FM17: Stuttgart – 2018/19 Season Review

As promised, I’ve now written a follow up blog. Funny how a new game coupled with enjoyment can spur someone on to put words on a page. In this post I’ll bring you up to speed with my progress (which is tough, believe me – playing at some rate of knots right now) and I’ll also give you a run down on the youth prospects at the club that I’m excited about, so much so that a little wee came out.

Gross.

2018/19 – Pre-Season Transfer Shenanigans

Now, I found this transfer window really, really frustrating. Usually I find pre-season one of the most enjoyable things about FM; the wheeling and dealing, transfer rumours, fighting to keep hold of your best players, scouring the world for unearthed gems and inevitably scrambling around to replace a player whose just stabbed you in the back now that a bigger club is sniffing around. It’s all a lot of fun…usually.

From finishing 4th in the previous season we were hopefully looking at qualifying into the Champions League group stages. With this in mind my squad needed more strength and depth. I had a few clubs sniffing around one or two of my players and alas I had to give in to AS Monaco when they faxed over a £28.5m bid for Mihailo Ristic, a £27m profit after one season. I was pretty gutted to lose him as he was fantastic on the left as my defensive winger, however his head had been turned by the luxury of life in Monaco and so I sanctioned the deal knowing full well I could use all those reddies for some sound reinvestment.

ins

I had identified that the two key areas I needed to invest in were at GK and at ML now that Ristic was gone. I made the mistake of accepting the deal for Ristic without lining up a suitable successor – I have a chap called Bogosavac signed from Partizan the previous season who was ‘competent’ at best – but not on the same level as Ristic. I quickly found that there was no on his level to perform as I wanted, I considered retraining players with similar attributes but who weren’t natural left midfielders, wing backs, full backs, the lot – no bloody club bore any fruit and my scouts were so useless I banished them to scout in Greenland and cursing them the whole way there – it won’t surprise you that they failed to find a better keeper than Langerak too.

In the meantime I set about reinvesting some of that Ristic cash on players that I had found through my worldly travels. In came Rodrigo Bentancur of whom I am a long-term admirer (not in that way). He had many a great day with me at Stoke in FM16 so this was a no brainer at such a relatively small fee. He would come in and provide great competition for my two AM roles and even provide cover at MR & MC. Long term I want him to nail down the AP-S role at AMCR.

Zdenek Vesely & Daniel Horvath are two kids to watch out for, more on them soon.

Davinson Sanchez came in to replace my ageing captain Toni Sunjic at the heart of the defence & Cristian Pavon to make the SS role his own as alarm bells rang around Maxim’s recent performances. Luis Olivera from River was not a signing I necessarily wanted to make but I felt he was the best of a bad bunch of scouting reports to provide backup to the ML role.

Grobler was a dirt cheap, guaranteed profit making DC from South Africa…and finally Jose Laertes joined in January – 6 months too late for the keeper I wanted but alas I only found him at the end of November after a quick trip to Brazil for the World Beach Volleyball Championships. Some compromising photos and a bribe or two later and he was booked on the first flight out of Brazil in January. A much needed long-term upgrade in goal. More on him in my Youth Players blog post which I think we can all see, won’t be happening in this already 700 word post.

August – January

1sthalfseason

The season kicked off with as a bit of a mixed bag. I was pretty gutted to be drawn against a strong Monaco side in the Champions League qualifier and they ultimately proved too strong for me over two legs. It was a bit of a kick in the teeth but at least we could fall back on the Europa League on a bloody Thursday night.

A last minute screamer by Assombalonga salvaged a point away at Bayern to kick off the season, other notable wins included a 2-1 away win v Schalke & 4-3 home win v Dortmund. Our EL results were very positive and we comfortably topped our group. I particularly enjoyed our 4-0 drubbing of Lyon in France.

January – May

2ndhalfseason

Before April came we were keeping pace with Leverkusen in 2nd place – especially after a cracking 2-1 win against them away from home which sparked a run of 4 wins in 5 games. However 3 defeats on the bounce before May saw us drop down to 6th albeit in very close proximity to the 3 teams above us – our title challenge had withered yet I knew we were some way from competing on that front.

