One Man’s Journey Through France: IV

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 10.04.05So, we’re back again with the fourth instalment of Julien Girard‘s managerial career as he makes his way through French football. I’ve reached the midway point of the second season of this save, so its time to update you on how things are going. Last update, I covered the pre-season and the first seven games of the Championnat de France Amateur. Julien is still managing Sporting Club de Schiltigheim in Strasbourg after being turned down by the hateful SC Sedan Ardennes in the Championnat National over the summer break between Season 1 and Season 2. As a result, I said that I believe Julien will have become increasingly loyal to Schiltigheim – for taking him back without question – to go along with his growing tactical pragmatism. What’s more, just after I posted the previous update, Schiltigheim approached Julien to sign a new contract, one which Julien negotiated down to the smallest possible amount – in order to assist the club’s growing financial issues – before signing a 1 year extension to remain at the Stade de l’Ar until 2019. What’s more, I also managed to sign a better Assistant Manager in Quentin Boyard – what a name – who has retired from playing in order to join Julien’s staff at Schiltigheim.

As far as I can see – the rules in game are not clear – the rules of the Championnat de France Amateur are similar to the Championnat de France Amateur 2, in that one member of the league is automatically promoted, whilst members of the other Amateur leagues go into a playoff system to determine who is promoted to the Championnat National – the league that Sedan Ardennes are in, and the league Julien wants to take Schiltigheim into. But anyway, back to the Championnat de France Amateur. How have we been doing?

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As you can see, things have been good, but not perfect so far. We continued to pick up wins using the 4-3-3 system from the previous update. However, a horrendous 1-0 defeat to FC Dieppe – one of our main rivals for promotion – started a downturn in form that saw us begin to slide down the table. We drew against Beauvais Oise, a team struggling in the relegation zone, and just sneaked past FCM Aubervilliers in the Couple de France. It was at this point that I made everything harder for myself. It’s good how I do that.

Just after the match against FCM Aubervilliers, I was alerted to the availability of Thierry Ambrose after his release by Manchester City. Clearly way too good for the fourth level of French football, I decided I’d have a go at signing him anyway, especially once I found out he becomes a Premier League level player several years down the line. £900 per week later, Thierry was a SC Schiltigheim player…. and then I realised what I’d done. What I’d done is sign a very good player, one who had the potential to absolutely rip up the whole league, but that really didn’t fit my system. He couldn’t play a DLF role in my 4-3-3, because he’s not good enough at build up play with low stats for passing, and he’s not a prototypical winger – and I didn’t want to move Johann Loisel out of that position. For the same reasons he couldn’t play DLF he also couldn’t play the playmaker role occupied by Rosenfelder out on the left wing. Side note: I also signed Samir Kecha to upgrade at right back.

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 15.47.27I have a good striker, a creative playmaker and skilled wide players. From a pragmatic logical view – the stance Julien would take – I knew what I needed to do, and it scared the life out of me. 4-2-3-1. It’s a formation on Football Manager which can be absolutely catastrophic if unbalanced, and I’ve steered well clear of it on recent versions, preferring to go for the safer option of 4-4-1-1. However, with the players I have, 4-2-3-1 was the only real option. As a result, I created this 4-2-3-1, and from the the Le Harve Reserves match onwards, we have seen a massive upturn in form. We drew 3-3 against Bordeaux’s first team (basically) with Plasil, Kiese-Thelin, Poundjé et al. all getting a run out in the fourth level of French football. The 4-2-3-1 has also unleashed Rosenfelder into becoming our talisman. He’s been untouchable this season, and as you can see from the image on the right, undoubtedly our best player, leading the team in goals, assists and average rating. In the AM-A role he’s now playing from AMC, everything runs through him, and he can play through balls to Tripard upfront, or play one-twos – a handy PPM he has – to get himself in on goal, using Tripard’s good vision and passing from DLF. I’m developing quite the man crush on him.

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Take that, Ligue 1 cheaters.

From there we began to hit our stride, defeating IC Croix and FC Fleury 91 in the league, before coming up against another ‘reserve team’, in Lille OSC’s Reserves, featuring Eder, Marvin Martin and several other Ligue 1 standard players. I get the feeling this shouldn’t be allowed. Of course, we promptly demolished them, going 5-0 up within the first 25 minutes, and comfortably handling them for the further 65, finishing the game 6-0, with our dynamic front 4 of Loisel, Rosenfelder, Ambrose and Tripard all averaging 9 or above. Considering what we’ve had to deal with with these reserve teams this season, and having to go against Ligue 1 standard players, it was incredibly satisfying. It also showed me that my 4-2-3-1 is working, or at least it is for now.

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New signing Thierry Ambrose taps in at the far post from a Loisel cross to make it 5-0 vs. Lille OSC Reserves.

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So, at the mid-season break, the above results leave us sat 3rd in the table, but being promoted, presumably because of some rule regarding the promotion of Reserve teams at this level. As you can see though, things are extremely close between us and FC Dieppe for – what I assume is – the last promotion place. I don’t think there’s any chance of us catching up to Bordeaux’s ‘Reserve’ team, they’re far better – with good reason – than the majority of the league. At this point I think the best we can hope for is a place in the promotion playoffs, and just see what we can do.

You can see our goal difference has dramatically improved, and we really have started to score more goals – something that’s been a major problem for us since the start of this save. We’re still very stingy with goals conceded, but we now sit 2nd in the league for goals scored, no doubt helped by our 6 goal haul against Lille. Of course, our +16 is miles away from Bordeaux’s +23.

However, I really do feel like the club is making massive progress, specifically in terms of the playing staff. The team is far far better than it was when Julien took over just over a ‘year’ ago, and could well be in the running for promotion to the Championnat National. If we can keep this run of form going over the next 12 games, and ensure the 4-2-3-1 continues to work, we’ll be in with a chance of promotion. My main worry is the club’s developing financial issues.

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So, that brings us to the end of another update of Julien’s career. The next update will be the full end of season report, covering where we finished in the league, and what the next steps are. Until next time, thank you once again for reading these updates, and thank you for the continued support for this save. Should you have any questions about the save, Julien, or FM17 in general, please do not hesitate to contact me either in the comments section of this blog, or on Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you for reading again.

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