One Man’s Journey Through France: III

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 10.04.05So, we’re back again with the career save of Julien Girard. I have started to play the second season proper of this save, so this update will cover the Summer of season 1, and the beginning of season 2.  For those keeping count, Julien is now 27 years old. Last season, we were managing Sporting Club de Schiltigheim in the CFA2-D, the fifth level of French football. Those of you who have read the last update will know that we began the season poorly, but after switching to a 4-1-2-3-0 strikerless system, stormed back into the promotion picture. However, we still only sat 3rd going into the final day, one point from second and three points from top. Of course, we went on to experience a ridiculous string of events – I’m sure this could only have happened in Football Manager – that led to Schiltigheim finishing top of the league, and achieving automatic promotion to the Championnat de France Amateur. I also discussed the effects I think this first season would have had on Julien, feeling it would have made him more pragmatic as a manager, focused on finding what works for his players at any given time, rather than a set system of play à la Guardiola.

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 16.37.12In the last update I also hinted at the possibility of Julien leaving to join a new club in the Championnat National. As you can see to the right, Julien was in high demand over the Summer, with two clubs in the Championnat de France Amateur after him, and the other from the Championnat National – the 7-1 odds. This team was SC Sedan Ardennes, and I wanted this job as Julien’s next step. Sedan are a former Ligue 1 team – as recently as 2006-7 – and are sortof of a fallen giant. They certainly do not belong in the Championnat National, and I felt this would be a perfect project for Julien, and would only move him slightly to the east from Schiltigheim in Strasbourg.

880Therefore, I applied for the job, having persuaded Schiltigheim not to stand in the way of my appointment at Sedan. I almost felt bad doing that. Schiltigheim even offered me a new contract to try and get me to stay at the State de l’Ar, which I turned down. I then went to the interview with Sedan Ardennes, said everything they wanted to hear until they asked me to prioritise big name signings, something I don’t particularly want to do at the third level of French football, when money can be better spent on lesser known players such as the players I have at Schiltigheim. I didn’t feel this would big a big deal, but Sedan Ardennes decided to reject my application, and gave the job to someone else. Needless to say, I was annoyed. Of course, Schiltigheim welcomed Julien back with open arms. There was no new contract, but nothing else was said. In the last update I talked about the effect that events would have on Julien, and I believe this would make Julien increasingly loyal to Schiltigheim, and would certainly make him want to face Sedan with Schiltigheim, and get Schiltigheim promoted to the Championnat National.

Screen Shot 2017-07-09 at 17.13.46

The player of the year is staying with me in the Championnat de France Amateur.

With that, it was time to prepare Schiltigheim for the jump to the Championnat de France Amateur. I had deliberately left quite a few contracts open in order to give my successor at Schiltigheim options regarding his squad, but now it really was time to get the squad in order. As you can see above the player of the season – both for me, and the fans – Loris Ieraci was signed to a new 1 year deal. Joining him was Vincent Decker – who didn’t want to stay before we were promoted – Julien Fuchs, Bastien Jarret, and plenty others such as Genghini, Koussane, Bikoya, Gauclin and Maisonneuve that I forgot to screenshot. I 100% knew I needed to upgrade parts of the squad, but at the very least, these were the players that won us the league, and it meant I had an XI for the season. I also made key improvements to the staff, signing Mbo Mpenza (12 current ability, 12 potential ability) as a scout, and Jean-Paul Mas as the Head Physio (19 for physiotherapy). I resigned some of the old, rubbish staff through a lack of better options, but I do have a fitness coach probably on the way in Patrick Indeganck.

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… and in came plenty of new signings to bolster our squad. Victor Pillot was signed from Racing Besançon solely to provide cover and depth for centre back, as I really struggled to find a good first team option to replace Kerssane or Decker. Also coming in to provide cover – at goalkeeper this time – was Guillaume Cappa from US Forbach. He provides good cover to Stéphane Schneider, and should see some play in the French Cup. Next up was again another rotational option, in defensive midfielder Dylan Lamotte, who should backup Jarrett in the DM-D role, and can always be brought on to ease Jarret’s workloads towards the end of a match.

