Things are moving fast, and it’s time for the third instalment of my ‘With Club, For Country’ save with Viktoria Žižkov in the Czech Republic. For anyone that’s just joining this save, the concept is that I take over a club side, and run it entirely with the national team’s benefit in mind. That means only signing Czech players, producing them from our youth system and selling them on when they’re ready to make the right step up in quality.
In the end, I decided not to update at the end of the transfer window, and instead just decided to play until the end of the first season. As a result, this update is likely to be quite long and include a lot of information. In the previous update, I covered how things were going until the winter break (in November), and covered some of my ideas moving forward regarding the squad and some transfers I’d made. As things stood, we were sitting 9th in the table, one place ahead of our predicted finish of 10th (and two ahead of Žižkov’s actual finish of 11th). However, there was much to do, particularly regarding Bosmans for the second season. We needed quality, and we needed it badly.
So I went out in the market looking for some important improvements for next season, thinking that I was buying players to fit into my 4-1-4-1 and possibly a 4-3-3. Alongside that, I also needed to decide who I wanted to resign from the current team, which is a tough ask in only 18 games, and for that reason some of the contracts remain unsigned even at this point, and I’ll look over their performances this season before I decide.
I also received this really interesting comment on Twitter – @JLAspey – (the person who commented will know who they are, I didn’t want to name them just in case) and I want to address it. I’ll actually cover finances later in the update because that’s an important part of our development as a club, but I’ll absolutely cover wages and decision making.
I tend to look at a few things, but mainly average rating, stats, attributes, potential, age, and my own judgement simply from watching the games. I won’t claim I’m infallible with this though, I decided after a couple of good games to re-sign Jan Jelinek, and I really wish I hadn’t because in reality he’s pretty poor, I just overestimated how good I thought he was. He’ll be fine as a backup option next season, but I could have used that £300 per week much better elsewhere.
For example, here’s one of my current question marks, Jakub Urbanec. Urbanec has had an interesting season to say the least. He began the season filling in at left wing back in our 3-5-2 system that didn’t last that long, before moving further up the flank to play as an Inverted Winger – and was our main scoring threat along with Bazal – in the 4-1-4-1, and then later in a 4-3-3 where he played on the right flank as a winger on ‘attack’ duty. However, he then fractured his leg and was out for several months, and by the time he returned, I’d switched to a new tactic and he never regained his place, filling in at striker and wing back when required.
Now, on my core focuses of: average rating, stats, attributes, potential, age, and my own judgement:
- In terms of average rating, Urbanec has a 6.75 for the season, which isn’t bad considering the majority of his games were played when we really weren’t playing well, and I leant on him.
- Stats wise, he made 2 goals and 1 assist in 13 games (several off the bench), which again looks bad, but he was only in a goalscoring position in very few games. He completed around 75% of his passes, and has a tackle success ratio of 60%.
- Attributes wise, he’s declined physically since the broken leg, losing pace and acceleration, but everything else has remained largely the same.
- He doesn’t have much potential left at 26, he should be nearing his peak (and selling age if there was any interest).
- From what I see of Urbanec in game, he does more than decently, without ever doing anything really out of the ordinary on a regular basis. He’s a solid and dependable option when I need to bring on a sub.
From that judgement, I can assess that re-signing Urbanec would likely be a decent option, unless I can find a better alternative. However, as he has the attributes to fill in at striker and at wing back, he gives me plenty of flexibility with my squad selection. As a result, as long as he doesn’t ask for either too much money – I don’t want to give him much more than I am currently, to keep my wages as low as possible – or expect too much in terms of his status within the club, I’ll likely re-sign Urbanec for another season only. In terms of making decisions with signing players to contracts that are already at the club, I’ll admit I’ve dithered this season, comfortable in the knowledge no-one wants to sign my players. As I know the club better and produce talented youngsters, I’ll have to be far more decisive.
In terms of the Bosmans I signed in January for next season, I focused on simply making the first XI better. I’m bringing in 3 key improvements – I’m still looking though – Ondrej Kocourek, Lubos Tusjak and Adam Pajer. Kocourek comes in – for £600 a week – to be the star central midfielder we’ve been needing since the start of the save – Bazal has since moved elsewhere. I’ve had my eye on him for a while and jumped at the chance to get him on a free. He can dribble, pass decently, is young, Czech, and has plenty of flair. He’s a player I can easily see going with us into the Czech First League, although I’ve had to promise him a fair amount to get him signed. Tusjak was signed – for £500 per week – to likely play left back, but since a tactical switch will now be playing wing back next season. He has certain defensive weaknesses, but realistically I need my wing backs to be attacking, and he should be excellent at this. Again, Tusjak is Czech, fitting my transfer policy. I’ve also known we’ve needed further depth and quality at centre back, and therefore another Czech joins the club in Adam Pajer – who I do think I’ve overpaid for – who’ll provide that depth. He’ll get a chance to prove his quality as a starter – as Ondrej Svejdik and his £1.7k a week wages will likely be leaving despite his obvious quality – but I am concerned I have overpaid for him with £450 per week. I’ll await next season’s performances before deciding whether that’s true – my scouts absolutely love him and they were spot on with Tomas Nuc. Anyway, let’s move onto results. How did we do this season?
