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[FM18] Fun with Tactics

NML

Well-Known Member
#1
One issue I’ve always had with football manager is just watching the game and not actively managing, hoping that the tactic I created and team built around that prevails. It tends to work well, but the middle of the season gets really tedious.

So I decided to do something new this time. Here, I won’t have a set tactic, and in fact it will be rebuilt every week based on our opponent. My week will really begin once I get the scouting report for the opposition - how can I construct the team to 1) stop their strengths and 2) utilize ours?

The in-game management will also become a huge part. The analysis tab is full of extremely useful and insightful information on a match and I never touch it outside of preseason friendlies when I’m putting finishing touches on the tactic. This will change that.

It will also be done in the style of a journeyman save, so that I (hopefully) get a lot of different players in terms of both quality and style. Bouncing between countries should also add some variety.

Another note - buying/signing players will be a little tougher since I don’t have a set style. Instead, I’ll look for players who give me tactical flexibility. Most importantly, I want players with high teamwork and work rate, so that they can fit well in all systems we might play.

First up - I’ve taken charge of last place Oxford City in the sixth tier. It’s mid-December. We’ve been eliminated from all cups and there are almost no mid week matches left. They sit just two points shy of safety.

I think our early stuff will likely be built around Pulisball. Good (kind of?) news is that they have no wage budget and have already used up all of their long term loans, so I have very little opportunities to worry about bringing people in
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#2
Our first match is against Gloucester City - currently setting 19th in the table, however they’ve won four of five. So they certainly have form on their side.

They almost exclusively run a 4-4-2 (as does most of the league). While not a particularly technical side, they do want to keep the ball and control the tempo of the game. Because of that, I want to press them in the middle of the field and expose their poor first touch and shut down passing lanes. Along those lines, most of their assists come from short to medium passes - meaning they are hoping to pick us apart. So while I want to be aggressive in the midfield, my defense is going to want to allow some space so that their forwards are forced to shoot under pressure and from distance. Let’s not get sucked out defensively and allow them space in front of goal.

Individual Strengths:
- Harry Williams, ST: nine goals across all competitions, tops for the team, he’s also their captain. He will occupy the poacher role. I don’t have much of a profile on him otherwise though, so I’ll be interested to see how he tries to play.

- Joe Hanks, CM: top assists on the team with eight, he’s one of their more technical players. However, he’s not projected to start with this being a midweek fixture. Whether or not he starts will be noteworthy.

Individual Weaknesses:
- Left back: they don’t currently have a healthy one on the roster, and will use a center back out wide instead. This is a great opportunity for us to exploit. Not surprisingly, they’ve allowed ten goals from the right wing.

- Dylan Parkin, GK: a loanee from Chesterfield, he’s a borderline player for this league. We’ll look to attack him, especially on set pieces.

Our approach: We are going to run an asymmetrical tactic. 10 of their assists come from the right, so we will have a defensive left back and a two way winger to help with that. Meanwhile, our best chance of scoring will come from the right, so we’ll run an attacking winger to keep pressure there. We’ll want to pack in the middle to deny them passing options and press once they get to the middle third of the pitch.

4-4-1-1 asymmetrical. Counter, highly structured. Anchor man, ball winner, advanced playmaker in a 3-man midfield. Flat back four that will sit deep. Two wingers, left sitting in the midfield while right sits higher. Advanced forward up top.

Will have to especially monitor how we are able to attack if we aren’t having success on the right. Could possibly add a CM to a role that will let him drift wide to create an overload. Also not sure how our forward will get involved being so isolated.
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#3
First half was a roller coaster

They came out and quickly hit us over the top for a few half chances and corners. I quickly switched off of my CBs man marking their strikers, instead allowing them to switch as necessary so we don’t get in a foot race (that will lose). They tried this without much success after the switch.

In fact, we mostly stopped anything very productive afterwards and our game plan very much fell into place. We kept both strikers in front and forced them to either 1) recycle possession back out, which they aren’t technical enough to do or 2) take low percentages shots, which they did without testing our keeper.

Our early tests of the left back were quite useful, as he picked up a yellow in the 13th minute. He’s quite slow and while my winger isn’t fast, he’s faster than him and a good dribbler. We weren’t able to do much else besides two corners, which weren’t delivered particularly well and we didn’t challenge their poor keeper like I wanted.

Off a throw in that was played back, they sent in a lofted cross to the backpost where our mongs were ready to head away, but unfortunately our left back shoved someone in the back for a PK, which was converted. 1-0 bad guys.

They continued to do little offensively, while our RW was causing issues. Just five minutes after they scored the opener, he beat the LB with pace, forcing the LCB to step to him, which gave some space for our striker to find and head home a great cross. 1-1! Not more than three minutes later, he dribbled past the LB again, but this time our striker put it just high over the bar.

Little happened for the last few minutes of the half, and we went in even.

While our RW didn’t have a particularly high amount of touches, he had very useful ones. He set up both of our chances and has the LB on a yellow. I wish I had a sub with slightly more pace to throw at them.

The second half started poorly for us. The same strategy that basically shut them down for 30 minutes was suddenly looking very vulnerable. They weren’t clear cut chances, but after giving up almost nothing in the first half, they were getting some decent looks.

Around the 60th minute, I started bunkering in because we weren’t seeing anything offensively. Brought on a sub at LM to help shore up that side with some fresh legs. Took off my advanced playmaker for another ball winner, basically turning the midfield into a constant turnover battle. We didn’t have a single shot during all of this.

In the 80th minute, I switched to defensive and brought on a defensive forward to put pressure on their CBs on the ball too. They also subbed their LB for another slow CB, so I also threw my RW on attack instead of supporting and used him as our outlet.

Randomly in the 83rd minute we started seeing some more of the ball. No chances came of it but it was useful in killing off the game. In the 86th, their RCB stepped up to win a goal kick, but it went right to our CM who played our winger, who was behind the LB, in behind. The LCB had to stepped to challenge him once he got to the end line, but he sent in an easy cross for a tap in by our sub!! 2-1!

We completely parked the bus after that. And it worked as we killed the game off for just the club’s sixth win in 23 matches in the league.

———

I’m obviously thrilled with the result, even though I don’t think it was deserved. Offensively we executed our game plan to perfection, with our right winger having two assists as the focus of our attack.

Defensively we broke their attack up well in the midfield, which was a major focus heading in. In the second half, however, our lack of quality from our defenders was obvious and despite good shape, they were able to create some half chances.

Disappointed in that, but you can’t really fault their lack of ability. I was moreso frustrated with our lack of good service on set pieces, as our match preparation for this week was attacking them.

Still, a win is a and win and for a team at the bottom of the table (now 21st!), we’ll certainly take it.
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#4
Our next match comes against now-last places Hungerford. Predicted to finish 16th, they are five points from safety but will be seeing a home match vs next to last as a great chance to pick up points. We, meanwhile, are looking to carry the moment from last week and climb further up the table, possibly out of the drop zone.

We expect them to run a 4-3-3, one of the few times we won’t see the 4-4-2. Their three man midfield will be a DM, ball winner, and advanced playmaker. Pretty standard otherwise.

They almost exclusively play their final ball from out wide, with 16 of their 21 goals assisted from the final third wide areas (four others are from their own half). Compared to our last match, where we packed in the middle, this is a very different challenge. As for defensively, 14 assists have come from the left wing, an area we will obviously look to exploit.

Individual strengths:
- Matt Partridge, CB: one of the rare talents on this team, his 6’3” frame will be a battle for our striker. He’s not slow either, so we may need to avoid getting matched up 1v1 with him to have a chance.

- Tom Meechan, ST: a very well rounded striker, he’s missed a bunch of time but is fully fit for this one. Strong with some pace, he’s a great finisher and I expect he’ll lead the line for them.

Individual Weaknesses:
- Right back: as mentioned earlier, this is a weakness for them. Because, much like our last match up, they don’t have a healthy, natural player at the position. Last match, they played a center mid out there. Let’s hope to exploit this again.

- Jamal Lawrence, RW: Lawrence has a ton of pace, but nothing else. The task for our left back will be to keep him in front and force him to cross the ball from deep. If he can handle that, it will also allow us to be more offensive on the left side.

