2700 words and I couldn’t think of a sodding title

When I updated last, I was having some tactical trouble and bored you all to death with some statistics in an effort to found out where the problems were and how I could go about fixing them.

The good news, then, is that now I’ve settled on the tactic, I’m going to bore you all to death with some statistics in an effort to go about improving the players I use within that system. That though, will come in the next update as here I’ll update on how we finished the first season with Rapid, our first signings and, more importantly, how our qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 is going.

After my deliberation in the last post, the system I eventually settled on is as follows:

tacticI hope you can see most of that.

Much of my consternation in the last post revolved around the striker position and why I wasn’t scoring the level of goals that I expected. I came up with a few subtle changes to the system and, first game back, it looked like I was on to a winner.

A 5-1 win and an Alar hat-trick in an away game
A 5-1 win and an Alar hat-trick in an away game

I really didn’t expect that kind of immediate reaction and, as it turns out, I shouldn’t have as the LASK game proved to be a one-off against a side that would be relegated in 15th place. Much of the rest of the season followed the same trend as before the winter break – comfortable home wins and poor away performances.

That was until an absolutely disastrous performance in the ÖFB Cup semi-final away at Ried. We were soundly thrashed 4-0 (four) and my patience finally expired. Deni Alar was dropped and Dominik Starkl replaced him up front for the final five games.

Comparison between Deni Alar and Dominik Starkl (deep lying forwards)
Comparison between Deni Alar and Dominik Starkl (deep lying forwards)

Now I like to think that I know a lot about Football Manager, even that I’m pretty good at the game; but I cannot, in any way, shape or form, fathom why Dominik Starkl would end up being a better deep-lying forward than Deni Alar.

If anyone wants to offer any theories then please feel free but there is nothing in the attributes to suggest anything other than Alar is the better player. Not PPM’s either where Alar has “tries first time shots” and Starkl has “curls ball” and “cuts inside”.

Starkl, however, ended the season with three goals in four wins, missing the last game as we took 13 points from the final 5 matches to seal second spot.

Der Kapitan scores a penalty on the final day to seal Champions League qualification
Der Kapitan scores a penalty on the final day to seal Champions League qualification

Whilst Red Bull Salzburg ended up walking the league, losing 4 games after sealing the title in April, it was vital that we finish second to take the second Champions League qualification spot.

table

That’s a fairly unsurprising table with Salzburg clearly the best team in the league and the other “big names” competitive in the top half.

Red Bull also won the cup comfortably and look set to provide us with stiff competition for a few years, which is great news for the longevity of the save.

Talking of which, as we look to the long term future the end of the season provided me with my first opportunity to bring some of my own players into the squad, having removed the transfer budgets from the first window.

With Robert Beric heading to Braunschweig for €325k and Thanos Petsos to West Brom for €1.3m plus clauses in January, as well as the upcoming Champions League money, I was expecting a little more than the €425k the board gave me for new signings. That small budget meant two things – I needed to prioritise a couple of positions and I would probably need to sell to buy.

Notable departures highlighted
Notable departures highlighted

One of the earliest priorities for me was to invest in a new goalkeeper. Jan Novota is pretty decent for this level and kept 11 clean sheets last season but he’s a sellable asset, and a foreign one at that. Couple this with the lack of a senior ‘keeper for the Austrian side and I wanted to bring in one of a swathe of promising young Austrian ‘keepers for development purposes.

There are a number who could have done a job but, after selling Novota to Groningen for €475k, I settled on Andreas Leitner from Admira Wacker.

Leiitner

 

I’d experimented with a few of the young goalies last year with Cican Stankovic, Heinz Lindner and Dejan Stojanovic all being capped but Leitner was the one I settled on so he was the obvious first choice target.

I’m a big fan of ‘keepers with the simple attributes first – get positioning right, make the right decision and react quickly. Leitner is strong in all these areas for a 21-year old although I have slight concerns with his aerial ability and concentration. Now that he’s joined the club side, I can try to influence his development to cover these shortcomings.

He was relatively expensive at €650k plus a few clauses but the biggest drawback of his signature was being forced to accept a €1.2m minimum fee release clause. I’m hoping to negotiate that out in his next contract but felt it was worth the gamble to develop what could be the first choice national ‘keeper for the next 10 years.

