THE LEAGUE START
The opening fixtures on Football Manager should often be taken with a pinch of salt. You’re usually looking at around 10 games in all competitions before your style is fully implemented and effective and as you can see from the results so far, it’s been a mixed bag.
Now I don’t want to bore you with every game and a review of each, it’s clear there’s a lack of consistency. However, 5 wins from the opening 10 league games is nothing to grumble about, especially seeing as things should, hopefully, get better with the system better implemented. Frustratingly, my hopes were pinned on Quincy Does and after scoring back to back and me thinking how many times I could fit the phrase ‘Quincy Does goals’ into this piece, he stabbed us in the back and moved to the division above to play for a reserve team. So, after he left and we still had ZERO new faces in the team, I was getting increasingly worried. Thankfully, once the transfer window closed it seemed to become easier to bring players in, with clubs not offering contracts immediately after we did.
What has been most noticeable in our start is our ability to keep the ball. With a control possession-based system I was looking to dominate the ball and make the most of being able to move Van Hese into his inverted wing-back role. A role designed for possession-based tactics. Not only are we keeping the ball well, we ‘re some way ahead already in passes complete. Showcasing our emphasis on moving and keeping the ball.
It took us an age, until after the third game of the season in fact, but we finally got some players in the door. We brought in not one but TWO new players. It brought a huge wave of emotion over me after the best part of 15 failed contract attempts, but we finally got there.
6-foot 3 centre back Ayodele Kwidama comes in after being released by FC Twente. A much-needed improvement to the defensive line which allows star man Van Hese to move to his preferred LB position. A young centre-back with a few weak areas, which is to be expected at this level, but a towering CB who we can hopefully make an asset from attacking set-pieces as well as defensively.
Floris Van Nijnanten. Likely to be a rotation option, but with the rate players come and go at this level just having the options is vital. After originally thinking he’d be used in rotation, Van Nijnanten has probably been the better of the 2 when played and is staking a claim at becoming first choice partner to Wijsman. Another young and solid option, giving us some flexibility in the back line.
After our 3-2 defeat to Groene Ster, it was clear to me we were lacking quality and depth in forward areas. Not only that but losing our best forward Quincy Does left me wondering where the goals were going to come from. Enter 2 superstar (for this level at least) signings. Farel Cairo, a player capable of playing CM/CAM/ST, is someone I was sure would be getting a move to a higher level. He has great finishing for a CM and is natural in a role I was looking to bring into the system. With him came our new ST, Zep Swijghusien – he will be referred to as Zep always.
A lack of red attributes across both mental and physical attributes made Zep standout, poacher isn’t a role I normally like using but his serious lack of passing made me opt against playing him as an AF. High determination from a young player and excellent flair gave me hope that with Zep upfront he could produce the unexpected on top of scoring a high proportion of the goals for us.
The two couldn’t have made more different starts. Farel Cairo scored on his debut in a 2-0 victory over Hoogland, while it took Zep until our final victory against Dongen to get on the score sheet. Going around 5 games without scoring did cause some concern, although with no money exchanged in contracts it made me feel a bit better.
There were back-ups brought in to bolster the squad but more on them as and when they make an impact.
Finally, with the additions made I could fit the system with the roles in the way I wanted. I wanted to keep things simple at this level with emphasis on dominating possession. Van Hese playing as the IWB gives us a bigger emphasis on keeping the ball, especially in the middle of the park. With Baten as a DLP (D) to sit in the base and Fischer roaming about in the BWM role, originally I had them swapped and Fischer in the base as a BWM but his athleticism and energy meant it was wasted holding at the base.
The most recent few games we’ve been more dominant on the ball and created more chances, the 0-0 against EVV was surprisingly one of our best performances, with 1.08 xG and 64% of the ball, we just lacked that cutting edge. Finally, a comfortable 2-0 win against Dongen, leaving us in 4th place after 10 games. The league itself is confusing in how it’s structured so I’m going to do my best in the next blog to explain it!
Up next – Mid season review!