all tend to be ball-players and lacking something either physically or defensively. Simão is the complete opposite.
I managed to pick the african up on a free transfer as a replacement for Holzhauser when his loan ended. He’s the perfect defensive midfielder for me with raw physicality to go with an hard-working, aggressive nature and defensive ability. His importance for the side can be seen in the defensive fragility we suffered from after he tore his calf muscle.
That injury is threatening to weaken him considerably and his training focus will now depend on what attributes take the biggest hit. The one attribute which I feel is too low is his first touch as he takes a lot of short passes out of defence due to the PPM’s I’ve taught the centre halves, some tight pressing from a more aggressive team could cause us some issues.
Bodo Kern – 18
Kern is the one Austrian hope that I really have for this position. I put out a fairly large fee for a youngster when I signed him for £180k from SKN St Polten in 2014 but he’s repaid my faith in him so far.
He alternates between the ball-winning MC role and DMC, primarily because I have an obsession with playing taller, more aerially prolific players at DMC due to the number of long balls that they tend to meet. His 53% header success ratio is somewhat worse than Simão’s 76% and I feel like we suffer for it.
I want him to keep developing consistently for the moment, though, so haven’t targetted any attributes for the moment and am instead keeping him on a general ball-winning midfielder regime. I had him tutored by Paul Scharner and this has done wonders for his attributes and personality but he didn’t learn the “arrives late in opponent’s box” PPM which may turn out to be an unexpected bonus if he settles into the DMC position.
Dominik Wydra – 21
Another who alternates between MC and DMC but in all three of the roles including the advanced playmaker position. This probably encapsulates my problem with Wydra nicely – he just isn’t really specialised in one position.
He has good attributes but there’s not one above 14. He’s an archetypal all-rounder and seems set to stay that way despite my attempts to make him more specialised.
With better options coming through for the playmaker role, I’ve recently decided to try and take advantage of his height by making him a physical midfielder and have brought his strength up from 7 to 10. Now he’s being moved onto a general defensive midfielder regime to give him steady improvement across the board. Another major issue is his lack of consistency but there’s little I can do about this other than wait it out and hope he improves with age… a common theme with some of my players.
Heiko Sommer – 17
I’m currently working on his passing and alternating this with technique, an attribute I really see as key. He should still develop across the board though, given his age, and I hope to give him maybe 10 to 12 games next season so I can get a proper look at him in a first team setting.
It’s worth considering here that Wydra, Farkas and Kern (above) all play in central midfield on occasion.
Oliver Otto – 18
Otto was one of the primary reasons that I wanted to change from a deep-lying playmaker to a more advanced one. It was also a general weakness with the 3-4-1-2 in that I felt the focus of the team was too deep and I wanted to get the ball forward quicker. Hence the move to 3-4-2-1 briefly with Otto slotting in to AMC as an enganche.
He’s improved solidly in the last year and 35 games has really helped. 13 assists is a good return although it should be noted that 8 of these were from his 12 games at AMC. His creativity should increase naturally with time so I’ve increased his agility training, something which I’ll alternate with off the ball. His finishing is a bit low, as is his long shots, but I’m happy for these to just tick over naturally into the low teens as I don’t feel that they are a key part of his game – despite the excellent finish in the video I posted above.
Along with Hoeneß, Otto is the most important newgen to come through so far and was a bargain at £350. He should be a fixture in the team for the next 2 years at least. I’d prefer to keep a hold of him for at least that long before considering a move abroad so that I can tailor his development more closely.
Kevin Maritschnegg – 25
He’s the main back-up for Otto in the easier games to give the youngster a break and has done well enough without really producing much in terms of goals or assists. He’ll drop out of first team contention next season as there a few youngsters that I’d prefer to try out but I don’t see any financial benefit in moving him on so he’ll likely drop down to the amateurs and provide some experience for the younger players there.
Daniel Gorski – 18
I’ve had him out on loan at Admira Wacker this season but he hasn’t played as much as I’d hoped. Nevertheless, he’s progressed quite well and he’ll be replacing Maritschnegg as back-up for Otto next year.