An incredibly poor 3-0 away loss at the Mestalla meant we left ourselves with far too much to do in the return leg and a 2-0 victory was not enough to turn our fortunes. We wrapped up the league in a more positive fashion bagging 3 wins in our last 4 games to lift us into 4th place at the expense of Schalke who failed to win their final game. I was still pleased with our table finish knowing that we had another shot at Champions League football next season…

…except we don’t do we? FFS the bloody co-efficient. Though going on the results in Europe of the past few seasons – I can’t really see how this is possible, but there you have it. Italy currently have the 4th Champions League spot – the bastardo’s!

It was another enjoyable season where we performed slightly above expectations again, the aim has to be to kick on and nail down a Champions League spot next season and in the meantime – go as far as we can in the Europa League next season.

Watch out for my next update on the wonderkids of Stuttgart as well as summer of transfer madness.

The Football League or Bust – Intro


football-manager-2017-ypbni

“FM 2017 will be different.” – I told myself whilst in the midst of an in-depth VfL Bochum save on FM 2016. (Sorry my updates petered out. In short, I managed nearly three full seasons, the second two of which were spent barely staying in the 1. Bundesliga)

“Next edition I’ll do a proper journeyman save in Asia or South America.”, I thought.

“Something properly out of my comfort zone… Try some wacky formations too for good measure.”

Then – in the real world of football – after performing quite admirably for a team of their stature during the previous season and a half in the Conference National, my beloved Altrincham went on an awful run from January-April, winning two of seventeen games and looking more and more certain for the drop. With long-serving manager Lee Sinnott sacked mid-way through the horrid run in March, the turmoil continued and escalated. A 5-0 thrashing of already-relegated Welling United in their last home game ended up being of no consequence; a 3-0 loss away in their final outing at Braintree brought the curtain down on a season to forget. Alty would be playing in the Conference North again. Continue reading

FM17: Stuttgart – The Story So Far

So this wasn’t supposed to happen so soon was it? I mean, usually I flounder around hopefully for AT LEAST a few months on a new Football Manager game, jumping from tactic to tactic, team to team & rage quit to counselling. But here I am, the game has literally only been out a matter of hours and my first blog post is here, cherish this moment folk, and pray this lasts for a while to come.

I’ve sunk my teeth quite far into FM17 by my now-restrictive-time-standards. Real life tries to get in the way but I’ve found myself staying up ridiculously late & playing each minute I spend on bloody trains, but I digress – let’s focus on FM.

Stuttgart

So why Stuttgart? I’ve always enjoyed saves in Germany and the fact that they really should be a Bundesliga side meant my chances of early success were somewhat higher than most. Plus during my fantastic, all-conquering Stoke save in FM16 Stuttgart notoriously churned out some fantastic regens – something I was hoping would continue into FM17.

Here I’ll sum up my progress so far, I’m 2 seasons in so I’m not going to bloody remember every detail – so I’ll stick to the juicy bits. Melons.

Season 1 – 2016/17

Well this was a journey into the unknown, tactically that is. I don’t really know why but looking at the squad at first glance I thought ‘yup, 3-5-2 definitely, or 5-3-2, 2-3-5? No, definitely 5-3-2. Wins followed losses followed wins followed losses. Consistency was hard to come by & I was frustrated time and again by our inefficiency going forwards. Something had to change as we then slipped to 14th and murmurs of impending doom were sounding around the Mercedez-Benz Arena.

In a moment of lucidity the cogs began to whirl and the puzzle pieces began to come together. Over Christmas 2016, when in real life I would no doubt be rather inebriated, I decided to scrap all instructions, drop back to 1 striker in Daniel Ginczek (returning from a long term injury) & giving some of my best young players a chance. What was born from the fruit of my loins brain was a 3-4-2-1 as seen below:

system

Stuttgart clicked as we rocketed up the table, culminating in winning promotion and the title with a few games to spare, including a 5-0 drubbing of 2nd placed Kaiserslauten to notch up the trophy. This was in no doubt down to some crafty transfer business as well in a busy January 2017:

Ins

jan17 inOuts

jan17 out

My better performers/players were inappropriately touched up (steady now) by those clubs with more money than me. They all moaned as initial bids were knocked back but I saw it as an exciting challenge to replace some regular and positive performers. All those sold were aged 25+ years with Grosskreutz & Gentner both 30 – I couldn’t turn down some good money for them – even if Gentner were my star man at that point. It gave us some good money to reinvest.

