Second seasons are always tough, the mythical second season syndrome means nothing to me because I havent encountered it. Its June and some of my backroom staff have decided not to renew their contracts, leaving me with regret that I never signed them on 2 year contracts in the first place, but few of them wanted it. So its time to scour for new staff and shortlist some before deadline day. 30th June is a very important date if you are a LLM (Lower League Manager), its the day most other players find themselves without a club, so one of the things I do is to shortlist a whole group of players I may need. Any player with 10 in attributes in prime areas is immediately a candidate. As far as my current squad is concerned, you cant be sentimental. And before you go slashing your team you need to do several things. Firstly make sure your boardroom gives you more money for staff wages. You can probably get 5 coaches including your assman, 2 physios and 2 scouts, which should be enough. The second thing you need to do is arrange a lot of friendlies which should give you a chance to gauge players.
Well preseasons done, the basic work was done:
1. Hired new staff – most left (couldnt stand my attitude)
2. Recruited new players, our average was too low. Got 7 more players in
3. Culled anyone below 9
4. Decided to use a system where I will need to depend on containment, I cant play to my strengths, cos i don have any. We will play a 41221 and a 4312 this season. I dont think a 451 will cut it the gap between defense and midfield will let me get exploited. My weakest link is my defense, its shockingly bad. Nevertheless that formation has produced the best possession in games. So I will probably experiment along the way.
(14 days later)
Our preseason form was woeful, i tried out several formations to see how my players would fit, realized I have two key areas for concern:
a. I dont have cover for DMC so we need to loan someone if possible
b. My defenders arent very good, so i need to play defensive football at the start of the season and then adjust my expectations if we look comfortable, Keeping the wage bill manageable in case i get relegated. It will be the first time since 1992 that i have ever been relegated. This game isnt hard, its all logical 1+1 always equals 11
Match One Macclesfield v Stafford
An away match to begin with, and we are overwhelming favorites to get whipped. The formation we head out with is a 4-1-2-2-1 with a DM, 2MC, AML/AMR. We take the standard strategy and I spend the first few minutes of the game on full highlights.
Its immediately clear to me that they are only attacking me on the right flank so I use OI to tightmark their winger, and I do nothing else. The first 10 minutes are nervy as we defend stoutly, and then as the match wears on we start making more and more attacks. Two clear cut chances we spurn, I am just glad we make them. By halftime we still hold the favorites away from scoring.
During the halftime team talk I realize that there is no point coming down hard, so I calmly tell them that we are underdogs no one expects us to perform miracles. The players look relaxed as they leave the dressing rooms for the second half. The match looks different now as we seem to be making more headway, we have a succession of corners. I then decide to go narrow to keep our defensive shape, this will also encourage my two AMs to cut inside, it works and we create a glorious chance to score as the keeper is off his line, but Kinsella isnt Xavi. He takes two seconds to control the ball, and by then the chance is wasted. As the game wears on we create more chances, including one thats hacked off the line and another where I am screaming at the referee to have his eyes checked as he rules our attempt offside.
The game ends with us in full control in the opponents half, the news reports indicate that the Macc staff are just glad the game is over, they wonder how they survived.
Well we started out decently, but then produced 0-0, 0-1, 0-2. I was getting beaten in the last few minutes. I almost smashed my laptop when I lost to a flukey goal from miles out, and then lost again in the next match. Even in defeat, I had to look hard at my team:
While we lost, we didnt lose badly, we had produced some good football, but we couldnt finish. Our pre-season prep wasnt very good, my players were still not match fit. And maybe its too soon for a 41221 formation, I know its counterattacking but it feels like I am sitting back and letting teams come at me. So I decided to go back to our 451 formation. It may not score a lot of goals but its really hard to break down, it has balance and because I hold one fullback behind at all times I have 3 across the park. Its balanced and I just need to give the boys a good run.
I also decided to head into the transfer market and grab some non contract players, we are desperately short on depth. I need a striker with some strength to hold up the ball, and I need to find players who have strength in the middle of the park, too often we get pushed off tackles.
After getting another 6 players, I get asked about a player asking for playing time, and i start challenging people to prove their worth. We have already lost another match 1-2, but this time, we were solid in defeat, just unlucky. Our next match is against Dartford away and well everyone’s pegged us to lose.
Dartford v Stafford
- Formation Used 451
- No of new players inserted 1
- Changes made to tactical creator minimal, except for BWM whom I dont want to see make any forward runs, to keep the flank secure as the right fullback will do overlapping runs
- Strategy: Control
Its a cagey game but we dominate midfield, the most important area of the pitch, I keep my shape narrow and use the shout to drop deeper, then realize my defensive line has been customized, I quickly set it back. Our pass completion rate is hovering between 80-83% and its making me quietly confident. I keep my shout up as the deeper line helps us to get to the balls over the top earlier and we are cutting off player in midfield.
There is an urgency in our midfield and we start making our shots count, the game however is a grinding affair. I keep my closing down loose, but zonal marking tight. The logic is simple, we need to be disciplined we cant be closing about everywhere, so i maintain my customized cd settings. Our striker is hitting the target most of the time, and within 15 minutes we score from inside the box, its great one touch passing that tears Dartford apart.
I immediately slow the tempo down, we need to win this match, and tell my side to go narrow. We can go defensive but its too early. We watch for the opposing teams formation to change, the moment they change to a more attacking formation, I shout to play out of defense and work into the box. We ride out the first half.
During halftime I tell the players calmly that there is more work to be done and I have faith in them. They come out firing, with 15 minutes to go I decide its time to go counterattacking, and keep our narrow shape, we still maintain possession as our formation and passing keeps the ball in the middle of the park; 5 minutes left on the clock, i decide to make some changes to buy us some time. Off the counter our striker is brought down in the box, and we make it count. I leap from my chair and spill whiskey all over my keyboard.
What a turnaround of form, lets hope it stays.