Our approach: because of the talent of Partridge, I’m going with two strikers. I just don’t want whoever we put up there to be isolated against him, because they aren’t good enough. They also have a very talented left back, who I don’t think I’ll have much success attacking. So, again, we will go asymmetrical with a 4-3-1-2 with our attacking mid shifting to the left to exploit the lack of a natural right back.

The midfield will be our biggest challenge. Our same three will start and basically match up with them, but it will be an area I watch closely and possibly adjust. We’ll need our second striker to press the CBs as well to keep from them splitting the lines.

Our focus this week will be on defense. If we can keep Meechan off the score sheet, I like our chances. We’ll also man mark him with one CB, and allow the other to sit deeper and clean up behind.

———

This match started extremely ugly. Just shitty passing and constant turnovers for the first twenty minutes, with neither team seeing even a half chance. For us, that’s not terrible. We don’t mind an ugly game on the road.

We get a corner in the 22nd minute that for some reason goes short? I have it set to pump it near post but whatever. Eventually it ends with a lay off from 20 yards out that my left winger places perfectly in the corner to make it 1-0!. Looked like nothing the whole way but it was a well placed shot and we take another undeserved lead.

We continue to create some half chances by attacking down the left while they are mostly restricted to long shots with our packed in defense. With our two strikers, we were able to keep much more pressure up than last week. It’s something to consider as we go to other games.

At the half, we looked as though we might be the better team. Possession was evenly split, but we had more shots (7 to 5) and shots on goal (5 to 2). Our left winger had the goal, but struggled to deliver the final ball despite the opportunity. He’s pacey but just an average crosser. I still think that’s an area to exploit, but our focus in the second half might be more about holding our lead.

They made a change at halftime, bringing on another striker and going with a very narrow 4-3-3. We’ll start normal but may go with a five man backline if we give up too much.

We managed to create a couple looks early in the half, but nothing came of it. Hungerford looked quite lackluster, rarely getting forward despite the offensive formation. In the 60th minute, a clearance found one of those forwards, and their left back got forward well and was able to send in an uncontested cross into a packed box, finding the talent Meechan to make it 1-1.

Shortly after, I was debating to go with the 5-3-2 to basically match them. It was a defensive move but I felt like we were exposed centrally otherwise. While debating this, they got a ball over the top behind our defense and it was 2-1. Well then.

Trailing, and seeing how not having an attacking threat on the right allowed their LB to cheat forward, I subbed off our CDM for a RM to provide a little more balance. Shortly after, our left winger sent in a cross to no one in particular but it beat the keeper back post to make it 2-2 :laughing:

At this point, I’ve got no fucking clue how to approach these last 25 minutes. Shortly after, a random cross from their left back goes past our entire defense and finds a striker for a tap in to be 3-2. WOOF

Such a clusterfuck of a match. Pretty much a minute later, they play a ball in to an offside striker, but our CB steps and mis-hits a clearance that falls to one of their other strikers to make it 4-2. So much for defensive.

I go ahead and push my RM up higher since we’ve got to try and get some goals. After nothing happens, with nine minutes left I brought off our left back. To go with a 3-4-3 (closest to a 3-2-5).

Nothing comes of this, and the best opportunities the rest of the way are against us, and we ultimately lose 4-2.

This is particularly tough, because we move back into last place and gave three points to a team we are battling with to stay up. My regret is that I didn’t switch to five at the back right after the equalizer - if not earlier. Our fullbacks weren’t doing enough. Furthermore, the asymmetrical formation hurt us as they starting pushing their left back forward and he ultimately got the assist for their first goal.
 

Yankee151

TWINK Stadium
#5
How do you approach team training with this? Is match preparation (might be thinking of the wrong concept, but whatever the formation comfort thing is in team training) always relatively low since you change the formations and tactics each week?
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#6
How do you approach team training with this? Is match preparation (might be thinking of the wrong concept, but whatever the formation comfort thing is in team training) always relatively low since you change the formations and tactics each week?
As of now, my weekly training is set to defensive positioning since I’m just worried about grinding points at the bottom of the table. That could change to tactics, but I’m not sure how much they’ll vary week to week. If we start being more consistent with them, I might make that switch.

The familiarity rating seems to vary. Over the first two weeks, it’s been around 70%, which isn’t bad. I think because a lot of my team are being to asked to do familiar roles, that they pick it up pretty quick.

Our match preparation also changes by the week. Generally whatever I think is most important for the upcoming game. So far it’s been useless as we focused on attacking set pieces (terrible delivery) and defense (allowed four goals).
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#7
Match three is at home against fourth place Whitehawk. They are extremely talented and will present a real challenge to get points. They run a 4-4-2 that is fairly direct, with similar roles to our traditional tactic.

They aren’t looking to control the game, and in fact 23 of their 30 assists have come from either their own half or the wide areas - 10 of which were scored via headed. So we’ll need aerial presence and a deep line to keep them off the score sheet today.

The goals they’ve allowed are balanced: though the one weakness might be left back, allowing seven assists from that area of the pitch. We will want two wide players on each side, but perhaps our right winger will be given a little more freedom to press on.

Individual Strengths:
- Centerback: I’m unsure who will start, but they have three different options who are 5 stars relative to our team. They are surprisingly pacey, so stealing a goal from a ball over the top is unlikely. Who actually plays may alter our approach.

- KJ Marsh-Brown, RM: the winger has an impressive eight assists, and is a real threat going forward. He’s extremely technical and may require two different defenders to deal with his ability.

Individual Weaknesses:
- Leftback: we expect the pacey Kodi Lyons-Foster to start, despite his best position being CB. He’ll be out of position, but won’t be as simple to deal with as past fullbacks listed here. His role of inverted wing back could be a problem more than an asset for us

- Daniel Wilks, GK: another stretch to put here, Wilks would start for us. However he’s “only” 3.5 stars and a small 5’11”, so perhaps we can steal a goal from a set piece with a bigger player challenging him.

Our approach: perhaps slightly negative, but we will be going with a 5-4-1. There’s just too much talent on the other side that I’m not sure we can contain them otherwise. A loan target man up top may not present enough of an attacking threat, but hopefully we are strong enough defensively to keep a clean sheet.

We are going with some big bodies on the back line to deal with their ability in the air. Two defensive FBs, two defensive CBs, and our central CB set to cover to provide a sweeper behind. Our tempo will be high and we’ll look to pump the ball to our target man, 6’2” Peterson who may be able to out jump their pacey back line. To hopefully frustrate the more talented team, we’ll be aggressive and look to get stuck in all over the pitch. I’m also putting three different types of strikers on the bench in case we need to adjust our attack.

———

The first opportunity in the match came in just the second minute, as a ball from the inverted left back from his own half managed to go over our entire five man back line that was set to “deeper.” Luckily our new GK made a nice save and kept it 0-0.

The next ten minutes involved Whitehawk being on the front foot and getting a bunch of early corners, which we didn’t dea with particularly well but did keep them off the score sheet. Our ten men behind the ball frustrated their attack, which started trying to play it over the top or big diagonals.

Set pieces continued to be a struggle for us, and they actually put it in the back of the net in the 20th minute, but it was waved off for a foul. However, I’m nervous about our ability to deal with this for another 70 minutes.

The rest of the half was a lot of long distance and/or low percentage shots from them, but we managed to get into the locker room at 0-0. We actually had more of the ball (52/48), and I’m tempted to go with a short passing style to help control the game that way. Our tempo or direct style has done nothing offensively, so we need some sort of change there.

Our target man is doing well, and he’s the best player on the field in the air. But he really needs some support. I don’t really want to pull a CB off, so we switch to a shorter passing style to hopefully build up play a bit more. We also move from defensive to counter.

The second half starts very similar to the first, with a couple of set piece opportunities for them that are close, but not quite. Just before the 50th minute, our midfield is standing by the keeper when the ball is wide and they send a cross to the top of the box that is hammered home to make it 1-0.

We finally get our first shot in the 59th minute when some slow build up play ends with our striker with a bit of space at the top of the box, but he puts it just over. In the 65th minute, I bite the bullet and take of a CB for a poacher to pair with the target man. We need some offense.