In came Onguene to sure up my backline, Ristic to make the defensive winger role his own on the left hand side, Havertz on a compensation fee from Leverkusen who can play anywhere across the MC/AM lines & Assombalonga so replace Ginczek and be my main man up top.

Ristic was brilliant, Assombalonga even better as he notched 15 goals in 12 games from January including two hattricks. Britt was the shit.

Season 2 – 2017/18

Confidence was high in the Wilson household. The 3-4-2-1 was producing some stunning passing football in central areas. My friends had a new-found respect for my managerial skills & even my wife came up with the chant ‘Britt, Britt, he’s the shit’. She didn’t really, but I like to think that if she ever showed an ounce of interest in my managerial career, that’s the sort of crap she’d come out with. There’s nothing quite like enjoying an FM save is there ey?

The only major departure in the summer of 69 2017 was Emiliano Insua to Monaco for £6.75m – for an ageing, whining, ex-Liverpool player I was all too happy to see the back of the Argentinian bastard. Besides, Ristic was my man at ML & that was that.

Ins

ins Jul17

Gajic came in to provide sufficient backup and a rotation option with Jean Zimmer who was pretty darn good at MR. Bogosavac was to sit on the bench and learn every fucking detail possible from Ristic. Manojlovic was a cheap backup GK whose progression has been disappointing. Diaz provided backup to Britt the Shit, as did Guillaume (who again, hasn’t had a sniff nor progressed as expected). M’Vila was a cracking free signing to walk into the CM-D role and Upamecano was a must buy when his lovely agent told me he might be available – I promptly threw a bunch of my resources at the 18yr old wunderkin from Salzburg and he’s been a stalwart in the Stuttgart defence ever since.

So how did we do? I have to say this was one of my most enjoyable seasons in recent FMs to date, we over-performed on a consistent basis and, well, just have a look at some of these images.

results to Jan18

Some cracking results including a phenomenal thrashing of Schalke at home (yes, I don’t have the name fixes yet please don’t hate me too much).

results to Jul18

A great 2nd half to the season though we stuttered through April, however, the 1-0 win v Bayern & 4-0 drubbing of Dortmund were orgasmic.

A season to be very, very happy with. The board expected mid-table as a minimum required (one I was genuinely worried about at the beginning of the season) and we sat in 3rd place pretty much all season, once flirting with 2nd & even spent a few hours at the top of the table. Our late season stutters however meant that the defeat to Koln on the last day of the season dropped us down to finish in 4th. Still a brilliant achievement and ensures we have a chance to qualify for the Champions League next season – which is bloody awesome.

Of course, the success isn’t all down to me, I suppose. We had some great performances throughout especially from some of our young talent – here’s a summation below:

Upamecano Jul18

Dayot has been consistently great for us. At 19 he’s got many a season ahead of him – though I am worried I won’t be able to hold onto him. Averaged 7.10 this season.

Anto Grgic Jul18

Grgic has been fantastic in his role as DLP-S at MC-L; though these down arrows concern my slightly (I’m hoping he’s just boozing up on his summer holidays). He dictates the play and most of our goals involve him at some stage. Averaged 7.05 this season.

Havertz Jul18

Largely a rotation option, Havertz was a steal to effectively sign on a free. I’ve used him at DLP-S, EG & SS and if I’m honest I prefer him from the SS role and his better performances were from there – he even bagged a few playing up top when called upon.

Ozcan Jul18

Ozcan was fantastic in his first season with us and showed glimpses in his 2nd, I’d love more consistency from him and to play more of a pivotal role – maybe I should ask him to ‘dictate the tempo’ from his EG role, or play killer balls often…it’s amazing what you think of when writing up crap like this. 12 goals, 3 assists in 33 games this season, should only get better too.

Britt Jul 18

Ok, ok I know he’s not a ‘youngster’ but I couldn’t leave without telling you more about this guy. 45 games for Stuttgart in total, 44 goals and 14 assists, averaging 7.53 this season. He topped the scoring charts with 29 in 32, won numerous awards and was the most potent scorer in Europe. In other words, Britt is the Shit.

