One Man’s Journey Through France: VIII

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 10.04.05This is going to be a big one. So, we’re back with the 8th update of One Man’s Journey Through France, moving into the fourth season of Julien Girard’s managerial career. Also, for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter (@JLAspey), Julien’s face is perfectly modelled by the suavest of suave men, David Ginola – in case you were wondering. In the last update, we covered the whole of the 3rd – and least enjoyable – season of this save in the Championnat National. The update covered how Sporting Club de Schiltigheim managed to race away into the lead of the National, before almost blowing the entire thing, stumbling over the line and winning the league to win promotion to Ligue 2, despite losing 2-1 on the final day. Nevertheless, it was time to get Schiltigheim ready for Ligue 2, and turn the club from an amateur outfit into one that could realistically retain its place in Ligue 2 for many seasons to come. So, how did things go?

Well, first off, the club went professional, and actually (for once) listened to Julien when he mentioned that maybe they could start scouting in Central Europe, rather than just France. What’s more, they even ramped up the amount of money Julien was able to use from player sales at 55%, as a result of the careful management of wages that we’d been forced to do over the past few seasons. Things were clearly moving on for the club, and they even allowed Julien to go on a coaching course, as you can see below. That course is still ongoing, meaning Julien’s attributes haven’t increased yet (aside from his attacking training going up to 10), but it’s well overdue.

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About bloody time.

With that done, it was time to really get Schiltigheim prepared for the 2019/20 Ligue 2 season. In came a boatload of new staff like Romain Jacuzzi, to finally upgrade the pretty appalling level of coaching at this club – apart from Julien of course. I also brought in several players to properly equip the side for Ligue 2. Here’s the players I allowed to leave as well. Benoît Patin came in to finally give us a proper deeper lying playmaker. I’d felt for the previous seasons we’d used shit-kickers™ in defensive midfield, and I’d rather have a fairly stable defender there, able to be an out ball in our systems. Jessy Benet comes in to provide an upgrade in central midfield, and combine with Gaëtan Dartevelle. Next in was Maxime Borges, who is a huge upgrade at centre back over the outgoing Decker and Kerssane, as is Benjamin van der Ackerveken, who will compete with Borges for the starting spot. Last in – for a shocking £300k, yes I spent actual money! – was Régis Djoman, a quicker and agile striker, able to pick out a pass. With Fortune and Ambrose set to compete for the ‘goalscoring’ striker position, I wanted a creative striker to pair up with one of them.

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All this was because I was set on finally playing a diamond system, with many of the club’s top players being central midfielders – something that always happens to me. Meanwhile, Julien was beginning to be sought after again. Through the Summer, Julien was wanted by Auxerre and Stade Rennais as you can see to the right, and in the end, I decided not to apply for either job, looking at the odds on the managers predicted to get the jobs. As I’ve discussed, I feel that Julien has become increasingly selective with the jobs he applies for, considering the rejection he’s experienced throughout his career thus far.

2005However, the next post that became available really piqued my interest, and I decided that the role suited Julien well enough to apply for it. What’s more, that club was actively interested in Julien, and had been for a while by the time I decided to apply. That club was FC Lorient in Ligue 1. I went through the usual rigmarole of the interview process, and decided to be a bit more positive in my answers than previously, telling the club I’d need a budget to organise the staff I wanted, and that I could achieve a top half finish for the club. I was then asked which staff I wanted to get rid of, and only used a portion of the budget they gave me. To my absolute surprise, I received this, a contract offer. It’s a 2 year deal, for £4.5k per week – a significant pay rise from Schiltigheim, and I signed on the dotted line. Julien’s time at Schiltigheim is over, and he leaves the club having taken them from the Championnat de France Amateur 2 – the fifth level of French football – all the way to Ligue 2. He leaves the club as favoured personnel – perhaps understating his contribution to the club – with the club hopefully in position to remain in Ligue 2 this season. However, Ligue 1 is a big step up, and one Julien couldn’t ignore. Goodbye Marco

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As you can see to the right, Lorient have lurked towards the bottom half of Ligue 1 ever since the beginning of this save. They survived in season 1 as a result of winning the Relegation Playoff against Clermont Foot, and in the two seasons since have finished 16th and 11th, so clearly improving, but perhaps top half may have been a tad optimistic. Still, Julien’s had just as big a challenge dragging Schiltigheim up the leagues. Obviously at this point Lorient’s squad has changed somewhat, so here is a current list of the players at Lorient as we enter the 2019/20 season. The past couple of seasons have seen quite an amount of turnover in their playing squad.