We don’t even get a good look at goal before they put the game away with a cross, flick on, and tap in at the back post. 2-0

We create another half chance, but not long after they get another. 3-0. FFFFUUUUUUUUU

Just an ugly, ugly game. We probably came out of our shell a little too quickly, it was really over after that. We also didn’t do anything offensively for 45 minutes, so it was more of a matter of time.
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#8
Next we head on the road to ninth place East Thurrock. They are tied for fifth in goals in the league, but are on a bad run of form, with just four points in their last five matches. Maybe a chance to catch a team not in form.

They run a 4-2-3-1 with a counter mentality. They are similar to our first match in that we expect them to try and keep the ball a bit. While they’ll use their wide players, it’s rarely as a cross. Keeping giants on the field isn’t as important, we mostly need our best defenders (who are still pretty bad but I can’t bring anyone in to replace them).

With their wingers pushed up higher, they are somewhat weak against crosses. We’ll look to play quick and wide and pump balls into the box when we break.

Individual Strengths:
Marvin Ekpiteta, CB: pacey and a great jumper, he isn’t particularly strong but has no other weaknesses. He’d be a tough match up going 1v1, but a target man should be able to hold up play well against him.

Lukas Lidakevicius, GK: the best keeper we’ve seen yet, it will be a challenge to score from distance. Extremely athletic, it’ll be interesting to see if they try and run a high line and use him as a sweeper keeper.

Individual Weaknesses:
- Fullbacks: much like other teams we’ve seen, they lack talent at fullback. They are their two lowest rated starters and neither are natural at the position. This further emphasizes that we should focus our attacks out wide.

- Calvin Ekpiteta, CAM: I’m guessing the brother of Marvin, Calvin is a bit underwhelming for a 10 in a 4-2-3-1. A decent first touch and passing ability, he doesn’t offer much else. In 21 matches, he’s got four goals and three assists.

Our Approach: we are going with a traditional 4-4-2, counter, high tempo style with a target man/poacher combo up top. Nothing fancy here, but I think this matches up well with them. In addition, our focus will be attacking the flanks and hoping getting some overloads out there.

Starting with a ball winner and advanced playmaker in midfield, again. Two wingers, again. But this time, my fullbacks won’t stay so far back, having a bit of license to support the wingers to hopefully create some chances. Not too many instructions otherwise, I’ll see how play develops and possibly adjust from there.

One final note - our locker room was “abysmal” so we held a team meeting that seemed to brighten spirits. We could use it.

———

The first opportunity came to them in the fifth minute, when a ball pumped into the box wasn’t cleared well and they had a half chance that our keeper pushed wide. They kept the pressure up, hitting a nice ball over the top from a CB to find their striker and ultimately earn them a corner. After defending the corner well, our target man won the clearance and held up play well to find the left winger streaming ahead, who crossed a nice ball into the other striker that was fired right at the keeper. A great chance for us.

We continued to create opportunities through the target man, for which they had no answer. We had three corners in the first half hour, but are service was very poor and we couldn’t do anything with them. We were, however, swinging the game in our favor a bit, as they wouldn’t get another shot until the 38th minute.

We had another late opportunity just before half off a free kick, but the shot went well wide. Still, I was happy to head into the break tied (we actually haven’t trailed at half in any of my matches so far).

While they had more of the ball, I’m pretty happy with the first 45. Paterson is battling well and giving us an outlet - I’ll continue to look for him with clearances, though I’d prefer to find his feet more as they have good aerial threats at CB. We also have a bigger and stronger option on the bench that might get a run out soon. Slightly frustrated that we don’t seem to be playing wide nearly enough - I have that as our focus and our width is appropriate too.

A lackluster start to the second half, I made the switch for the bigger target at the 55 minute mark. Paterson battled but won only 28% of headers. Soon after, we had our best chance of the game off a good clearance that found the sub, who played a great ball in behind that our poacher got too but struck wide.

We shifted the game a bit and I felt like we found our footing, so I didn’t make any other changes. I had some tired legs in the middle, so I did a like for like with our ball winner. If we want to grind this out, I may bring another on, too.

We had another great opportunity in the 81st minute, when a bad touch from their center back allowed our striker in, but at a tough angle that allowed the keeper to make the save. Despite feeling good about what we had done, I did elect to bring on another ball winner in midfield to help close out the game. Also switched to more defensive and started wasting time.

It did the job, and while we had four set pieces that we wasted in extra time, we got a nice 0-0 draw against a top ten club

 

NML

Well-Known Member
#9
We follow up that tough match with an even tougher one - hosting first place Bath City. Yet again, however, they are on a bad run of form, with just one point in their last three matches, after winning 18 of their first 23.

Another 4-2-3-1, but more talented. They won’t look to play over the top as their striker sits deeper and is the focus of their attack. They are the best passing team in the league, and use their width quite well. They are very balanced: eight goals from crosses, right from medium passes, seven from short passes. They focus on the right a bit more, with 13 assists from that half of the field vs five from left. The left also seems to be an issue for them (relatively speaking) with six assists coming from there vs just 10 every where else. Also worth noting, they are very good defensively.

They also seem to strangely struggle with the 4-2-3-1, allowing a chance every seven minutes! Against all other formations, it’s one chance every 19. Unfortunately I don’t think we have the personnel for that, but it may be an option if we try to push for a late goal.

Individual Strengths:
- Sean Rigg, LW: not pacey, which is rare for a winger at this level, but he’s very technical and works his socks off. Only 29 but he’s got nearly 400 appearances so far, and has nine goals and nine assists in all competitions this year.

- Tom Smith, CM: a lot of different directions I could’ve gone here, but Smith really impresses me. He’s an unbelievably hard worker and will run all game long. Despite not being a great passer, he still has ten assists to go along with his seven goals this season.

Individual Weaknesses:
- what weaknesses? They don’t have a single starter under 4.5 stars. Even their fullbacks are good.

Our approach: as a well balanced team, we will stick with what got us a result last time. My poacher, Mohammed, hasn’t scored in 13 appearances, but - again - I don’t have an option of bringing anyone in besides a youth player on a free loan for three months. So he just needs to figure this shit out.

We were nearly 100% familiar with this tactic last week, probably because it’s so generic, but that’s a nice bonus. I’m not bothering with set pieces anymore because we simply don’t have the service to make it happen. Match prep will be defensive positioning for the foreseeable future.

———

The game was really ugly to start, which is just fine by us. They got a couple corners early, but otherwise the first 15 minutes was very quiet. We even got a crack after some decent movement, which we haven’t seen much of.

Their first real chance came in the twentieth minute, where they sent in a cross that went past everyone, eventually finding the winger on the opposite side who laid off a nice ball that was struck well, but wide. They kept the pressure up with three free kicks just outside our box, but couldn’t put any of the ensuing shots on frame and it stayed nil nil through the first half hour.

After mounting the pressure with eight shots, we got our second look off a throw in that found a center mid, who played a nice ball in to our left winger who volleyed it first time into the top corner! 1-0 good guys! A really nice strike and one of the better goals I’ve seen at this level.

This didn’t exactly flip the game, as they continued to have a vast majority of the ball. But they created only one more chance in the half - another free kick from about 25 out that went well wide - where we finally managed a decent look from a corner, but we put it right at the keeper.

Going into the half up a goal was not expected, both because of the talent disparity and that we didn’t play all that well. That strategy seems to fit our guys well so I didn’t want to change too much. Paterson continues to get destroyed in the air, which isn’t great when that’s the whole point of your role. I’ll be making the switch again around the 55th minute mark - only reason it’s not sooner is we play on Tuesday and I want the other guy to start. Other than that, the strategy will be mostly the same as last week - grind the game down and slowly bunker in more.

We got the first good look of the half, as a rare aerial win by Paterson was followed by a few passes that ultimately gave him a bit of space at the top of box, but his curler justttt went wide. It was enough from him that I decided to let him stay on until the 65th minute, but he continued to lose a high rate and still came off.

We continued to kill the game off well, mostly restricting them to long shots. They got their best opportunity in the 70th minute - off yet another free kick just outside the box, they played a nice 1-2 that gave them an uncontested look from the penalty spot, but luckily it was pushed wide.

Mohammed finally got a real opportunity when a CB won the ball and put him in behind, but despite a good touch to set up the shot, the keeper closed well and made the save. Shortly after this, I took him off for a defensive forward to help put pressure on the CBs.

We also made the move to defensive and started to waste time. They didn’t see another shot until the 83rd minute, which was low percentage from outside the box and ultimately off frame. I brought on another ball winner to hopefully kill this one off right after.

