Den Haag – Progress but not quite enough

denhaag_awayThe least that anyone can expect and the absolute minimum aim for any Football Manager is to make progress year-on-year. Progress can take many forms – a higher league position, a minor trophy for a small club or even simply strengthening the squad on a budget whilst maintaining the status quo during a transition year.

For Den Haag, last season was the first of those and I’m hoping this season will be one of the latter two options.

After the forced sales of two big stars at the start of last year, the aim is to keep this developing squad together and build on what has certainly been a positive, if ultimately frustrating, campaign.

Incidentally, there was no new sponsorship deal announced – hence why I’ve stuck with the same kits as last year.

Read on for more details of how we fared last year, some important transfer news and a fair bit of detail on the developing Germanic Total Voetbal tactic…

So we’ll start by quickly summarising last year’s results. The less said about the KNVB Cup the better as we lost out to feeder club Dordrecht but that disappointment was quickly put behind us as we embarked on a successful league campaign:

League

That represents an improvement of 4 league places and 7 goals against from last year, with 10 more points accrued despite scoring a goal less. And yes, the defence is still clearly an issue but damnit if we aren’t entertaining!!

The frustration comes because there is a slightly strange set-up for European qualification in Holland. Under the current set-up, the top 2 qualify the Champions League whilst 3rd enters the Europa League groups. 4th place and the cup winners enter various qualification rounds of the Europa with 5th-8th playing off for the final qualification spot.

So, as you can see, we missed out on an automatic Europa League spot on goal difference although, if I’m being honest, this would have been an unjustified reward for a campaign which stuttered badly in spring.

We were a side on form, though, and I was confident that we were at least the equal of our 3 playoff opponents – Vitesse, Groningen and Twente.

Run-in

Vitesse proved to be little problem as we absolutely dominated them, the 5-2 aggregate scoreline not a true reflection of our superiority. With Groningen beating Twente in the other semi, my confidence grew. We’d beaten them with embarrassing ease (3-0) on the final day of the season. Just carry on that form and…

Bugger. A stinking home performance from the defence in the home leg really cost us and Groningen simply killed the game in the return game and we never got going.

So in the end we missed out on a European place by virtue of both goal difference and away goals. Not fun.

Nevertheless, a successful season with progress made both on and off the pitch, the board investing another £2m to improve the training and youth facilities. Unfortunately, that focus on infrastructure has left the bank balance, and therefore transfer kitty, a little short. Until we start getting into Europe, we’ll continue to be a selling club:

Profit margin

£6.25m of player sales and yet we only make a profit of £3.9m. Taking the £2m investment in the facilities into account, we’re almost breaking even without player sales. Which probably gives me one year, this season, to make a dash for European qualification in a bid to improve the finances. With that in mind…

Five Bosmans

8 players left the club on free transfers as their contracts expired and I replaced them with players that will improve the club in one way or another. The only money I’ve spent this summer is a £10k a month loan fee for a covering left wing-back / defensive winger – offset by the sale of Constantin Nica to Vaslui for £250k; whilst we are still £15k a week under our wage budget of £82kpw.

You might be wondering how 2 38 year-olds like Semak and Landzaat are going to improve a squad trying to break into Europe. Purely and simply they are here to tutor the Den Haag youth – in a very specific manner. Both have good personalities for tutoring but, more crucially, Semak has the ‘arrives late in opponent’s area’ PPM, whilst Landzaat has ‘comes deep to get the ball’.

The former is something that you can’t train into a player and the latter is something I’m desperate for my development project striker to learn whilst not detracting from his positional retraining.

van der Meijs is a natural AMC that I'm retraining to ST whilst being tutored by Landzaat - hyper-intensive learning curve
van der Meijs is a natural AMC that I’m retraining to ST whilst being tutored by Landzaat – hyper-intensive learning curve

More important for the first team are the signings of Koolwijk and Lagendijk.

The former gives me flexibility in midfield or defence.

Koolwijk

My initial intent when signing Koolwijk was to use him in central midfield, playing alongside the deep-lying playmaker as a bit of all-rounder – albeit holding his deep position to utilise his passing ability and mitigate against his awful finishing.

However, I always had the potential for him to play centre back in reserve and, as is often the case, circumstances have changed to the extent that he’s now my first choice ball-playing centre back – playing on the left of my 2 DC’s.

