Work has taken over in the last couple of weeks and as a result progress has been pretty slow in this save, hence the lack of updates around these parts.
This has been combined with how the save has been travelling. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster.
The early season, up until the Inter game we stuck fat with the formation that had taken us up – 4-2-3-1 featuring Ehnert in the hole behind the striker. The promising early results gave way to four tough results.
For the Torino match we went back to a 4-1-2-2-1, Girke shuffled back into an anchorman role, Ehnert dropping back into midfield. The change seemed to spark the team off as we flew up the table from 17th to 5th.
As soon as it had started, it was over. The month leading up until the winter break was a return to the dark times. The Lazio game was particularly galling with Tomas Wagner contriving to concede a penalty and own goal on the way to 4.9 rating.
This is where the majority of the delays kicked in with the save. It was a time of soul-searching. Two really poor runs either side of a dominant spell were incredibly frustrating. We had’t incurred any major injuries through the run, Wagner hurt himself not long after the Lazio debacle. This ended up saving me dropping him. Francisco Rossa and Auerlien Rehman had longer term injuries but were only rotation options rather than key parts of the squad.
Given I’d changed shape once already, I didn’t feel it was absolutely the tactic being found out. Regardless I had another look at the squad and decided to work on another shape that I could use to keep the opposition on their toes. It was time to visit the dark arts.
The team began training in a strikerless (and central midfieldless) formation over the break, heavily influenced by Guido’s Four Horseman. With the majority of my first choice eleven I can move from either of the essentially 4-3-3 shapes into this 4-2-4-0 formation. Given that flexibility with similar players, they do end up seemingly offering similar things, just with some slightly different starting points, which will hopefully be enough to unsettle the opposition.
The consistently inconsistent runs also made me look further into some of the roles, instructions and form for the first choice team. We’ve added mark tighter to the front three to increase the pressing aspects, whilst also changing up from early crosses to looking for overlap to try.
Fullbacks have moved to Wingback roles to try to pin the opposition back further. Centrally, I’ve tried to activate the middle two with one focused on a box to box role, with the other a roaming playmaker. Certainly keeping an eye on this role as it isn’t one I’ve used before. Upfront, a deep-lying forward is the initial preference but a shift to complete forward tends to happen at some time during the match depending on performance.
Form had been middling across the board but I’ve planned to freshen the squad up both through dropping for poor form but also in the transfer market. Whilst the window hasn’t closed at the time of this update, there are only a couple of days to go and we’ve basically done what we needed / wanted to do.
With only a couple of spots left in the registered squad and with enough money to make one reasonable signing, I stumped up for a right back to replace Yannick Essomba, who decided to sign a pre-contract with Toulouse. Przemyslaw Stec comes across from Mainz for $1m upfront and a further $2.7m spread over the next 4 years.
With physical and mental attributes strong for his position and technical skills ahead of Essomba, I was happy to invest. It also allowed us to move on Rafael Ramos who stayed for a year but was unable to shake Essomba from his position.
The other squad spot was taken up by a player returning on loan. Alex Jones, who starred between the sticks has returned. Mo Shassah is off to the African Cup of Nations for a month. With only Nathan Besson left as a first team option, I was happy to go back to someone I trusted to provide depth.
We made two other loan signings, both U21s, allowing them to play unregistered. Oğuz Özdönmez (what a name, will be known as Gus for the rest of this blog), provides an additional option in midfield, particularly as a DM. For whatever reason FM refused to provide me with a screencap so you’ll have to trust me that he is a little ripper of a player. He’s with us from Schalke. In Gus’s first 4 games he has a goal, two assists and a red card so he is certainly involved. If that sort of form continues we’ll see whether Schalke would allow us to take him permanently.
The other option provides depth on both wings. Brazilian Cristiano comes across from Corinthians. Some strong physical attributes to work with and is likely to be available at the end of his loan spell.
He’s certainly an option for us, as current right-sided wide man Juan Iturbe is no spring chicken. The future without him is a bit terrifying though. He’s played 20 out of 21 games in the league, scoring 10 and assisting in 8 – just under half of our league goals.
Tim Ehnert has also taken to the new level scoring only once but recording 7 assists. Carvalhinho has been the other outstanding performer in midfield with an average rating of 7.53 in his 19 appearances and an 80% pass completion rate.
Upfront, Richie Talbot has also contributed strongly scoring 12 in 16 starts, although they do come in bunches with a hat trick in the first game and two braces in the last three games. It’ll be nice to get Rossa back from his shoulder injury to provide another option when Talbot goes cold.
Two-thirds of the way through and I think we could almost jinx ourselves and call us safe. 12 points clear of Fiorentina in 18th with strong goal difference. If anything the upper mid table is crowded and a good run could see us challenge strongly for a European spot which would be something I’ve not experienced in the last couple of FM versions!
It’ll be our binary result system, which saw us ignore draws for the first 20 games, that will either drive us up the table or see us slip downwards.
I look forward to sharing that with you, hopefully with a slightly smaller gap between updates – C’mon the Mastini!