In the 87th minute we went full contain, yet somehow they still managed to play a ball in behind? Luckily they only hit the post and then the follow up found a keeper. Shot #20 for them came in extra time from a set piece, but was right at the keeper. They kept the pressure up and forced a great save from the keeper from distance, the follow up corner which was also put on frame but also saved. Somehow, in the 94th minute, after facing 22 shots, the ref blew the final whistle and we beat the top of the table club 1-0!!!

This result gets us out of the gutter and two points from safety. A massive game mid week as we get a rematch with Gloucester who we beat in my opener. I won’t do another run down with them but while my tactics were ultimately successful in that match, we also don’t want to vary too much from what is working here. We’ll still look to attack their weak left back, but will shift to a 4-4-2 like we’ve been playing. High pressure in the middle of the field, deep line.
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#10
Our rematch went poorly, losing 4-1. It was 2-0 just six minutes in, and that was too much for us to overcome. We got a PK, which we missed, and then cut the lead in half, but we pushed too many numbers forward late and allowed two more in the last 15. Tough loss that pushed us back to last place with 14 matches to go.

Next up is 6th place Concord at home. They run a traditional 4-4-2, defensive, and structured. They use a defensive forward, but otherwise it’s something you’d see any Saturday in the English lower leagues.

The first thing I’ll note is that they are one of the worst technical teams in the league, making their sixth place especially impressive. It’s rare that we match up so well with another club in that aspect, but we do here. Most of their goals come from crosses or long balls, so we will need to stay compact defensively. They are especially dangerous from the right, with 11 assists from that wing.

They are equally poor against crosses and long balls. So that makes our approach pretty straight forward.

Individual Strengths:
- Danny Parish, ST: the tiny striker is incredibly fast and, surprisingly, very strong. He’s got a non stop motor and will press our back line if they try to sit on the ball. 10 goals and four assists this season despite sitting deeper.

- Kyron Farrell, CM: another solid physical and hard working center mid, one of many that we’ve seen. He also has the ability to play on the left, but is most dangerous centrally.

Individual Weaknesses:
- Centerback: an underwhelming group all together. Billy Roast isn’t particularly physical, but he’s decent in the air. Lackluster otherwise. Steve King is a tank, but slow - really, really slow.

- Rob Girdlestone, RB: he’s one of the slowest fullbacks I’ve ever seen, with 4 pace. He’s big, but that’s about all he’s got going for him. This could be a good spot for us to attack.

Our approach: sticking with the 4-4-2, although we will change up the personnel a bit. Paterson, despite his struggles in the air, was sorely missed last game, so he’ll move back into the lineup. I simply can’t start Mohammed up top anymore, so a youngster named Borg will go in his place. They’ll also switch into more comfortable roles for them: advanced forward and defensive forward, respectively. The pacey McEachran will start on the left wing and look to attack the slow Girdlestone.

I’m also going slightly asymmetrical - the right side will sit a little deeper, with a normal winger/support and defensive full back, while the left will push higher with winger/attack and full back.

———

We got the first look of the game, inside of a minute when a good step from a CB started a counter that end with a shot from Paterson at the top of the box, but right at the keeper. He got another look just a couple minutes later after some good movement, but he put it over. We kept the pressure high, getting a corner and mostly keeping the ball in their half for the first ten minutes.

We had 65% possession twenty minutes in, so I decided to go with a shorter passing style to save our legs and make them work. We continued our success, not only getting some half chances, but limiting them to only long shots in the first half. Unfortunately, we couldn’t put away any of our six looks.

Their defense was feeling it in more ways than one. Two had picked up knocks and they were extremely tired. I decided to move Borg to a poacher role and hopefully test them with his pace. Other than that, I made no changes as I was quite happy with the first 45.

We had a real chance in the 50th minute, as we counter well with McEachran sprinting down the line 3v2, but his cross was too close to the keeper. Over the next ten minutes, though, I noticed we were struggling to keep possession as well with Borg hanging on the shoulder. It brought an interesting decision of whether keeping the fresh legs and possession was worth a lower chance at a goal. I decided to keep Borg high as I felt like we could get one.

In the 64th minute we nearly did just that as he got in behind, but he had to strike the ball on a volley and couldn’t get it on frame. They made a sub to get some pace at RB, so I decided to tuck my left side in some more to match the right. They again adjust in the 73rd minute, putting on some pace at CB by sliding in their left back, so I brought Borg deeper and focused more on keeping the ball.

Once we rolled into the 80th minute, I decided to just pack it in and try for the 0-0. Brought on another ball winner in midfield, then an anchorman and went with one up top. We slowly went more defensive and started wasting time, and got out of there with our draw.
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#12
Basically, your tactic is to take your opponent out of their tactic?
Yes and no. What I’m not going to do is try and force my tactic when it’s not a good match up. I also don’t want to be oblivious to their specific strengths and weaknesses, as we are almost always the less talented team and I need to find advantages for us.

I do try and “take them out of their game,” so I see where you are coming from.
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#13
We head back home, but against fourth place Hemel Hempstead. Currently, we sit in 21st place (of 22), two points from safety. We’re also only four points from 17th, so we just need a good run to create some space. We are also on a pretty decent run at the moment, with five points from four matches. We’ve also kept three clean sheets over that span.

HH run a 4-3-3 narrow, with a target man, poacher, and defensive forward. In the midfield, they use a ball winner, AP, and the rare one Mezzala (on the left). The back four is also strange, with a defensive FB on the left and wingback on the right. I’m guessing the Mezzela looks to provide the support from wide on that side, whereas the wing back does on the right? It’s a very unusual formation.

They are most deadly with throughballs, with nine assists. But fairly balanced throughout. The big discrepancy is defensively - where 14 of the 25 goals they’ve allowed have come from their left side. Methinks we have another poor left back situation.

Individual Strengths:
Ismail Yakubu, CB: tiny and not overly physical, he makes up for those weaknesses by being an extremely intelligent and technical player. The best passing CB I’ve seen at this level, completing over 70% of his passes.

Jordan Parkes, CM: Parkes is in the running for player of the league, with a leading 16 assists so far. He combines that with a great engine and solid finishing to provide a real challenge in the middle.

Individual Weaknesses:
Strikers: all combine them all into one, because despite starting three, they don’t have any that jump off the page. What they do have our well defined roles. Moyo can fly, Osborn has a great work rate, and German is a boss in the air.

Our approach: I paid for not going with five at the back when I faced three strikers earlier this season, I won’t make that mistake again. We’ll go with a 5-3-2 and also stay narrow, which hopefully compacts the field. I’m slightly nervous that they’ll throw a wrench and go 4-4-2 (which they also run), so my bench will be flexible and give me that option if necessary.

My anchorman will also be specifically set to mark Parkes, tackling hard and marking tightly to hopefully take him out of his game. Borg will start deeper and press their technical back line, which will allow Paterson to stay higher.

———

They did go with a 4-3-3 narrow, so I felt a bit vindicated about my tactics (and my scout deserves a raise!). The decision to go with Borg also paid off early, as he hopped on a heavy touch by one of their CBs, and fired a shot they rattled the cross bar, but Paterson was there to follow it up and make it 1-0!

Unfortunately the lead was short lived, as they scored a screamer from 20 out that curled into the top corner to make it 1-1. Balls. Just minutes later, their right wing back crashed into our box and found one of their several strikers to make it 2-1 and suddenly we were behind.

It only got worse in the 20th minute when we randomly gave them a few seconds in the box to place their shot, and it was 3-1. Not sure what my anchorman is doing as Parkes has two assists already. Just for good measure, he got a goal just before halftime to make it 4-1.

I decide to open it up a bit, sticking with the 5-3-2 but allowing the fullbacks more freedom to push up and going with a flat three man midfield.

We got a 1 on 1 in the 50th minute that could’ve make things interesting, but we couldn’t even put it on frame. We crawled one back shortly after, when we recovered a poor clearance off a corner and had a nice passing movement to make it 4-2.

We were able to keep the pressure up, getting another sitter in the 70th minute but putting it right at the keeper. After that I figured I’d go ahead and throw it all forward, going with a 4-3-3.

They got a deserved fifth goal after some nice movement, and it eventually finished 5-2.

