Revealing The Essentials

Posted: November 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

I know you lot already moved to #FM16 but what I am trying to explain in this article should be valid for all versions. So take a look and let me know what you think please. My twitter account: @e_ozkan
Thank you 🙂 

aneke
While reading some of @Cleon81’s twitter posts I have encountered a subject which is actually one of the most popular debates among FM players. How do we analyse matches? Do we depend on the detailed analysis screen FM has been presenting for some years now? Do we watch the games in greater detail than just key moments and goals? To what do we base our decisions during (or in between) matches? To the match engine or the the statistical reports?

There are different views about this subject. Some people like to play their matches in a very quick fashion, where even the goal highlights are shown in that “lightning fast” setting. Yet some others, including myself, prefer to digest each and every match rather slowly, trying to watch the games at least in extended length, or comprehensive, ideally. Sometimes we even play the matches as full 90 minutes, if it is an ultra important game against a rival or a final of sorts. It’s all about tastes and preferences all of which need to be respected. Therefore the purpose of this article is something way beyond criticism of any said preferences.

In this article we are going to compare two methods over a single match.
First we are going to try to read the game with the match engine.
Then we will try to utilize the ratings, stats and analysis system in order to reach to some kind of results.
We will then compare the two sets of results we have reached with each method and see where they match, where they clash and to what extent the two methods can be used in tandem in order to harvest the most accurate analysis. 

For the sake of this comparison, I will be using one of the most recent matches in my current FM15 Save. For me it is one of the most exciting matches in all my FM (CM) adventures, dating back to 1993. You will see why… 🙂 

 

Build Up 

Now, last time I wrote here I was playing an “unemployed start save”. I simply didn’t or couldn’t find anything interesting to share about it ever since. The game took me first to the Polish side Jagiellonia and then to Olympique De Marseille after a sweep of domestic cups in Poland along with a very spectacular run in the Pre-group & group stages of the Champions League.

My career was practically running too perfect to be interesting and that is not a good base to create a story.
Would Avengers (or any similar movie) be as interesting to you if the heroes kept beating the enemy single-handed, without really experiencing any trouble or life-threatening risks?  That’s what I am experiencing with OM in France right now. Leading the Ligue 1 by 13 points, playing the final both in League cup and French Cup. Too comfy to talk about. Nothing interesting really happened in Champions League as well. A pretty easy group stage against Red Bull Salzburg, Benfica and Leverkusen. Finished the group on top with 10 points, no losses, 2 wins and 4 draws, 15 goals for, 5 goals against… 2 wins, 4 draws and still finished at top; that’s how easy my life is in Marseille…

But then came the Italian champions, Juventus, for the first elimination round of Champions League.
We played the first game away and “managed” to get a 2-0 defeat, thanks to our great goalkeeper Mandanda, who prevented a potentially shameful score. Well, we could have scored there as well… We’ve had the chances but couldn’t utilize due to poor form of our attackers.

Success in Champions League was really never expected by our board but of course we always go out to the field with a single purpose: Win. That’s exactly what we did for the return leg.

 

The Plan

 

In order to win and win by a 3 goal margin against a defensively solid Juventus we need to attack strong and that means I need to go out of my comfort zone and change my familiar formation. So instead of my wide 4-1-2-3-1, which is pretty much expected by the opposition, I decide to go for a much more direct approach:
A good old 4-3-3 (DM) with 3 strikers.
Here is how the starting line-ups for the return leg and my Team instructions looks:

OM-JUVE TACT OM-JUVE TACT2

In addition, I’ve set Close Down Much More to all forwards and Close Down More to both CMs.
I have also given specific opposition instructions to Always close down the Goalkeeper and 3 Center Backs of Juventus, by showing them to their weaker foot.

The defensive part of the plan follows:
-Apply pressure immediately and as high as possible. (1st Layer)
– Give time to your wing-backs to run back to a high defensive line before the opposition can build up a “creative” play
– If Juve defenders play the ball to their midfield, apply immediate pressure to prevent accurate forward passes to Tevez and Aboubakar. (2nd Layer)
Crisetig will collect inaccurate passes or tackle any midfielders who are already under pressure (3rd Layer)
– The central defenders will look to touch the ball before the opposition strikers let it be passes to foot or long balls over the top. (4th Layer)

The offensive part of the plan is less complicated:
– If 1st Layer wins the ball, take it to the opposition area as quickly as possible.
– If 2nd Layer wins the ball, take it to the opposition area as quickly as possible by playing directly to the forwards
– If 3rd Layer wins the ball, take it to the opposition area as quickly as possible by playing to the forwards directly or to the CM-A if no option is available
– If 4th Layer wins the ball, play to wing backs / midfield.

This is why I am using high tempo along with direct balls and pass into space. I have to add that my forward trio has also “play more direct” settings on.

There is also a slight tweak to my squad choice.
The choice for wing backs goes without saying. They are the best I have and they are good.
The center backs… Although I trust Lorik Cana with my life, he is rather old now and lost a lot of pace. Pace is the key attribute for our defenders in this match and given their pace along with recent form, Paz and Sviatchenko are my best choices.

Aneke is not a first team player. He is used in rotation when we play with an AMC in my 4-2-3-1 (wide) formation. I am not using it here because I think a 2 man midfield would be suicidal against Juventus. Anyway, Aneke can hold up the ball upfield and push others into play, deliver deadly passes and crack some accurate shots from distance if necessary. He is also aerially solid, which helps on both ends when it comes to set pieces. It is important to hold up the ball right there between Juventus midfield and defence. That is the only way to draw one of the center backs (preferably Chiellini, the middle one) and meddle with the defensive shape Juventus is going to try to hold rigidly.

In that congested midfield – defence shape of Juventus it would be very hard to protect the ball more than a couple of seconds if we used a relatively smaller guy. Aneke, being a good target man, can hold off those challenges and make accurate passes. He is perfect for this task.

Players in the midfield are the ones to win the ball whenever the Juventus defenders play semi-accurate passes (due to pressure hopefully).We need to disrupt their play here. My best ball winner is Lorenzo Crisetig. Although I normally play him in a CM slot, I need to take him back to DMC to provide depth for my midfield (ball rotation) and a shield for my defenders. The two Central Midfielders will attack the ball receiver whenever the opposition defenders send the ball to midfield. Crisetig will be the third layer and he will pounce on the passes sent from those “under pressure” midfielders.

At least that is the plan. This is why I can play the very talented young Abdeslam here despite the fact that he has no tackling ability whatsoever. He has incredible skills with the ball and if we can win possession here by Crisetig or Chantome, they can find this young lad to take the ball forward.  I also want him to slip into the area to create more options for Aneke to find, hence the CM-A setting.

I have to decide whether to play Chantome as a CM-S or a BBM. I go for the latter to provide more mobility here and hopefully, with close down more setting, he will be able to apply pressure at a higher zone.

