One Man’s Journey Through France: IX

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 10.04.05So, we’re back again with the 9th update of Julien Girard’s managerial career, as we have reached the midway point (January 1st) of the 4th season of this save. In the last update, we finally decided to leave Schiltigheim, and made the big move up to Ligue 1, becoming manager of Football Club Lorient. We had previously prepared Schiltigheim for their Ligue 2 season – more on that later – and then had to adjust to our new surroundings, making a couple of signings in Joshua Onomah and Marcelo Hermes to improve the quality of the squad, before putting a tactical plan in place, a 4-4-2 diamond. We won the first game of the season 2-1 against Nantes, and we ended the update cautiously optimistic ahead of the full season – especially considering I’d told the board that I would get achieve a top half finish with Lorient. However, I had to make further dealings before the end of the transfer window, when Torino came in for our first choice right back Steven Moreira. I negotiated up to a fee of £7M (rising to £7.75M) before accepting the offer. This necessitated the buying of a right back, so I signed Lorenzo Dickmann, languishing at Palermo for a pathetic £3.8M. He’s been fantastic so far, massively improving as a player.

Note: I also sold Rayane Jacquier to Roma (along with a whopping future fee %) for £1.5M, and Zoran Djulic was bought by my DoF.

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There’s no need for jokes, FM’s covered that for me already.

In terms of Julien’s career, he completed the new coaching course, improving his attributes slightly – they’re still fairly poor. I then asked Lorient to allow me to get my Continental A License. At first, they rejected my request, saying that there’s a good chance Julien could leave with increased skills. With a bit of persuasion however, the board accepted it. This course will take a much longer time at 12 months, but it only leaves Julien with one more badge to achieve (the Continental Pro, I think?). Julien also reached his first milestone, managing 100 games.

So, how has the first half of the season gone? Have I been able to produce the top half finish that I said I would?

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Well, so far things have been going pretty well. We’ve largely won the majority of our games, save for draws against Lille, Reims and FC Metz. However, we’ve had some horrendous defeats against the top clubs, being soundly beaten by Lyon, PSG and Monaco (those two in particular are scary good, and I can’t wait to manage one of them). Tactically, I started the season relying on the 4-4-2 diamond I showed in the last update, but as time went on, I’ve started to blood in a 4-1-3-2, that has more defensive width, and is a lot more cautious in shape. It also uses a higher mentality on ‘control’ so we take more risks and play the ball forward at a higher rate. In attack we end up in a diamond shape with the AP-A moving up high, but in defence I feel it’s far more secure. I’ve used the 4-1-3-2 full time from the Saint-Ettiene game onwards, and it’s resulted in a good run of form, that was only ended by a horrendous 3-0 loss to Toulouse in the game before the winter break. I think the players were already writing their Christmas lists, or planning their shopping.

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Majeed Waris makes it 3-1 in our 3-2 win over Bastia at the Stade Armand Césari.

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 14.06.35During this time, we’ve also experienced somewhat of an injury crisis at the club, with a large amount of my central midfielders – helpful when you’re using a narrow formation – out with longer term injuries. Saber Khalifa was out for 4-5 weeks with a broken arm, and has declined in that time off, Marcelo Hermes (our top left back) went out for 6-7 weeks with strained knee ligaments, and several others such as Valentin Stocker, Lee Chung-Yong and William Vainqueur.

I’ve also spent time getting the squad in order in terms of contracts, both signing up the players that I want, and with the squad status I want. There’s some that have a squad status of first team that won’t get anywhere near it. I resigned Majeed Waris – who has been our leading striker this season as you can see from the player stats to the right – to a backup contract, simply because I know that I’m going to be bringing in upgrades upfront for next season. Vincent Le Goff – a former first teamer – also resigned in a backup role. He’s been good this season when Hermes was injured, but realistically Hermes is the left back of the future for Lorient. Quite a few other players have been set to be released when their contract ends, either because they’re not good enough, or they’re ageing and I want to free up wage limit. I’ll cover those in the pre-season update next year. Bosman wise, I haven’t signed anyone up yet, but I’m strongly considering signing Salvatore Sirigu for next year, as long as I can make his wage demands. There’s some other fantastic options such as Hirving Lozano, but he won’t talk to Lorient at the moment.

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I have made one deal through the first half of the season, bringing in Stefano Sensi from West Ham for a ridiculous £2.8M. Sensi is a fantastic deep lying playmaker, who has barely played since the beginning of this save, much like Dickmann. He’s still a very talented player with room to grow, and should hopefully fit in beautifully as the DLP-D in the second half of the season, allowing Cafú to push forward into one the left CM-S role (less attacking than the right CM-S Onomah plays in).

Note: I’ve also sold Ivan Santini (for £1.3M) who doesn’t fit our system as a target man type, and realistically was behind Negredo as a backup.

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The results and squad building you see above have us going into the winter break sat 3rd in the table, one point off the leaders Lyon. Yes, not Monaco or PSG, who have won all the Ligue 1’s since this save began. Quite frankly, the fact we’re even in the title race is a joke, considering we’ve been soundly beaten by all the other teams in the top 4, especially Monaco who are below us in the table.

However, what we have been throughout the whole season is consistent, and we’ve always bounced back from the defeats we’ve suffered. In fact, we’ve performed so well we were given the Ligue 1 Best Team of the Year award, although apparently the fans couldn’t care less.

PSG have led the way all season, until the last few games where they’ve slipped and allows Lyon to move top, but I’d still be surprised if they didn’t win the title this season. Their squad’s absolutely terrifying. Monaco are still under Jardim and are using his 4-4-2, which tore us to shreds, but they’re very inconsistent, and have dropped points way too early. I’m slightly hopeful that Monaco’s owners won’t be happy at a possible low finish, and will sack Jardim, but that awaits to be seen. Realistically, I don’t think we’re in the title race though. We’ve been comfortably beaten by all the teams around us in the title race, and we’re punching well above our weight. The real race for us is to see whether we can finish in 3rd, and get Champions League football, or have to settle for 4th and the Europa League. In a way, I’d possibly rather finish 4th and limit expectations, but the money we’d get from the Champions League would be lovely. The squad is in no way ready for a title challenge though.

For those of you who are interested, this is the current state of Schiltigheim in Ligue 2. Needless to say, I’m not happy, and it’s another example of the AI ruining a side. The AI manager isn’t playing the new signings I made for Ligue 2 – or Marco Rosenfelder ❤ – despite the fact that they’re all good players. What’s more, both PSG and Monaco have been knocked out of the Champions League already (PSG were runners up in 2017/18), with only Lyon still in the competition in the 1st Knockout Round. Hopefully this won’t effect France’s co-efficient.

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So, that brings us to the end of the 9th update of Julien Girard’s career. Julien is now settled in well at Lorient, and most importantly is well on course to achieve more than the top half finish he promised the board when he took over in early August. The challenge now is simply to see how high Lorient can finish. Until the next update, thank you very much for reading, and should you have any questions regarding the save, Julien or the narrative, please feel free to ask, either in the comments section of this blog, or via Twitter (@JLAspey). Another great place to catch me (and chat to me) is in my Slack channel #thetacticalannals, where you can find out additional information, and minor updates before these major written updates. Thank you for reading once again.

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