My frustration isn’t with the result, which does suck but they are also a good team. It’s that I knew I needed to take Parkes out of the game and put someone on that field with just that job, and he still had a goal and three assists.
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#14
I won’t go so far as to call this a must win, but with only 12 matches to go and currently sitting in last, a game against 19th place Truro City is pretty close. Also worth noting is we are only two points from safety - so depending on the results of another match, we could possibly move out of the relegation zone with a win.

TC will run a 4-3-3 wide, with an inside forward, deep lying forward, and natural winger across the front three. Their midfield is a DLP, ball winner, and defensive mid, and the back four is supportive of the attack with fullbacks and centerbacks.

As they are close to relegation, they aren’t a particularly talented team. They are the worst in the league in crossing, dribbling, and tackling. They’ve allowed a high percentage of goals from the right side, but otherwise are balanced in their attack and defense.

Individual Strengths:
- Jamie Richards, CB: fantastic in the air, very smart, despite being 6’. While he doesn’t overpower in any one area, he’s well rounded and doesn’t leave any obvious area to exploit.

- Connor Riley-Lowe, LB: in a league full of bad fullbacks, CRL isn’t one of them. Good pace, but a better defender. He’s missed a lot of time this season, which explains why they’ve been so weak from his side

Individual Weaknesses:
- Andrew Neal, LW: not a natural winger, and his attributes back that up. He’s pacey, but would be better suited central in his first position of striker.

- Niall Thompson, RW: very pacey, and that’s about it. Can’t finish, can’t cross, it presents an interesting dynamic with their wingers. I’ll talk more about this below

Our approach:
- after last match, I don’t see any reason to go with the five man backline despite them running three up top. So we’ll go four at the back, but my fullbacks will stay home. My RB is also suspended due to yellow card accumulation, so my LB flips over to that side since I don’t have a natural back up.

Otherwise, it’s a step back towards the 4-4-2 we had some success with early. Defensive forward and advanced forward up top, and a shorter passing style. This tactic also keeps us really fresh, while also maintaining shape and, hopefully, limiting opponents to few shots that are mostly low percentage. It’s really ugly, but we need points.
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#15
The match started very open and back and forth, which I’m not a fan of. We weren’t seeing more of the ball and the high tempo of TC was clearly unsettling the team. Still, we were able to create some opportunities and put two decent looks on from in the first 25 minutes. Truro had two shots themselves, but lesser quality.

The rest of the half was ugly too. Truro would get two more shots, both from outside the box and off frame. We had another half chance from a free kick, but the headed went right at the keeper.

We’re winning the ball well in the midfield, giving them low percentage chances, and we’ve had the best three looks of the game. Not much in the way of highlights, but I’m happy about the outcome and don’t make any changes headed into the second 45.

We traded long shots for the opening twenty minutes, although we were finding more of the ball. In the 63rd minute, a nothing cross to the top of their box somehow needed my CB to plow over the striker, giving them a PK. They snuck it under our keeper to take a 1-0. Such a frustrating goal to allow because they’ve created nothing all match.

The luck went back in our favor when, after a free kick, Truro had a mis-clearance that fell to Paterson near the top of the box, and he destroyed a volley into the corner to even the game at 1-1.

We came into the 75th minute, and I’m left with a decision. Do we settle in like we have and take our draw, or push forward and go for the win? It’s been a fairly even game, but I’m unlikely to get too many chances of finding wins this season. I decide to be half ass it and neither bunker in nor push on, instead mostly sticking with the same strategy that, I think, gives me a slightly better chance of scoring than them. My only change is fresh legs for my ball winner, who’s also on a yellow.

I’m rewarded moments later when my advanced playmaker plays Borg down the line, behind the defense. The CB lays out for the tackle, but Borg hops over and cuts in to goal, firing the go ahead past the keeper to take a 2-1!

Time to whole ass it. We immediately go defensive, highly structured, with some Central American time wasting. I’m nearly immediately screwed when a nice lofted ball from their midfield goes over my defense, with the header chipping my keeper, but harmlessly tapping the cross bar and being cleared into row Z

Squeaky bum time. I take off the AP for a more defensive minded CM. We go full contain. Still they managed to play the ball behind my “much deeper” defensive line and equalize in the 90th minute, 2-2

We get an absolute sitter in extra time that Borg puts right at the keeper from three yards. They play another 60 ball behind my defense and win 3-2

FFFFUUUUUUUU
 
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NML

Well-Known Member
#16
In an effort to condense the word count of each post, I’m gonna try and shorten my previews. I end up spending more time than I want on this and not enough on the game.

Anyways, we play fourth place Chelmsford at home. Normally, that would be a really tough match, but they have lost four straight. Maybe we have a chance!

They run a 4-4-2, very traditional. Target man, advanced forward, DLP, ball winner, two wingers, and two fullbacks. They are very talented, as you might expect from a team in the playoff spots. In particular, they are excellent in defense, with three different five star players on their back line. They also lead the league in tackle percentage and are the strongest club, too.

So goals are going to be hard to come by. I also don’t see much use in using a target man, so we’ll stick with the defensive forward/advanced forward combo. Behind them will be two banks of four, sitting deep and soaking up pressure. We’ll look to control possession and wear them out a bit when we have the ball.

We need some points

———

The game started really slow, with a quick jump to the tenth minute, when, off a corner, a shot from distance that was going wide deflects off my winger and slowly, slowly trickles into the net. 1-0 bad guys.

We responded almost instantly with a nice passing movement. It ended with Paterson receiving at the top of the box, taking a great touch around the CB, and calmly finishing in the corner, 1-1!

Less than two minutes later, we got a free kick from about 35 out, which was delivered well, poorly cleared, and found Borg on the penalty spot, who promptly smashed it home to give us a 2-1 lead! Is it too early to park the bus?

Our four central attacking players were doing a great job staying connected and keeping the ball, which kept the pressure on them. They managed a couple looks, mostly from corner kicks, but otherwise didn’t threaten our goal.

Just as I thought we were about to take our 2-1 lead into halftime, we had a shot from the penalty spot that the keeper spilled towards his post. He went out to collect but our winger got their first, centered it, and our CM tapped it home to make it 3-1.

We’ve got one goal in the second half. Don’t allow two goals.

The chances of that almost went down a fuck ton when they had a great look at the top of our box in the first minute of the half, but luckily it went right at our keeper.

After that, the game slows and dies down, and nothing happens for the next twenty minutes. In the 70th minute, I bring on a second ball winner in the midfield. They start to turn up the pressure, getting a few half chances over the next ten minutes. I bring on a third centerback and go five at the back to match, as we are just ten minutes from a huge win.

I have a pending sub for the last four minutes and extra time, but the final whistle goes before he can get on. Massive win!

While we are still in last place, this moves us back to just two points from safety
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#17
Warning: I had three match write ups ready, so this is a long one

That’s what she said

———

We’ve got ten matches left in the season. At most, I think 43 points will be enough to stay up, though it may end up being closer to 40. Still, 43 will be our goal. That means we need 14 points. Let’s go

On the docket is 16th place Wealdstone on the road. We’ve managed only two points away from home since I took over, which won’t cut it. Good chance here to buck that trend.

The run a 4-3-3 wide with a target man, Mustafa Tiryaki, who I’m quite impressed with. While there’s a ton of them at this level, he has great technique and can hold up play better than most. Their DM pulls the strings of the team, with lots of hard work work players around him. The left side of defense is slightly more supportive - a fullback and CD vs DCB and DFB on the right.

Their real quality is in defense. Tiryaki has five goals, which leads the team. They are 19th in the league in scoring. So this is going to be a bit of a slog.

We will stick with our 4-4-2 which has served us pretty well. Borg is coming off his best game yet and will stick with his defensive forward role, pairing with Paterson up top. One change I made last week was moving a CB to left back, a spot of weakness for us. He’s pacey but otherwise has no qualities you’d look for out there. But for us, that’s fine. Our starting RB returns after a two game suspension as well. Since we are on the road, we’ll also go slightly more defensive.

———

Wealdstone absolutely dominated possession early in a way 1) I haven’t seen from an opponent and 2) didn’t expect. It translated in the 7th minute when we gave a CM too much time on the edge of the box, and he rocketed one into the top corner to make it 1-0.