In the end, very well indeed. We finished 5th, which is a massive improvement from the 9th place we were in at the mid-season break. We finished 8 points off the promotion places, but by the end of the season, we showed promotion form, that gives me plenty of reason to be optimistic before next season.
As you can see, our goal difference has also massively improved, from -2 to +10. That’s a growth of 12 goal difference in 14 matches, which is a considerable improvement. We ended with a pretty decent record of 13 wins, 11 draws and 6 losses. From the last update, we lost 3 more games, but the important thing is that we stopped being ‘masters of the draw’ and started winning far more games. A big reason for that is that we started to score more than one goal in a game on a consistent basis. We won 9 more games in only 14 league games. That’s a ridiculous turnaround of form, and it’s as a result of several factors coming together to make us play much, much better. Even Karel Poborsky was supportive of my time at the helm of Žižkov. I’ve even begun to gain some recognition from the footballing press. By the end of the season, I was even given the Manager of the Year award for the Czech National League.
From this image, you can see our marked improvement. We’ve rocketed up to 6th in goals scored, and 4th in goals conceded. We’d always been good at not conceding goals, but even with that, we’ve gone up from 6th best in the league to 4th best. The majority of my teams are built on defensive solidity, so it’s very pleasing to see. However, I’ll want to be better than this next year, and really reduce the number of goals we concede to below one a game. However, our main issue had been scoring goals. Despite being good at keeping goals out, our system wasn’t exactly gung-ho, and as a result we didn’t score many, and what chances we did create, our strikers Petar Musa and Mario Teinar had been unable to finish them. This led me to sign Denis Frimmel for the second half of the season, as I was sick of the sight of both of them (Frimmel proved to be an extremely important signing, but I’ll cover that later). In terms of scoring, in the previous update, I said:
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.
Right now, I can confidently say that we absolutely do score enough goals. To end the season as the 6th best goalscoring team – rocketing up from 11th best – is a fantastic achievement, and we were prolific in the second half of the season, not only creating plenty of chances, but scoring those chances as well.
The biggest reason for this was the system that I used in the second half of the season, this 5-2-3 system. It uses a Back 3 of two CD’s on ‘cover’ duty – with ‘pass it shorter’ – to ensure that they’re not too aggressive with their positioning, and a Ball Playing Defender on ‘stopper’ duty which sees him be more aggressive with his positioning in the defensive phase, before giving him the ability to play the ball forward. I’ve also given him the PI of ‘dribble more’ in order to encourage the kinds of behaviour my good friend @MerryGuido saw when he developed his ‘quarterback’ role for a central defender. Miroslav Podrazky has been converted from the DLP-D role in the 4-1-4-1 to play at centre back, and in some games he’s been absolutely fantastic.
Ahead of that are two fairly standard WB-S’s with ‘dribble less’ and ‘close down more’ selected to ensure that they don’t faff about with it – neither Vengrinek or Nuc are particularly talented with the ball at their feet – and encourage them to be aggressive in closing down on the flanks. I dislike wide defending so much on FM18 that I’d rather be very proactive than reactive with my wing back’s positioning.
In central midfield we have a CM-S who is told to ‘hold position’ and ‘play more risky passes’ basically to encourage him to play like a playmaker without being set as one in game. This is the role that Kocourek will be playing in next season, and I think he’ll be fantastic. I’ve actually been really happy with how Marcel Cermak has played in this role, but he’s on loan and unless I can re-loan him, he’ll be off back to Slavia. Alongside is a BWM-S who is told to ‘dribble less’ and ‘make less risky passes’, to ensure that he is set in his role as the energy of the midfield.
Upfront, there’s a setup I’ve been working on for quite some time, because this system was actually developed for my Borussia Dortmund side, and they never managed to quite get it working. The main part of the system I couldn’t quite get right were my DLF’s, that I always wanted to be like hybrid wingers/strikers, that could be creative players and dangerous dribblers.
These are the PI’s that I use to encourage the movement of the playwingers – I’ve been wanting to coin that phrase for a while – where they drop deep, but also spread out wide, and cause havoc with their passing and movements into the half spaces. They ‘close down more’, ‘tackle harder’ and ‘mark tighter’ – a trick I learned from the fantastic @BusttheNet who you should be watching if you aren’t already – in order to encourage a high press and keep them aggressive so we can intercept in the middle of the park by forcing long passes. They also ‘move into channels’ and ‘run wide with ball’ to encourage them to get into dangerous zones of the pitch, and use the PI that is already assigned to them in ‘more risky passes’, meaning they often play dangerous crosses or through balls for our other attackers.
