With Club, For Country: II

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 22.42.11Well, welcome back to ‘With Club, For Country’ and the second instalment of this save. I’ve reached the winter break – which is in November – of the first season, so it’s time to update you on how things have been going. Spoilers: It’s been challenging. In the last update, I outlined what a ‘With Club, For Country’ save is, and analysed the club I’d picked, along with the usual description of my tactics etc. Long story short: I was managing a club called Viktoria Žižkov and planning on using a 3-5-2.

Note: Because the winter break in the Czech Republic is so early, I think moving forward the structure of the updates through seasons will be season intro, mid-season break, transfer window (if anything big happens), end of season report.

Of course, ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry’, as has happened with my 3-5-2. To say the first half season with Žižkov has been challenging would be an understatement, but I’m absolutely loving it so far because it’s such a challenge. Firstly, the plan to play with a Back 3 has gone, simply because I needed to find something that worked. I find that on the whole I’m not as good at immediately developing systems that work on FM18, but after I while I eventually find the right(ish) system. One little mini update from the first update was that I did indeed sign Ales Dvorak (who despite being rubbish has actually played pretty well for me). A few loanees (all of whom were rubbish) asked me to cancel their loans as well. However, when I received a couple of injuries in central midfield, I also signed 31 year old Lukas Schut – I said I wouldn’t be afraid of signing veterans. He’s been a fantastic addition to our midfield. Anyway, how are we doing?

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 16.02.56Well, very decently really. We currently sit 9th at the mid-season break, which I’m genuinely really happy with. A quick look at our stats on the table will show you why we’re not in a relegation fight – and are beating our prediction of 10th and Žižkov‘s real life finish of 11th. Quite simply, we’re masters of the draw and are really difficult to beat. As a result we’ve drawn 9 games, 3 more than the closest team to us. We’ve lost as many games as the teams who are fighting up at the top, we just have our own issues to sort out.

We have 14 games left to play in the season, and realistically, promotion is just not going to happen, as I predicted it wouldn’t in the first update. Technically, we’re only 9 points off the promotion places, so a freak run of form could force it, but in terms of quality, we’re far more than 9 points away from the top teams. On our day, we give them a good fight – as we do with most teams – but they’re much better than we are.

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 16.13.38You can see here what the side is based on. We’re just difficult to score against, and as a result it’s very difficult to beat us. I’m still not that chuffed by 19 goals in 16 games, but when you consider that we haven’t conceded more than 3 goals in one game (and that was only once against 3rd placed team Hradec Kralove) it’s still not too bad. However, that image also shows our biggest issue, and it’s something I identified in the last update. I said:

It’s therein that lies our problem. Quite simply, our attacking players are not very good….This is a massive part of the reason why I think promotion is just going to be out of our reach this season….Quite frankly, I just don’t think we’re going to score enough goals.

In basic terms, we just don’t score enough. In 16 games, we’ve scored 17 goals, just over 1 a game. Just as it’s really difficult to be beaten if you don’t concede, it’s really difficult to win games if you can’t score enough to win the game (and keep your manager sane by scoring a second to make it comfortable). As a result, our top scorer is loan striker Petar Musa with a measly 3 goals. Our other striker Mario Teinar has been equally rubbish, only chipping in with 2 goals. To put things in perspective, we’re so bad upfront, that I could realistically put our young prospect Ondrej Vyskocil into the first team and the starting lineup, and I wouldn’t see any ill effects on the team’s play. I don’t claim that my tactic creates a litany of chances – that’s not how it’s designed to be – but what chances it does create, my strikers often fail to convert them, resulting in their 6.68 and 6.57 respective average ratings. In comparison, Vyskocil has scored 22 goals in 23 games for the U-19’s for an average rating of 7.35. Different levels of course, but come on.

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Do I really need to turn to someone who can’t even legally drive yet?

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In terms of my tactic, it’s taken quite some development – apologies for the injuries on the screenshot, I’ve had some issues there lately, particularly my first choice left winger Urbanec going down for several months with a fractured leg. Although the schedule I linked above (and here again) looks decent, it only looks decent when you begin to see a few wins come in. Up until then we were really struggling down towards the bottom of the table, as shown by this graph. For a while, I was getting very concerned.

I tried quite a few systems, but nothing was working, and constantly drawing games wasn’t taking us away from the bottom of the table. I felt we were far too open at the back using our Back 3 systems, and we were very susceptible to crosses. Every single time we scored, we’d have some shocking luck or exhibit some awful defending that would undo our good work.

I then decided to go nice and simple with a 4-1-4-1 in order to get men behind the ball, and stop us conceding. I’m not sure this is a system I’ll use moving forward (largely because of the fact it doesn’t create lots of chances), but for now, it’ll do just fine. It uses all the same settings as the 3-5-2, in that we’re on a control/flexible setting with the team asked to ‘play out of defence’ and ‘pass it shorter’. Basically, it’s all based on keeping it as simple as possible. I don’t ask my players to do much, largely because they can’t really do that much.