Bony, loaned in for a year, is my primary striker, so he has to play. However, I do not want to send balls over the defense. I want him to support the midfield and wing backs as much as possible by showing himself to receive the ball. This, too, is a way to disturb the opposition defensive shape.  Same goes with Payet. I could have used Gignac here. Striker-slot is not Payet’s natural position, but with his skill set (22 goals scored this season) he is more than capable of delivering the goods. Also, if things go south and if I need a secondary plan, having Payet gives me a lot of options as he is natural in all AM positions. That, along with keeping Gignac fit for later in the game if necessary, makes me choose Payet for the left striker position.

 

Applying the Plan and Reading The Game

 

The match started just like I hoped it would start. Pressing high up the field and playing as quickly as possible to the forward line, we pinned Juventus back into their area early on. Even though I hoped for this kind of a start, I did not expect an early lead, which came like this:

This super start was quite hopeful of course. We could at least get a 2-0 lead early on and then work our way through to extra-time at the least.

Little did we know that this was about to happen though:

The game puts the blame on Dje Djedje for a missed tackle on Tevez. I would say it’s sheer quality of Tevez for that cross and Aboubakar making the run. I cannot make any reads here other than maybe applying Tight Marking to their forwards. However since I know that Aboubakar is more of a danger with long balls if my defenders stay too close to him, I keep my settings as they are.  Anyway, we cannot make too much out of this, it was a simple throw in. I might have liked a secondary man shadowing Tevez there, besides Dje Djedje, though. Worth to consider…

I have now lost the chance to take the game to extra time. Which means I need a 3 goal margin now. And that means I need to take more risks. So I turn on the Attacking strategy instead of Control and I play on… To experience this:

This is where I can see the first glimpses of my plan at work.
Criscito (DC) receives the ball from the goalkeeper in his own half. Sees immediate pressure from Aneke, passes to Caner Erkin (LWB). While the ball is coming to him, Dje Djedje (CWB-R) starts closing down and Caner has to exchange first time passes with Pogba, who is also under pressure by Bony and is shadowed by Chantome. So Pogba plays it back to Caner.

At this second these two players are closed down heavily by 3 OM players. Caner has no other chance but to play yet another hurried first time pass towards the central midfield. This is where Crisetig’s great awareness comes into play and he intercepts the ball.  The defensive plan is working…

OM-JUVE CRISETIG_CANER

Here Crisetig has to play a direct ball to Payet who is in one on one situation with Rugani and making a great run. But – given his Defensive role setting probably – he prefers a short ball to Aneke, which is not ideal to our plan. Pogba makes an interception but is immediately tackled by Crisetig again and the ball ends up at Chiellini, closed down by Aneke.

OM-JUVE CRISETIG_Pass

OM-JUVE CRISETIG_MID

At this point all midfielders of Juve are under pressure (shown above) and that short pass from Chiellini to Marchisio does not help them at all. After a couple of short passes in a very tight triangle, the pressure by our 2nd Layer, helps our 3rd Layer (Crisetig) to win the ball again.

OM-JUVE CRISETIG_ANEKE

This time he makes the right choice by playing it to Aneke, who draws Chiellini up from his deep position (ideally the last man of the defensive trio). This leaves the central area behind Chiellini exposed to through balls and Aneke sends a deadly ball to the strong run of Bony who applies a quality finish.

OM-JUVE ANEKE-BONY

This is exactly what we were planning to do. Apply pressure, win the ball, find Aneke, draw Chiellini out, send through balls to Payet or Bony who make runs behind an unbalanced defensive line. Our game plan seems to be working… Except for one thing. Opposition throw-ins… Here we go:

This is why I am not playing with “get stuck in”. It would have given away too many fouls and set pieces are the last thing I want Juventus to do. Set pieces, even throw-ins, make them send people up front and since my plan is to apply pressure high up the field, I do not want the ball around my area with so many Juve players overwhelming us. One unctonrolled ball, one mistake and as we can see here, we concede another goal. Again by a throw-in… 2-2, now we need to score 3 more, in the remaining 80 or so minutes…

Other than the obvious throw-in problem, things are going according to the initial plan. We apply pressure upfield and Juventus defenders cannot make accurate connections with their midfielders. Our defenders deal with high balls and our 3 man midfield, especially Chantome and Crisetig are very effective in collecting any rebounds. This gives us attack continuity and frustrates our opponents. I like this. Also the “set-piece” issue works both ways. Whenever we get a corner, we get to pin Juventus into their own area which makes “application of pressure upfield” much more easier. Plus, we are very good at taking corners…

This is yet another example which shows that our pressure plan is working. Chiellini, under pressure in his own area, has to clear the ball away but he does it without adjusting his body ending up with a corner kick:

Corners and set pieces. This is how we get to score two more before half time. By attack continuity and pinning down our opponent. We make it 4-2 and this gives us a great opportunity for the second half since now we only need to score one goal to qualify. I take the team back a little, dropping down to Control, take my young midfielder out, pulling Payet to midfield and putting in Correa for the left DLF position, who is a quick guy and quality finisher.

Our plan is still working even though we have pulled our team slightly back. We can still apply just about enough pressure when necessary and that disturbs Juventus defence, preventing them to build up in a rational, creative fashion. See how Lichtsteiner makes a big mistake, same as Caner and Chiellini before, presenting us a very clear chance to score. Aneke misses it though… (Below)


And here we see Chiellini intercepting an inaccurate pass by Dje Djedje and being immediately closed down by Chantome before even controlling the ball properly. Chantome wins it and plays to Correa who makes a doubtful choice to miss the chance, again…  (Below) Maybe we should ask our forward trio to shoot less often, because they are wasting clear chances as their priority is set to shoot, rather than finding a better positioned teammate. Let’s do that, shoot less to all forwards and midfielders. Work ball into box, too...

In the last 10 minutes I try to overload Juventus, which is now a parked bus in front of their own area. Closing down approach, defensive line all maxed up to take the game even more forward. We are now sending men into the area and trying to find them with early crosses, hoping that the aerial strength of Aneke is going to work something out. When all hope is lost at 93.15 of a 3 minute extra time, we score… Off a throw in, to show Juventus that Karma is a bitch, indeed. 5-2 and we are through to quarter finals.

One of the most dramatic finals in all my Football Manager adventures dating back to 1993. It literally made me run around the house, shouting out loud, with my hands in the air. Quite a Shearer-esque sight…

But let us get back to our subject.

Results

 

What do the stats and post game analysis tell us?

It tells us that Bony, having scored a hat-trick has an AvR of 9,6. Much deserved, too. Man of the match according to the post-match report. I wanted him to be the main goal threat and he accomplished that task with class. The highlights are on the same page with the post match report here.