That left me free to assess the outfield squad and start developing the conveyor belt of talent that will slot into the 4-1-4-1 over time. The first act of this was to allow 19 reserve and youth players to leave, having judged that they would never “make it”. This list included Lukas Grozurek, a handy squad player but, as I stated in the rules in the opening post, any Austrian over 20 who doesn’t get 10 starts in a season should be sold.

Wiener Neustadt picked Grozurek up on a free which should help strengthen their team and thereby the overall quality of the league – the intent of the rule.

Typical clauses included in sale deals
Typical clauses included in sale deals

Whilst Grozurek left on a free and Behrendt left for straight cash, when it came to the sales of Gartler, a promising ‘keeper, and Schaub, one of the most promising Austrian midfielders, I made full use of the additional clauses on offer.

Although I wasn’t massively keen on selling Schaub, I figured it was best in the long run for both club and country. Burnley, still in the Premier League, will help Schaub progress much quicker than he will in Austria whilst if he does well then a bigger club will eventually come calling and that 20% future fee clause could net me something like £3m, maybe more.

If I had been playing a regular game style then I think I’d have fought harder to keep Schaub in particular, given his obvious talent, but that’s the beauty of the club and country save for me. That and the choices you make in finding the replacements.

Dovedan

I could have taken the money from Schaub and invested in an expensive foreigner but, instead, I want to help develop as many promising youngsters as possible and Nikola Dovedan, pictured above, certainly fits that bill.

Joining from Red Bull Salzburg’s feeder team FC Liefering, Dovedan is capable of playing on either flank but I see him as more suited to the left wing rather than Schaub’s right mid position which now means that all four of my first team options for the wide roles – Kainz, Schobesberger, Dovedan and Kuen – can play on both flanks, giving me great flexibility.

Dovedan also only cost me €200k and meant I could sign two other first team players that I had my eye on. Having sold Petsos in January I felt we could do with an additional option in the middle and it proved to be prescient as Grahovac, our first choice roaming playmaker, would suffer a torn hamstring in early September.

TscherneggAgain, I had a number of options to look at. Ideally I’d have liked to sign Sandi Lovric from Sturm but he isn’t interested and our fans wouldn’t be chuffed with a move for Peter Michori from arch-rivals FAK. In the end it came down to a choice between Grödig pair Stefan Nutz and Sandro Djuric or, my eventual preferred choice, Peter Tschernegg of Wolfsberger.

At €575k, Tschernegg was relatively pricey but ticks an awful lot of boxes for me. Positionally, he can play both defensive midfield and central midfield, or even centre back in an emergency; whilst his attributes are well suited to our system.

Another of the “rules” I set in the opening post was to create a squad with certain “communal attribues”: first tier being Decisions, Teamwork, Work Rate, First Touch and Stamina; second tier of Anticipation, Composure, Concentration, Passing and Technique.

Tschernegg is in double figures for all these attributes which, for our level, puts him in a rather select group. Furthermore, his other attributes make him well-suited to either a physical tackling role or, combined with his Dictates Tempo PPM, the play-making role he has assumed in Grahovac’s absence.

It is exactly this kind of targeted signing that I love most about the game and I now hope to be able to produce attribute and PPM templates for each position in the team. However, I’m aware that this post is getting long so I’ll go into more detail on that in a separate post.

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Adhering to my “no more than 3 over-22 signings per season”, these are the other four deals I made. Haas and Muller are very much long term options, whilst Grillitsch joins on loan from Werder Bremen for first team football and looks like he could be excellent. More on Pellegrini in the subsequent post.

With the transfer business done, I’ve now played up to the start of October and it’s fair to say that things have been going well:

Fixtures to date

We haven’t conceded in the league since August whilst the performances against PSV in the first Champions League qualifier were outstanding. Unfortunately, we came up against Atlético in the next round and they proved too strong, beating us 3-1 in each leg.

I’d originally thought the Europa League draw of Dnipro, APOEL and PSV (again) was going to be difficult but a very even game in Ukraine gave us a very uneven 3-0 win whilst APOEL at home was a much simpler and more deserved 3-1 victory. Bearing in mind that we’ve already beaten PSV home and away in the Champions League, I’m now very confident we can make the latter stages.