As a result, our form turned around, with the first match with the 4-1-4-1 being against Vitkovice, with a 1-1 draw. From there we’ve only lost one game, and it was against Pardubice, a club that until very recently was pushing strongly for promotion.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 12.40.57

It was the 1-0 win over struggling MFK that signalled the turning point – even the game recognised its importance. The system really began to come together, and our best player Josef Bazal was fantastic as the Mezzala, getting forward and scoring what could prove to be our most important goal – there’s unlikely to be loads more – of the season. From there we went on a good run that saw us up to our 9th position at the mid-season break.

As we’ve improved with the 4-1-4-1, I’ve been able to begin making plans for next season. I’ve identified some possible Bosmans for next year to allow us to push for promotion – I’ll cover those in the next update – but I’ve also begun to resign players who I want to be here next season. The most important of these was Bazal, who signed until 2020. Joining him was – until Schut’s last game – the only other player to average above a 7.00 so far this season, club captain Miroslav Podrazky, who signed until 2019, when he’ll be 35. He’s physically declining, but he’s been fantastic as our DLP-D in the 4-1-4-1.

I’ve also been able to make other decisions for the future, improving the staff at the club. I’ve brought in scout Vit Duchecek, goalkeeping coach Zbynek Hauzr, Head of Youth Development Jan Gambos, and physio Petr Patek. All of them are far better than the staff that already existed at the club, and if I want to improve the ability of the players already at the club, and the players to come, I need to ensure that I have the best backroom staff I possibly can. Another important step I’ve made is that I’ve begun to look at tutoring, something I’m rarely bothered about on Football Manager. However, I know I need to be better at player development in this save so my players can reach their full potential and help the national side – currently up to 29th in world football, but missing out on the World Cup.

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 20.37.22

Josef Bazal scores against MFK to break our drawing run and finally kick our season into gear.

I’ve also made some transfers that will go through towards the end of January, and give us some much needed improvements ahead of the second half of the season. Our system may not create a bunch of chances for our strikers, but they’ve still been nowhere near good enough in finishing off the chances that they do get. As a result I knew that a striker was the most important upgrade needed. I’d also been slightly unsure about full back. I’m happy with Vengrinek playing at left back, as he’s been solid – if unspectacular – there, but Hasek isn’t fast enough to play right wing back, and at times he does limit what I can do with that role. As a result, I focused on finding a good striker and a full back. I prioritised the striker, by far our most pressing need.

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 20.46.37

In comes Denis Frimmel from Lisen on a free transfer.

I scoured the free transfer market again – I can’t afford to do anything else – and signed Denis Frimmel from lower league club Lisen. Frimmel certainly isn’t perfect, but he’s a massive upgrade on Musa and Teinar as you can see from both links. On a free, he’s a very low risk transfer, and if he doesn’t work out I can simply just move him on next season. On the other hand, if he does work out, he’s young at only 23 and he’s Czech – sticking with our pre-determined transfer policy at Žižkov – and has room to grow, and could potentially play in the Czech First League for us. He signed a contract until 2020, so if he does turn out to be a great player for us, we’ll have some very beneficial years with him before being able to sell him on. Next, I needed to sign a full back.

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 20.58.57

Next up, Tomas Nuc from Unicov for absolutely nothing as well.

As a result of several excellent scouting reports from my scouts, I decided to sign Tomas Nuc on a free transfer from Unicov – also until 2020. Nuc doesn’t really have any outstanding stats, but he’s well rounded, and my scouts seem to love him. He’s certainly an improvement on Dvorak, and he’s physically more able to play the position than Hasek at this point. Again, this is a low risk transfer, and should he not work out, he should be easy enough to sell on. Nuc isn’t young, but he’s Czech – sticking with the policy – and therefore should be a positive addition to the club.

Next, I need to decide from the current squad who I want to resign to contracts – the vast majority end in 2018 – and flirt between making the key changes we need, and making too many changes that unsettle the squad. I’ve already begun to identify players I want to sign moving forward that can not only get us promotion from the Czech National League, but that can also play in the Czech First League. I also really need to improve the tactic. It’s fine for now as we look to consolidate our position in the league, but for next season I’ll need to switch to something that creates more easy chances on goal – perhaps a 4-3-3 rather than a 4-1-4-1. I may cover this in the next update, where I’ll outline my plans for the rest of the season, but most importantly the signings – Bosmans – I’ve made for the second season of this save. Until then, thank you very much for reading, and and as always, should you have any questions about this save concept, Viktoria Žižkov, or just FM18 in general, then please don’t hesitate to contact me via Twitter (@JLAspey) or via the comments section of this blog. Thank you again.

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