It tells us that Aneke, having scored once and assisted twice has an AvR of 9.0. He really did what I wanted from him, according to highlights as well. I saw him hold up the ball, give the forwards time to position themselves at the shoulder of their marker and whenever Cheillini closes Aneke down, he found his teammate with a deadly pass. Analysis and highlights, on the same page.

It tells us that Crisetig has an AvR of 7.7… This means he was good but not exceptionally so. In what terms though? Let’s have a look at his detailed stats and compare them with our expectations from Crisetig in this game.

  • We wanted Crisetig to follow the midfield battle closely and win the ball from already disturbed Juventus midfielders.  He has 14 tackles, out of 14 attempts. Perfect. In fact I didn’t even expect that much.
  • He leads the team in interceptions. 8 interceptions in total. 
  • He ran 11.8 km in total. It is good but not huge for a DM, which says that he did not leave his position unnecessarily and expose his defensive duo too much.
  • He passed with a performance of 40/49 (1 key according to the game). For me this is very good because I did not assign a creative role to him. I just wanted him to redistribute the ball by keeping it simple. He did what I wanted, perfectly.

In addition to that Crisetig started at least 2 attacks with his tackles and passes. Made the pass before the assist in Bony’s second goal. Stopped Tevez in a one-on-one situation within our half with a perfectly clean tackle which is given as his only key tackle in the stats. If you ask me, the tackle before Bony’s goal and multiple others which made sure that we executed our game plan in the field, were pretty “key” as well. Crisetig, for me, is the man of the match. So I cannot say that I am satisfied with the game rating him at 7,7 only.It is kind of an illusion… An assessment I do not agree with because the game did not know what I was really expecting from him and therefore did not rate Crisetig accordingly.

This is exactly why the stat & analysis method by itself is not enough to evaluate the performances of players and the general execution of our game plan. The stat system does not tell us about the multiple tackles of Chantome or Crisetig that caused clear chances with just one pass.

The stat system does not give us any idea regarding the efficiency of our pressing, which obviously disturbed the defenders and gave us 2-3 extra corner kicks as can be seen in highlights.

If we did not watch the highlights we could not understand that the interception made by Crisetig to Caner’s pass was caused due to Bony’s and Dje Djedje’s closing down to Caner and Pogba. Without watching the highlights the two goals we have conceded in the first 10 minutes would cause us to get back to a more cautious approach, shutting down pressing, pulling back to a more reasonable line of defense, maybe to prevent an embarrassing result? By watching the highlights in comprehensive mode though, we knew that those two goals were just unlucky and the team was doing what we planned with great success.

I am not saying that we have to watch every game as a full-game or comprehensive highlights. I am merely saying that getting stuck in the stats by ignoring the match engine as a whole might be misleading. The game is not assessing your players and team according to the game plan you have set in your mind. The measurement system of the game relies on other things which is normal. It is after all, despite all realism, just a game. However there is a way to play this game, with greater depth and detail… The path to that end goes through successful utilization of both post-game stats & analysis and the match engine. It is the only way to see what the stats don’t say…
Indeed, ass the great Sir Alex Ferguson put it once:

“Statistics are like mini-skirts, shows a lot of things but does not show what is essential”

Erdem Ozkan

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Previously in Manager’s Lounge…

…we have talked about my start of managerial life, the unemployment and the events leading to the post at one of the mediocre Polish sides, Jagiellonia. The team played 11 games in the Polish League Ekstraklasa before me and couldn’t get a single win, hence anchored down at the bottom of the table with 5 points.

Uncertainty…
According to many International Relations & Politics experts, uncertainty was a key aspect to all conflicts and wars throughout the history.
If there is uncertainty about your own capabilities, your opponents capabilities; uncertainty about the environment or the system the conflict is happening; or uncertainty about any other factors which may affect the outcome;
if there is any kind of uncertainty…  There is a considerable risk that you are going to lose the conflict.

Since I had no idea about the club, squad, players, the Ekstraklasa league, other teams etc. I was in a deep pit of uncertainty here and I had to start by getting as much “certainty” as I could muster about my team and other teams in the league.

In terms of FM, that is done by Team Report – comparison.

Solid Defense

Solid Defense

This is the most important tool you an use in order understand the relative strength of your squad against the league maximum, minimum and averages. Along with other solid information we already inherit, this data comparison may help us to create a SWOT analysis, which is the prerequisite of establishing a strategy, game plan and everything that goes with it (formation, style etc.)

What we do is, we assign points to different aspects of our game; those aspects which stand out from the others in a good or bad way… The point system ranges from 1 to 3, with 1 being WORST and 3 being BEST.

So the initial SWOT analysis for Jagiellonia looked liked this:

STRENGTHS

Decisions – 3rd in the League with 11.24 
Now 11.24 average at decision making attribute for the whole squad may sound low. However, we are not going to compete against Chelsea or Barcelona here and according to our league (with a maximum rating of 11,57) we have a relatively intelligent squad on the pitch and that is a big strength for me since Decisions is one of the key attributes I am looking for in every single player in my team.

Defensive Jumping Reach & Heading – 1st in the league with 12,88 and 12,25 respectively
I like that. No, I love that. This means we are very tough to beat with crosses. This means that we can channel opposition play towards the wings. Let them cross all they want, we can deal with it all day long. At least, so it seems…
In order to make sure where we stand in terms of defending high balls, we need to compare our defensive ratings against offensive ratings of other teams.
Therefore we check the Attacking Jumping reach & heading averages of the league and we see that Lechia’s offense may create problems for us if they play those guys creating an impressive average of 13 in Jumping Reach.
Similarly Legia’s offensive heading attributes are better than our defensive ratings, 13,33.
Still I always thought that defenses have an upper hand against offenses in general, when it comes to the air-ball challenge. So that idea of channeling opposition attacks to the flanks is a good starting point to establish a game plan.

Defensive Quality – Positioning, Tackling, Marking, Strength 
We are very good in all these attributes compared to league averages.
4th in Defensive Strength, Tackling and Marking; 3rd in Positioning.
Solid defensive look… Even this alone can lead to multiple ideas when we get start creating our tactic.

Midfield Creativity – Vision & Decisions
We see yet another high attribute to increase the importance of that high overall Decision making attribute of our squad. Vision… Our team is positioned 3rd in Vision (11,85) and 2nd in Decisions (11,92) among all midfielders in the league. That means we can easily keep possession of the ball and create chances from midfield.

Attack – Jumping Reach, Acceleration, Long Shots
Just like our defenders, our attackers also seem to be quite capable to make use of high balls (4th -12,00). We can use this by making use of both flanks and send in some high crosses or maybe use a Target Man for our long balls if the opposition applies pressure to our defense and midfield.
Acceleration (4th – 12,6) might be useful for our attackers  when trying to beat the defense when we used that midfield vision and send in some through balls.
Long Shots (5th – 10,00)… I don’t really know if that’s a strength. I don’t want my attackers to use long shots as their primary method of goal scoring. This may be seen as an “opportunity” for those times when the opposition parks the bus and leaves us no other choice but taking long shots. But 10,00 is not a big enough rating for long shots anyway… So yes, not a strength but an opportunity.

