Kappitel fire – Forsesongen
Chapter Four – Preseason
Hei og velkommen back to Stabæk. I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas break, let’s try and sneak this one in before the New Year arrives. In the previous chapter, I had a first look at some of the club information and the first team squad after finally getting a database up and running. I’ve got an idea of how I want to play and the initial tactic is in place. So all that’s left to do now is take it out onto the pitch and see how things play out before the season begins.
After analysing the squad and setting up the player’s individual training I then set about filling the vacancies in the coaching ranks. The slideshow above will provide you with an overview of where things are currently at and as you can see there are still some gaps to fill. The U19s were the only squad to have a full complement at the start of the save, at least in regards to the coaches, the medical staff is still a work in progress. I have opted to rely on posting job ads to fill staff slots rather than just cheaply diving into the staff search screen. The long-term plan will be geared towards building each squads coaching staff in a similar vein to my own playing style. Obviously, not everybody is going to be a match in that regard at this early stage but instead of going around setting fire to contracts and paying the literal price financially and as such, I will let their contracts expire and assess each member of staff on an individual basis.
Since beginning this save I have been informed that the Stabæk 3 squad is mostly made up of amateur players and operates somewhat individually from the rest of the club’s structure, (Tusen takk, Marius). So with that in mind and the fact that as previously mentioned the Stabæk 3 squad is currently made up of greyed-out players and for now I will keep it that way. Between the U19 and Stabæk 2 squads, I think I should be able to come up with some sort of useable development plan for the young players who come through the squad. Unfortunately for me though, I had already gone ahead and filled that squad with staff which is now going to cost me a whopping £183,300 this season. I really don’t think we need to be adding player wages on top of that bill so I will look to move those staff members into other areas of the club when their contracts expire at the end of the 2023 season.
A more detailed look at the current First XI coaching staff.
Interestingly the game has decided that my manager profile has a preferred tactical style of Wing Play despite my starting with a Clean Slate tactical style. As such, I’ll carry that preference forward when it comes to assessing any potential future staff members. I don’t think it is realistic or even going to be possible for me to build a staff of coaches with exactly the same preferences as me, but I do think that we should have similar core values and at the very least those values should be complementary. There’s no point in me having an assistant manager who prefers a catenaccio style when I’m looking to play on the front foot.
Since I will be managing all the first-team games, the preferred formation of a first-team staff member will not be a deciding factor in their job status, except in the case of the HOYD of course. It will, however, play a much larger part when looking to appoint managers to my reserve and youth sides. The reason is that I want those players to be ready to hit the ground running should they be called up to the first team and given the registration rules in Norway I anticipate this being something that will happen from time to time. Unfortunately, this doesn’t look good for Gaute Larsen who likes his football the good old-fashioned way with a preference for the 442. Looking at the rest of his profile though there’s a case that he could make a decent youth coach.
Meanwhile, personality will play one of the biggest parts in my decision making as will the mental attributes; determination, level of discipline and motivating. Looking at the above image it is clear that there will be some turnover among this group based on the criteria that I have already mentioned. Most notably it’s the lack of mental attributes that is most alarming to me. I also find it a little odd that I have two assistant managers which is a bit of a waste of a coaching slot. But, I digress.
Look, It’s not often you’ve got the boys on your side when you first start a job.
Most of the preseason was already booked when I first launched the game and that began with a two-week training camp in neighbouring Sweden where we took on semi-pro Tölö IF followed by second-tier Dalkurd FF. Getting minutes into legs and beginning to build tactical familiarity was the name of the game here.
I had a fair idea of who would be playing where but this was my first opportunity to see how it all looked in an actual match-day scenario. Not only that but whether the tactic I had put in place would even make any sense on the pitch. As such, I split the team into two squads that would play half of each game.
As you might expect we had a relatively routine win over a fourth-tier side in Tölö IF. The game was all but sealed in the first half before our opposition went down a man early in the second half, making the second forty-five merely a formality for our second string. In terms of the tactic, it would appear that I had an earlier version saved with the deep-lying playmaker operating in the defensive midfield strata. I very quickly opted to move that role to the central midfield area as he and the central centre-back often appeared to be standing on each other’s toes.
I did want to share this little gem from super sub Kornelius Hansen, a player whose future I am unsure of at this current stage.