Summary

So this brings you up to speed, I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as I have so far. This will be the first of many posts and as a teaser I’ve just had permission to pay money and play with a couple of cracking 16 year olds next season. If you won’t come back for the fallout from that sentence then well I don’t see George writing much for the site these days.

Roll on Champions League qualification!

 

Being Benfica – Season 1 And 2 Update

Soooooo, you know when I said I’d blog every week about my Benfica save? That has, unfortunately, failed to happen. Barely two months into the season, I realised that I didn’t have the time to play it regularly – let alone write up everything that was going on.

Now that I’m two seasons in though, it feels like time for a quick update. By plugging you quickly back into the narrative of the first two seasons, I hope it’ll make it much easier to keep up with the save for readers and writers.

So here’s what’s been going down in my Benfica save over the past two years and a quick note on where it’s going next.

Continue reading

The Empoleonic Era Part II: Slumps, Injuries and Penalties

So the first few games of the season were tough. We got off to the best possible start with an easy 2-0 win over Atalanta in the first game of the season. This was using the 4-2-3-1 formation because we were at home against a team I deem to be relatively similar to us.

Annoyingly this left me in quite a difficult situation because our next game was against Frosinone, a newly promoted side. My initial instinct was to go with this formation again because even though we were away from home we were so good in the first game it made sense to stick with it. In the end my head won out and we went back to the three at the back formation and my plan was to keep things tight and maybe nick a win. This was working splendidly with the score at 1-1 right up until the 92nd and 94th minutes of the game, when my team decided to implode and give away two cheap goals. For the next game against Udinese we went back to the 4-2-3-1 and although we went down 2-0 we actually played pretty well. Antonio Di Natale (volley) and Francesco Lodi (free-kick) produced two moments of magic and we were just unlucky with not taking our chances. The big news out of this game though was Saponara picking up an eight week injury, the Oxford dictionary definition of a disaster.

Saponara injury

Little did I know at the time that this would be the start of my most difficult run in Football Manager 2016, and one of the trickiest in the past couple of editions. Including the results against Frosinone and Udinese we lost eight games in all. Now admittedly some of these games were against the likes of Napoli, Roma, Milan and Juventus but even still there are some very frustrating results in this run.

In fact against Napoli and Roma we only lost by a single goal and although we were dominated in both games we defended well and we would have got the draw had we not had one momentary lapse of concentration.

The Chievo and Sampdoria results were more annoying because as you can see we had more shots in both but we just couldn’t put away our chances, which personally I felt were better than our opponents. We also missed a penalty against the former just minutes after we had gone behind, a recurring problem as we missed one against Milan when the score was still 0-0, before going on to lost 3-0.Chievo 1-0 Empoli Empoli 2-0 Sampdoria

What perhaps made this more difficult is this wasn’t a team where we I necessarily expected to struggle. When you’re taking a Conference North/South side up the divisions there are going to be tough periods, that is only to be expected, on paper Empoli don’t have that bad a side. I didn’t have any real aims for this season as I wasn’t entirely sure of what the squad would be capable of, particularly with the option for no transfer budget ticked to ensure a greater sense of reality, but I still felt that we wouldn’t be this far into relegation problems.

During this run I moved the 4-2-3-1 around a bit so the central midfielders dropped into defensive midfield, which in theory would allow greater defensive protection. I also regularly swapped between this formation and the three at the back, although looking back I realise I might have been better served actually sticking to one and allowing my players to settle. I certainly suffered a knee-jerk reaction to Saponara’s injury, deciding to go with just one AM or even none, choosing at times to play with two STs.

4-2-3-1 Empoli

In this run I could already see where we could get out of it, and the Palermo game first up was crucial. We didn’t play particularly well or deserve to win, but we more importantly WE DID WIN and Maccarone finally got on the score sheet with a tidy finish inside the area. In other games my focus had been to try and keep things tight at the back, and catch teams on the counter but against Palermo I felt I had to do something a little bit different. I reduced the number of instructions and told the team to be more bold in their approach, giving them my trust. It was a risk but my message to the team (in theory at least) was that if we’re going down we’re going down fighting, and it clearly worked.