And the good form hasn’t been limited to the club side, as a thus far successful Euro 2016 qualifying campaign has seen us shoot up the rankings.

ranking

 

Unfortunately, our meteoric rise seems to have come too late for the World Cup 2018 qualification seedings although I do feel that we’ve lucked out despite remaining as third seeds.

World Cup 2018 European Qualification draw
World Cup 2018 European Qualification draw

I’ve had some trouble with Wales in the past but I’m confident we’ll be able to take a playoff spot behind the English.

In this campaign, though, it is highly unlikely we’ll have to settle for playoffs, in fact I’m looking to top the group.

Euro group

With our final two fixtures being Lichtenstein (H) and Moldova (A), that table looks even lovelier. And I reckon we deserve it too.

We dispatched with Moldova 3-0 at home rather easily and then hosted Sweden in what I assumed would be a match to decide second place. We were desperately unlucky in that match as we failed to take a number of excellent chances and conceded an own goal but, thanks to a Marco Djuricin double on debut, settled for a 2-2 draw ahead of the trips to Russia and Montenegro.

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We used the same 4-1-4-1 as the club for the majority of the games but, in contrast to the switch with Rapid, I decided to stick with the Defensive Forward up front in Moscow. This is partly down to Djuricin being out injured for these games and the role suiting his replacement, Andreas Weimann, perfectly; but also because of our underdog status and a decision to prioritise the draw.

Weimann, though, was magnificent – scoring one and setting up another. Together with Marko Arnautovic, who terrorised first Igor Smolnikov and then Roman Shishkin from the left wing (completing 12 dribbles!), and the usual outstanding performance from David Alaba in the middle, we ran out 3-1 winners.

An unexpected and hugely welcome victory that puts top spot firmly in our grasp. The trip to Podgorica was much more difficult than it should have been. We dominated the first half, going ahead early and then benefitting from a harsh red card to Stefan Savic. However, Alaba then missed the resulting penalty and we failed to take any further chances.

Julian Baumgartlinger then decided to get himself sent off, committing GBH against Vucinic 6 seconds into the second half. The Montenegrin didn’t even have the chance to make it out the centre circle before the Baumgartlinger presented him with a 12 stud present.

Jovetic inevitably equalised from a corner but Alaba had the final word, atoning for his earlier penalty miss with a neat finish from close range.

national fixtures

 

If we don’t finish top now, we only have ourselves to blame.

In terms of the squad, we’ve managed to cap a few of the most promising youngsters such as Valentino Lazaro and Sascha Horvath although we appear to have lost out on a couple of Austrian / Bosnian dual nationality players. These are the main protagonists.

Most commonly capped players this year
Most commonly capped players this year

As you can see from that screenshot, there aren’t any players in the regular squad over 30, with a real focus on those under 25.

There are, however, two problem positions appearing on the horizon. First, right back may be an issue with current first choice Florian Klein turning 29 in November. Rapid youngster Pavelic is possibility but I can’t see him becoming international class; whilst George Tiegl has recently moved to Hertha Berlin but, again, I have my doubts.

Of even greater worry is the striker position. So far in this campaign, I’ve used Andi Weimann, Ashley Barnes, Rubin Okotie, Erwin Hoffer, Philipp Hosiner, Marco Djuricin and Marcel Sabitzer in various roles as the lone striker.

There have been a few excellent performances like Djuricin against Sweden and Weimann against Russia but, for the most part, there just isn’t the right fit. I had hoped that Deni Alar would have stepped up but we can’t even get him scoring for Rapid, nevermind at international level.

Djuricin remains my biggest hope for the moment, with Weimann likely to come in against big teams when I use the Defensive Forward. Beyond that, I have hopes that “Super” Kevin Friesenbichler will develop well or that we get some tasty newgens through.

Talking of which, this year’s intake was comprehensively disappointing.

intake

Whilst it was nice to see quite so many newgens coming through our academy, the standard was poor. Even the best prospect, Sven Hartmann, is never going to get anywhere near an international side.

Hartmann

 

A striker with a Vision attribute of “1” is going to struggle, I feel.

