The league was very comfortable in the end. Despite being far more shaky in the second half of the season, losing 7 of the last 18 games, we still managed to retain our 12 point advantage by season’s end.
The inability of our rivals to put real pressure on our position doesn’t diminish the feeling of our achievements in my mind, especially since a quick Wiki search shows that since the Eerste Divisie changed to a 38 game season back in 2013/14, 79 or 80 points have been enough to win the title more often than not. However, the second half of the season does pose some questions, especially since I made some tweaks after my mid-season delve into the data hub.
We all know what a new update to Football Manager can do to a tactic, or a good run of form. For me, I took a bit of a break from playing at the start of the winter break and by the time I returned there had been two updates to the game.
Having lost 3 games in 20, it was suddenly a scrappy 1-0 win and three defeats in the next 4. Typical.
Already contemplating a change going forward, despite Robert Mühren’s output, this run of defeats prompted me to switch to the 5212 shape and utilise a front two, something I haven’t done in Football Manager for at least a couple of years.
It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it got us back on track. I still had doubts over getting the best from Mühren so there were a few different striker combinations over this time.
Advanced Forward (Attack) x Target Forward (Support)
At the start of the season when I wrote 0.4 | TACTICAL SETUP, the front two was set up with a Pressing Forward (Support) alongside the AF. However, I felt Martijn Kaars may perform better as a Target Forward, and for three games it looked like I was right. One or both of the strikers were on the scoresheet as we racked up 8 goals in three games, but then all of a sudden we completely fell apart for an hour against Helmond and looked completely toothless…
Trequartista (Attack) x Advanced Forward (Attack)
… Step up Robert Mühren, star Trequartista. 3-0 down and with the front two playing horrifically, Kaars was sacrificed for young Jim Beers as the AF, and Mühren played alongside him as the Trequartista, a role I rarely touch. I was rewarded with a half-hour blitz where we came back to win 4-3 with Mühren bagging a hat-trick! Beers didn’t score but played very well, and his pace in behind was a constant menace.
Surely I’d accidentally stumbled on the perfect combination? Just rock up to VVV-Venlo and put a few past them? Not a chance, we were awful and throughly beaten. Mühren was invisible as the Trequartista, confirming my suspicion that it’s not a role I can get the best from long term.
Deep-Lying Forward (Support) x Advanced Forward (Attack) x Shadow Striker (Attack)
Still not entirely convinced, I decided to change up the number 10 too. Probably not necessary or even wise, but there was method in my thinking. With Martijn Kaars impressing and Jim Beers developing well and deserving game time, they became my main options as the Advanced Forward, allowing Robert Mühren to drop deeper as the DLF and become the sides creator. His excellent technical (First Touch 13; Passing 13; Technique 13), and mental (Anticipation 14; Composure 14; Decisions 13; Off the Ball 15) attributes suit this role down to the ground, whereas the days of him being the focal point and stretching the defence are gone with his Acceleration and Pace both at 10. With Mühren now as the main creator of the side, I was able to move away from an Advanced Playmaker in behind the strikers. Boy Duel was long out of the side by this point, and my other options were more suited to Shadow Striker than AP so the move made sense. This is what we stuck with for the rest of the season and will do in the Eredivisie too, the most impressive performance coming against Excelsior where Kaars (AF) got a hat-trick, Mühren (DLF) got an assist and Oristanio (SS) got a goal and an assist. Very promising stuff.
The first half of the season is the most satisfied I’ve been with a side I’ve managed since way back in 2017 when I started creating content with Blackburn! We were solid, compact, and difficult to beat while having enough talent in attacking areas to win games convincingly. The second half of the season has left me a little underwhelmed though; it felt very much like going through the motions. I’m not sure if it was the change of shape, the fact that the game itself updated, or whether our performances just weren’t sustainable, but we weren’t the same beast. Our form was patchy, our wins were less convincing and our defeats were more comprehensive.