Empoli 1-0 Palermo

Empoli 4-2-3-1 attacking

Bologna came just a few days after the Palermo victory and despite a few tired legs the only change I made saw youngster Tommaso Fantacci come in for Piotr Zielinski, who has been very disappointing so far. Bologna boasted Euro 2016 hero Emanuele Giaccherini and the dangerous Mattia Destro but we defended really well yet again and it finished 0-0. In the end they had a man sent off and we could have snatched it late on but back to back clean sheets is a first for the season so we have to be happy with that.

Next up was a huge game, the only team in the division lower than us, Carpi. This was the game that saw Saponara finally return to the starting XI, after six games out. The first half an hour we just didn’t get going, we couldn’t string a pass together and we were making Carpi look like Barcelona. Things went from bad to worse when Mario Rui was booked and then Lorenzo Tonelli gave away a penalty from the resulting free-kick.

Thankfully Jonathan De Guzman’s penalty was well saved, which actually brings me onto a separate point, has anyone else noticed how many penalties are missed in this year’s edition? It might just be me but it feels like there is a lot of failed spot-kicks. Anyway De Guzman’s miss proved costly when Rui broke through and scored his first goal of the season.

Weirdly there were probably about seven shots in the game overall and I don’t think that either keeper had to make a save in the second-half. Nevertheless it was a second win in three and a third clean sheet. We’re not out of the woods but at this stage we’re a win away from getting out of the relegation zone, whilst Carpi are five points adrift from us.

Serie A table pre FIorentina

TRANSFER UPDATE

In amongst this I picked up young Argentine striker Nicolas Rios on a free, he looks like a decent acquisition and at this rate he could find himself in the first team before too long. Jose Valencia arrives on trial as well as we look to bolster the striking options. USA midfielder Jermaine Jones is also on trial, I want him more than Valencia but his wages are a bit trickier on our budget.

Empoli Nicolas Rios Empoli Jose Valencia

Just before the Fiorentina game this message popped up and I didn’t look at it at first because I didn’t think we’d be relevant. Chuffed to find out we’re fourth, hopefully we can carry that on as we go forward.

Empoli leading clubs development

So as I mentioned in the first post Fiorentina are the big cheese in this area, they’re the dominant side in Tuscany and it’s my job to try and stop them. For this game I went back to the three at the back formation, wary that we could leave ourselves too open. As usual with Empoli we defended extremely well, we limited Fiorentina to pot shots, it was just slightly unfortunate that one of those pot shots went rocketing into the top corner off the boot of Mati Fernandez (I swear he always scores against me). The lack of chances created again is a worry and I’m still not happy with how this formation is working, it’s something I’ll be working on between now and the next post. I’m now wondering whether I should build a standard 4-3-3 to become my counter-attacking tactic away from home, I could use Saponara as a wide playmaker with more industrious players in the middle of the park, certainly something to ponder.

My conclusions from this period are two fold, firstly we are worryingly reliant on Saponara, even more so than I first feared. The most striking thing of that tough run was just how few chances we were creating, everything before and after that was going through Saponara, and Zielinski in particular has been a major disappointment. The second big point was that even when we were creating chances we simply weren’t putting them away, I love Maccarone but it’s abundantly clear that we need to try and find a striker who can work on his own sooner rather than later. The latter will probably have to be solved in the transfer window but between now and the next update I imagine there will be some more toying with formations and tactics, as I’m still not entirely satisfied, how can you be when you’re team is 19th!

The Empoleonic Era: An Introduction

Picking a final save for Football Manager before the new iteration of the game comes out can be a very tricky affair, believe me the amount of saves I’ve started between May and September over the years is too large to contemplate.

For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have a save where they take Harrow to the Champions League or turn the Slovakian League into the best in the world these few months can be tricky. You’re wary of starting a save that is too long term but also of one that is too easy and over too quickly.

This is the issue that I found myself facing when picking a save for the summer and after much soul searching I decided on Serie A side Empoli. I’m not sure if I’m alone in this but when I pick a club I like there to be something that stands out. Something quirky about the club or something that makes them an interesting project.