There seems to be a few better prospects at the other Austrian clubs, particularly a striker at Admira’s academy and a central defender at Wiener Neustadt that I’ll be keeping an eye on.

And that wraps up the update on the game so far. Hopefully my next game update will be post-Euro 2016 with a relatively successful campaign on which to report. I’m hoping to get out of the group but I’m hoping that the FA will accept “being competitive” just in case.

In between times, I hope to have a slightly different post written with a detailed look at scouting for each of the positions in my 4-1-4-1 – how I decide which attributes to prioritise, how I decide which training to assign and PPM’s to teach.

For now, I’ve been writing for far too long. Well done if you made it through all of that. Thanks for reading and please leave any comments you have in the boxes below. My last blog received the most comments of any article I’ve posted and it’s fantastic to receive the feedback.

Forza Rapid!

 

 

 

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22 thoughts on “2700 words and I couldn’t think of a sodding title”

  1. Looking forward to the update explaining your tactical changes. I’ve been trying to get a 4141 work and always found we’re toothless going forward. There are either not enough bodies to keep possession before launching a decent attack OR there’s not enough support for the attacker in dangerous areas.
    Reading blogs like this gives me new ideas but also frustrates me further. 🙂
    At least with all the research, trial and error I’ve found getting this shape to work is nigh on impossible on Counter (or lower) mentality. You’re just under constant pressure and far too away from the goal. Control seems like a must, with its high defensive line which brings everyone a bit closer the opposition goal.
    That’s only step one, though. Others include creating good chances while maintaining defensive stability this formation naturally provides.

    1. Thanks shirajzi. The 4-1-4-1 has been working well for me and I expect it to be a very popular formation this year with the massive reduction SI have seen fit to implement in AMR/L defensive capabilities.

      Hopefully my next post will give you some ideas on how I’ve got mine to work although I’m going to focus more on getting the right players for each of the roles than an appraisal of the tactic itself.

    2. Same for me. I’m in the second season with spurs and currently 6th (I do have two games in hand which could see me go 3rd) My record in the league is played 31 won 15 drew 12 and lost 4 scored 39 conceded 19. Were really hard to beat but goal for is worrying, were ranked 12th for goals for and 1st for goals against

      1. The goals were hard to come for me last season but we’ve really kicked on this year. Whether that’s down to the squad gelling / tactical familiarity or just getting Alar out of the striker position… not sure.

  2. Another great read. I have been thinking of starting a Club & Country game myself in Hungary but I haven’t picked a club yet. I like the idea of some of the self imposed sanctions although I would probably want to aim for European club success as well and might not be as strong willed as you!. Personally, I would like to get a 3 man defense tactic working probably either a 3412 or 3241. If I can find or develop a Hungarian sweeper I’ll be even more pleased 🙂
    Looking forward to the scouting write up and your ideas on the ppm’s as this is something I am keen to explore as well.

    1. Thanks, I’m going to start writing it up tonight so hopefully shouldn’t have to wait too long.

      Hungary would be a great country for a C&C. Rapid have a tight affiliation with Ferencvaros so perhaps an idea there for you? I love the 3-4-1-2 shape too, one of my favourites along with 4-1-2-3-0.

  3. Good post. As for the striker issue, my bet is that it’s down to hidden attributes (pressure or consistency most likely). I often have strikers who under-perform compared to what their attributes suggest, but I find that they often have one thing in common: lack of pressure and/or professionalism rating. Conversely, strikers with good values in those hidden attributes are often consistent performers that can hold their own even when playing above their level. That’s why I value personality over anything else for strikers.

    1. Could be but both have similar personalities:

      Alar – Balanced / Volatile
      Starkl – Balanced / Media-friendly

      That “volatile” for Alar means that his temperament is low, between 3 and 6. Perhaps there’s something in that? And yet, he’s now banging them in from centre midfield. 5 in 3 games! You never know, really!

  4. Received the following comment from Ryan Tank on twitter – https://twitter.com/ryantank100

    Shrew. I had read your latest post. It’s a great read. Indeed. Why? Because, in Indonesia, the interest to wonderkid and building a team with youngsters is very popular way of playing FM.

