One Man’s Journey Through France: VII

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 10.04.05Disclaimer: You’re all going to be confused why I’m so annoyed about this season. I apologise for that in advance. This update will cover the whole season, because I simply just wanted to get this season finished. Again, you’ll see why through the update.

So, we’ve come to the end of the third season of Julien Girard’s career, still managing Sporting Club de Schiltigheim in the Championnat National. In the last update, we prepared Schiltigheim for the league season, having received no real interest – apart from Sedan Ardennes – in Julien’s services. We had begun the season using a 4-3-3 system, which relied on the ability of Marco Rosenfelder ❤ to control the game from the AP-S role, and allow the wide players Ambrose and Doumbia to threaten opposition defences. It caused us to comfortably defeat Valenciennes 3-2 on the first day of the season. However, that didn’t last long, as Julien Tripard decided to stop scoring upfront, and the goals dried up. We sat third, but I felt we wouldn’t be there for long. As a result, I switched tactics – not for the last time this season – moving back to the 4-1-2-3-0 strikerless tactic, but with an AP-S rather than an AM-S at AMC. This was done simply to get the best out of Rosenfelder ❤ and have him be the main playmaker for the side, forcing the ball into him so he can create. So, how did this help us? How have we done this season?

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Well, the switch to the 4-1-2-3-0 put us on an absolutely incredible run of form that left us comfortably top of the table. We defeated everyone we faced rather effortlessly, playing some wonderful football, with Rosenfelder ❤ once again showing his brilliance, leading the league in both average rating, and man of the match awards. However, coming towards the midpoint of the season, we experienced a bad run of form that drastically cut our lead at the top of the table. This was not helped by the fact that Julien was heavily linked with Sochaux in Ligue 2. As this was a massive step up for Julien, going to a professional club with secure finances, I decided to apply, and got all the way through to the interview, before being rejected yet again. Julien was even the Sochaux fans’ favourite for the job. Not only that, but he was the bookies’ favourite.

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From this point on, the season began to be a bit of a nightmare. I can honestly say I can’t remember enjoying a season less on Football Manager. Jobs became available at Angers SCO and AS Nancy, both clubs that I really felt would be a good move for Julien, and jobs that he would want. Much like Sochaux, Julien was the fans’ favourite for the job at Nancy, but was rejected, the job going to Herve Renard instead – at least this one I could understand, Renard has a good reputation in world football. With Schiltigheim being Schiltigheim – extremely loyal to Julien – they decided to offer Julien a new contract until 2020, and I decided that Julien would sign it, being driven further and further towards Schiltigheim as a result of his rejection by other clubs – it’s now adding up – in France. The narrative of this save is getting to a point now that I’m not sure Julien would actively apply for jobs at other clubs, and would instead only go for jobs he is offered. Anyway, how did the rest of the season go?

Note: Through the season, I made two signings. First was Chris Philipps, giving me the upgrade at centre back I’ve been wanting for two seasons now, on a free from Hagenau – yes again. The last signing of the season was Yassin Fortune, who had been released by Arsenal, again on a free. Like Ambrose, he’s young and talented, and hopefully can turn into a good player for us.

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…..it went badly. Really badly. From being an extremely comfortable 7 points clear at the top of the table going into the winter break, we began to haemorrhage points in the second half of the season. I began to chop and change tactically, desperate to find something that would work. I used the 4-1-2-3-0, a 4-1-4-1, a 4-4-1-1, a 4-4-2 and a 3-5-2. I always advise never to mess around with tactics this much, but it was clear that nothing was working. Whether it was a reaction to me applying for other teams – someone who knows FM better can clear this up for me – or just simple bad form I don’t know, but we were horrendous. Fortunately, our form began to pick up slightly towards the end of March, but even then we weren’t that good. Did we actually manage to hold onto the lead that we’d done so well to get in the first place?

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Yes we managed it, but only just. This wasn’t stumbling over the line, this was collapsing over it. We’ve been promoted to Ligue 2 as champions of the Championnat National, despite being absolutely horrendous for about half the season.

Needless to say, the Schiltigheim fans were overjoyed with the finish, and gave much of the plaudits to Julien (I’m genuinely not sure it should go to the players at all). It was also incredibly fitting that we won the league despite being comfortably beaten 2-1 by Valenciennes – the team we soundly beat on the first day – on the final day of the season. We will have to improve, otherwise we’re really going to struggle in Ligue 2 next season.

