When Petr and I last updated on our network save, we were 10 games from the end of season 1 with my Dunkerque side on an inexorable slide towards the relegation zone. We were coming up to a critical period of the season when we’d face 3 of the bottom 4, games which would offer us our best chance of gethering the points to guarantee safety.
We’ve come some way since then with the holiday period affording us more time to play than would usually be available. There’s been a fair few late nights / early mornings, reminding me of my university days… except I never used to get woken up by a 2 year-old at 6am.
Ahead of Petr’s own update (which will be along shortly), here’s my view of how things have gone recently.
So the next 3 games were crucial, remember? 3 of the bottom 4, remember?
Not quite what I had in mind. We were in trouble and desperately needed points, slipping into the relegation zone and needing other teams to do us a favour. With morale rock bottom, I arranged a gimme of a friendly during the downtime after the Fréjus game and it worked an absolute treat with a 2-1 away victory over Carquefou our first 3 points since February.
That was followed up with a 2-0 win over Vannes and then the best result of them all:
A glorious and much-deserved 2-0 win over Petr’s Luzenac confirmed our survival.
It wasn’t just the morale boost from the friendlies which turned things around. The Carquefou win which started the revival was the first game in which we used our new set-up – the 3-1-4-1-1 shown to the right.
Our fullbacks had been abysmal in the 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 that I’d been using previously, responsible for most of the goals we were conceding… and we conceded a lot! Rather than try to fix the fullbacks I just got rid of them and went with a back 3.
One problem I’ve faced with a back 3 in FM14 is that the wide centre backs split too wide and the central CB pushes too far up – both of which leave a massive gap right in the centre of the pitch which is a rather obvious problem. To get around this poor programming, I decided to put a DM in front of the back 3, thereby providing the central CB with some support when the wide ones go walkabout.
Up front, my old friend Tamboura was our best weapon by a long shot. Or rather his pace is. Leaving him up front on his own, running the channels as an advanced forward, and supported by an attacking playmaker made sense.
It worked in keeping us up and then, the following season, it worked again… and then some.
Predicted to finish dead last, we defied the bookies and everyone else to seal promotion and an unlikely title.
To my mind, much of this was down to the tactic. It suited our attacking options perfectly with Hamady Tamboura ending the season with 37 goals and Dimitri Boudaud, the AP supporting Tamboura, getting 15 assists. However, it also owed a lot to two other factors: luck and some decent signings.
Luck as in a lack of injuries. I cannot remember a single serious injury to our squad until Farssane tore his hamstring on the final day. Our squad was paper thin and a couple of injuries would have destroyed us. Thankfully, we managed to keep a consistent first eleven and it paid huge dividends.
There were a lot of out-goings with a number of players leaving on free transfers, including fullback Lecointe who had been on an eye-watering £2300 a week. We also managed to sell our ‘keeper, Bouet, for £140k after signing a better one on a free. All of which gave me the wage budget that I needed to fill my squad with free transfers. Some of the most important:
Matthias Jouan – box-to-box midfielder
Great mental attributes for our level, with teamwork being a must for me in that role, and someone who is a bit handy at set pieces too. Jouan was head and shoulders above our previous options in midfield and was an absolute no-brainer.
Sitting in front of the back 3, Goaziou’s mental attributes were key whilst he can also play a bit with decent passing, technique, first touch and creativity. But it was the anticipation, decisions and positioning which swung it for me. He did a great job sitting at the base of my midfield triangle controlling games – averaging somewhere around 65 passes a game.
Regardless of what level I play at, a solid ‘keeper is an absolute must as far as I’m concerned. Bouet was a decent goalie but he wasn’t a patch on Gurtner who is solid across the board but with outstanding anticipation and reflexes. His worth was proven as we maintained the best defence in the league and he kept an incredible 18 clean sheets.
The most important player, however, was one who was here when I joined the club. Hamady Tamboura doesn’t look like much but you know you’re doing something right when a player scores 37 times in 34 games, chipping in 10 assists for good measure.
He’s clearly a one-trick pony with that pace but that’s enough when you play to his strengths – particularly in lower leagues against questionable defences. He might struggle in Ligue 2 but he was the talisman for a wonderful Championnat season.
Part of promotion is a requirement for an improvement to our stadium. The Stade Marcel Tribut requires a £2.3m upgrade, increasing the capacity by 6000 seats. Unfortunately, the work will take all season and means we need to groundshare with UBSCO at the Stade de la Libération.
I feared that this expenditure would mean minuscule budgets for our survival attempt but I needn’t have worried. A huge £3 million payment for tv rights and the anticipated increase in gate receipts has seen the board give me an £800k transfer budget and a slight increase in the wage allowance. Most of the transfer budget will go towards wages but I did spend £70k on a player I see as being the next (Nigerian) Yaya Touré:
6’5″, 14st 9lbs… he’s a bit of a tank and he can play a bit. His low decisions and pace are a slight worry but the former should increase with time and I’m not convinced that the latter will hold him back too much. If nothing else, he should make me a tidy profit in a few years.
Nnanna is probably the only thing giving me optimism for the coming season. We’ve made a couple of other decent signings but Jerko Leko was injured in a pre-season friendly and is out for 2 months, Julio Tavares was to challenge Tamboura up front but now he’s out for 4 weeks… maybe it’s our luck from last season catching up with us.
I plan to use the same 3-1-4-1-1 that has done so well for the last 15 months and our transfers have been aimed at filling the gaps in the squad. There’s still a copy of bodies to be added but, let’s be honest, the chances are that we’ll be heading back down. For now, it’s nice to enjoy an unexpected promotion and, of course, the best result of them all…