They had another nice opportunity in the 10th minute, but it was struck right at our keeper. We responded in the 12th with some nice passing movement to get our left winger open in space down the line, and he sent in a nice cross that found Paterson’s head and eventually the back of the net to tie it at 1-1

They nearly took the lead right back, with a shot that caught the wrong side of the post. A long free kick found a free head by the back post, but it was well saved. Still, we were getting completely dominated in possession (66% for them) and couldn’t find our footing in the game. I decided to try and press a little more to hopefully rectify that.

Slowly, we started to get back into the game. Possession eventually flipped, and by the 35th minute we had 55%. After facing seven shots in the first twenty minutes, they didn’t get another until the 41st, which was from some distance and not a real threat. After a scary start, we snuck into halftime tied.

The switch to pressing them more seemed to really help, so we’ll stick with that. I’m worried that we might be too defensive, as we managed only three shots in the first half. But I don’t want to come out of our shell just yet.

A quiet start to the second half, the only actions of the first ten minutes were a couple longer shots from us. While low quality, it was some signs of life offensively. They got back to back corners in the 63rd minute, which was threatening but ultimately didn’t get a goal.

My left winger picked up an injury in the 70th minute, forcing my hand for the first sub. We had some fantastic movement shortly after, but the new sub couldn’t pick out either of the open men in the box with his cross. My ball winner, Poku, also got a knock so I brought him off with a like for like sub, but that meant I can’t go with two in the last ten like I have been.

As we got into the 80’s, I figured we’d just grind it out with our set up. After we increased the pressure, we’d out shot them 7 to 5, with a huge lead in possession. No need to take unnecessary risk on the road.

My last sub was an old man striker who I thought might steal us the game if given the chance. Made it through regulation, but was disappointed to see an additional five minutes. We snagged a corner in the 93rd minute, but nothing came of it. They had the chance to steal the game when their winger got in behind, but our keeper came up big to keep the draw.

Not sexy, but it gets us out of last place and any result on the road is good for us.

———

We lost our left winger for the season. Kelly had been in decent form after I made the move to him in recent matches, but McEacharn was originally my starter and hopefully can pick up where he left off. One starting centerback stubbed his toe in practice and apparently needs two weeks off? Oh and Poku may not be healthy for the next match. FUUUU

Up next is 7th place Havant and Waterlooville. This is a tough one - they are talented, in form, but we desperately need to find some wins. A point is okay, but we only have four other home matches, and I’d rather they not all be must wins.

HW run a 4-2-3-1 attacking, with a target man supported by two wingers and an attacking mid. Despite the aggressive formation, they are a better defensive team, fourth in goals allowed. Interesting enough, they start most matches this way, but are being outscored 15-24 with it. The 4-4-2, however, has them outscoring opponents 31-21. They very well may change in the match.

If there’s a weakness, it’s the fullbacks. They aren’t particularly good, the abilities they have are more offensive, and they just might push too far forward. While we won’t change too much, we will focus on attacking down the flanks.

———

Good news everyone - Poku and Henderson, the aforementioned stubbed toe guy, were both cleared before kickoff. It made me slightly more optimistic heading into the match.

We nearly stole the opener, when a very deep cross nearly chipped the keeper, but he got a finger to it and tipped it over. We kept the pressure up and most of the action in the opening twenty minutes was in their half. They didn’t even threaten our goal into the 30th minute, when they got a corner off a blocked cross. They settled in a bit after that, getting decent look in the 35th minute which our keeper pushed wide.

Their best chance came just before halftime when they had a free header at the back post, but luckily put it over. After our early pressure, we completely fell off. Possession went from 57% for us, to 48%. We had only two shots, both from distance and about 35 minutes apart.

I decided to try a little “rah rah” halftime talk, which I never do, and the team responded well in the locker room. Because of that, I decided against making any changes as we headed back out, hoping that energy translated to an early goal.

H&W had another absolute sitter that they skied just after the break. Finally, they got their deserved goal - my keeper came out to punch a clearance but managed to only get it to the top of the box, where it was first timed in to make it 1-0.

In response, I ditch our focus on wide play and try to go a little more aggressive. Poku has a nice chance at the top of the box that he couldn’t quite curl around the keeper. They had another for opportunity in the 70th minute, but made one too many passes and we managed to clear it away.

In the 75th minute I finally decided to leecorso ah fuck it. They were doing most of their damage from wide, so I pushed our wingers up, hoping to catch them out if they kept going forward. Brought off Henderson, moved my CB-turned-LB inside, and brought on someone who could push up too.

We nearly equalized right away, but Sinclair pulled a rocket shot just wide. We slowly went more and more attacking, and by extra time we were in full blown overload. Still, we never got closer than Sinclair’s shot from distance, and lost the game 1-0

The loss moves us back into last place, four points from safety with eight to play. Our goal of 43 means we now need 13 points from eight matches.

———

Certainly my weakest area on the squad is the back line. It forces me to play a very deep line and stay structured to support them, otherwise we’d allow four goals a game (we still have the most goals allowed in the league). In response, I made my only transfer this season, bringing in a free loanee, Darnell Smith. He’s got all the attributes you want physically and mentally, and I’m not too worried about the technical side at this point. He’s match fit from playing on Barnet’s reserves, so he goes straight into the starting lineup.

We head to Welling United this week, where we face a narrow 4-3-3 that is very attacking. The fullbacks push way up, and our supported by six attackers in the center of the field. If there’s some good news, it’s that they’ve one point in their last four matches. It’s a very talented side that was actually predicted to win the league.

We’ll match them with a 3-5-2. My wingers just need to match their fullbacks, and I think we’ll be okay. It’s a risk to go 3v3 at the back, but we need points. Plus our fullbacks aren’t good anyways.

As a bonus to our already long shot of staying up, Borg was called into the Malta under 21’s, so he’ll miss next week’s home match.

———

It was an ugly start to the match, but our patient build up play was rewarded in the 11th minute when some nice movement was capped with a great cross from Borg to Paterson who headed it home to make it 1-0!

The pressure switched quickly, as they had a couple decent looks that they couldn’t put away. They finally equalized on a nearly offside goal in the 34th minute to make it 1-1.

In less than a minute, a twelve pass movement from us finished with a cross that bounced off a defender and into the goal to make it 2-1! An exciting half to watch, but one that I was really wanting to wrap up.

They had two more good looks at goal before it did, but my keeper came up big and we held the lead at halftime.

Okay so the aggressive strategy worked to get us a couple goals and the lead. The issue is that they’ll almost definitely get another without a change from me. But bunkering in with five at the back either costs me my second striker or my wingers, which both have contributed a goal.

I decide to go with the 5-3-2, bringing on my right back from the bench, sliding my CB-turned-LB-turned-CB back outside, and add another CB, taking off both wingers. Time wasting turned on. Let’s grind out a win.

It doesn’t happen as they equalize almost right away with a goal from 20+ out, 2-2. Fuck

Maybe even worse, we don’t get anything going forward. Not even a shot from distance. A half chance. A corner. Nothing. We still get our share of the ball with our passing style, but that’s it.

The inevitable go ahead goal finally comes in the 70th minute. An unfortunate one - off a free kick from distance that deflects off the wall and catches our keeper diving the wrong way. 3-2

With two of my subs already used, I’m pretty limited in what I can do. I take off Smith, who’s played terrible (nice signing corch!), and bring on another striker to go 4-3-3 narrow.

We get a corner that leads to our best look of the half, but we smash it right at the keeper. They get one decent look at goal, but hit the wrong side of the post. Our next chance never comes, and we lose a really tough one.

Losing on the road to the preseason favorite to win the league isn’t terrible, but the way it played out hurt. We also fall seven points (really eight because of our GD) from safety
 
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NML

Well-Known Member
#18
I had write ups for the next few matches, but we are mathematically relegated.

While this wasn’t a successful season, I really enjoyed delving into that part of it, and will try another save soon. Maybe less dry, tactical discussion and more of a focus on the players, locker room, etc.

Definitely got me back into FM
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#19

In this challenge, I’ll switch my focus both tactically and developmentally - here we will grab a side from the sixth division in ingerland (technically seventh, more on that later), and look to build a side around strong, physical, defensive football so commonly found in the lower levels of the English pyramid. This tactic should have a massive player pool compared to more attacking styles.

Furthermore, I’ll be looking to stick with just one club versus bouncing between and always looking for the next move up. What club?