I’ve done a player of the season for the last two seasons, and this season I would have to split it between Marco Rosenfelder ❤ and Thierry Ambrose, who equalled Rosenfelder’s club record of 10 assists in a league season. Considering how much I messed Ambrose around this season, switching his position almost on a game by game basis, that’s absolutely fantastic. I’m going to be extremely careful with him next season, because his finishing attribute actually dropped this season, which worries me. In reality, neither were really that amazing, but get the award based on their good performances in the first half of the season.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 20.04.58Now onto the worrying bit for me – Ligue 2. I’ve already secured Bosman deals for two players for next season, Jessy Benet and Benoît Patin. Patin in particular I’ve wanted since the end of last season, but knew there was a good chance I could wait and get him for nothing, and on much lower wages (£500 p/w less!). Both are Ligue 2 standard players, and Benet is rated as having very good potential. My worry is looking at the squad I already have. I’m allowing quite a few to leave to free up wage room – and also because they simply aren’t good enough – meaning I’m going to have to make quite a few signings. In reality, I only think Ambrose, Fortune, Patin, Doumbia, Benet, Kanté, Phillips, Schneider and Rosenfelder ❤ are really good enough for Ligue 2. We need depth, and quality. At times this season I’ve had to play Ieraci and Fuchs in the middle of the park – my central midfield pairing from the Championnat de France Amateur 2, two levels below.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 17.56.45I’m also very, very unsure what to do tactically. Towards the end of the season it felt like nothing was working, and as a result I’m unsure of what to do next season. I do know that I’m deliberately going to be quite defensive. I have very little interest in being promoted to Ligue 1 next season, as I think the club really needs a season in Ligue 2 to consolidate its position, continue to make money – as you can see from the image on the left, we’re finally in the black – and stabilise as a club that can remain at this level of French football. As a result, I’ll quite likely deliberately play quite cautiously, and simply aim to just avoid relegation. It’s going to be a huge step up for the little club from Alsace-Lorraine. Hell, the club isn’t even professional yet. It’s also light on proper staff – I have tried, but the board has rejected me each time. In short, it needs modernising and organising before it can even begin to think about Ligue 1, and I’m not armed with the greatest wage budget ever. Julien faces a big challenge here.

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So that brings us to the end of the third season of Julien Girard’s managerial career. For those of you keeping up with the state of French football, PSG are set to reclaim their Ligue 1 crown, and currently lead Monaco by 15 points. Also, just take a look at their squad, it’s ridiculous. Metz are set to return to Ligue 1 along with Angers, and possibly Auxerre (yay!) depending on the relegation/promotion playoff. The more eagled eyed amongst you will also notice that Sedan Ardennes have been relegated. Oh sweet poetic justice.

So, until the beginning of next season, thank you very much for reading this update. I apologise for doing a whole season update rather than two half updates, but as this season went on I simply just wanted to get it finished and move past it. Plus, I did begin to think that I was going to get either the Sochaux or Nancy job, and therefore didn’t want to ‘waste’ an update. Nevertheless, thank you for reading, and should you have any questions regarding this season, my plans for next season, or just FM in general, then please feel free to ask via the comments section, or by contacting me on Twitter (@JLAspey). You can also get in contact (and get additional and ahead of time information) through my Slack channel #thetacticalannals. Thank you again.

4 comments

  1. Let’s start with a hearty congratulation, Jon. Despite the shaky finish a thoroughly deserved promotion. As for the tactics, don’t chop and change too much, mate. Have a Plan B ready as a second tactic training, that helps with tactical familiarity. If you find yourself having to change tactics in a hurry, it will go much more smoothly.

    Patin and Benet look like great players for next season. I hope you can find some more great signings. Are you at the point where foreign players are interested in signing for Schiltigheim yet? Or are you going for a French-only policy.

  2. Had this happen to me on numerous occasions in my Darlington save – storming the league first half of the season only to implode second half. Sometimes attributable to external factor crippling morale (you applying for other jobs in this case, me not selling wantawy players in my case), but I think the conventional narrative is that AI sides that were prepared to play gung ho against you as a relegates side at the start of the season start to play much more cautiously, leaving you liable to be picked off on the counter attack. I usually tried to start playing more defensively and focus on retaining possession (but would also go through new iterations of formation/try anything like you). Usually scraped over the line as you did but not always.

    1. Yeah, there’s no doubt teams played differently against us, and my tactical chopping and changing didn’t help. Almost entirely my own fault though.

  3. Going through a similar process myself! Nothing more annoying, great read though mate, will be keeping an eye out for future!

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