The change came about partly because of Koolwijk’s combination of defensive competence and assurance on the ball; but mostly it came about because of Tschauner’s shortcomings:

TschaunerWith both his passing and jumping worryingly low, I couldn’t decide whether to push him into midfield or use him at the back. A quick look at my defensive stats for last season, though, showed that our centre backs average over 8.5 headers a game each. Tschauner’s 62% win ratio in the air represents too much of a risk.

Meanwhile he is developing into an excellent ball-winner in the middle – work rate, teamwork, bravery and tackling ability as well as stamina to run all day. With his passing more likely to increase significantly from heavy training (it’s already improved by 2 points), it just makes sense to use him in midfield. I’m undecided on whether to teach him the ‘plays short simple passes’ PPM – it would obviously be handy but the inherent detriment to training time might be counter-productive.

Our other key signing, and probably the most important of the lot, comes up front. With such an attacking tactic, strikers are obviously vital and our front three are almost solely responsible for the goals until we get better wide players.

Front 3

Schipplock was a big part of that but, as you can see, he was only on loan. I couldn’t afford to pay his £2.1m asking price nor would he accept the wages I could offer him for a Bosman move. I had hoped that his demands would drop when he was released by Hoffenheim but, unfortunately, the opposite occurred and he eventually signed for Nurnberg on £24k a week. A little more than I could offer.

I wasn’t overly concerned, though, as I had a replacement already sorted.

Lagendijk

The targetman position is absolutely crucial to the way I play. Everyone else plays off him, primarily the AMC who is the main playmaker for the side and looks to exploit the space created by the targetman’s movement – dropping off the line and offering a short option; whilst the other striker looks to get in behind the targetman, looking for through balls and knock-downs.

Lagendijk is particularly suited to my team due to his exceptional work rate and good mental attributes. With the high closing down that we implement, his ability to harry from the front is invaluable. His excellent teamwork, meanwhile, has taken our fluid attacking style to a new level.

Still only 20, he’s a real prospect and I’m delighted that we managed to sign him at all, nevermind on a free and paid just £725 a week.

Lagendijk joins an ever-growing list of highly promising youngsters that I hope we can keep at the club and develop. My ‘future roster’ now looks something like this:

Future rosterWith adequate support in the advanced areas from the likes of Kevin Tano (19), Jan van den Berg (17) and Rodney van der Meijs (19).

The problem, or rather the current gaps, lie in defence with my future libero and a second future centre back missing from the development scheme. If I wasn’t so short in these areas then I would have already sold Phillip Foose, the highly promising American I brought in last January. Why?

Well he is one of the ‘faceinthegame’ mob, a developer / researcher that has a newgen named after him created within the game by a pre-determined program that I can’t delete. It’s something I find very irritating and wish I could disable but SI, in their ultimate wisdom, have hard-coded it. If I can find another option then Foose will be on his way.

The personnel may change but the system is likely to remain. It’s great fun for a start and we tend to play some lovely football from front to back:

Slow, patient build up from the back with players that are reasonably comfortable on the ball throughout defence, drawing the opposition forward to allow room for the two sitting midfielders and the AMC to create space with some quick passing. The wingbacks / wingers always offer width and look to hit the byline and get crosses in. The front two offer complimentary movement and develop space for each other and midfield runners.

All sounds plausible enough, right?

Well we score shedloads of goals so we must be doing something right! But, if I’m honest, I’m not completely happy with it. Some reasons why:

offensive issues

Some positives – the defence is looking solid as the back 3 are covering the majority of the pitch and are screened by the two holding midfielders who can quickly change the angle of attack should the ball be played back to them.

But we’re keeping 5 players back in ostensibly defensive positions. With just 3 AZ players goalside of the ball then why are we wasting 5? It seems like we might be able to release one of the defenders forward and still have adequate cover.

The wingers aren’t stretching the defence enough either and AZ are able to play reasonably compact. Particularly on our right, I would prefer the winger to be in the shaded area, drawing at least one defender out of the red rectangle where our runners are being crowded out.

More space in here and we might be able to exploit the movement of the targetman dropping off the line and enticing his marker out of position.

Goals conceded

Our defence is also a continuing problem although we now seem to have somewhat solved the glaring issue with crosses. Now our problem appears to be the gap in front of the defence where 20 assists have been made against us.

The lack of a DM obviously doesn’t help but I also believe this is in part down to personnel – with Beugelsdijk and Wormgoor not the most mobile of central defenders. We employ a high-risk attacking tactic but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to accept conceding two goals a game.

Could it just be a case of waiting for the team to develop? Maybe but I’ll also be trying a few tactical tweaks over this season to try and alleviate the issue.