He’ll be put on a training schedule to improve his passing and will look into sourcing an appropriate tutor for him to give his development a boost.
Valentino Lazaro – 19
The second of my pre-arranged transfers as he joins for just £500 on a Bosman tribunal from Red Bull Salzburg. I’ve been trying to sign him for years and it’s slightly ironic that I’ve only been able to capture his signature now that he’s playing regular football in Salzburg and has rejected their offer of a new contract.
He’s a clear talent and one which I actually foresee playing in the AMC role, running at defences and getting into the box as often as possible. However, I’ve included him here because we have a lot more options further forward and Lazaro will be another alternative to Otto for the playmaker role.
Depending on which role he needs to perform, I’ll switch up his training but my first impressions are that his off the ball and finishing need work for the more advanced role. potentially balance too; whilst anticipation, teamwork and work rate will be required if he plays deeper.
Either way, I’m delighted to have brought him on board. Unfortunately, I missed out on signing Sascha Horvath from city rivals FAK as he joins Leverkusen instead. Horvath would definitely have played the deeper role but at least he’s moved to a big league where the better standard of facilities will help improve him for the national side.
Deni Alar – 25
His “hits first time shots” PPM is interesting as he often takes early shots running onto cut backs or deflections to the penalty spot area, catching a poorly positioned ‘keeper unawares. It’s something I’ll consider for other players in this role in future.
Having brought his passing attribute up a couple of notches, I’m now looking at improving his technique but I am definitely considering selling him this summer. I’ve set his asking price to £5.75m and I think this is fair, although I would probably consider £4m+. I’ve developed him as much as I think I can at Rapid, all that’s left now is to try and get more out of him in a more reputable league.
Louis Schaub – 20
He was excellent at the start of this season, firing in goals left, right and centre. That form escaped him after christmas with just 2 goals in the last 20 games. His potential seems to be continually changing with my coaches thinking he’ll be a world beater one minute then judging his development exhausted the next. Odd but I think he’s got some way left to go.
He can also play up front but I prefer him coming from deep and have concentrated on improving his off the ball attribute thus far. As soon as this ticks over into 15, I’ll change his focus to a flat attacking midfielder regime to try and bring his decisions up – if he can make his runs more intelligently then he could be lethal.
If Alar doesn’t move on and there is interest in Schaub then I may consider selling the younger man instead, depending on the club and the offer of course. A move to somewhere like Gladbach, Everton or Sociedad would be ideal.
Daniel Mayr – 17
As with most of my AMC’s, he’s more naturally a striker but I think he can definitely do a job in the current role that I ask the attacking midfielder to perform – bursting forward from deep offensively but also dropping back and helping out the midfield when required. His teamwork and work rate are better than the other options and although his defensive attributes aren’t particularly good, the defensive work is secondary to the work he should be doing in the offensive third.
He’s definitely behind the likes of Schaub and Lazaro in the succession but at least the third option is there.
As always seems to be the case with my Rapid and Austria saves, we have a lot of strikers. I always seem to get at least one in every batch of newgens and this year has been no different. Whilst it’s obviously nice to get a selection of good strikers, I’d have much preferred a few centre halves, a ‘keeper and certainly a defensive midfielder or two. As it is, these are my striking options so far:
Michael Gregoritsch – 21
Our main goalscorer seems like a good place to start and, once again, Michael has come up with the goods – scoring another 21 goals this season although his meagre 9 assists is somewhat lower than the 21 he contributed last season.
I usually play him as the advanced forward of the two strikers but will rotate him into the deeper position should I want to start Grbic or Glass. As such, I’ve very much concentrated on improving his finishing attributes but have now moved on to improving his first touch. As defences get deeper against me, the strikers require improved control as there is much less space available in which to kill the pass and shoot.
At 21, Gregoritsch is getting towards the point where I’d consider selling him and I’ve set a price of £4m as his “must sell fee”. He’s good but I don’ tthink he’s that good and there are some options coming through which may well take his place.
