One Man’s Journey Through France: VI

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 10.04.05So, we’ve reached the beginning of the third season of Julien Girard’s career, so it’s update time once again to go through the changes that have occurred in the off-season between season 2 and 3 of this save. In the last update, we covered the end of season 2 in the Championnat de France Amateur – the fourth level of French football – with Sporting Club de Schiltigheim. We were trailing Bordeaux’s ‘reserves’ – the cheaters – in the league, but ended up finishing in second place, and were automatically promoted to the Championnat National as a result. We actually went into the final day with the opportunity to win the league outright, but a downright appalling performance left us to be content with second. However, Bordeaux ended up not being promoted with us, so I gather there is some kind of rule in French football capping the level that reserve teams can get to in comparison to their first teams. Considering they played several Ligue 1 standard players throughout the season, I wouldn’t say they deserved it either. Yes, I’m still annoyed.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 17.22.39Last update I also discussed – again – the possibility of Julien leaving Schiltigheim and moving to a different club, citing how he had done what he aimed to in getting them to the Championnat National, and was repeatedly being turned down the chance to complete further coaching badges which would increase his ability and attributes. This was as a result of the financial issues the club faces – despite my good control over wages – issues that won’t be helped by pumping money into compulsory improvements to the ground. There was interest – as you can see on the right – but it was from Sedan Ardennes in Ligue 2, and after being turned down in his first attempt, I don’t believe Julien would have gone for it again. Conscious of not wanting to ignore Schiltigheim in my desire to progress Julien’s career, I continued to make decisions for the coming season for Schiltigheim. So, who are we managing this season?

2057Anti-climax of anti-climaxes, it’s Schiltigheim. We’re sticking with the club I’m beginning to fall in love with – I won’t be letting that ruin the idea of the save though. Simply put, nothing good or realistic came up that would have caused Julien to leave a club where he’s becoming well respected. FC Fleury 91 approached Julien for an interview, but they’re in the league Julien’s just leaving, and despite Schiltigheim’s issues, that would have been a massive step down, considering the developing squad at the Stade de l’Ar. What’s more, I have considered that Julien would likely want to ensure that Schiltigheim remain in the Championnat National, so that they can continue to play at that level after he leaves the club.

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We’ve also got some lovely new kits for this season, created by the fantastic @acidphire21.

So, with that decided, it was time to get Schiltigheim in shape to stay in the Championnat National in the 2018-19 season, but not before my request for another coaching course was turned down. I began to update several of the contracts that were running out or low at the club, such as centre back Victor Pillot, Gaëtan Dartevelle and Marco Rosenfelder ❤ who will now all be at the club until 2020. There’s a few others whose contracts end after this season, particularly Vincent Decker, Julien Tripard and Samir Kecha, but I want to see how they cope with the step up to the Championnat National before I re-sign them to slightly longer deals. With the current players sorted, it was time to make some upgrades, and prep the first team. Furthermore, I also allowed several players to leave on free transfers, who were either simply not good enough for this level, or were demanding too much in wages for their ability.

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…and in came 6 new players to bolster our squad for the coming season. I haven’t spent a penny on these players, simply because I want to be as cautious as possible given the financial problems the club continues to face. Vincent Di Stefano comes in as an upgrade at left back. Last season, El Achak was very good in spells going forward, but with the step up we’re going to need all round defenders with  improved mentals, and Di Stefano fits the bill. Next in was Abdou Doumbia, who is another upgrade, this time on the right wing. Doumbia is basically a pacey winger who can dribble and cross, and I hope he absolutely destroys left backs this season, providing crosses we can score from. The next arrival was Sorel Chemin, who was left without a club after he was released by AS Forbach. Chemin comes in to replace Mathlouthi and Imbs as the backups to the wide players, and unlike those two, is earning considerably less, and is happy being a backup player. Good business really. On a similar note, Pascal Stelletta was the next through the door, and he’s in to provide backup in central midfield, and does the same job as Benjamin Genghini, but again for much less money. Then I signed Kanté. Unfortunately, it’s Massiré Kanté rather than N’Golo, but he’s a massive upgrade at defensive midfield for us, with much better mental attributes than Jarret. Last in was somewhat of a panic buy. I’ve felt like we’ve needed improvements at centre back for two seasons now, but my scouts haven’t really found anyone that’s good or cheap enough for me to sign. As a result, I finally signed Wilson Souprayen after 6 months of humming and hawing, and early performances suggest I may have found a bargain here.

