Second season done with Rapid and the first title in my ‘Overtaking Happel’ challenge is in the bag. At times the title looked unlikely, at others practically impossible but everything came together in the end and, aided by the required dose of good luck, we pipped Red Bull Salzburg at the post.
In keeping with the ‘theme’ of the Overtaking Happel posts, though, this won’t just be a diary of our results and the players that we signed. I’m trying to centre each article on a particular aspect of the game which has come to the fore during the season at hand. Hence why, during this article, I’ll try to cover what I have somewhat clumsily called “creating new roles”.
Essentially, what I’m trying to look at here are limited selections within the tactical interface that do not really cover what you require. How can you get around these limitations to produce the result on the pitch that you had in mind? Well all-too-often you just can’t as the interface is too restrictive but sometimes, just sometimes, you can come up with a working alternative. This season I’ve done just that and to great effect.
Very simply, here’s the table and proof of my first title.
Oddly, my first title was actually the last that Happel won – taking back-to-back titles with Swarovski Tirol, a strange club who only existed for 6 years and briefly assumed the role of Innsbruck’s professional football team before folding in 1992.
As you can see, we ended up winning the title by just a single point from the unsurprisingly strong Red Bull Salzburg. With significant external funding, RBS have a huge squad full of quality foreigners but still came unstuck when injuries to their two first-choice strikers caused a sticky patch with just 5 games left. Drawing a home game against relegated Ried was bad enough only to then lose at Kapfenberger in the next game. That gave us the chink of light that we needed to leapfrog our rivals but bloody hell did we have to be good to do so:
Our own sticky patch had come in late February, something which will come as no surprise to anyone who has played any version of Championship or Football Manager since the year dot… *sits in corner rocking gently repeating ‘the game is not fixed, the game is NOT fixed*
Anyway… that end of season form was quite remarkable given what had gone before – the usual tactical procrastination and unnecessary meddling on my part. It wasn’t until a brief twitter conversation with @tomtuck01 that I came to my senses and, as Tom suggested, went back to what I know best – a strikerless 4-1-2-3-0. It took a while to kick in but when it did, it was superb.
After favouring attacking, possession based tactics for a while I’ve re-discovered the joys of the clean sheet and playing strikerless with swift vertical attacks through the final third. With Carlos Kameni, a welcome member of the squad I inherited, keeping 18 clean sheets last season (9 coming after the winter break) we had a strong foundation on which to build.
Many of you will have seen my strikerless efforts before, primarily with Feralpi Salò, and this version has more in common with the later efforts in my FM13 save where we had graduated beyond the counter attacking versions and were capable of holding our own against most sides in the league. Obviously, with Rapid, we’re one of the Bundesliga’s better teams and will be expected to ‘take the game to the opposition’.
However, I’ve taken a completely different approach because… well…I don’t like to conform. Having read part of The Numbers Game recently, I’ve been reminded of the value of clean sheets. According to Anderson & Sally, a clean sheet is worth, on average, 2.5 points per game. If I can therefore set an ambitious target of keeping a clean sheet in two thirds of our league games, this should gain us somewhere in the region of 60 points. (Number of games x Percentage clean sheets x average points per game; 36 x 0.66 x 2.5)
Conservatively estimating a point a game for the other 12 matches, we’d hit 72 points. This would put us right in the mix for the title in all but the most Red Bull Salzburg dominated seasons.
The problem with building this year’s version is that I couldn’t quite get what I wanted from the AMC. None of the roles seemed quite right for what I had in mind. I want a player who drops deep into midfield when required, can help defensively in closing down DM’s and centre backs but then springs forward when on the ball – running at the defence and laying through balls into the paths of the inside forwards.
The enganche is far too static, the trequartista doesn’t provide enough defensively, the Advanced Playmaker either wouldn’t help out the centre mids enough (on attack) or didn’t offer enough vertically (on support) and the Shadow Striker wouldn’t drop back how I wanted. Therefore, I tried to create what I wanted using the meagre tools that are available in the FM14 interface.
I started by selecting the ‘Attacking Midfielder (Support)’ role and duty as I consider this to be the most ‘middle of the road’ selection with the least intrusive inherent behaviour. Despite that, my options are still incredibly limited:
Using the ‘support’ duty for the AM should encourage him to do all the defensive things that I want – drop deep to help out the midfield when required, hassle any defensive midfielders and, should I increase the closing down or mentality of the team, harry any centre backs in possession.
To help him do what I want in attack, I used the personal instructions of Dribble More, Get Further Forward and Roam From Position. Fairly self-explanatory there. I want him to be free to find space wherever he can in the opposition half and not be easily neutered by an opposition defensive midfielder, hence the allowance to roam. I want him to run at the defence and commit players and I want him to get into the box, acting as a deep striker.