Solid defense, ability to keep possession…
Very impressive for a team at the bottom of the league with just 5 points, right? Well, obviously there should be some reasons for this awful performance, so let’s start looking at those.

5 points in 11 games... Destined to be relegated

Jagiallonia conceded less than many other teams in the league despite the lack of a single win… Solid Defense

WEAKNESSES

Low Aggression (16th in a league of 16 teams with 9,44) 
Some people would consider this a good thing. Having low aggression among the squad would mean less unnecessary tackles and therefore less disciplinary penalties, yellow cards, red cards etc. That is one way of looking at the situation.
The way I see it, however, is that aggression is a necessary attribute and enables the team to play certain styles much more easily. Especially the high-pressure game.
An aggression rating as low as this one means that our players are going to be too soft on opposition attackers & midfielders when applying pressure. Having the least aggressive squad in all the league means that we are probably going to have a hard time to win the ball by individual pressure and tackling. If winning the ball gets harder, the importance of possession increases…

Low Teamwork (15th with 11,28)
Very important attribute and a very low score. It means a lot of things but mainly it affects the squad to act as a single unit on the field, which is fine for those teams with very good individual ability but not for us.
We need to depend on teamwork to get things done on the field because we do not have any star players. This means that the possession based play may get hampered due to lack of teamwork. We need to improve on this, quickly.

Low Passing – (12th with 10,40)
This rating includes goalkeepers and defenders and everybody in the team, including the youngsters of course but still, the same applies to all the other teams in the league. Being 12th in this ranking is not helping us with keeping the possession despite the strong decisions and vision ratings. The right idea to do the correct thing on the field is there, available to the player, but the execution is also very important and that is one of our weaknesses, obviously.

Defensive Pace & Acceleration (9th -11,13 and 10th -10,73) 
Not a very big weakness, this one, considering the other positive defensive aspects we mentioned earlier.
Tactically speaking it would not avoid anything at the moment. The defense is not incredibly slow so we can still push up with our defensive line, which I think is essential to a possession based play.
I think this is more a “threat” than a weakness. The opposition may not solely focus on beating us in this aspect; we are not that slow. Still, there will be situations where our quickness at defensive line may not cope with the opposition. We need to be careful about this.

Low Anticipation & Movement Off The Ball for Attackers (15th w. 10,00 and 16th w.10,60, respectively)
These two attributes are the actual needs of a good striker. Not Long Shots.
We should have the good long shots attribute for midfielders -which we don’t by the way- and not for strikers.
Our strikers are apparently the worst in the league when it comes to anticipating the developing attack and taking position accordingly. They cannot create space for themselves due to low off the ball attribute and  they cannot time their runs behind the defensive line due to lack of anticipation.
Remember those very good decisions and vision of our midfielders?
Combined with these low stats we can say that we are going to produce the passes to break opposition defensive line but there will be nobody getting to the other end of the ball most of the time… Pity.

OPPORTUNITIES:

We are the youngest team of the league (23,88) with good potential.
We have a good goalkeeper rotation with young and talented players.
The league system is in our favor. There is a playoff system to decide relegation, giving us a total of 26 games to save the club.
Our average wage is £900. Way below the amount Legia pays to its players (£2800)
Generally low quality throughout the league. It is not possible for any of these clubs to “own” the league any time soon.

THREATS:

More than 10 injured players in the first team
Very low morale throughout the squad.
A transfer budget of £100k and apparently nowhere to move when it comes to wages. There goes our mid-season transfer plans…
The squad has only one natural Left back and only one natural Right Back. Both are very promising young players but if anything happens to them, there is not even a youngster to replace them.
Lack of judgement among the staff is a problem while trying to get to know the players.
No established scouting system.
Now that we have analysed our team and assessed their position in the league generally, we can focus on individual players. After that we can think about what kind of a game we are going to play on the field.

The ideas at the moment, before checking individual players are:

  • Possession play
  • Wing play to allow free crosses
  • Shut down the center of the park
  • Channel opposition attacks towards wings, let them send high crosses
  • Play with as much discipline as possible, due to lack of extra quality & flair within the squad

    Next up…. Individual player analysis and Establishing the Tactical Structure.

Being the manager of a football team has always been my biggest ambition since my childhood. My love for this beautiful game started when

I was 6 years old, during Mexico ’86 World Cup, watching Maradona, Lineker, Kuznetsov, Stoitchkov and other great players of that great tournament. Then the European Champs of 1988 and the charm of the Holland team made me a fan of attacking football which was just starting to emerge in my country back then, thanks to former Galatasaray legend, the late Jupp Derwall.

The changes in Turkish football became much more evident after the ’88 Championship.  During the 88-89 season, where I have fallen in love with Fenerbahce once and for all, Fenerbahce broke the records by winning the league by scoring 103 goals in total. Ridvan Dilmen (a.k.a The Devil) –CM players from early 90s will remember him from Italy version- showed the whole country how beautiful football can be when you play it fast, smart and with some flair.  Something similar to what we see in Messi today. In another life, where he wasn’t born in Turkey but rather in Buenos Aires, Ridvan would be the undisputed star of Post-Maradona, Pre-Messi era. Instead he had to undergo 14 surgeries and finish his career early on.

Anyway, with years passing by I have found my love for football turn into something more serious. I needed to get married with this life-long-flirt of mine. But I was in a bad position to make it happen. I had nothing but my love and my amateur interest in football along with my short semi-professional player career. They were no way near the pre-requisites of becoming a full time manager.

So I started working; in a simple, boring, regular job, nothing related with football. Earned good money; good enough to sign up for coaching courses. I didn’t go to sunny beaches to swim or to snowy hills to ski for my holidays. I have spent them in Germany and England to learn from the best clubs in the world. I was establishing my network in football with friendships and business relationships. Step by step I was preparing myself for that special day where an opportunity of football management would show itself. You cannot create luck, yes. But when your luck turns and does something for you, you need to be ready to go and seize that opportunity. That’s what I was doing.

So after getting my Continental C License and working as an assistant for various clubs, I have started to look for a team to be my own. It was the summer of 2014… There were some opportunities but I couldn’t land any of these positions so I had to wait throughout the summer to see yet another opening.

Nothing… Nothing moved, nobody was fired, nobody was hired. Nothing! It should have been the most stable season for managers ever!  There were rumors alright, but nothing happened. Then, in September received an e-mail from a Polish friend from one of the coaching courses I have attended. He was telling me that Jagiellonia was in a bad position and fired their coach. He insisted that I should apply. I was barely carrying any hopes for Bristol Rovers from Vanarama Conference to accept my application so a team of Jagiellonia’s calibre, from the top tier of Polish league and impressive facilities was definitely not going to hire me…

Jagiellonia Logo

Jagiellonia Logo

Well, they did. No wonder they were down at the bottom of the league with only 5 points from 11 games, with that kind of decision making, right? Anyway, today I signed the contract.  I am still excited having landed my first managerial job and at a first class club at that.