His game profile shows that he is quite obviously a winger naturally, but I noticed in my time on Wyscout that he had spent most of his minutes playing in forward areas.
For now, I have him focusing on the advanced forward role as an alternative to Gift Orban, but I think with some training he could offer something as the support striker too.
Moving on to the game against Dalkurd FF. I think it was only natural to expect more of a fight based on their league status, but the measly attendance numbers suggested something very different. Seriously, the stadium holds ten thousand and there were only one hundred and fifty-seven in attendance, for the record nine of those were our supporters. (Shout out @StabækSupport).
To be fair to our opposition the first half was reasonably well-contested. Our opening goal came from a set piece but both goalkeepers were called into action throughout. One thing that I have noticed in these first two games is that the wide-centre back doesn’t get forward nearly as much as I would have expected and so I will be paying a little closer attention to it as we go through the rest of the preseason. I’ll begin by trying it on an attack duty, but I won’t rule out changing the role entirely if needs be.
The second half saw me hand the reigns over to the second string once again, this eleven is comprised of both backups and youth players. I’ll expand on this later on in the post but with player registration in Norway, you are allowed a total squad size of thirty players. Five of those though, have to be on either amateur or youth contracts. For this first season, I have elected to just follow the squad that is registered already. It’s also worth noting that squad includes four or five of the younger lads who are already on professional contracts, some of which I expect to play meaningful minutes this season.
I’ll leave a graphic at the end of this post detailing the situation surrounding registration. That way you’ll get an idea of who to look out for as the season’s roll by.
Oh and remember Kornelius Hansen? For the second time in as many games, he put away this little beauty.
And with that our little trip across the border comes to an end. Armed with a couple of tactical tweaks to monitor over the rest of our pre-season preparations.
We were soon back on Norwegian soil and much closer to home as the remainder of our fixtures were to be played in the greater Oslo area. First up was a visit to a local rival Bærum SC who currently play one division below us in the third tier. It has also since come to my attention that Bærum features one of our own in their ranks in the form of Kristian Bernt Torgersen. I have to admit that I didn’t immediately notice his departure from the club but in my defence, I’ve never quite been able to fit him into my tactical plans before. Ironically enough he would fit perfectly into what I had planned this time around so he will absolutely be somebody that I keep an eye on over the coming months.
If I could get you to please turn your attention towards the on-field action though you’ll soon see that this was a bit of an occasion for the fans. Sadly for Bærum, we brought at least eighty per cent of the total attendance with us. It was a huge relief for me to see Herman Geelmuyden turn on the style as he had been much quieter than I would have liked during our time in Sweden. It was also promising to see our wide centre-back Nicolai Næss much further up the field than he had been during our training camp. It’s worth noting at this point that I hadn’t adjusted his duty to attack yet, instead I had just asked for him to dribble more via his player instructions.
It’s frustrating to have conceded three goals when those were the only shots on target that Bærum managed, but after watching the footage back it’s hard to be too critical of them. Their first stemmed from a ball over my backline after we gave up possession, something I was concerned about from the beginning with the lack of Wangberg’s pace. On this occasion, Sandberg came to try and close the space but was duly chipped by the Bærum striker, from outside of the box too no less. Our response to that early concession was to then take control of the game and score four of our own so I can’t be too displeased with the lads.
Much as the case had been throughout the preseason so far I fielded a completely different eleven for the second half and this is where some of the lapses came from. There were multiple occasions where I saw us get caught in possession which led straight to a counterattack for our opposition and two of those occasions led to goals making this tie or at least the score line look far closer than it ever really was. Again though I’m not going to be overly critical as I have been operating these games with four or five of my U19s out on the pitch, including a midfield trio containing two seventeen-year-olds.
Our next game saw us come against another local club, this time our own affiliate Asker. Only a short eighteen-minute trip southwest from our home ground. There isn’t a great deal to tell about this game, it was my first attempt at asking for our play to be focused down the flanks. Funnily enough I found the results not to my liking as it became too much about the flanks. It’s all in the name really. We have enough talent scattered throughout our line-up that we don’t need to focus our play in one area, I would much rather trust the boys to make the correct decisions based on what they are seeing on the pitch at any given time.
The final game of our preseason was nothing more than an exhibition that I set up. Secretly I was hoping that Brugge would bring young Antonio Nusa back to the Nadderud but it wasn’t to be on this occasion. Overall I think it’s fair to say that we held our own against a tough opposition. We were solid defensively and then in possession, we were able to remain patient and choose the right pass to progress the play. Unfortunately for us, we lacked that same patience and decision-making in the final third where we were wasteful with the few chances we were able to create.
