I’ve finished all of the transfers I plan to make for the Summer at Sturm, and it’s been a very busy Summer, so I felt it was probably best to do a quick update, outlining what’s changing for the next season, and look at how the club as a whole is progressing. As you will have read from the previous post on this save, we won the league last season, going undefeated and still only beating RBS by one point. Worrying in a way, but winning the league is still a huge achievement in the second season of the save, as well as going undefeated on top of that.
When the save began, the club was not in a good position financially, and very quickly reduced my transfer revenue to 30%, which wasn’t ideal considering we weren’t getting very much money in to begin with. Good league performances over the last two seasons and the Europa League run last season helped the financial situation severely, to a point that we now sit with a good amount of money in the bank, and the club gave me £6.06M to invest over the Summer in order to allow us to withstand the demands of Champions League football, and continue to compete for the title with Salzburg. It really is exciting times at Sturm.
Of course, with the club now giving me 85% of the transfer revenue, I didn’t spend it all. In addition to this, a decent chunk of it was converted to wages, in order to prepare for the incoming Bosmans, and in order to allow me to re-sign Lukas Spendlhofer, who I was willing to re-sign whatever the price. I ended up with a wage bill of over 100k and a budget of £4.51M.
Speaking of Bosmans, I’ll cover those first. As I said in the last update I had signed Michael Gregoritsch and Ruben Ligeon, both of who I think will be fantastic signings for Sturm. Gregoritsch is another good young Austrian (as those of you that follow this blog will know, I’m focusing on Austrian and German signings with this save) who provides us with a different option upfront. He can play as more of a target man, and perhaps give us the option to go with two strikers at times. Ligeon (although Dutch, our first out of two possible ‘foreign’ signings this season) is a massive upgrade for us at right back, and can also play anywhere up the right flank. I’m looking to go more attacking with my full backs this season, and Ligeon provides the perfect wing back type player I’m looking for.
The absolutely key Bosman, and perhaps the most important signing of the Summer was Lukas Spendlhofer. He’d been available on a free from Inter (idiots) since January, but I didn’t quite have the wage budget to sign him. I named him as the third best player of last season, but the top 3 were all so close that Spendlhofer was just a vital player for us. If I can keep him for long enough, he is absolutely a future captain of the club. I’ve had to give him a fairly large wage at 7.25k a week, but he would have been a massive loss for us if he hadn’t signed. The financial stability of the club now allows me to make these decisions.
Following that, I had several names that I’d been looking at for a while that I wanted to sign. Firstly I weakened Rapid and signed Christopher Dibon and Dominik Wydra, two of their best players who I’d wanted for a long time. I managed Dibon last year at Salzburg (yuck), and he was absolutely dominant in defence. Naturally, it was an easy decision. Austrian and a fantastic defender. He was snapped up for £1.1M. I’ve had my eye on Wydra since the start of the save, and had to choose between him and Alar before the start of last season. This time, I made sure he was signed. He’ll come in and upgrade the Roaming Playmaker position, and rotate with Offenbacher when fixtures become congested. He’s first choice though. He was signed for £1.5M. The fans are a bit confused that I’ve signed them from rivals Rapid, but they felt the same when I signed Alar, who they now worship. Being able to spend £2.6M on two players is a lovely novelty in comparison to the first two seasons at the club. I didn’t stop there though.
One of the problem positions over the past two seasons has been the wings, both left and right. I’ve been using makeshift or fairly average players there, who haven’t quite given what I want. Akiyoshi has certainly been a surprise on the left wing, but he needs upgrading eventually. I kept looking for an Austrian or German right winger, and no-one stood out, apart from Louis Schaub at Rapid. He wasn’t keen on moving to us, so I moved on. I then started to look for attributes rather than the position itself, and remembered Ylli Sallahi at Bayern, who I’d also wanted to sign since the beginning of the save. For a nominal left back, he’s got fantastic finishing attributes, and was signed for a ridiculous 475k, thanks to being transfer listed. Absolute bargain. His only weakness is his dribbling, but I see the right midfield WM-A role as the player who finishes the moves, similar to Robben at Bayern. It was only a friendly against minnows, but in his first game at right midfield, he had 2 goals and 1 assist by half time. Extremely promising. He can also play anywhere up the left wing, so is very versatile, and incredibly useful to us.