On a side note, I didn’t even realise I’d raided Haguenau. Honestly.

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On the right, you can see that we’re hardly favoured this season, and we’re predicted to finish 15th, which would see us relegated back to the Championnat de France Amateur. Realisically, I don’t think we’re going to be relegated. For sure, our financial issues have meant that we don’t have quite the level of players that we’d ideally like – there were quality players available this Summer but I wasn’t willing to risk the club’s future for them – but I would be highly surprised if we ended up in the relegation scrap at the end of the season with players the calibre of Rosenfelder ❤ and Ambrose.

Another nice little feature about being promoted to the 3rd level of French football is that we can now assign squad numbers. As a result, Rosenfelder ❤ has taken his rightful position as the club’s Number 10. For anyone interested, here are the numbers I’ve assigned to the squad.

We’re also switching things up tactically again. Last season, our success came through the use of a 4-2-3-1, but I’m constantly uncomfortable using that formation, just terrified of the space it leaves in central midfield. From the formations that form part of Julien’s favoured systems – a diamond and a 3-5-2 – I think Julien would be far more likely to revert to using a 4-3-3, especially considering the step up in quality at this level, and the need to be more cautious. As a result, I’ve switched to this 4-3-3 system.

It still relies on Rosenfelder ❤ to dictate the play, but drops him slightly deeper into central midfield as an AP-S, the position I’ve seen as his best position since I signed him. With our pacey wingers Doumbia and Ambrose, we should have plenty of movement to run beyond Tripard at DLF-S. Defensively, it should be far, far more secure than the 4-2-3-1 we used last season, whilst utilising similar movements in attack with the CM-A breaking beyond the DLF-S, as well as the wide players.

Before writing this update, I decided I would play the first official game of the league season, against Valenciennes FC, the 3rd favourite to win the league this season. Trial by fire to say the very least…..

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Maybe we stand a chance this season…..

… and this happened. 3-2 absolutely flattered Valenciennes. We raced off to an early lead with goals from Ambrose and Rosenfelder ❤ – both assisted by new signing Doumbia – and went into half time 2-0 up, playing extremely well, moving the ball around, and easily coping with the supposedly superior team. Valenciennes pulled one back after the break, but a move to the counter mentality lead to another goal, this time through Doumbia, which secured the win, even after Valenciennes gained a last minute consolation when Souprayen – who had an amazing game – managed to miss a header leaving Rosso through on goal. Still, it was a fantastic performance that gives me a lot of hope for this season that we should comfortably be able to achieve safety in the Championnat National.

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Thierry Ambrose tucks in from Abdou Doumbia’s cross to make it 1-0 against Valenciennes at the Stade de l’Ar.

So, we’ve started the league season pretty well. Hopefully this continues through the rest of the season, and at the moment, I’m confident that it will and we can at the very least remain in the Championnat National this season. I also think I should discuss the way the narrative is going with this save. I’m very much enjoying Schiltigheim, and as time goes on I’m starting to develop that attachment to clubs that you get on FM games. I still think that Julien is looking to progress to higher divisions, but the more he is rejected or overlooked by other clubs, the more I feel he becomes attached to Schiltigheim, and in that instance, there is the possibility that he could remain there long term. However, that is entirely down to the events of the next few seasons.

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So, until next time, thank you very much for reading, and all the continued support. It really does mean a lot to me since my proper return to blogging. Should anyone have any questions regarding this save, Julien’s career, the narrative at this point, or simply just FM17 in general, then please do feel free to contact me either in the comments section of this blog, or via Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you once again.

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