Well, it’s time to properly kick off the new save for FM16 with the newly re-branded TSV München. The last post covered the ins and outs of what I’ve done and why, but now it’s time to really kick the save off, and cover what I’ve done in the pre-season. As usual, this save will largely consist of pre-season updates, mid-season updates (usually as the game switches to January), and end of season updates. The only times I’ll ever stretch to more posts a season is if I happen to have a very busy transfer window in January, and therefore need to cover some major signings or decisions, or a tactical switch. Other than that you can largely expect three posts per season.
But anyway, enough rambling, and it’s time for me to cover what I’ve done in the early going, and how I’m adjusting to the new side. The first thing that I do once I start a new save is look at the staff available at the club. I decided that some were good and worth keeping (mainly on the medical side of things) but brought in a new Assistant Manager, Head of Youth Development, Under 19’s staff, and several new scouts. It’s an often forgotten element of Football Manager (and a mistake I’ve made many times), but having the right staff really can make a massive difference, especially early on if your scouts can give you an advantage over the other clubs in your league.
A quick point to mention is that during the early exchange with the Chairman, he included that would like me to bring players through the youth system. That really appeals to what I’d like to do with this save, and there are already a couple of prospects in the TSV Under 19’s, one of whom has already been brought up to the full team, in order to provide depth and give him increased experience and competition.
Looking at the squad, it was clear that it would need some changes early on. The issue wasn’t with a lack of quality, but more a lack of balance within the squad. Usually, I prefer to have at least 2 players for each position (along with a few universal James Milner/Emre Can types who can play a range of positions), but this wasn’t the case with the old 1860 Munich squad. TSV had around 6 AMLR/ST types. The system I’m going to use does demand players of this type, but 6 was just far too many. Furthermore, there simply weren’t enough central midfielders, or at least many of any quality (bar Michael Liendl and Daniel Adlung, probably the club’s best players). What’s more, the only cover at left back was far below the standard required for the 2. Bundesliga. Therefore, I knew changes had to be made, and players needed to be sold in order to bring in replacements and backups for other positions. I’ve made changes, but they’re not radical and I haven’t splashed the cash. In fact, I’ve barely spent anything at all.
The only money I did spend was £85k on left back Phillipp Steinhart. In the system I want to play, our full backs will be very important, and although Maximillian Wittek is one of the best players on TSV’s books, he was the only left back worthy of the first team, and the only left back in the squad after I shipped a Dortmund loanee back to North Rhine-Westphalia.
Steinhart isn’t outstanding, but he’s still young and has time to develop. At the very least, he’ll provide solid backup for Wittek before being sold on for a profit after a few years. Still, he has some areas where he’s very useful. He can cross extremely well, and is solid both going forward and whilst defending, as you can see from his passing and tackling attributes. He’s never going to set the world alight, but he’s a fantastic backup at the level I’m at, and £85k is more than worth it. The only slightly iffy detail about this transfer is that I signed him from Bayern’s second team, which of course has meant that the fans aren’t too keen on him. However, I’m sure they’ll get over it when they realise what a good piece of business this is.
The second (and last) piece of business I made was the signing of the free agent Florian Riedel. He certainly has areas of weakness (that 7 composure does worry me), but I needed a more attacking right back in order to fit my system (Gary Kagelmacher was the best right back at the club when I arrived, but he’s just not good enough in an attacking sense for my liking and instead will be a backup centre back this season). Furthermore, I really didn’t want to spend very much in this first window. Sure, I could have gone out and spent on a superior right back, but I want to focus on the stability and slow progression of the club. This isn’t a Manchester City/Chelsea story. I want to slowly build the club season by season. Still, early on Riedel has more than pulled his weight at right back, and so far this looks to be a good signing.
As I mentioned above, the squad was also severely lacking in central midfield, and I’d resigned myself to having to spend some of the cash the board had provided me with. However, I then had a look through the Under 19’s squad, and discovered Richard Neudecker and immediately promoted him to the senior squad, and gave him a new contract. As you can see, he’s a fantastic prospect, and looks like he will probably be best as a central midfielder. However, he’s also very versatile and can play anywhere down the centre of the pitch, which will give me some tactical flexibility down the line. He will spend this season backing up Adlung and Liedl, but hopefully should get some valuable experience in the 2. Bundesliga. I see him as a Bundesliga standard player down the line, and he clearly has the potential.
In terms of sales, I only made 2, the aforemenioned AMLR/ST’s. I sold Fejsal Mulic to Darmstadt for £100k, and Marius Wolf to the hateful, disgusting RB Leipzig for £650k. Neither of them were going to play in my system, and I really didn’t need that much backup for effectively 2 positions. I didn’t see much potential in either as well, and was quite frankly stunned when Leipzig offered £650k for Wolf. Sure, he’s fast, but that’s it. Either way I was happy to take the money, lose the player and his wages, and run before Leipzig changed their mind.