So some clear tactical issues and, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m sorely tempted to revert to the 4-1-2-3-0 shape that I loved so much at Feralpi. In fact, I’m seriously tempted by a new game. The international games over the past few days have made me yearn for my Club and Country game and I’m considering a new Rapid / Austria game or perhaps even an Aberdeen / Scotland save in a re-vamped Scottish structure…

Perhaps this is a consequence of the relatively slow progress that is being made with ADO. Perhaps it’s frustration at the raft of injuries I’m suffering this season. Perhaps it’s frustration at our complete inability to keep a clean sheet. Perhaps it’s because we’ve just had a new chairman take over and he’s pumped a modest amount of money into the club and it feels a bit… different. Perhaps I just miss managing Rapid…

Given that I blogged about my first Rapid / Austria save before taking over at Feralpi Salò, would people be interested in reading about a restart – but with Austria and Germany merged into one league? This is probably just some short term apathy about my save but worth gauging opinion I think.

In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed this update and any suggestions / thoughts on a new save or not are welcome.

Thanks for reading!

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24 thoughts on “Den Haag – Progress but not quite enough”

  1. Aww such a shame there was no new sponsorship, I was looking forward to seeing a new kit!!

    Quite a good season though all things considering. I can’t believe you’ve managed to stay under wage budget though. That is some achievement for a club of your size.

    I like the look of Lagendijk though, can’t wait to see how he gets on next season if you carry the save on.

    I’ll personally read whatever you decide to do. I’d like to see an Aberdeen/Scotland save. I’ve been having a urge to play as Motherwell or Queens Park, so I’m liking the idea of a Scottish save.

    Nice work anyways with the update mate 🙂

    1. There were a few relatively big earners at the club whose contracts were expiring which has helped keep the wages in order. The likes of ten Kroode is now first team but still on youth team wages too – another help.

      I really like Lagendijk. I’m almost at the winter break and he’s been excellent – really ties the tactic together. When he’s missing, it shows.

      I think I’ll finish this season then see how I feel. The new chairman has given me £2.5m to spend. It’s still hardly a tycoon and we’re some way behind the big guns but it undermines the challenge I was undertaking somewhat.

      I believe Queens Park’s amateur status is hard-coded and unalterable despite any promotions you might achieve – that would be some challenge!!

  2. Some considerations:

    -Nice season, good progress over the last one, working on a budget sometimes could be frustrating, so if the new chairman put some fresh money in your balance I can’t see that as a problem

    -Clean sheets? How could you expect to keep clean sheets playing with that shape and most importantly with the players you have? They’re clearly killing you from the hole, I’m not sure about your defensive line but playing with a very high one could be the only way to fix such an issue, but then your defenders could suffer from balls over the top: there’s no easy fix, only a different shape or better players could address that.
    Maybe a DM (d) instead of a BWM could better protect your defensive line…
    Another point, why don’t you use wing backs? I bet your wingers often have a defensive role and track back a lot, could another stratum help your central defenders?
    Just some random thoughts starting form your shape, cause I don’t know how your tactic exactly works, so take these with a pinch of salt.

    -Losing your German striker could be a problem but you found a nice regen, do you think he’s ready to become immediately a first teamer?

    -On a final note, I wouldn’t leave this save, you’ve got a good project and I’d try to develop it, a step by step process that will surely bring you success, sooner or later.
    Of course if you want to try something different, no one, better than you, could decide the right moment to leave, having fun is the Holy Grail of every Football Manager career ( I suffered the same problem several time this year), it’s up to you bud… 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comprehensive comment.

      1. The chairman has given me £2.5m transfer budget. Obviously, this is some way short of Ajax, PSV, etc but it’s undermining the challenge which I undertook in developing a youth system with the absolute minimum of financial backing… we’ll see.

      2. I do occasionally use wingbacks and I did during the second half of last season. I prefer to use the wingers from MR/ML purely for the offensive nature of the tactic. The board still require me to play attacking football and I want to err on the side of gung-ho for the moment.

      3. Lagendijk is a cracker, I really like him. He’s first team material from the off, although he probably wouldn’t be in any other game but I want to develop him as soon as possible. In 13 games, he’s scored 8 and assisted 5. I believe his exceptional teamwork may have helped him integrate almost instantly – his interplay with Derix and Bond is excellent.

      4. Thanks. I think I’ll see this season out. I’ve just reached the start of December and we’re doing well. Currently 4th and looking like we’ll qualify for Europe which I guess is aim number 1.