It goes against the nature of the save and creating a club DNA to completely overhaul the tactics, so we’ll be looking to play the same way in the Eredivisie next season. I’ll be starting the season with the 5212 shape we ended this season with, despite me being unsure whether it actually helped or hindered. I think the extra CB will help us immeasurably in a higher division and we’ve recruited to suit the shape (more on that in a later post).
In terms of personnel, there were a lot of players that had exceptional individual years, there’s only one place I can start though.
I think the best way to describe our goalkeeping situation for the year is work in progress. We have the most agile keepers in the division and they also do well in 1v1’s, but basics like handling and reflexes let them down. They’re both great prospects and Stankovic probably starts the season as first choice, but I’m not 100% sold.
Me, back in 0.3 | SQUAD ANALYSIS
Honestly, I couldn’t have been more wrong about Filip Stanković. It wasn’t that I thought he was going to be bad, but I just didn’t get an instant impression that I could trust him. So much so, that I used the Goalkeeper role instead of Sweeper Keeper for the first time in years, I literally just wanted him to focus on keeping the ball out. He did that and then some, keeping 17 clean sheets in 34 league games with an average rating of 7.1 and 2 player of the match awards. He was so good that he even got a couple of senior Serbia call-ups, a nation that include Mile Svilar and Predrag Rajković amongst their back-up keepers. As soon as promotion was secured, getting Filip back to the club for a second season was the number one priority and, spoiler alert, it hasn’t happened. I’m gutted about it as he would have been key, but I hope to see him again in the future.
Denso Kasius was another incredible loan signing (that I can take no credit for) who had an excellent season, especially early on. He featured in 36 of our 38 league games, starting 34 of them as either our right-back or right wing-back depending on system, he provided 3 goals and 4 assists with a 7.06 average rating. His contribution dipped slightly late on as our form became patchy, but he was still incredibly consistent and dependable. Unsurprisingly, parent club FC Utrecht want to give him a chance in their first team this season; if he becomes available in January, I’ll be on them until it happens.
Englishman Derry John Murkin was brilliant and very unlucky, all at once. In the first half of the season he dominated the left flank, starting every game and offering a constant threat to opposition defences. In the second half of the season when we switched to the back 5, suddenly he was a square peg for a round hole. I tried to continue to give him game time as a left wing-back, and he didn’t do badly at all, but he’s so poor defensively (tackling, marking and positioning are all 5) that I never feel entirely comfortable with him there. He ended the season with with 4 goals and 13 assists in 32(6) appearances with a 7.07 average rating, but I don’t see him replicating that in the Eredivisie, sadly.
Robert Mühren, my main man. He’s not the type of striker I usually feel confident relying on, or that I feel I can get the best from, mainly because of the lack of pace. I think this is a lot of the reason that I was questioning his contribution despite his goal output, but the truth is he was excellent all year and we wouldn’t have been promoted without him. His role will change next year as we talked about above, becoming the side’s creator rather than the finisher, but he’ll still be vital as we try to stay in the Eredivisie. Robert finished the season with 21 goals and 4 assists in 36(2) appearances, with a 7.22 average rating.
Flying completely under the radar, Brian Plat might be the player that impressed me the most this season. When I started the save he looked like he was good enough to be our first choice right-back and was unlucky that Kasius was here on loan. What transpired though, was that he became a key option at centre-back, both in a 2 and a 3. I particularly liked him in the back three however, both in the centre as a covering central defender, or on the right of the three as a wide centre-back supporting Kasius down that flank. Next season he’ll be used more as a wing-back due to Kasius’ loan ending, but in no way do I see it as a downgrade, and he was so impressive centrally he’ll still be a strong option there too. Brian ended the season with 4 goals in 33(3) appearances, helping to keep 15 clean sheets in those games with a 7.19 average rating.
All in all, season one has been a great success. Before the save started I thought promotion was possible, then when I went through pre-season and saw the media predictions and squad comparisons I wasn’t so sure, and in the end we won it at a canter. The plan now is to survive next season, then look to really dive into the infrastructure of the club and start to fully develop the Das Reboot principles.
Thanks for reading, and until next time, tot ziens!