Hereford FC are actually a Phoenix club of of Hereford United, which folded in 2014. A League One club just a few seasons ago (and reached the Championship in the mid-70s), HU suffered multiple relegations in a short span and ultimately closed up shop during the middle of a season. The following year, the Phoenix club was formed and placed in the ninth tier. They had back to back to back promotions to climb back into the sixth tier - although IRL this didn’t happen until 2018, whereas I bumped it up a season to match up dates with my game because I thought it’d be a cool story.

Assuming I don’t get relegated, the long term focus of the save will be on improving our youth system and rising through the ranks. Because of our tiny population base, our only hope of ascension is by getting significant financial support via player sales and home grown discounts. Hereford is our city, the biggest in the county of Herefordshire - which is one of the smallest in England with a population under 200k. As some sort of comparison, our neighbors to the north are Shropshire, with a population over 300k, and their highest tier club is Shrewsbury in League One (though they’ve been primarily a fourth tier side over the years).

A big factor in our ability to produce good talent is our facilities. In all four categories, we ranked next to last. That’s actually not all bad considering our level, but any financial income will need to go to upgrading those.

Some good news is that we are the only show in town and because of our history in the higher tiers, we have very good fan support. The club is also in great financial position, with 700k in the bank and no debt. We don’t own the stadium, but the rent is almost entirely covered by its sponsor.

In what may be good news - we have no players under contract. So I don’t have any unnecessary pieces, but also don’t have any studs to build around.

My plan for the preseason is (or was) to bring in a full 23 man team on trial for all four weeks. As it became obvious that players weren’t at this level, release them, and bring it other free agents.

This plan started fine, but I found the players to be of very poor quality - not a single one was considered at this level. Still, I need to fill out a roster and found several pieces this way.

A bit of a breakthrough came from the trial matches. Several of these players were only slightly interested, but they were higher quality and I ultimately needed some of that if I’m going to survive. This where I went with people who may not be perfect fits, whereas the lower quality players were much more plug and play.

Next up I’ll do a run through of our roster and preseason

GO COWS
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#20

Here’s a look at our roster heading into our first match

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The first thing to notice is we are really short on numbers. This is worrisome as we’ve got mid-week matches every other week until November, so we’ve got to get deeper. You might also notice that we live on ends of the spectrum regarding age - lots of really young, lots of really old, not much in the middle. I’m a fan of the experience, for this year at least - we are going to be in a relegation battle and need to grind out points. Our form may go up and down so we need leadership and veterans who will stay steady. They also have great mental attributes, which is useful for this tactic.

The goal as we move forward will be to continue to focus on finding some top end talent. Outside of an injury, I won’t be trying to add in any more low-end players. We have enough of those. I’ve also got a handful of loanees shortlisted, should we get hit with an injury bug. Otherwise, finding players fit for this level is our goal, and move our mediocre players to the bench or the reserves.

For reference, 3.5 stars is a leading division seven player, whereas 4.5 stars is well suited for the league we are in.

GOALKEEPER
- Oilerenshaw was an initial trialist that held off several challengers throughout preseason. He doesn’t really fit, as he’s a better distributor than most at this level and we need more of a shot stopper, but we couldn’t ever find someone better. 3.5 starz

DEFENSE
- Jordan was also in the group of 23 we originally brought in and our first signing. He’s our club captain with an insane 19 leadership rating. Very physical and tall (6’5”), he fits our system well. 3 starz

- Bower: the first loanee we brought in, his ratings were disappointing. He’s a massive troglodyte at 6’7” and has the physical skills to go with it, but that’s it. He’s our starter for the time being, but at just 2 starz.

- Haining: the player I expect to ultimately replace Bower in the lineup. Another old guy, he pairs very well with Jordan as slow but extremely physical. I also like having mentally strong CBs when I’m parking the bus. 4.5 starz

- John: our vice-captain and a later signee. He was one of those players that suggests hisself or emails the club or whatever, but I brought him in and he’s a great fit. 6’ and physical, he’s a great example of a lesser player that does exactly what we want. 3 starz

- Smith: an interesting player here. Smith is an ex-Stoke player so naturally he fits great. But he was way more expensive than other players of his caliber and I almost didn’t sign him because of it. 3 starz, with 5 starz potential

- Lee: brought on strictly as cover, he’s a non-contract player that can step in at left back or CB. Almost won the starting LB job until I found John late in the process. 3 starz

MIDFIELD
- Holmes: he was the first player from a trialist team I was able to sign. His interest was DUBIOUS yet here he is. I had to promise that we will get in the top half of the league within the next three years, which also prompted him to sign until 2020? Can play on the left on centrally. 4.5 starz with 5 starz potential

- Godfrey: brought in after our last friendly, he’s here for his set pieces. Excellent corners (13) and free kicks (14), I hope he’s able to steal us some points on dead ball situations. He also gives us some technical ability on a team mostly devoid of it. 3.5 starz

- Green: not a natural winger because he’s so slow, I went ahead and signed him because he checked every other box. We made a slight tactical change to fit him in, but it was a position I didn’t have an answer to for a while. 3.5 starz

- Rathbone: checks in just behind Bower as “most likely to be replaced” in our starting lineup. We need a ball winner so he does that, but he’s really low quality. I hope to move him to the bench soon and use him as a closer. 2.5 starz with 5 starz potential

- Brown-Hill: another disappointing loanee, I brought him in thinking he’d be our technical player in the middle. I was especially intrigued because he has good physical skills, but he’s not there mentally. Should be a rotation guy for the next three months. 2.5 starz with 5 starz potential

- Walters: another ball winner who lacks quality. Shouldn’t be making the game day roster if things are going well. On a non-contract. 2 starz

- Dawkins: just needed some cover for my wingers and he is that guy. Can be a warm body on either side. Non contract. 2 starz

FORWARD
- Murdoch: the second trialist team player I was able to bring in. He didn’t need quite as much convincing but still brings a lot of talent. He’s an example of a guy who doesn’t naturally fit as a poacher, but we need some quality and he’s got it. 4.5 starz with 5 starz potential

- Owusu: a day one guy, he held the target man job from many challengers. He’s an absolute beast physically, although he did break his cheekbone in our last friendly. Slapped a protection thing on that bad boy and told him to GIT. 3 starz

- Jones: he may ultimately move in to the starting lineup, but I signed him because he can play either role very well. He’s very well rounded, although he lacks any stand out skills. 4 starz with 5 starz potential

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Friendlies went about as expected. Got beat by the better teams, beat the worse teams. The H&Y game was the only surprising result, although they were just relegated from our division so not a huge shock.

We very much look like a team set to battle for relegation all year. Hopefully it goes better than next time.

 

NML

Well-Known Member
#21
FALL UPDATE


What a roller coaster this season has been

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We started off red hot and actually led the league after four matches. We were in the playoff spots for almost the entire ride, just recently falling out.

The start was completely unexpected. Not that we were decent defensively, but the massive amount of goals we were scoring. That ten match run may end up keeping us up, because we have since found the form of a team that was the favorite to be relegated.

The reality is that this is what I expected our season to be like - we got a gift in that early form. So the rest of the way will be about grinding out points. We currently sit in 14th, ten points clear, and probably don’t even need to match our points to be safe.

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We got our one required win and the bowed out of the FA Cup. A big run here was never in the cards. FA Trophy starts next month

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We are in a perfect financial situation. Already over a million in the bank, we have the best attendance in the league and our season tickets (1,600) double up most of the league’s average per match.

Furthermore, our long term goals have taken major steps forward. The board agreed to increase our junior coaching budget - which increase the potential ability of regens - and then agreed to put our u18’s into the bottom level of the English youth setup. In order to do so, we had to upgrade our youth facilities, which you can see is underway. I haven’t checked, but I imagine we have the best (or nearly the best) youth setup of the entire sixth tier. I went ahead and hired a director of youth development to streamline the process too.

We’ve added two players since the pre-season - Scott Kerr, a veteran center mid who paired well with Godfrey, but unfortunately picked up a career ending injury after just four matches. He immediately started his coaching credentials so maybe we’ll look to bring him in to the staff. The other was a RB, Mitchell Nelson. A physical beast with a long throw, he’s been uneven with us, but at 28 is in his prime and hopefully settles in as we’ve locked him up until 2019.