    This post would be one of the most appropriate read so they got some comparative study of how to make some considerations to their teams. Unfortunately, English language is not our native nor the second one. There would be a lot of people struggling to understand what you want to say in this article 😦

    I have an idea of translating this article. But, it’s not now, as I’m too lazy to write some FM articles now. I’m more interested in real life football ones

    But, Shrew, the question (and wish) is, if I finally find my motivation to write an FM article, would you mind if I translate this article

  5. Great update.

    Looking forward to the scouting post, it’s something I try to do but often goes out of the window when I look at star ratings. I’ll be interested to see what you look for in each position.

  6. Good stuff as always. Its definitely frustrating at times but I also actually enjoy some of the mystery that determines actual on field play vs all the attributes. I have a striker in my current save who just keeps scoring even tho is attributes are unimpressive and his ability is more like a tier or 2 below my current level
    However I guess the key is that the mystery is ultimately based on some rationale explanation ( hidden attributes, time to setlle, happiness etc)

    1. Thanks for the comment, Ian.

      You’re right, though, I hadn’t thought about the unpredictability actually being something to enjoy. I guess it’s true to life too, I mean who could ever foresee Darren Mackie becoming a professional footballer?!

  7. It’s great to see another update and even better to hear that your system is bringing you the results you’re after. Really looking forward to reading about your recruitment process; something I’ve neglected by putting too much emphasis on the system and loyalty into the existing setup.

    As for my Rapid Wien save, I have mixed feelings. The results are there (top by ~15 points and only lost twice to Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League) but there are too many 1-0s and draws that myself and the fans are not quite satisfied. The funny thing is, originally, I played with Kainz and Schaub and Inside Forwards in the AM strata and kept 5 clean sheets in a row. The first system employs a Half Back so that the CBs push wide to ensure there is another defensive cover to win long balls into the channels on the counter. It also means the Wing Backs can overlap both Inside Forwards (who are also both top goalscorers!).

    This is my 4-1-2-2-1 setup, which I switch with a 4-2-3-1 depending on if the opposition plays with an AM or a DM. The latter uses inverted wing backs to ‘box’ the opposition in their own half, almost a 2-3-3-2 in attack, and they seem to work pretty well! I also have a wide 4-1-4-1-2 diamond if I feel like I need 2 up front. Also means I’ve had to retrain Schimpelsberger to a backup Half Back, Grahovac as an Inverted Wing Back and Starkl as a right sided Inside Forward.

    I find that this responsiveness to in-game situations give us an edge in the league where the other teams are one-dimensional. I also think dominating possession and areas of the pitch is a good strategy in the smaller leagues as most of the teams don’t have enough quality to play out of the back and just end up hoofing it clear (so tall DMs and CBs like Sonnleitner and Petsos just win the headers and recycle possession.

    I just wish the team was less wasteful and that’s my next challenge now I have 3 systems in place. Kainz and Schaub are my top goalscorers and that worries me a lot to be honest.

    1. Good to see you’re doing well.

      Kainz has been outstanding for me in the second season and looks like he’ll be the next one sold on to England for development. Schaub left for €3.3m and I hope to get similar money for Kainz.

      Totally agree on the smaller teams’ inability to play out from the back and I’m having a lot of success with the high possession game. Surprised to hear that the inverted wingbacks are working out for you, though. The last time I tried them, they just didn’t do anything at all and were completely broken. They never came inside but just played as if a FB(S). Very frustrating.

      Grahovac is an excellent player, although I’d never considered him as an IWB, but he’s permanently injured for me these days. I think I’ll sell him on for a nice profit and try to get someone who is available more often!

      1. Regarding Inverted Wing Backs, they seem to be working ok for my save. Been studying Bielsa’s 3-3-1-3 as a backup, Europa League tactic and counter mentality tactic and Grahovac had been great on the left, almost playing as a AM at times with the Get Further Forward instruction! Though the biggest weakness, and that of the team, is the space left in behind. So far the wider CBs cover the space well and there’s a DLP/Regista as an extra body, but it does get exploited. Managed to comfortable beat Villarreal in the knockout rounds which was a very proud achievement, just have my doubts that it will work in the league with that mentality. Except maybe as a cautious system away at Austria Wien!

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