Den Haag – Consistently inconsistent

ado2First season done and dusted. Helped by fewer games than I’m used to due to no continental competition and just 18 teams in the league, it feels like the season has just flown by.

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:

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.

Board promisesSo the board are delighted with both the attacking football and the number of youngsters that we’ve played this season. And I’m not surprised.

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…

Goals conceded

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.

ten Kroode

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.

van den Berg

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…

van den Berg record

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):

TM in action

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.


14 thoughts on “Den Haag – Consistently inconsistent”

  1. Stunning update. Great balance of detail and narrative. It’s great to see how the likes of you, Cleon and other experienced players tackle these harder saves, inspiring really.

    I will, of course, follow your progress.

    1. Cheers RTH.

      It helps that I’ve managed to ‘get into’ the save so early. So much easier to write about the game when you have a clear focus on what you want from it and are enjoying it!

      As always, I appreciate the comments.

  2. Interesting as I am using the same formation but decided to have the DLP behind the DLF and AP behind he AF so they didn’t move into each others space. Your idea effectively has the MC’s reversed and would have the DLF dropping back and AP moving past him which sort of contradicts my theory so will have to have a good look at this

    1. I use a DLP / BWM combination but yeah, the effect is the same. I initially had them set-up on the same sides as you in the hope that the AF would drift into the space left by the TM and BWM then follows into the space left by the AF but that didn’t work too much.

      How do you use your AMC?

  3. Reading this makes me miss FM so much! Had to stop because of exams, that and my computer is horrendously slow. Really interested in this project though, it’s like a nicotine patch to my FM addiction, I’ve retweeted your update as always. Good work Shrew!


    1. Haha! Thanks. Hopefully I don’t distract you from your studying too much!

      All the RT’s etc are appreciated. I’m afraid that I don’t thank people on twitter as much as I should.

      Now back to the books!!

  4. Am sort of messing around with the AMC as the initial idea was to have the 2 wide midfielders playing angled balls into him from deep but I can’t seem to get this to work as they tend to play square balls into the MC’s.

    Although I am still 5th in Serie B after 32 games I don’t want promotion this year as I will never survive in Serie A with the current squad so I am testing and experimenting for next season. Am assuming teams will sit back next year so am giving some thought to a more attacking approach but maintaining 3 at the back. Am considering some sort of 3-2-3-2 but just ideas at the moment

  5. Excellent update on your new save Shrew. A solid opening season and I’m sure you’ll build upon it. It’s interesting to see you thrive upon a ‘three at the back’ system – something I may try and emulate into my tactics in my next save.

    Have you ever considered a flat back three with the most central defender set to ‘cover’? I found it to work very well so long as the player has the mental strengths of a ball-playing centre half.

    1. Sorry for replying late, I’ve been away with work all week.

      My system last season was the central DC set to cover with the wider either set to stopper or just defend. Although much of this is probably due to personnel available, I really didn’t feel like the central DC offered enough cover and was often the one caught out. Indeed, against single striker systems we really struggled – although this is something that back 3’s often have issues with.

      1. I understand. The problem I found with using a ‘stopper-cover-stopper’ combination is that often you are left with only two (and sometimes one) player left to defend due to the increased pressing from the wider centre halves.

  6. A quick question: Have you considered switching the bwm-s role to a cm-d? I’ve been playing a combination of 3-4-1-2, 3-1-4-2 and 3-4-2-1 in my saves and I tend to alternate my cm roles a great deal. When I’m playing a 3-4-1-2, my default pairing is a cm-d and a dlp-s as I want them to provide a wall in front of my defense. If my opponent plays with a dm and without a amc, then I will often change my cm roles to a bbm/bwm-s and dlp-d in order to support my amc. I have found this to be much stronger defensively as a cm-d is less likely to be pulled out of position and I tend to worry excessively about my gap between cm and cb. Also, where did your opponents get the majority of their assists? Either way, it looks like you had a successful 1st season…congrats.

    1. Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been away with work all week.

      My previous system used a CM(S) at MCL and a regular CM is something I’ve been using this season against either very weak or very strong sides. As I explain in the next update – the libero and the MCL are the two most versatile positions to help change the tactic.

      I agree that giving a strong base with the DLP-CM combination is very helpful in this set-up but I like to attack these days! 🙂

      The majority of our conceded goals come down the flanks and as a result of crosses – something we’ve been improving on this season.

  7. Hey Shrew, can I ask a very basic question? How much of each game do you watch when managing? You said the first season “flew by”, which makes me curious about your ‘viewing style’, whether it’s highlights or full matches, especially with the attention to detail that you have in other areas of the game. Really enjoying everything I’m finding on your blog mate.

    1. I watch most games on ‘comprehensive’. When I’m developing a new tactic or trying to judge impact of changes to one, I’ll sometimes watch the full game for 20-30 minutes or re-watch certain stuff.

      The season ‘flew by’ for me simply due to the lack of games compared to recent seasons with Feralpi. Instead of 65 games (Serie A, Coppa, Supercoppa, Champions League, Super Cup and Club World Cup) all I’ve got is Eredivisie and KNVB Cup – about 37 games. Makes a hell of a difference.

      Thanks for the comment!!

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