5 points in 11 games... Destined to be relegated

5 points in 11 games… No wins… Destined to be relegated

In fact I have been so excited throughout this signing process, only now I realize that I haven’t even checked the squad status of the club. Now that I am the official manager, I ask for a report and see that 10 first team players, 5 Jagiellonia II players and 2 U-18 players, a total of 17 players are on injury list.

10 injuries in the First Team.. All of them important players

10 injuries in the First Team.. All of them important players

That’s not even leaving me enough players to fill in the 18 player match squad list next week against a strong Legia, our one and only arch rivals.  With the transfer window closed for yet another 2 months I have no option but to look for free transfers, with a budget of £125 K and £1,2 K wage budget room. Moreover, my first impression about my scouts was that I couldn’t even trust them with finding eachothers noses, let alone solid football players.  The squad had enough quality for the Polish League, the players themselves were ranked high enough compared to others in the league. These injuries will be a problem though for the all important next couple of months, where we definitely need to start changing that win/loss ratio.

The 22400 Seater Bialystok Stadium

The 22400 Seater Bialystok Stadium

The board asked me to avoid relegation.  But the players are much more eager and want me to set up a higher goal. That’s a good thing, I suppose, right?

Team Kits of Jagiellonia.. I like the black one

Team Kits of Jagiellonia.. I like the black one

That feeling of joy I was in just a couple of hours ago, after the signing ceremony and the press conference is gone now.
I am starting to realize where I am and what kind of a burden I have taken upon my shoulders.
It’s interesting though, that me and this club are so similar in so many ways… I like the fact that at this moment in our lives, me and this club are both at the very bottom… I couldn’t see anything below me just a couple of hours ago, when I was an unemployed manager, who jumped to every single opportunity he could find. I was right there at the bottom of everything.
And now? I am at the bottom of the Polish League, with a squad in a terrible shape. Jagiellonia is a the very bottom of things as well.
We are a perfect match and I like that!

Now is the time to get down to work and try to sort things out here.
Otherwise my “lucky” (!) start to football management can end instantly, leaving nothing behind but big, colorful billboards saying “This guy managed to relegate one of the best clubs in Polish League”…

Wouldn’t make a  nice story, that one, would it now?

(If you have time, please go back within the blog and read the previous article about this Pontedera save, in order to catch up with what happened in previous seasons and how the team got here…) 

Following two consecutive championship winning promotion seasons, Citta di Pontedera 1912 started the 2015-16 season in Serie A. We would definitely have limited resources again and our squad would definitely be not good enough to play at this level, that was for sure… Considering that the board made a transfer budget of around £ 1,6 mil available for our Serie B season, I was expecting £ 3-4 mil. transfer budget for our first season in Serie A, which is considered to be our last by many pundits.

Then, some kind of miracle happened and I received a message from the board, stating that we have around £ 19 mil. transfer budget with £ 205k wage budget, leaving us an extra room for £ 100k to spend on wages. Since I thought to play a different system this season I needed that money more than ever and I started to dive deep into the reports of our scouts in order to find those new faces for the team. Traditionally, we had to check where exactly our current squad was standing compared to other teams in the league. It was not a shock to find out that with the exception of 2-3 attributes, our team was within the last 5 squads in the league in almost all areas. We have decided to focus our transfers to improve the squad in some of them at least. Choosing those were not hard, since they were so obviously critical. As a result we had a list of primary criteria which should be present in the players we are going to bring in:

  • Last year our central midfielders did not create enough assists. This might be due to our system but still we should expect more than a couple of assists from our midfielders. So we decided that one or two Central Midfielders with creativity, passing and decisions are necessary. 
  • We can use our current central defenders in rotation but we still need one very solid and experienced player in that position who would be the first guy to write down on the tactical sheet with no doubt, week in, week out.  Since we are very low in aggression area compared to league averages, having a player with high agg. would be vital. (Secondary attribute would be passing. Serie A is not a place for continuous simple errors…)
  • Even though Cellerino had a great season in Serie B, I saw him being outpaced by many defenders last year. There is no way he can cope with strong and equally fast Serie A defenders. Moreover, his passing (in)ability (9/20) would hinder the high tempo attack I had in mind. So, we need one or two strikers, with aerial power and pace combination. Finishing and composure are must have. We have to be able to finish the chances we create.
  • Solid right back to replace Vasseur, who was yet another mediocre player last season. We can keep him as a backup or rotation guy but our main right back should be faster, stronger, and better in offence. Preferably with a major league experience.
  • We can use Hojer as a left back. His 16 assists (more than half of of them from corners) are still going to be useful this year but he is quite slow as a left back and -maybe given his youth- he is mentally not ready for the big division. 
  • A solid goalkeeper who has Serie A (or similar) experience. Last year we used the loan player Lezzerini from Fiorentina but I would rather use my own goalkeeper and help him blossom. A goalkeeper with good goalkeeping stats all around and most importantly with enough game time on high level of football under his belt. 

Did we manage to finalize all of these? Yes we did. In fact we have finalized much more than that… But that is NOT a good thing. I will elaborate this but first… Here is the full list of transfers:

Transfers Out:

Milan Massop, In for £ 70k, Sold to GA Eagles for £ 60

Gianluca Romiti, In for free, Given free transfer due to contract end

Luca Tomas, In for free, Sold to Benevento for £ 45k

Abdelhakim Omrani, In for free, Sold to Juve Stabia (serie A) for £ 100k

Nacer Barazite, In for free, Sold to Juve Stabia for £ 825k

Remy Vasseur, In for free, Sold to Cittadella for £ 165k (that wasn’t really a move I was planning)

Otto Frederikson, In for free, Sold to Inter for £ 20,5k (had to get rid of this 33 year old Goalkeeper’s high wage)

Sebastian Carlsen, In for free, Sold to Padova for £ 60k

Transfers In:

Alexandru Dandea, DC-DMC, Free on Bosman Rule, currently a backup

Zack Clough, Striker from Bolton, Free on Bosman Rule, currently on squad rotation

Casper Hojer, LB-LM from FC Kobenhavn, Free on Bosman Rule, he was on loan with us last year

Choco, Right Back / Complete Wingback from Ludogorets for £ 2 mil, currently a (Very) key player

Danilo Avelar, Left Back / Complete Wingback, Free, currently a (very very) key player

Federico Viviani, Central Midfielder from Roma, Loan player £ 39,5k per Month, First team regular

Papy Dijlobodji, DC-DMC-MC / Central Defender from FC Nantes, £ 2,1 mil, Key Player

Roberto Guitto, Midfield Playmaker from Kosice, £ 9,5k… yes, £ 9500, not million… Rotation player

Adnan Januzaj, Attacking Midfielder from Man Utd, Loan player

Patrick Bürger, Striker (Target Man), Free, Indispensible

Eduardo Castro, 19 year old Central Defender from Venezuela, £ 400k, Very promising First team player

Emil Waehler, 16 year old Striker from Sogndal, Free, Hot prospect

Bruno Gomes, 19 year old Striker from Desportivo Brasil, Free, Hot prospect

Mislav Andjelkovic, 27 year old Regista from Hajduk, £ 350k

Francesco Bardi, 23 year old goalkeeper from Inter, for free, Key player

Riccardo Fiamozzi, 22 year old right side (full side) player, for £ 750k from Varese as a rotation player (who proved very useful during Choco’s long injury)

and last but not least….
Domenico Berardi, the Italian wonderkid, from Granada (moved there last year from Sassuolo), for £ 17 mil total.