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These are the transfers that have been made this Summer, but only two have been made since I arrived at the club at the beginning of August. Both used the transfer list market, something I highly encourage every FM player to check. There were more bargains available than I could afford. After a quick look at the squad I decided more cover and quality was needed in central midfield for the system I’d decided to play, so in came Joshua Onomah from Spurs for a measly £3.4M for a player of his talent. Onomah has been languishing at Spurs since the beginning of this save, only really getting a chance when he went on loan to Sunderland last season and scored 4 goals in 17 appearances. He’s young and talented, and will provide energy and skill to our midfield. Next I decided that we needed to upgrade at left back, with Vincent Le Goff our only good option there (and at ideal selling age). Therefore I returned to the transfer list market of bargains and signed Marcelo Hermes from Benfica’s B team for a ridiculous £425k. He’s got the all round ability that I want my full backs to have, and good pace to motor up and down the left flank.

Here is a list of the players who have left the club this Summer, only Ben Khemis on loan having anything to do with me. I would really rather Lecomte hadn’t been sold, but we’ve got decent cover at goalkeeper.

Note: You’ll also notice Matthijs de Ligt there. When I joined the club, I thought he was a full Lorient player – I was a bit chuffed. When I found he was on loan, and with no future option to buy, I decided to send him back to Chelsea, unwilling to pay part of his wages just to improve him for someone else.

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Financially, Lorient are pretty stable, with £19M sitting in the bank, superb training facilities and excellent youth facilities. When compared to the basic everything at Schiltigheim, this is like stepping into another world for Julien.

Tactically, I’m going with what was Julien (and my) favoured system, a 4-4-2 diamond. This was also what I had planned at Schiltigheim for this season. It relies on club captain Cafú to hold position as DLP-D at the base of midfield – this would have actually been Geoffrey Kondogbia for £5.75M, had he not asked for 20k p/w more than I could afford at 75k p/w – and a fairly cautious defence to allow the CM’s, AM and strikers to combine to create through the centre. And yes, that is Álvaro Negredo you see at AMC. He was there due to injury, but there is method in my madness.

We’re predicted to finish 13th in Ligue 1 this season, but I’ve told the board I can achieve higher than that, so hopefully the game’s just being pessimistic like it has with Schiltigheim so far. I’ve only played one game of the Ligue 1 season, the opener against Nantes. The Nantes manager even had the condescension to say that Julien’s appointment was ‘part of the charm of football’. Prick. Also, experienced? Julien’s only 29! The match itself was won 2-1 with two goals from Saber Khalifa, who was absolutely fantastic once he was switched from Poacher to DLF-S.

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Saber Khalifa fires home the winner as Lorient open their campaign with a 2-1 victory over Nantes at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

In terms of the narrative of this save, we now know that Julien has made his first proper move, and it’s a big one up to Ligue 1. I’d anticipated that this would happen earlier at a lower league, but I think the time at Schiltigheim has really added to the idea of ‘who Julien is’. We know he’s tactically pragmatic, but prefers the diamond or 3-5-2, and is now quite cautious in applying for jobs, and will only do so when he feels the club itself is right for him and really does genuinely want him. This will likely be important later on as Julien looks to move to the top clubs in France such as PSG or Monaco. He’s also a very responsible manager, and doesn’t leave his clubs in a state of disarray. If anyone has any other character traits that they think I’ve missed, please do feel free to mention them to me.

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So, that brings us to the end of another update of Julien Girard’s career, and it’s certainly been an important one. Julien now has a new club in FC Lorient, and now has to contend with the giants of Ligue 1 – PSG properly scare me – and try to get Lorient to a top half finish as he said in his interview. Until the next update, thank you very much as always for reading, and should you have any questions, please do feel free to ask me in the comments section of this blog, or via Twitter (@JLAspey). Another good place to catch me is in my Slack channel #thetacticalannals, where you can find out additional information, and minor updates ahead of time (my followers there have known about the move to Lorient since yesterday). Thank you for reading once again.


    1. Yeah, hopefully Schiltigheim will be enough to stay up with AI management. I’ll be keeping an eye on them. I’m still gutted I couldn’t afford Kondogbia’s wages.

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