  3. Intrigued by the possibilities of Rapid in a combined Austro-Germanic league … no glass ceiling, but a lot steeper hill to climb. Akin to managing Celtic/Scotland in a combined SPL/EPL, or Toronto/Canada in MLS.

    That said, I’m enjoying this save, if for no reason than it shows me you aren’t a flawless juggernaut steamrolling all in your path – heh. I can relate to the season three struggles; those saves where the kids all come good and the injury bug stays away, allowing steady progress, are so damned rare.

    1. Thanks! Did you read the Feralpi story? That was hardly a ‘flawless juggernaut’ either 🙂

      I’m going to see this out until the end of the season at least… although I would never manage Celtic! In a UK league or otherwise!

  4. Personally I’m really enjoying your ADO save. But if you were to another Club & Country I’d rather it be with a lesser country than Austria or Scotland. Personally I find the C&C’s done with Countries rated above 100 more interesting.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Always nice to hear people are enjoying the save.

      Thanks for the suggestion but I don’t think I have the patience for a club and country save with a country that far down the ladder!! Let’s take San Marino as an example – it would take at least 25 seasons to influence the game enough to develop a solid national side… that would take me 6 months at least! I appreciate your angle but it’s not for me I’m afraid.

      You might find some stories along those lines in the Club and Country thread on The Dugout though – http://www.thedugout.net/community/showthread.php?t=86631

  5. Ahh, I didn’t know about the faceinthegame thing, and had not been able to figure out how you had a Phillip Foose newgen in the game just like the one in my Ajax save. Now I get it.

    Anyway, I would like to read more about this save. In particular I would like to see you get ADO into Europe and then see what you can do about getting Holland’s coefficients up and maybe increase the reputation of the Eredivisie. That’s what I’ve been up to with Ajax (now in 2018) but the problem is, I don’t get much help from the other Dutch clubs. So I can end up going deep into the knockout stages of the CL, and still not get enough reputation to hold on to my top players because the Eredivisie caps my rep. With ADO I think you are well positioned to get another Dutch club doing well in Europe, and hopefully get more help from the Ajax in your save than I get from the ADO Den Haag in my mine. 🙂 See how high you can get the Eredivisie’s reputation.

    1. Does it bother you about the ‘faceinthegame’ guys? For some reason, it really irritates me!!

      I’ll absolutely be trying to increase the Eredivisie reputation. It looks like it might be dropping shortly because most teams were knocked out in the early stages last year. I need to qualify and I need to do it soon.

      Ajax have been doing a fine job – beating Atletico to the second spot in their group and about to get knocked out by Bayern; whilst PSV finished top of their Europa group and now face Saint-Étienne. Utrecht, Heerenveen and Groningen all bombed though.

      How are ADO Den Haag doing in your game? I wonder if the AI has managed to develop any of the promising players like Fecunda, Tano or van der Meijs?

      1. Yes, the faceinthegame thing is annoying. I don’t think I’d mind if it were just the name and maybe the base position, with everything else completely random.

        I’ve been making pretty steady progress in the Champions League as Ajax, still alive this year about to face Real Madrid in the semi-finals. But I find I’m lucky if anyone else get out of the group stage at the Euros. This year should be fantastic for the coefficients though, as PSV not only won their group at the Euros but beat Lokomotiv Moscow in the first knockout round, before losing to Spartak Moscow.

        ADO Den Haag have been building slowly in my game, finally making it to 7th last season and into qualifying for the Euros. They won their 2nd qualifying round against some Maltese club I’ve never heard of but then lost in the 3rd qualifying round to Werder Bremen.

        They didn’t really develop any of those players you mention. Tano is the only one still under contract but has been loaned to 4 different teams the last 4 years. Fecunda was also loaned before leaving on a free, and van der Meijs left on a free as well and is down in a lower league. They did develop the heck out of a nice AMC regen, and he’s now their best player. I tried to buy him when he first came out, but they turned down ~5M and I decided not to get any sillier than that. Their biggest transfers of original players were Beugelsdijk for 525k in 2015, Aaron Meijers for 600k in January 2017, Dijkhuizen for 725k in 2017, and now Jens Toornstra for 1.3M in 2018.

    2. Toornstra? I assume that you started your save before the latest patch as he moved on before my time I’m afraid. I got quick a bit more than that for Meijers and I hope to get a bit more on Beugelsdijk too – I reckon I could well be selling him this summer.

      Good to see ADO doing well, though. Can you see if they’ve expanded the Kyocera at all? I’m holding off on asking for an expansion until the facilities are up to scratch.