I have spent around £ 23 mil for transfers and received about £ 1,3 mil.

Not a good transfer strategy, I admit I have become greedy after suffering two seasons of poor life. Once I have found the money I have spent everything I was given on -mostly- one guy, Berardi. That was of course a huge burden on this young fellow and 15 weeks into the league, I can still see the marks of this huge load on his shoulders, which reflects itself as poor performances on the field sometimes.

Spending so much money on your first season up in the big leagues is one big “don’t” I can suggest to young managers.  🙂 Do not be a greedy guy like me. Greed is your enemy. There is a reason that Greed is one of the original seven sins, guys. Because of the large number of transfers brought in, the whole squad harmony which was probably the main reason that we promoted to Serie A in the first place, was shattered to pieces and it took me forever to get it back together before the league. If it wasn’t for our model professional captain with big influence on the club, I wouldn’t be able to manage that… So, thank you Arrighini… Thanks a lot, captain.

Here is the current league table…

Ponte2015start

Our only loss was the 1-0 away game on the opening day of Serie A against Juventus. 

Since then, we have scored more than them and conceded less than they did…

Patrick Bürger is flying high with 14 goals and is the top goalscorer right now.

Ciano is playing way above all my expectations with an AVR off the charts, while the two backs, Choco and Danilo are pushing hard to take their place on the top assist makers list.

How we managed to do that… That’s coming up next with detailed tactical explanation of the two main formations we used this year so far. A good old 4-1-2-1-2, with a touch of @cleon81 ‘s perfect defensive set up and an attacking, narrow 4-3-2-1.
Coming up Next This Week:

Changing Approaches: The Defense

(Since my last post I have finished one more season with Pontedera and played almost the half of yet another season. This post here is a build-up to let you connect the “then” to the “now”.  Therefore do not expect any detailed tactical analysis on this one. It will be present in my next posts though. So just read through this Serie B season to get an idea as to how Pontedera finished Serie B and starts Serie A.)

Last time I wrote about Pontedera and our Promotion to Serie B in Italy, I told you about how we found decent transfers for our level of football with limited resources. Then we talked about how to look for solid data in order to understand the level of the league we are in and compare our squad to that level.

I had my concerns about the season ahead of us since Serie B has many of those “elevator” teams that go up and down on the Serie A-B line constantly. This means they are not just above the level we have played in, but there is a big chance that they may be above the average Serie B level as well. With Pontedera’s limited transfer budget and overall player quality it would be quite a success to spend 2 consecutive seasons in Serie B.

Having analysed our previous season and seeing that there was not much money to spend I was not planning to change our system drastically. I wanted to stick to the tactics we have already mastered as a team, maybe with a couple of small changes here and there… Nothing big. (For explanations on these tactics, check the previous post please)

If you are managing a low budget, low profile, low popularity side like Pontedera, you have to look at the guys who need to go, before you can start bringing in new players. If you don’t… Well you will feel the slam of the wage budget wall on your face soon enough. So we made sure that we parted ways with personnel who would not be proving vital at a higher level… One of those players was our vice captain Andrea Caponi whose -relatively high salary (+ £ 1k pw) contract was ending. We did not use him that much anyway, especially after Carlsen’s amazing performance in the Anchorman role.

We have said goodbye to most of the players whose contracts were ending… That did not give us a significant extra room in the wage budget but we had to start somewhere…  Then, an offer was received, suddenly, out of nowhere for our most promising player Di Noia… Verona wanted to have my young (19 years old) left winger who played in 23 games last season and scored 4 goals along with 4 assists. I was reluctant to sell him because he was literally the only U-20 player in the squad worth something, but the £ 500k offer was very attractive… Very very attractive indeed.  So I talked to Giovanni, wished him all the success, thanked him for his efforts last year and said goodbye

That’s + £ 500k to our transfer budget which would probably be converted into wage budget later on since we don’t have the luxury to pay high transfer fees to any clubs AND pay relatively high wages at the same time… We want good players. And there are lots of them in the free market… Or you can always loan somebody in, right? Like Lionel Zouma for example… We need a centerback, a strong guy with aerial power… OK bring in Zouma, 19 years old guy from Sochaux.   We need a striker, fast, agile guy who can drop behind the opposition defensive line… Loan that young guy, Bard Finne, in and everything will be alright.

Apart from these two quite successful loan deals we have transferred:

Gaston Cellerino, Striker (Target Man), Free,  30 Games, 15 goals, 9 Assists, 7,20 AVR

Damjan Bohar, MR – AMR,  For £ 350 K (later on sold his 50% to Atalanta for £ 575K and bought that back for free again), 38 games, 8 goals, 14 Asssists, 7,09 AVR

Remy Vasseur, Right Back, £ 165 K, 16 Games, 1 goals, 3 assists, 6,77 AVR

Nacer Barazite, Attacking Midfielder (Left or Central), Free, 28 Games, 2 goals, 3 assists, 6,80 AVR

Camillo Ciano, Attacking Midfielder / Striker, Free, 37 Games, 10 goals, 8 Assists, 7,10 AVR

Guillermo, Midfielder (Playmaker) Free, 30 Games, 7 goals, 4 assists, 7,10 AVR

Marco Armellino, Box-to-Box Midfielder, Free, 40 Games, 3 goals, 5 assits, 6,95 AVR

Flippo Carini, Central Defender, Free, 28 Games, 6,96 AVR

Denys Pryschynenko, Central Defender, Free, 25 Games, 1 goal 6,90 AVR

Abdelhakim Omrani, Midfield Playmaker, Free (sold to Juve Stabia for £ 100 k), 10 Games, 1 assist, 6,78 AVR

Luca Lezzerini, Goalkeeper, Loaned in from Fiorentina, 40 Games, 47 goals conceded, 11 clean sheets, 7,07 AVR

Casper Hojer,  Left Back, Left Midfielder, Loaned in from FC Kobenhavn, 39 Games, 3 goals, 16 assists 7,27 AVR

And during the winter transfer window:

Ramon Arcas, DMC, – MC, Free, 18 games, 2 goals, 1 assist, 6,99 AVR

Sam Vanaken, DC – DMC (Ball Playing Defender), £ 50k, 13 Games, 1 goal, 3 assists, 6,95 AVR

Jonas Ivens, DC, Free, 12 goals, 2 goals, 6,85 AVR

All these players were present in our scout team reports and were chosen because their attributes would help our squad to improve certain aspects of the game, where they were inferior compared to other squads in the league. (Team Comparison)

For example: Cellerno was brought in because our forwards had no aerial presence whatsoever (16th in the league).