This is the reason Josef Bazal no longer plays in midfield. He may be unable to finish his dinner, but he’s creative and can dribble and pass better than anyone in our team and has been very good here. Mario Teinar has also enjoyed a resurgence of form since I added him to the team, and has proven himself capable of starting next season. In between the playwingers™ is the AF, who is charged simply with linking play when he is passed to, stretching the field, and scoring when the ball comes to him. This is something Denis Frimmel has proved himself extremely capable of doing in the last 14 games. The tactic as a whole has improved our play so much, as you can see from our fixtures list – we began using the tactic against MFK and never looked back.
Most seasons in my old Football Manager games, I’ve always done best player awards, and I’m going to resurrect this with Žižkov. Honorable mentions who have played very well for us, but lay outside of the top 3 are Miroslav Podrazky and Tomas Nuc – who was fantastic at RWB once we moved to the 5-2-3.
3. Josef Bazal
Our third best player this season was undoubtedly Josef Bazal. Bazal played in several important positions this season, from Mezzala in the 4-1-4-1, to playing the Inverted Winger role, to playing as an AP-S out wide in a 4-3-3. When he moved to the playwinger™ role in the 5-2-3 he really began to shine, not as a goalscorer – he only scored 3 goals all season – but as an assist machine, ending the season leading the team in assists with 8 – and an average rating of 7.10 – with the majority of those being scored towards the latter half of the season. He may be poor at finishing and lack composure, but I see him as an important part of the team next season, creating tons of chances for the other strikers from the playwinger™ role.
2. Lukas Schut
Next up, and our second best player this season, is Lukas Schut. Schut was signed on a 9 month contract towards the beginning of the season as the result of injuries gained in central midfield. Being over 30, I wanted to see what he would produce before deciding whether to re-sign him for another year. He started slowly, but gradually became an extremely important player for us, and by the end of the season he was the player I relied on most in midfield as our BWM-S. He’s a hard worker who is decently capable on the ball for this level, and he ended the season with a 7.21 average rating, and a surprising return of 3 goals. I’ve signed him up for another season and managed to convince him to only be a rotation option, but at the moment I think he’ll be starting for us again next season.
1. Denis Frimmel
But number one without any doubt, was our most important signing of the season, Denis Frimmel. Signed on a free half way through the season, Frimmel turned our paltry scoring record into a very healthy one, scoring 13 goals in 14 games to be our top scorer, and only four goals off the top scorer in the league, despite being there half the time. He’ll be our star striker next season, leading the line for us, and hopefully he can fire us to promotion. He does miss easy chances at times which can annoy me, but his final scoring output more than proves his ability to me, and that I was right to leap at the chance to sign him with Teinar and Musa were failing to score at all.
Vyskocil Watch 1
Before I end the update, I want to focus on the development of the club’s best prospect, Ondrej Vyskocil.
On the left is his current profile, and on the right is his profile when the save began a season ago. As you can see, he’s made clear improvements so far in his ability, and I’ve focused his training on trying to improve as many attributes as I can currently, before starting to focus on core attributes at a later date. Vyskocil started off on a F9 training regime to develop his passing abilities, but I decided after a month or so that I wanted more attributes focused on, and so put him on the CF training plan. This has seen most of his technicals improve by 1, and has seen a lot of his mental attributes increase by 2. Considering we don’t have the greatest facilities and coaching staff – though I have spent time improving the staff throughout the season. Vyskocil’s improvement would be even more had he not gown down with an injury for over a month. He ended the season with 30 goals in 33 games, and an average rating of 7.13, so he’s clearly progressing well. I’m even tempted to bring him up to the first team next season, but I think he needs one more season in the youth setup before moving up to the first team. Other members of both youth setups, the U19’s and U21’s are doing well and improving, but Vyskocil is developing far more than the others at this point, and I may need to revisit what training schedules I have the players on. Either way, my star prospect is doing very nicely up until this point.
Denis Frimmel opens the scoring against Pardubice, on our way to a 3-1 win on the final day of the season.
So that’s the end of a very promising first season with Viktoria Žižkov. At the moment, I have a decent idea of what the first choice lineup will be for next season, but I’m still hoping to bring some additional signings into the club to bolster the talent we already have at the club. The club rewarded me with a 2 year contract, keeping me at the club until 2020, with all the existing conditions of the contract still included, where I’m judged on my ability to develop players using the club’s youth system, and sign young players for the first team.
Next season, I am absolutely aiming for promotion. Now that the tactic is settled – fingers crossed – I don’t see why promotion wouldn’t be achievable. Now that the club is starting to improve, we need to gain promotion so I can start to bring in money to improve the infrastructure at the club to allow us to help the Czech national team – which currently sits 29th in the FIFA rankings, but hasn’t managed to make it to the World Cup as I said in the last update. However, for now we’ve had a good first season and we need to keep this momentum going into season 2. So, until the pre-season update of season 2, thank you very much for reading, and as always, should you have any questions about this save, my 5-2-3 system or just Football Manager in general, then please don’t hesitate to contact me via Twitter (@JLAspey) or via the comments section of this blog. Thank you again.