      Sounds like you’re doing very well. Are you using the youth like Kishna or bringing in foreign youth? Managed to keep a hold of Eriksen, Fischer, Alderweireld, etc?

      1. Ah, I didn’t realize about Toornstra. I started the save in February, but I’ve never been one to be too bothered about having the latest transfer updates applied.

        I don’t think they’ve expanded the Kyocera. I’m not sure if I know how to link to the screenshot I took, let me try: [IMG]http://i.imgur.com/9v2pEXT.jpg[/IMG]. Facilities are nice, I’m not sure how they start out.

        As for Ajax, I originally patterned things exactly like Cleon’s fantastic Ajax thread on the SI forums, down to all the same players, except I added Leeuwenburgh. Out of all those, only Kishna and Meleg really failed to develop, both due to a series of long term injuries. The only one who’s still with the team and first choice is Eriksen. I also still have Andersen, Klaassen, Dijks, Tete, and Sporkslede. They provide depth and some of them can tutor (still waiting for Tete’s birthday in October on that). I’ve sold a few without wanting to: Alderweireld (Bayern, 14M) and Fischer (Chelsea, ~12M) wanted to move to a bigger club. Denswil (Chelsea, 30M) because they activated his release clause. But I always have the next guy ready.

        The rest were sold when they capped and couldn’t really develop more, and I didn’t think they’d be good enough long term.

        I only buy youth, but I’m not too bothered where they come from. I try to get them as young as possible, but I will buy South Americans, who can’t come until they’re 18. I think of it as teaching the footballing world to speak Dutch, one wonderkid at a time. 🙂

    3. Wow, look at those facilities!! A massive improvement from the starting position. I think this comes from the board’s request for the manager to develop youth players – therefore they are more willing to invest in the club’s infrastructure than might otherwise be the case. They’ve been fairly conducive to improvements in my game too.

      Denswil is one that I really wanted and almost managed to sign on a Bosman deal only for Ajax to offer him a new contract at the last minute. He looks like he could be quality.

      Sounds like we’re going for quite similar approaches in our recruitment although I’ve brought in a couple of experienced players to help out. Most notably, Koolwijk who has been excellent on either side of a 5 month injury.

      Did ADO use or develop ten Kroode (goalkeeper) in your game? He seems to have potential to me but is costing me a few goals whilst I try to improve him and I can’t decide whether to write him off as a lost cause of keep trying. He seems like he should be better than he is (not dissimilar to Fecunda for me).

      1. Yep, Denswil turned out really well for me. I thought I was safe when Chelsea offered 26M in installments, hoping they didn’t have the cash. Turned it down and they came right back with 30M right up front. Kaboom, goodbye, oh well.

        ten Kroode is still with ADO, and after having gone on loan to the Jupiler league for a couple of years, he’s now back and 2nd choice behind some Italian guy they picked up for 1.5M a few years ago. My scouts give them both 2 stars though, and with the development in my team that’s not as bad as it might sound. So I think ADO have done okay by him. On the other hand he has 1 year left to run on his contract and I’m not sure they’ll renew him with only 3 apps this season.

  6. I’ve told you before I’d like to see a Dons/Scotland save but truth be told I’d make time to read any save you go for. I had great success with my Dons team with Cammy Smith up top & Lewis Milne (Cowdenbeath) playing in behind. You obviously won’t need my help though!

    Glad to see you making some progress with Den Haag. Look forward to the next update.

    1. Thanks Bobo. After buying myself and my son matching Dons tops, I am considering a cheeky C&C with them but not until after I’m finished with ADO. Got a bit of a taste for it back!

      1. I have my first born due in July. He’ll be getting the youngest Dons top possible.

        I know it can get boring but I enjoying beating the Tims and Sevco too much!

  7. Nice post, very well presented. It also enjoys me see someone from Scotland (yes I won’t make that mistake again 🙂 ) taking an interest in the Dutch competition. However, me being a Feyenoord fan, it somewhat hurts seeing the ranking. I hope you continue playing this savegame and I will definitely read along.

    1. Thanks! Again, no offence taken! My wife is English and I’m not one of them ‘raving nationalists’ that seems to be a Scottish stereotype!

      I’d be really interested in a Dutch perspective on my approach and aim to play an albeit Germanic version of total football. I wonder if the Dutch think us Brits have a naive and perhaps simplistic approach to football…. or whether the Germanic influence might offend everyone!! 🙂

      Good news is that I am continuing this save. Just finished season 3 and writing a new update so hopefully there’s plenty more to keep you interested.. and sorry, but it doesn’t get much better for Feyenoord!

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