It’s also been a more difficult season than I’ve become accustomed to on my previous save as we’ve conceded more than 3 times the goals as in my last season in Salò. Getting beat on a regular basis has taken some getting used to, I have to admit.
Nevertheless, I’d say it’s not only been a successful season but an enjoyable one and I’m really starting to ‘get into’ my new save with lots of plans building up for the future of the game.
The aim of this season was to analyse my squad, in particular the youngsters, and work on cutting the deadwood loose to allow me to bring in the sort of player that I think will fit into my rather dogmatic tactical approach.
Have we managed to do that? Have I managed to achieve the board’s aims whilst doing so?
I reckon so. Read on to find out more…
So, as always, the most logical place to start with a season review is the league table:
Just as the board requested, then, we finish in a mid-table position. Arguably, we’ve been the most entertaining side with the third best attack (62 goals) and a quite catastrophically awful defensive record (56 conceded). In 34 league games, we kept just 4 clean sheets.
I’m sure many will laugh and think ‘ha, you’re sh!t at Football Manager’ (which may be the case); but I’m more than happy with our first season. Even before the campaign had begun I knew that our defence was going to be poor. It was almost a deliberate ploy.
The defenders and ‘keepers we have available aren’t really that good so I would have needed to play a defensive minded formation to maintain any sort of respectability about our ‘goals against’ column. The board, however, asked me to play attractive, attacking football. And so it was a case of trying to out-score other teams instead.
Developing the youth was the second key facet to my ‘project’ and I’m a big believer in first-team games being the single most important aspect in a player’s development. Therefore I gave 132 games to players 21 and under over the course of the season; allowing me to decide which have a chance of ‘making it’ and which clearly don’t.
A fixture in the team this year and for the foreseeable future has been Kevin Jansen, which has been something of a surprise.
I had thought Jansen to be more ‘functional’ than anything else but with 10 assists he has been my most consistent creative influence and even popped up with 4 goals from runs beyond the strikers.
He’s not the best player that I’ve ever seen but he can certainly do a job for a season or two and will save me a few Euros which could be vital. The finances are one of the biggest disappointments of the season as we’ve plummeted into a debt that I didn’t see coming.
Despite staying about 10% under my wage budget and making a £500k transfer profit, we are now £320k in the red with wages, as per, the main cuplrit. Perhaps I shouldn’t have splashed the cash on two signings in January but I both as being key for the long term development of the club. Hopefully the short term pain will lead to long term gain.
Andreas Derix will eventually cost me £500k from Groningen, with around £250k of that spread over the next 2 years in instalments. I’m looking for him to fulfil the vital AMC role – the primary playmaker in my side who gets to do pretty much whatever he wants.
In line with the requirements I identified in my first update, there were some key standout attributes that convinced me Derix was my man – primarily his passing, anticipation, technique, first touch and decisions. His mental attributes are excellent for a 19 year old and I think he has plenty of development left in him.
In the 15 games he played after Christmas, he laid on 5 assists. Not bad but I’m hoping for more next year.
Similar to Derix, it was Bond’s mental attributes that made me take a closer look. Yes, there are some that I would like to be higher such as composure, technique and creativity but he’s only 18 and has a lot of development left in him.
Having said that, he’s hit the ground running with an incredible 10 goals in 15(1) games since his £575k transfer from Heracles – largely thanks to his shot accuracy of 71%. It’s my intention that Bond will play the ‘advanced forward’ role in my front two for quite some time.
Unfortunately, I may have to find him a new strike partner as the excellent Sven Schipplock returns to Hoffenheim having scored 20 league goals – a 5-way tie for top Eredivisie scorer with Pellè, Bony, Everton and Altidore. It appears that physicality gets you goals in Holland.
I will definitely be going back to Hoffenheim over the summer and trying to renew the loan deal but I’m concerned that he’s played so well here that they won’t let him go again. If not, then a targetman joins the long list of positions for which I need a new recruit.
Head of that list will be a libero, followed by at least one centre half and hopefully a defensive winger or two – essentially I’m looking to shore up the defence. 72 goals conceded in 45 games really isn’t acceptable. Even if I am playing a system whereby I expect to have a weak defence, there are some areas I can improve on. Primarily…
As opposed to all other periods of the game, we concede more than we score in the last 15 minutes of matches. 21 goals from 75mins+ has cost me around 16 points this season – points that would have put us in 5th place. So why do we concede so many late goals?
Partly it’s because we’re not very good defensively so if teams are attacking us in the need for a late equaliser then there’s a higher chance that they’ll get one. Also, the squad has relatively low attributes for Determination and Concentration which lead to a deterioration of performances late in the game.
I’m also not a big fan of the flat three central defenders. If I had the personnel then I would have reverted to 2 centre backs with a libero a long time ago. I feel that the added depth in cover behind the two CB’s is of huge benefit in cutting out crosses to the back post – something from which we’ve been particularly vulnerable.
The question is – what will we be able to afford?
Perhaps very little. I’m not expecting a big TV deal payout and we don’t have a massive stadium to pull in season ticket revenue. 23 players will be leaving the club over the summer when their contracts expire, freeing up around £40k per week of wages – over half my budget. However, that leaves me with very little in the way of sellable assets if I need to clear debt.
It could be a difficult summer – particularly considering the transfer limitations which I placed on myself to make the game ‘more realistic’. I may end up relying on the youth team even more next season.
One of the players that I already have plans to introduce next season is promising ‘keeper Mike ten Kroode. The 18 year old appears to have benefited massively from a loan spell in Portugal with new feeder club Boavista whilst resident goalie Countiho is 30, uninspiring and one of the few candidates for a profitable sale.
ten Kroode is likely to cost me a few goals next season but let’s be honest. We’re not going to win anything next year anyway. In 2-3 years he could be fantastic, having reaped the benefit of 30 first team games and end up saving me a wad of cash on a new ‘keeper.
We also had a very decent youth intake with Jan van den Berg the best of 4 or 5 players that I think are possible first teamers in a few years. His mental attributes aren’t that great which puts him at a disadvantage considering the new club policy but he has masses of potential and I’m seriously considering re-training him as a libero for years to come. He’s already making waves…
In the meantime, should I be unable to find a suitable libero, then I may settle for an orthodox sweeper – I simply do not trust this flat back 3.
Other aspects of the tactic are working as intended, though – primarily goalscoring. And much of that is down to the interaction built around the targetman. Here is a near perfect example (we didn’t score):
Whilst the advanced forward, playing on the right of the front two, makes a forward run and drags the defence deep, the centre half who was marking the targetman is pulled up the pitch when the latter receives the ball to feet with his back to goal. A simple pass back to the AMC and a vertical run from the MCL into the gap left by that advancing centre back leaves us with a simple (spurned) chance. Great stuff.
I really can’t be too disappointed with 62 goals this season, more than all but champions Ajax and surprise package Utrecht. If can sort out the defence then we may push for a European playoff slot next season – something we missed out on by a single point this year. Or perhaps do a little better in the KNVB Cup, having been disappointingly eliminated by RKC in the 4th Round.
So, first season completed and a potentially difficult summer ahead. But at least there’s a clear challenge left in the game. It had become far too easy with Feralpi and I’m glad I called it a day when I did – I simply can’t be doing with effortlessly battering teams year after year.
Once again, thanks for reading and if you have any questions then feel free to leave a comment or contact me on Twitter.