After that is where things really start to get interesting as we get to the first team improvements. I really wanted to upgrade left back, as Bouziane was more than solid last year, but when we began to expand our play towards the end of last season, he couldn’t provide width down the left side like I wanted. Therefore I went back to Racing Besançon and signed left back Sofiane El Achak, who is fast, energetic, and can cross the ball – pretty much everything I want from a left back right now. He will take the left back spot for his own, and we’ll see how well he does. Next in was Gaëtan Dartevelle, who comes in from FC Saint-Louis Neuweg to play central midfield, and should be a big upgrade on Julien Fuchs – as much as I like him. He will prove to be a big part of my plans this season. Next in was – shock horror – a striker in Julien Tripard. As I said last episode, I see Julien as increasingly pragmatic, but I think he only went to the 4-1-2-3-0 in order to get wins, and now he’s bedded himself in at the club, I think he would try to at least retain the shape whilst including a striker. He’s a fantastic DLF type player for this level, and has impressed so far. Last but certainly not least was Johann Loisel, who was available on a free, but wouldn’t even talk to me about a contract until he came to the club on a week’s trial first. with that done, he signed for us on a non-contract, much like many of the other players at the club. He’s a fantastic wide player, who is fast and can dribble, and at this level that’s a big deal. I also let several players leave on frees – simply because they weren’t good enough – and these can be seen here.

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All this has us predicted to finish 6th in the league this season. Ideally I’d love us to be promoted again up to the Championnat National, but I’m always cautious, and I’d take a 6th place finish in our first season in this league. My only major worry is that the club is beginning to lose a fair bit of money – despite me having a good grip over wages with well over 2k still left in the budget. Hopefully this sorts itself out soon, or I’ll end up losing the pretty good squad I’ve built here at Schiltigheim.

Here are all the teams playing in the Championnat de France Amateur this season, along with how they’ve ended up in the Championnat de France Amateur. In fact, just to make sure that you all know what’s going on in the world of French football whilst Julien is down in the lower leagues, here is the table from last season’s Ligue 1, and here is the table from last season’s Ligue 2. As you can see, much like real life, PSG’s grip on French football has been loosened with Monaco winning the league by 5 points. Should you want to know any further facts about French football throughout this save, please feel free to ask.

Anyway, back to Julien and Schiltigheim. The signings I’ve made above are part of a larger plan to improve tactically. The key players within that evolution were Julien Tripard, Gaëtan Dartevelle, Marco RosenfelderSofiane El Achak and Johann Loisel. Initially, I wanted to convert Rosenfelder into central midfield – something I’d spoken about last season – partnering Dartevelle with Loisel causing havoc out wide and El Achak pushing up from full back. However, much like last season, we experienced a fairly slow start in the first few games, and now the system has been converted to this, a 4-3-3 but with a much different focus, asking the team to use their newfound pace, and pass into space and play quite attacking football, whilst the front ‘4’ – including the CM-A there – press the opposition in order to regain the ball fairly quickly.

You can see the differences in the system. Rather than being a creative central midfielder, Rosenfelder has instead converted to being an AML, playing a Juan Mata type role, floating inside and creating room for the ultra attacking full back El Achak, who is asked to cross from the byline and run wide with the ball. This has also brought Ieraci back into the first team, as he’d been unhappy after losing his place – probably quite rightly. Loisel still causes havoc on the wing, but as a Winger on attack duty rather than an left sided IF on support as I’d planned. So far it’s working fantastically, and has seen us go on a good run of victories following our poor start to the season. I’ll also just say as well that the 3-1 defeat to Bordeaux’s reserves was not against their reserves. Plasil, Poundjé and Vada were all playing, and they’re senior players – Ligue 1 standard – I was a tad annoyed when I saw the teamsheet.

Anyway, Rosenfelder in particular has been fantastic, regularly providing passes for El Achak to make assists, although this has done nothing for his average rating as SI doesn’t count them.

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 11.05.04

Tripard taps in from an El Achak cross, set up by Rosenfelder, to make it 1-0 in our 2-0 win against Lens Reserves at the Stade de l’Ar.

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This leaves us currently sat 5th in the table on 14 points, only one point behind Croix in 2nd, but 4 points behind Le Harve Reserves already in 1st. After last season though, I’m not writing off this team until it’s mathematically impossible. Had we not had that poor start – oh, and all the Ligue 1 players aren’t in Bordeaux’s squad anymore, cheats – we’d be much higher up the table. Our main hope is that we can defeat Le Harve when we play them, and close the gap to a point.

This is still a decent start to the season though. We’re already 9 points off the relegation places, and our main competitors are the reserve teams of much bigger teams than us. Safety looks odds on, we just need to stay away from injuries to the key players mentioned above, and basically just see how high we can finish. I do think promotion is a possibility, but I’m not going to bet on it just yet. Looking back, I’m actually quite happy that Sedan Ardennes turned Julien down for the job, because I really have enjoyed this season so far at Schiltigheim, and I think this growing loyalty he feels to them is realistic given the circumstances.

Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 16.52.25Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 16.52.34

Since I’ve updated partway through the season, I’ll update again probably after the close of the transfer window, and then again at the end of the season. So until then, thank you very much for reading Julien’s latest instalment and as always should you have any questions about this save, my ideas for it moving forward, or just FM17 in general then please feel free to leave your questions in the comments section, or contact me via Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you very much for reading again.

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