Competition reviews

 

With Empoli the attraction was two-fold. Firstly they are based in Tuscany, an incredibly beautiful part of the world and within that region they are constantly overshadowed by Fiorentina. This sort of save is always attractive, where there is a bigger, more established club in the local vicinity and you have to try and topple them.

Secondly they are a club who tend to lose their best players every summer and have already lost one key player, as well as some of those who were at the club on loan. The Empoli squad is one that constantly refreshes year on year and this iteration feels too good to ignore, as there are some very good players there. The aims for this save are clear; become the biggest club in Tuscany, win a trophy, win the league and produce some good young players. There’s no time frame for this, let’s just have some fun and see where it goes!

Before we jump in I’m aware that some of you reading this will be in the same situation I found myself in so I’d like to share a few of the other clubs I considered as they may pique your interest!

Eibar – Wonderful story of a plucky little club massively punching above its weight. It’s really tricky to establish yourself in Spain but if you’re prepared for hard work and graft it could be perfect.

Hadjuk Split – One for those who like developing players for big sales, Split are constantly in the shadow of Dinamo Zagreb but they do have some really talented youngsters. Of course the long term is to succeed in Europe.

Carpi – A slightly smaller team than Empoli with a slightly weaker squad. They’re a great challenge and of course they have the wonderfully named Kevin Lasagne.

Partizan – Similar to Hadjuk in the sense that they are in a league typically dominated by just two or three teams. You’ll struggle to keep hold of FM favourite Andrija Zivkovic but the Partizan academy will keep churning out gems for you to use against rivals Red Star.

Lens – Lens have one of the best groups of players outside a top division in my opinion. There are a couple of players who could truly go on to become world class and with Lens you know you are getting quality, they’re the club who produced Raphael Varane amongst others.

Rayo Vallecano – Sadly relegated in real life Rayo have an incredible fan base and their former manager Paco Jemez was famous for always wanting to attack. A really fun little project and if you need inspiring, just watch this video!

Hoping that helped, let’s meet the squad.

The big names:

Lorenzo Tonelli:

In real life Tonelli has secured a transfer to Napoli and looking at his stats it’s easy to see why. Tonelli is tough and non-compromising, everything you would expect from a classic Italian defender. He’s great in the air and deceptively quick for a centre-back, he will be the leader of my defence and the real challenge is going to ensure we don’t lose him too quickly.

Tonelli

Riccardo Saponara:

The star of the show, in the game he was only just signed permanently so we should have him for the first season at least. In the formations I’ve picked it’s all about getting the best out of Saponara with his creativity, he’s going to be the one who will unlock defences and fashion out chances. My worry at the moment is that he is already our highest earner with three years left on his deal, if we try to renegotiate we may just have to accept selling him, but that’ll be further down the line hopefully.

Saponara

Massimo Maccarone:

The man, the myth, the legend. The Big Mac is back at Empoli after a career that has seen him play for Middlesbrough, Parma, Siena, Palermo and Sampdoria. He remains one of the few players to be called up to the Italian national team whilst playing in Serie B and even though he’s in his mid 30s he will be the man leading the line.

Maccarone

The young guns

Assane Diousse:

The jewel in Empoli crown. Diousse is only 17 but he’s already ready for the first team as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll be training him to make him a natural as a central midfielder as well as defensive. He’s been offered new contract so hopefully he accepts and that will make it easier to ward off interest, of which there already is plenty.

Diousse

Diego Borghini:

Originally my plan was to send Borghini out on loan but in pre-season one of my right-backs, Marco Zambelli picked up a three month injury. That means that Borghini will stay with the club as the back-up right-back and I’m hoping that eventually he can push to become the first choice. He has a nice range of stats, but that crossing figure of 4 is pretty alarming, hopefully we can get that up.

Borghini

Tactics:

Originally I set my team up with this 3-5-2 formation (I know it’s not technically a 3-5-2 but it makes things easier!) built to try and absorb pressure to make use of the full-backs and as mentioned the skills of Saponara. The back three and Diousse will focus on keeping things tight and then get the ball to the wing-backs or our No.10 as quickly as possible.