There’s been a lot said recently about ‘Central Wingers’, in fact you can find an excellent article on them here, but I’m not going to include my amended AM in that category. Instead I want him to be doing a bit of everything and be a creative force in the middle of the park. Of course, I’d also be happy to see plenty of this kind of dribbling through the middle – I just wish he’d finished it:
Thankfully, it seems to be working fairly well so far. Previously, I was considering using a solely creative player here like an advanced playmaker or trequartista; then get the vertical movement from a box-to-box midfielder but I wanted to get the best out of a player my Director of Football offered me:
I’ve declined 99% of the players that my DoF has found but it didn’t take me long to confirm the move for Djordjevic. His work rate and teamwork immediately grab the eye but he’s got so much more than that and he’s only 19! In particular, I wanted to take advantage of his excellent physical attributes and dribbling ability. To make him particularly suited to the role then I’d ideally like to teach him the Runs With Ball Through Centre and Plays One-Twos PPM’s.
Whilst the role was initially designed for Djordjevic, it may be the case that it eventually falls to Rapid youth product Sandro Egger:
He’s the only useful newgen that has arrived since I’ve come back to Rapid but he’s an absolute beauty. His mental attributes are absolutely phenomenal for a player that has just turned 17. He doesn’t have the same pace as his Serbian team-mate so, should I be able to hold onto both, it could be that Egger assumes the ‘fulcrum’ role in the middle of the park and Djordjevic becomes one of the inside forwards.
Egger has benefited hugely from tutoring by senior players. First Croatian midfielder Zvonko Pamic had 2 attempts as I tried, unsuccessfully, to transfer his Arrives Late in Opponent’s Area PPM. The tutoring itself clearly helped speed up Egger’s progress but it’s only really kicked on since I signed Mikel Arteta with the sole purpose of mentoring the young Austrian. With a Model Professional personality and some handy PPM’s such as Dictates Tempo and Comes Deep to Get the Ball, Arteta is just about the perfect tutor and he certainly seems to helping Egger achieve his undoubted potential.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been more like Egger and the rest of the improvements have had to come in the transfer market where I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find the options that I need with my self-imposed wage cap of £7.5k per week, particularly amongst domestic options. One exception to that is Patrick Möschl:
In a similar mould to the focus of my last Rapid article, Möschl was a player that I signed on the basis of his attributes rather than his position. Naturally an attacking midfielder, I decided that he was perfect for the attacking right wing-back position that I required and at £125k he was an absolute steal. He’s taken his own sweet time to learn the position but that hasn’t stopped him maintaining a 7+ average rating and he’s started to chip in with a couple of assists. All good.
On the other flank, Croatian youngster Jurica Veraja continues to impress after his £650k move from Hadjuk – another great find by my director of football. In fact, he impressed so much that Liverpool offered me £4.6m for him after just 15 games. After inserting a ‘loan-back’ clause until the end of the season I gladly accepted and then proceeded to extend that loan deal until the end of the following season. So a £4m profit on a player that get to keep for 2 seasons at just £3.6k per week. Fantastic business.
In fact, my Director of Football has been responsible for a hat-trick of fantastic signings with Slovenian centre back Tadej Turk joining on a Bosman this summer:
He’s got a bit of everything and is probably just a couple of inches (in height) away from being a complete defender. Still only 19, he might yet grow but his pace and mental attributes are certainly enough to cover for any lack of aerial presence at this level and he’s another phenomenal talent that should, at the very least, make me an enormous profit.
Profit has been something of a buzzword around the Hanappi recently with the aforementioned sale and loan-back of Veraja; and then the even more profitable sale of Hungarian goalkeeper Balázs Iványi. Signed on a free from MTK, I sent him out on loan last season to Romanian club Brasov. He did very well there and debuted in the national side. I had planned to use him in the first team this year but his head was turned by a derisory offer from AS Monaco and he was soon demanding that I let him leave. I wasn’t planning on giving in to his demands but thought I’d offer him around and see what sort of cash he’d attract. When tycoon-funded Albacete stumped up £7.5m of pure profit, it wasn’t a difficult choice to let him go.
With Carlos Kameni still playing well at 34 and a promising Austrian newgen ‘keeper coming through, we should be covered in goal for the rest of my time at the club.
And that may not be all that much longer at all. Winning the title last year put us in the qualifiers for the Champions League but, having dispatched St Pat’s Athletic and Slovan Bratislava without too much trouble, we lost out on away goals to FC København. I was committed to staying for as long as we were in the Champions League but an early exit is opening up all sorts of possibilities.
With my new laptop able to handle much more than its predecessor, I’ve added all sorts of leagues and will now be able to apply for jobs in Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Turkey. I’m also considering adding the rest of the European leagues.
I do not, though, want to take over a ready made side which would make any title win a formality. I want a challenge and so I’m going to impose a rule that I will not take over a side that finished in the top half of their top tier the previous season.
I’d also be a little hesitant about moving to one of the big leagues as I’d prefer to journeyman around for a while. The domestic game is far from boring with Rapid at the moment so I’m in no rush and can take my time to find the ‘right move’. Until then, I’ll continue to battle it out with Red Bull Salzburg and a rejuvenated Sturm Graz.
As always, thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions then please use the boxes below.