Vanaken was bought because the general positioning rating of the squad was very low compared to the league average. (14th)

Keeping our tactics from previous season was a good choice but bringing in so many new guys disturbed the team unity and we had to play a lot of friendlies to establish a proper tactical knowledge and team cohesion. Once that was settled, the extra quality brought in helped Pontedera yet to another surprise League Championship, this time in Serie B. It was quite unbelievable, since we were seen as a relegation candidate at the start of the season,

Captain Arrighini’s 24 goals, 9 assists performance in 36 games was, again, the main factor in creating this unexpected result.  Angelo Lippi, the Pontedera legend, couldn’t stop talking about him the whole season.

Just like the last year, I had no idea how we were going to cope with the likes of Inter, Juventus, A.C Milan with a relatively low quality squad and no budget…  Getting promotion to the big league is always a plus in terms of match day income. The merchandise income increases, the gate receipts increase because the stadium is filled in to its maximum. These two main income items were not present for Pontedera though… Not with a stadium of 5000 people maximum.

Again, I was more than ready to receive a good offer from another big league club… But it didn’t come… So, off to Serie A then… Hopefully to stay up there for a couple of years or manage to escape the club completely, if relegation is cannot be avoided…

Yes, I am a selfish bastard when it comes to football management. 🙂

Here is how the season ended…

ponte2014

Coming Up Next:
Greed Is a Manager’s Worst Enemy

Playing A Bad Hand

Posted: February 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

It was the previous version of the game when I decided to start this blog and I was very enthusiastic about it. I was enjoying the stories of Shrewnaldo mainly and then I started to follow many other guys with great ideas, vision and a vast inventory of stories. It felt great to be starting a similar quest of my own…

But then life hit me in the face with a bitter slap of reality as my country and city suddenly became a practical warzone for freedom. I, too had to go out on the streets and fight for my freedom and basic human rights every single night, right after work, where “fighting” means inhaling lots of pepper gas and being struck with police water cannons and doing nothing in return but finding funny and interesting quotes to show the political animals up there that we were not afraid. It all started 3 days later than my second post here (June, 1st) and the heat did not totally cool down until late November. We were all common white / blue or even No-collar guys, CEO’s, freelancers etc. during the day and we all became superheroes of our own freedom during the night. Talk to  me about schizophrenia, right?

So I had had to give up what I started back then and by the time I finally found some time and space for my managers seat there was a new game and a totally new system instead of the previous one which I was just starting to understand. “Forget all you know and get used to this” I told myself and started a new campaign. Now, probably until we start a war again in the streets of Istanbul in a couple of months, I have the time to write some more, even if only to satisfy my own needs rather than adding something really valuable to the community.  So here I am, with a new challenge, a new quest, hoping to see it through this time 🙂

In my first save of FM 14 I probably had to go with one of the teams I already know up and close, in order to compare the new system to the old one with better efficiency. That was suggested by Shrewnaldo and Cleon and they were totally right. However, we the Turkish people have a knack for doing the opposite of what is perfectly defined as “the right thing to do” in these circumstances so I went for the most stupid possibility at my disposal. Lower Division Italian League.

I always avoided Italian clubs in all my CM & FM years. Even back in ’94 I ignored the Championship Manager Italy, which was probably the first computer game featuring the Italian Football League. and the best football management game of its time. I totally hated that defensive, rough, tough league with the exception of late 90’s Juventus and some -not all- George Weah goals. Moreover I did not understand that co-ownership business and managing a lower league team in Italy without understanding this rule is like trying to drive a car without knowing what to do with those 3 small, funny things under your feet 

Having analysed all these facts I decided to be adventurous and picked Pontedera (Città di Pontedera 1912) from Lega Pro 1 / B, which happens to be a very small club with no history worth to mention, apart from Marcelo Lippi‘s managerial reign for one season back in ’85.

Artificial Grass

Pontedera plays their games on brand new artificial grass… Which could mean a lot if we had players with enough technical ability really.

Stadio Ettore Mannucci

Stadio Ettore Mannucci

 

The club has recently promoted to Lega Pro 1 and is expected to go back to Lega Pro 2 right away which is what the board wants to prevent so they nicely asked me to keep the team away from relegation zone if I can. The “first day” is very important, as everybody says. As usual with any lower league team, my first day at Pontedera started with a scene of me face-palming myself after meeting a bunch of guys –supposedly the backroom staff– who would call the police and make a bomb alert if they saw an actual football.

Then I met the squad and did not know what to think about them since I had no idea about the Italian Lega Pro 1 level and therefore could not compare my players’ abilities to any solid data. But I could compare the team as a whole to other teams in the division. What I saw did not make things any better for me at all. We were relatively good in teamwork and work rate departments but we lacked the technical capability to deal with some strong clubs in the division like Lecce or Pisa. We had great finishers up front, 2nd best in the league but it would definitely be a problem to take the ball to the danger zone, thanks to poor passing abilities overall. The defensive game also seemed to be a problem. The best plan of a defensive strategy I could come up with at that time was to get on my knees and pray to God for constant incompetence of opposing strikers.

Anyway, I took this  chart as a “solid data” for comparison and tried to define the needs of the squad according to our relative position to other teams in the division, ability-wise. I was looking to play a defensively solid, slow tempo system which would hopefully limit our erroneous passes. The offense would be mainly established around Arrighini’s and Grassi’s superior finishing. My transfer policy and its results looked like this:

Transfers – In:
Since I didn’t have any money to spend on transfer fees I had to look for free agents.

1. For my -relatively- fast, offensive right midfielder / winger need I brought in Alexis Carra
23 years old, with good acceleration & pace and nice enough dribbling & crossing, Carra could be reliable for a team, trying to avoid relegation. Eventually he finished the season with 5 goals, 10 assists and an average rating of 7,12 which is definitely more than I expected from him.

2. Since I wanted to use my fastest defender Vettori in the CB slot, I needed a right back. Andrea Pisani, with his pace and solid tackling ability would do the trick. Again a free transfer, Pisani played in 22 matches, creating 5 goals with crosses, resulting an average of 6,95. 