3-5-2 Empoli tactics

The thinking behind this is that we will spend a lot of our games defending and without real wingers this formation is the best way to get as much width as possible. I could have gone with two strikers but Saponara is key and I also wanted the defensive midfielder for added cover.

However the vast majority of the pre-season fixtures were against teams poorer than us so I decided to build a more offensive formation. The three attacking midfielders behind Maccarone are given the freedom to move around how they want with the two players behind them sitting deeper to protect the defence.

4-2-3-1 narrow Empli

This formation will be used when we play smaller teams and of course as we develop into a better team we can use it more. In pre-season as you can see from the results below it was highly impressive. The team were pretty dominant and they created a load of chances. Of course by the same degree we were mostly playing lower league teams but regardless I’m pretty happy with how it went.

Empoli pre season results

If there’s anything you would like to see or for me to explain in my next post then please do let me know either in the comments or on Twitter.

In the next post we’ll be rounding up the first few months of the season, hope to see you then!

Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 7: The academy

vflbochum
Although it was last discussed in detail at the start of the project, you may remember that a big part of my plan for VfL Bochum was to use their already good youth facilities to develop players with the long-term aim of having a production line of talent. What should make my job much easier is that the board agree with my sentiments with their only real philosophy of note being 
“Give Youth a Chance” ; they should be very pleased with me favouring the long-term strategy by giving game time to youngsters – even if it means it could cost us points in the short-term. Whether or not these players stay and become part of the first team squad is really not too important in the first few years and we could honestly use the funds from transfers to develop the facilities further anyway. But to really become a top contender in Germany (and then Europe), we will need a sustainable model and that means year upon year of talented players to support and eventually become part of the first team squad. Continue reading

Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 6: Meeting the forwards (with squad summary)

vflbochum
What is football without goals? Some scholars would have you believe that the best possible result in football is 0-0 as it means the tactical discipline of each side was perfect; others would be more pleased by a 5-5 thriller comprising composed finishes, power headers and 30-yard thunderbastards – I am torn between the two.

The scholar in me likes a clean sheet as much as the next guy but the kid in me wants the joy of the goal and – when it comes to football – the kid in me always wins eventually. The scholar may recognise the need for a sound structure, but it is the kid that drives risk taking on the pitch – be it a skillful take-on, instinctive strike or a daring run. The real skill (of course) is balancing these two strands of thought to create frequent, high quality opportunities without leaving yourself vulnerable at the back.

So after some inner reconciliation between the kid and the scholar (and some theoretical tactical noodling), we are left with a system that should provide at least some chances to score. The only part of the puzzle left to discuss is the lucky lads at VfL Bochum who get to play the hero by converting chances into goals; the forwards; the strikers; Die Stürmern. Continue reading

Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 4: Meeting the midfield – The central pairing

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The Midfield. Das Mittelfeld. That crucial area of the pitch that is simultaneously a creative hub and a defensive screen; where passing patterns are woven and opposition attacks destroyed. Usually containing players with talents varied like the instruments of an orchestra, they can be tuned to sound as bombastic as an Italian opera, as balanced as a Viennese waltz or as playful as Brazillian samba. As the cliché tells us – it can be where the game is won and lost. Lucky then that the incumbent VfL Bochum manager built quite a varied midfield for me to work with, combining steely defensive players in the centre with lightweight but creative attackers out wide. In this article, I’ll be looking at the central area of midfield where a trio of very capable players should give me the central lock-down that my tactic depends upon. Let’s take a look at the contenders…
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Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 3: Meeting the defence


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There’s nothing quite like that palpable atmosphere in a football stadium – with its tension, mumbles and an energy you can almost taste. My first few times in the Ruhrstadion (AKA rewirpowerSTADION for sponsorship reasons… *grumble grumble modern football grumble*) I was transfixed by the tifo displays, the sea of flags, the constant drumming, the megaphones and the almost other-worldly tunes they sang. Perhaps not as tempestuous as Italy or South America, from my perspective the German fan culture still has an edge that seems to have long left the UK. It doesn’t feel dangerous, it feels alive. And they chant and chant and drum and hiss and cajole and chant some more. The Bochum fans in particular have some great catchy chants and one of them is responsible for the naming of this series of articles.
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