Jens Hoeneß – 19
He’s contributed 18 assists, the same as last year, but scored half the number of goals as last term – just 12. Of course, he played 10 fewer games this season but it was his league performances that really seemed lacking. The team as a whole scored fewer so it is perhaps just that teams are negating the deeper forward role by playing deep and using more defensive midfielders.
However, around April, I took a look back through a number of old games in which Hoeneß played and noticed that a number of the opportunities which were coming his way fell on his left foot – not a strength of his. A very simple change to move Hoeneß to the right of the two strikers but still playing deeper than Gregoritsch on the left seemed to work wonders including a hat trick against FAK. Always worth considering what type of chances your strikers will get.
In terms of training, I’ve had Hoeneß on a deep-lying forward scheme but have since moved onto a targetted regime to improve his dribbling, the only weakness in his attributes. He really is developing into a top-class player though and I hope to get more out of him next season… remember he cost me just £400!!!
I have considered the possibility of a big club coming in for him but I think at least one more season at Rapid before I let him move will do him good. Having said that, £7.5m will be enough to trigger the “must sell clause”… it’s just up to the big-guns now.
Adrian Grbic – 18
Just like Domej, he simply will not turn his back on Croatia. Incredibly frustrating as he’s a great talent and a wonderful supersub, using his pace, movement and composure on a number of occasions this season when defences are tiring late in games.
In January, I allowed him to move to Hertha on loan but he hasn’t played much there. I’ve now given up on getting Grbic into the Austrian set-up and I’ll be looking to sell him, with a massive sell-on fee, this summer.
Nico Glass – 18
He was only getting games in Leverkusen’s second team so I was happy to give him the opportunity of some more regular game time. Unfortunately, this has been interrupted somewhat by injury but I’ve got him on loan until the end of next season so with any luck he’ll get 15-20 games next year.
Handily, he can also cover the wide right position should I need to employ the wider formation so I’ve opted to improve his technique through training, something which should improve his performances in both positions. His creativity is really, really poor and this is my second target – something which I will look to improve using the “deep lying forward” regime.
I’m hoping that Glass will react to his 2 year loan in the same way that Holzhauser did, going back to his parent club having progressed so well that he challenges for the first team. Holzhauser, in fact, has handed in a transfer request at Stuttgart as he feels the club is underachieving. I was considering a cheeky bid but he would break my wage structure and I don’t really see the benefit for the national team – a higher profile move would be of more benefit.
Similar to AMC, I have a number of young strikers that could be quite good but unlikely to break into the first team – Michael Augustin, Christopher Kunz, Hans Hansen and Friedrich Sandriesser… head and shoulders above them, though, is…
Jürgen Foda – 15
With 4.5 star potential and decent starting attributes, I foresee him challenging for the advanced striker role. I think his creativity has too far to go for the deeper lying position, so instead I’m concentrating on his composure for the moment. This is particularly key for me because he’s been spawned with the “places shots” PPM, something which I see as requiring decent composure rather than a simple “thump it and hope” approach.
And that, five and a half thousand words later, is my squad.
As you can see, there are a few areas I’d like to strengthen. I’m always on the lookout for a decent goalkeeping option, right wingback is a must and I’d also like some additional muscle in central midfield – preferably Austrian muscle.
There are a few who will move on, a couple who may move on and more than a few that I hope won’t move on. I don’t expect as much transfer activity as last year when a number of out of contract players left the club. The board gave me £15m to spend at the start of last year, a sum which I’ve increased to £18m with sales but have never needed… god knows how much they’ll give me now as the money from our European run has swollen our coffers to a fantastic £36m.
Yet again, I’ve convinced the board to invest that money in infrastructure, with £6.5m being spent on improving the training and youth facilities – already “top” and “good” respectively. With the stadium already expanded by 4000 seats to 21550 and no more expansions seemingly possible, the next step will be to ask the board to build a new ground – something which I will ask as soon as the bank balance hits £75m.
My fingers are getting sore and I’m sure you are quite bored of reading my ramblings to I’ll wrap this season up there… I’m glad I don’t do these squad analysis jobs every season.
As usual, thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below or contact me on Twitter.