3. The team lacked the aerial ability in the defensive block and I thought that we needed a 3rd CB, so Luka Tomas’ free agency was an opportunity I did not want to miss. A 21 year old defender, who can also play as a RB and -strangely- as a right winger, Tomas quickly established his place as the first pick in the CB duo of my formation, thanks to some terrible performances by our captain, Vettori, at the start of the season. 25 games, 1 goal and 6,95 rating for Tomas, a good, consistent performance for our level of football.

4. Our vice captain, Andrea Caponi, is a hard-working defensive midfielder but given my fears during the early season, I reckoned my formation definitely needed a taller, stronger, tougher player at DMC position. A guy who looks like a central defender but also had a straight foot when it comes to passing and distribution. 22 year old Sebastian Carlsen, another free agent, had very good strength, tackling, anticipation, determination and aerial ability proved one of the best guys in the team with 3 goals, 2 assists and 7,04 Average rating. I even started to train him as a central defender. He could be a great ball playing defender if I ever decided to switch to a 3-man back.

5. Simone Ortenzi was a transfer for future. This 18 y.o forward did not play much role in the competitive games since there were 3 very good players in front of him. He had a chance to show his skills towards the end of the season where our classy striker Grassi was off with an injury but he failed to impress with 1 goal in 6 games and an average of 6,54. Some of the moves he pulled were quite interesting though and -my new- guys in the backroom told me that he was destined to play in the top division one day, so he is going to get that necessary time in the coming years.

6.Since my original formation had a 3-man midfield block, I thought I was going to need a backup guy in that position so I brought in Jacopo Silva, a very cheap contract from free transfer. He really stayed as a backup guy and only featured in 2 games the whole season.

7. My last and only signing of the winter transfer window was Domenico Bronzi, a right footed full back / wing back, who could play on both sides of the pitch. This 19 year old guy played 9 games in half a season with 6,74 average but showed good signs for future.

Despite all these free transfers, I failed to sell any of the guys who failed to impress me during early weeks of the season. So as a team, which was predicted to finish 16th, with no money for proper transfers we made a great job of getting promotion…  Yes, we finished the league on top of the chart. I really did not believe it until late February or early March and thought that it would only take a couple of serious injuries or bad streak of form to push us down on the chart, to where we actually had to be. But it did not happen… Of course I am excited and very happy about this unexpected promotion but I am also horrified when I think about the other teams and level of football in Serie B. This and the apparent lack of any new transfer funds when the season ended were the main reasons for me to look for a new club… Which resulted in total failure… Thankfully our board managed to find some new sponsors and that money (around GBP 1,6 Mil.) could change our destiny in Serie B. So I started acting as if nothing happened and it was really not me begging other clubs to get me out of the future embarrasement I would face with Pontedera in Serie B.  All is good now…

So what caused this promotion? I am analyzing the last season ever since our promotion and frankly, I could not find too many “positive” causes, leading to our glory, with the exception of our superior goal scoring thanks to our twin Trequartistas Arrighini and Grassi.

Arrighini scored 18 goals, made 5 assists in 31 games, leading to an Average of 7,32. Originally a striker, I had to train him at the AMC slot after I decided that a linkup player was more necessary than a second striker.

Grassi on the other hand, scored 13 goals, made an incredible amount of 14 assists and had huge impact on our success with 7,22 average in 23 games. As a loan player, Grassi did everything and the team owes him a lot… But I doubt that Salernitana, who are stuck in Lega 1. Pro, are going to let him go on loan next year, after such a great performance.

We scored 61 goals and conceded 46 in 32 matches to give us 18 wins, 7 draws and 7 losses. These numbers would not make any 3rd person imagine us as a team that would secure the league title 3-4 weeks prior the season final. These numbers are not great at all… So I think, our promotion relied on other teams’ failure rather than our own success. For example one of the strongest teams in the league was Lecce and they finished 9th, with 12 wins, 12 losses and a goal average of “0”. Most of the teams with high odds for promotion lost points against each other like Ascoli, Pisa, Lecce, Grosseto or Benevento and this is where we took our chance. We have won most of our home games and this covered our lack of performance on away games.

Long story short, we were very lucky last season and we have to do a lot to get this team ready for Serie B football. I am not saying that we didn’t do anything at all. Pontedera as a football club definitely improved in the last 12 months and we did use the best guys at our disposal, in the best way possible. We did analyze our opponents and exploited their weaknesses. The team really worked hard every game. I am just saying, that other teams could and should  have beaten us in the long run. We just did what we had to do and they failed in doing what they had to do… Plain and simple.

“Success in life comes not from having the right cards, but from playing bad ones properly” – Joshua Dool

So I have already started the pre-season transfer project for next year and will be updating about that in a couple of days. Meanwhile I also have to think of a new tactic and strategy to implement. I doubt that our variations from last season are going to work with the same efficiency this year.

Take a look at one of the formations I used last year while I prepare something for the next season…

 

4-5-1 Diamond (Duo Trequartista) 

4-5-1 Diamond Primary Formation Used

4-5-1 Diamond
Primary Formation Used

Here I have used Standard / Balanced as strategy & philosophy.

I have used short passing and few risky passes in combo -where possible- with the exception of Regoli, Arrighini and Grassi.
I ordered the wingers to drill crosses and run with the ball -team setting- since we were no aerial threat when Grassi played (apart from corners, when our central backs would come and change things).
I also implemented a deep defensive strategy with hard pressing as I did not want my defensive line to be beaten by long balls over the top. I rather pulled the opponent into my own half and tried to exploit any space left behind with Arrighini and Grassi.

The disappointment of this system was Regoli… Initially I thought he would be able to orchestrate the midfield and distribution so I used him as DLP but he did not come close to my expectation in that area. Then I tried to shift the game center of the team upwards, just a click, switching to Control from Standard and used Regoli as a BBM, but that also did not improve his performance to my expected level. I did not bother with that too much though, since I was winning games and Regoli was playing good; defensively at least. I believe it has something to do with Regoli playing as the only guy in a real “central midfielder” slot. I am not sure but Regoli himself would not be enough this year, so I need to make plans about it.

Thanks for reading;

Erdem “Eddie” Ozkan

Barcelona changing?

Posted: May 26, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Before posting my new update on how Grasshoppers is doing in my first season as the manager, I thought that it would be appropriate to share these news from the upper levels of football in my save…

Jürgen Klopp has not been doing very good with Dortmund and despite it’s quite early in the season (November) there were talks about him being sacked. Similarly  Tito Vilanova was sent away from Barcelona. I would say it wasn’t a bad decision since Barca was trailing the leaders of La Liga, Real Madrid, by 15 points which leaves them at 7th spot in the league table. 

And then…

Image

Image

Interesting,.. I will be watching Barcelona’s new style closely. If Klopp tries to implement his own style to the team, that would mean a total change from passing-possession game to a direct style. 

Somewhere else in the world, Ajax hired Laurent Blanc as their new manager, following Frank De Boer, if anybody is interested. 🙂