Assuming our form levels off and we seem like good bets to stay up, our focus will be on getting younger talent with fifth tier potential who’s contracts expire at the end of the season. Lots of players rotating in on loan and hopefully we can find some pieces before the offseason.
 

goblue96

Disney and Curling Expert
#22
A guy that posts a lot on a FM message board that I follow posted the following guidelines for player interaction which have worked very well for him in boosting team morale and player-manager relationships:

  • League and cup games: 8.0+ rating - individual chat to praise performance
  • Less than 6.5 rating - individual chat to criticize performance (I've found this one to be marginal - players usually get pissed and respond that their performance wasn't bad)
  • Less than 6.0 rating - one week fine "club procedure" if they complain
  • Straight red card - two week fine and conversation to criticize conduct
  • Top three trainers each week - praise training
  • Improvement in development (.5* increase) - praise training
  • Retraining a new position moves up (ex. accomplished to natural) - praise training
  • Rest for more than a few matches - discuss before resting
  • Congratulating achievements (first cap, first international goal, league wide player of the month, etc)
I did this in my first season with Stockport and most of the team has me listed as "favored personnel" at the end of the season.



That's just about my entire first choice XI as very close which typically equates to "favored personnel."
 
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NML

Well-Known Member
#23
WINTER UPDATE


After an up and down first three months, our hot start had put us in a good spot to stay up but we were also on a run of one point in seven matches. How did the winter go?

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Neither bad nor good, we managed 12 points in 12 matches. After great run early, a point a match would be plenty to keep us up, so this works. There was some dropped points in there - we lead Hampton 2-0 but only managed a point, and allowed a late equalizer to Poole.

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We went above board expectations by grabbing a win in the FA Trophy. We managed a good draw for the first round, but stumbled at home and dropped out of the competition.

All in all, I was pleased. We are vastly out-talented in almost every game yet are staying very competitive. There’s been some signings who haven’t worked out nearly as well as I hoped, namely all my loanees. But we are plugging some holes through trialists and are starting to set ourselves up for next season.

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Far from safe, we do still sit eight points and seven spots clear from the drop zone.

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In addition to our already bumped up youth facilities, junior coaching, and youth level, we also got the board to bump up our training facilities! So basically every upgrade possible we could’ve got this season, we got.

At this point, we just need to stay up and this season will be a massive success. Our final third of the season will have two goals - 1) confirm our survival and 2) build our roster for next year.

We also have our first youth intake in early March!
 
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NML

Well-Known Member
#24
SPRING UPDATE


We came into the final stretch of the season in a comfortable spot, just below mid-table but well ahead of the relegation zone. Did we hold on?

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It got a little sketchy for a bit in March, but we never got lower than 18th and closer than three points, and we had a real nice fun of form late to actually get 14th.

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It was a top heavy league, with 19 points separating fourth and ninth, but 13 different clubs were in the discussion for relegation during the last month.

Our late run was enough to get me third place in April for Manager of the Month, and Fraser Murdoch finished in second place for top player.

I asked for a new contract in February, which was granted. However the first negotiations didn’t go well as they refused to offer a second year. In April, we reopened talks and finalized a two year deal with a slight pay cut.

I’m quite excited that we finished strong and looked close to a mid-table side. We had two big stretches where we played like a playoff-spots team and that was the difference. While nothing is guaranteed, surviving this season should mean that the club (and this save) is able to at least stay in the active leagues, even if I get sacked.

We also had our youth intake!

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As a reference, my head of youth development said this could be our “golden generation.” There’s a ton of players who should eventually develop into sixth tier (or better) players. Even better than that, there’s a group who can contribute right now. This is huge from a financial perspective. Having someone like Chambers or Johnson who can provide cover for two different positions (each) for $7 a week saves a ton of money to use elsewhere.

Speaking of, our projected payroll went up by over 1k per week to $9600/week. For perspective, we spent $4000/week this season.

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Very slightly increased expectations, but nothing we can’t (and shouldn’t) accomplish.

Other things of note:

- I asked to buy our stadium and the board agreed! This was cool until I realized it was costing us $3m! FUUUUU bring back that $18k in annual rent.

- Since our youth facilities don’t finish improvements until September, the FA did not allow us to join the youth levels. Should happen next season.

- Our training facilities also finish in September, which should help our reputation ahead of 2020, where I expect to make a push to the other half of the table.

- Our player of the year was Owusu, our target man. Despite his (apparent) lack of talent, he banged in 19 goals with a handful of assists. Our leading scorer (and second place for POTY) was Murdoch with 20.

- We are bringing back Owusu, Murdoch, Holmes (LM), Jones (ST), and Nelson (RB) from our original roster. We added a very talented RM (Wells), two CBs (Daly and Griengi), and a loanee who signed a pre-contract Doyle (CM) throughout the season and they’ll stick with us. Everyone else is moving on.

- I think this gives us a nice core while still giving us plenty of room to upgrade our overall talent level. Daly was added just as we hit our late run of form and I think the veteran is a big reason why.

- We still have over $800k even after putting our down payment down on the stadium. Our sponsorship funds have increased from $75k to $150k, which will help offset the $32k a month we have to pay towards the stadium loan. I still think we are in a good spot financially

- Part of that is because we set a club attendance record! I’m not sure if that just applies to the Phoenix club, but we averaged over 2500 a game. In addition, we broke the single game record with nearly 5000 at the last home match. We lead the league in attendance.

A great first season in the books. A busy offseason ahead with lots of new additions needed to push higher up the table as we consolidate in the sixth tier.
 

NML

Well-Known Member
#25
PRE-SEASON PREVIEW

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Pre-season went as expected. We schedule five cupcakes to generate fitness, cash, and positive morale. They accomplished that. Two matches against bigger clubs - one our parent club - to get some extra money. Got about $20k per big friendly, $10k for the smaller ones.

We escaped with no major injuries, though we have a trio of people who won't be fit for the first match. But all should feature by the second and hopefully fully fit by the end of the month.

My new signees:

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Other roster notes:
- My club vice-captain and last year's POTY, Owusu, will start as our target man to begin the season. I really tried to replace him this off-season but couldn't find a top talent at the position. Versus paying someone a (relatively) huge salary for a minor upgrade, I'll just stick with him and my youth player as cover.

- We currently have 14 senior players, with our depth being provided by our youth squad. For match day one, we have three in the starting 11. We've got injuries that aren't completely healthy that they are filling in for, but hopefully by the third match they are just our bench. I'll likely focus on free loanees to fill in when we get long-term injuries.

- We have nine players who are suited for this tier, with everyone else being just below. Our two missing pieces are left back and striker.

- We are spending roughly $6k a week on salaries, with $3.5k in room.

Bank balance sits at $1.1m, so we seem to still be operating in the positives in that regard. Though we might need a run in a cup to have as financially as successful of a season as last year.
 
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NML

Well-Known Member
#26
FALL UPDATE


We got off to another hot start

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Only difference is that this time it didn't stop after early September - it carried over the whole first three months. With the cups, we actually had a seven match winning streak at one point. It's been another perfect start for us.

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We sit in the playoff spots, although I don't really want to get promoted yet. We don't have talent at that level and would almost immediately get relegated back down. But, it'd be great if we could get a top half finish and push for promotion next season. It's early, but we only need to average about a half a point a match to stay up. Shouldn't be a problem.

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We were only expected to make the third qualifying round, so this is a fantastic run for us. It likely ends at the League Two side, but it's been a nice injection of cash and we nearly sold out against National League Aldershot. We start the FA Trophy next month and might even have an outside shot in that one. With our league position safe, the cups will be our focus for the time being.

With all of this success, I've moved to "untouchable" status. I parlayed that into a bunch of club upgrades:

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This puts us with the best overall facilities in the sixth tier, and comparable to the fifth. Some of the professional sides may be slightly better, but it's close. There's really only two more upgrades I'd like to make in the near future - upgrade our training facilities again, and turn pro. The latter will be a big financial move for our club, but we still have $1.2m in the bank even with all our upgrades. I don't want to move into debt, but within the next 12 month we need to switch our focus from consolidating to looking to move up the pyramid.

Only real negative this season is that we've had a lot of matches and have been hit with some injuries. Holmes (LM) and Birch (RB), maybe our two best players, are both out and will ultimately miss about two months each.