All in all, it’s hard to argue against the success of this preseason where we’ve remained unbeaten through five fixtures against varying levels of opposition. I’m fairly happy with how the tactic is shaping up too, the slight tweaks that I’ve made seem to have had a positive impact so I will continue to monitor that into the first few games against more comparable opposition.
With the preseason fixtures over it was time to turn our focus towards the upcoming league campaign. Expectations were already high enough, then the media predictions came in and only served to further increase those feelings. At the same time though it’s also quite exciting as this is probably one of the first times that I’ve been such a heavy favourite right at the beginning of a save.
As you can see below we have no shortage of potential award winners this season and it’s no real surprise to see so many Brann players featuring either as they will most likely be our main promotion rival.
Seeing Wernersson listed in the top player odds fills me with optimism that I may well have a wing back who is going to be an absolute terror but I also feel justified having elected to not run with a tactical recreation because that would have left him under utilised. Wangberg for me is undoubtedly one of the better centre-backs in the entire division, if not the best and the initial concern I had about his lack of pace has been a non-factor so far due to his incredible aerial ability. If we are to have the kind of season that everybody is expecting then he will be at the centre of it, quite literally.
It’s hard not to feel a sense of pride seeing Jenssen and Geelmuyden in the running for the top young player award. I have such high hopes that my dynamic duo will use this season as a platform to announce their arrival in the save. I noticed in a multiplayer game that I have going that the two of them are currently captain and vice-captain respectively and I would love to be able to make that happen for myself.
I think it’s fair to say that Golden boot candidate Gift Orban has had a somewhat slow start to his goal scoring so far, only managing three goals across the two-hundred odd minutes of playing time. It’s early days I know, but I have built up a lot of expectations for myself that he is going to have one of those unstoppable goal scoring seasons. Much like Herman Geelmuyden did during my first ever season with Stabæk.
Just to double down on the expectations you can see above that the media also have us as a fairly safe bet to collect that second promotion spot. It would also appear that they don’t consider us as being too much of a threat to Brann’s title hopes. I’m sensing a little bias too when you have a look at their dream XI when Brann players feature in seven of the available eleven spots. Our two previously mentioned top-player candidates are also selected here. The squad is then rounded out by Reginiussen from Ranheim and Mjøndalen goalkeeper Sosha Makani.
Before wrapping this up I just want to make you give you an idea registration I mentioned earlier on. As you can see some of the rules can make the whole process seem a bit like a puzzle. To make things even more difficult, those five youth/amateur players are only eligible to play in a total of three games each. So you have to be a bit cleverer with your selections.
Llullaku, Schie, Lenoci, Bjørnebekk & Aga are the five players on youth contracts and they much like some of the other younger registered players will remain in the Stabæk 2 squad and be called up when required. I don’t anticipate it being too regular an occurrence but you never know when an injury crisis might strike.
In the below graphic you notice I use something that I’ve called a role suitability score, this is just one method I use when analysing my squads. It provides me with a snapshot of where a player’s abilities might be best maximised on the pitch. (It gets a little more in-depth after that but we’ll cover it later on). For this method though, I have to give a massive shout-out to shaunvamos from the SI forums for his tremendous thread Moneyballing My Way To A Champions League Title in Every European Nation. It seems he has returned for a similar adventure on FM23 which I definitely can’t wait to sink my teeth into.
The premise is fairly simple, each role in the game has primary and secondary attributes and Shaun came up with a formula that would weight those attributes and thus leaving you with a role suitability score. I probably haven’t done it justice so I implore you to go and check out his threads if you enjoy reading Football Manager content.
Well, there you have it. I think I have finally covered of all of the early game admin and now we can look forward to the opening game of the season where we’ll travel to Bryne and hopefully get our first three points on the board.
If you’ve made it this far, then I want to say a massive thank you to you. Some of the interactions that I have had off the back of this series have been quite wonderful and I look forward to many more over the coming months. There is still a lot of time to fill before the new game comes out and this save is exactly where I want to be spending it.
As always, If you want to get hold of me then you can find me on twitter @horsleyjchris. Otherwise, have a safe and happy new year and I will see you in the next one.