Speaking of versatility, that’s exactly what we’ve got. I’m one of those people that believes universality and versatility is the future in football, with players able to change and play different positions and roles with equal ability. Partly by design, and partly by accident, that’s what we have at Sturm. We’ve got players who can play in at least three positions across most of the squad, and you’ll probably notice that the specialists aren’t really finding spots in my squad anymore. Ligeon can play anywhere up the right, Spendlhofer can play defence and defensive midfield (as can Piesinger), Klem can play left back and central midfield, Sallahi can play anywhere up the left and is playing right midfield, Alar can play CM, left wing, right wing, Number 10 and striker. The list goes on.
After those signings, I’ve also achieved the depth that I was looking for last Summer after the loss of Djuricin. The first choice team (in the 4-1-4-1) is:
Pliquett; Ligeon, Spendlhofer, Dibon, Klem; Lovric, Sallahi, Wydra, Alar, Akiyoshi; Molina
On top of that however, there’s an entire squad’s worth of depth to come in, all quality, and all able to fill in several positions. The only weaknesses left in the squad are left midfield, and goalkeeper (only because Pliquett is 31 and the youth keepers are just not good enough to take over). We’ve got all the quality I was looking for, and enough versatility to rotate the squad throughout the season to cope with the increased fixture congestion. Again, exciting times at Sturm.
I’ve reached the point of the save where the squad feels like it’s ‘mine’. I’ve made the signings I wanted and have established a style of play now, focused on fast, but patient movement of the ball, passing it forward at the right times. However, I still don’t quite feel like we’re the best team in Austria. We’re not going to repeat last season’s undefeated season, and Salzburg will still be strong. It’s going to be another battle this season, but I do feel that we’re probably two signings away from being better than RBS. Perhaps I’m being pessimistic, as I do feel we can win the league again this season.
FM clearly still feels that Salzburg are the better side though.
Anyway, enough of that mumbo jumbo, and let’s talk about the fun stuff, tactics. Again, I’ve reached the point now where the squad feels like it’s ‘mine’ and therefore, I feel it’s time to start developing the side tactically as well. The style of play will remain, but we need to become more versatile in terms of formations. The 4-1-4-1 is our bread and butter and will still be our go to tactic, but I’m looking at developing something new for only 4 games of the season.
Here’s what I have in mind, a 3-5-2. There are several reasons for this, which I’ll go into. This tactic has largely been designed with Salzburg in mind, but I’ve also got Zizou’s deep 4-4-2 in mind at FAK. Crucially, I’ve never felt that our 4-1-4-1 has done that well against Salzburg’s 4-2-4 formation.
I’m a big supporter of Bielsa’s ‘plus one’ principle of defenders, and therefore against Salzburg, it makes sense that we have three central defenders, two to man mark and one (Spendlhofer will be the free central defender) to cover space. Anyone who knows me also knows that I absolutely love Back 3’s. I’ll irrationally like any team if they use a Back 3. Not forgetting that I’ve got 3 very good defenders in Spendlhofer, Dibon and Piesinger, it also makes sense. I’ve also kept the midfield three together who work so well together, although Wydra will be the first choice RPM ahead of Offenbacher, who isn’t really improving that much.
This formation also plays to Molina’s strengths, and allows me to get him in between the lines as a False 9, and allow him to create for the midfield runners and the wing backs. This is where Sallahi’s versatility comes in, and allows me to play him at LWB, where I’m sure he’ll be extremely effective.
On the right, you can see how it will line up vs. Salzburg’s 4-2-2-2/4-2-4 formation, and we match up pretty well. In the key red areas of the centre of the pitch, we either match their numbers, or outnumber them. I’m a firm believer that dominating the centre of the pitch is a sure fire way to give yourself a good chance of winning the match. As you can see, we outnumber them 3 vs. 2 in our defence, 3 vs. 2 in central midfield, and we have 2 vs. 2 upfront, which should keep the Salzburg defence pretty honest, Until now, it’s been 2 vs. 1 in their favour, and we’ve struggled at times.
The only problem area will be the wings in blue, which I’m somewhat happy to concede to them. The danger will be if they push far forward and overlap the wingers. However, even then they can only cross, and we’ll have so many players back centrally, that to cut in and score would be extremely difficult.
I’ll be testing it in friendlies and European matches against teams playing 2 strikers, and see how it goes, but I really feel it has the potential to dominate Salzburg. We’ll see.
The first choice line up with the 3-5-2 will be:
Pliquett; Dibon, Spendlhofer, Piesinger; Lovric, Ligeon, Wydra, Alar, Sallahi; Molina, Gregoritsch
Not bad at all.
I’ll update mid-season and let you all know how things are going, and look at how the 3-5-2 worked against Salzburg, perhaps with an in depth match analysis if it’s needed. Until then, as always, if you have any questions please feel free to ask.