With those moves, we have a much more balanced squad. We’ve got rid of the ridiculous amount of wingers, brought in some cover at the full back positions, and promoted a fantastically talented young central midfielder, who will get plenty of playing time through the season and hopefully should develop plenty. So, what am I doing tactically to fit these players in and make the most of their abilities? Those of you reading that have never read my blog will quickly become aware how important the tactical side of the game is to me, and is arguably the main reason I play the game every year.
Here’s what I’m using to the left, a 4-1-4-1. I’ve used many different formations through the end of the beta period and the early stages of FM16, and so far the 4-1-4-1 is by far my favourite formation, balancing out attacking threat and defensive cover fantastically. Those of you who read this blog last year will remember that I used a 4-1-4-1 in the early going at Sturm Graz, but this is a far different animal, and it is far more potent.
I’m using the ‘counter’ mentality, and as it says on the tin, that’s exactly what this tactic intends to do. Counter. This tactic is highly influenced by the fantastic work I’ve seen @Cleon81 and @RTHerringbone doing, and here I’ve created my own version. You’ll notice a distinct lack of ‘attack’ roles, but that isn’t to say that this tactic lacks vertical thrust. Instead, the team is just a little bit more measured in its movements. We still break teams down, but it’s a little less cavalier and as a result we feel so much more in control during games.
I’ve been a lot less complex with the Team Instructions, and have really kept it simple, only selecting ‘play out from defence’ to make sure that we build the counter well and ‘prevent short GK distribution’ to make things more difficult for the opposition defence. But that’s it. I’ve had no need to make it any more complicated. In my early testing saves I’d stuck a bunch of TI’s in my tactics as usual, and noticed that it could have quite a detrimental effect. I really do believe that simplicity is a good thing this year.
I’ve also found the counter mentality to be the perfect combination of styles. With the player’s mentalities being low, when we are in possession of the ball they are far more likely to be patient and measured in their decisions, meaning when teams sit back against us we can break them down and lure them out of their defensive shape, rather than aggressively battering their defensive line and being exposed on the counter. We’ve also got the WB’s providing us with vital width, and their ‘support’ duties don’t mean that they get forward less, just that there’s less risk in their play. On the other hand, when teams come forward against us, we’ve got a strong enough defensive shape (and enough men back and not high up the pitch with cavalier attack duties) that when we do pick up the ball, we can counter and usually a ball over the top to our fast lone striker Rubin Okotie puts him in on goal. Defensively, we’re also incredibly strong, and in the league games I’ve played so far, we haven’t conceded, and haven’t even looked threatened.
Here’s the games I’ve played so far, and I thought I would include the two 2. Bundesliga games to show how well things have started for us. The 4-1-4-1 was still very much in development through pre-season (I was still persisting with a CM-A and a WM-A, before noticing their disjointedness from the rest of the side, and reigning them in somewhat, whilst making them much more of a threat. Still, we went unbeaten throughout pre-season defeating Olimpik Donetsk, Ingolstadt II and KM Torhout, with only a 1-1 draw with Bayern’s II team to blot our pre-season. However, it was that match that persuaded me that Steinhart was worth signing, so it’s difficult to see it as a negative. Going into the season proper, I’d converted the 4-1-4-1 into the shape and roles you see above, and we simply swept Frankfurt aside, defeating them 2-0 with a goal from Okotie and an own goal that was forced by some great play by Wittek from left back. On top of the result, we only allowed them 2 shots on goal through the entirety of the match (none of those on target), showing our defensive strength. It was probably the moment I felt things had ‘clicked’ tactically, but it was only one match, and I couldn’t be certain.
However, we then effortlessly dealt with Heidenheim in the second game of the season, and had them beaten within 20 minutes with goals from Liendl and Rama, as Okotie played fantastically upfront, moving into the channels and providing for the runners from midfield. Although he didn’t score (and the media had to mention it after the game) he was undoubtedly the best player on the pitch. We allowed them more shots than Frankfurt with 9, but of those only 1 was on target. Those two results show how defensively strong we are. In two games we haven’t conceded, have only allowed one shot on target, and have eased to wins with a two goal cushion.
Those two fantastic and dominant performances have left us top of the 2. Bundesliga for now, but I’m still not getting carried away. Those of you that have followed this blog for a while will know I’m always very cautious with my expectations in a first season with a club, and the aim for this season is still to get used to the players, finalise the tactic, and make sure that we stay in the 2. Bundesliga at the very least. Perhaps I’ll re-evaluate my aims in January, but for now I’ll try not to get carried away, and hopefully just keep amassing wins, and remain near the top of the league. I’m still aware that we’ve got bigger clubs like RB Leipzig, Kaiserslauten and Nürnberg to play as well.
So, until I reach January (which I don’t think will take long, as I’m really enjoying this save so far) thank you very much for reading, and for the early support for this new save. I hope you’re enjoying reading about it as much as I’m enjoying playing it. As always, if you have any questions about this save or about Football Manager 2016, please feel free to ask in the comments section of this blog, or contact me via Twitter (@JLAspey). Again, thank you for reading.