Right, after my first post since my return to Football Manager where I kinda talked about the problems I’ve had at the beginning of my time with Torpedo Zhodino, I thought it was time to actually set out the save itself. This is very much a save in progress, unlike many of the saves in the past where I’ve had a specific approach that I wanted to follow, such as One Man’s Journey or With Club, For Country. Plain and simply – which is more than likely why I’m enjoying it – before being able to play the game, I decided on a random country that I wanted to play in for a change (Belarus ), and after that picked a club that I thought sounded interesting. Simples.
As you can see in this image, Zhodino – or Zhodzina – looks like a very stereotypical old Soviet town – though the cars do suggest this image may be slightly out of date. Indeed, that link and connection to the old Soviet Union world and era was part of the reason why I picked the team. Torpedo are actually called Torpedo BelAZ Zhodino because they are owned by BelAZ, the factory located in the city that employs 11,000 people, around 1/6th of the local population. CLubs being owned or affiliated with factories or government organisations was hardly unusual behind the Berlin Wall. The factory has been important throughout Soviet times, producing trucks that were used across the entiry of the Communist bloc. Torpedo themselves have a less important history, largely being a mid-table team in the Highest League (the top league in Belarus), winning the Belarusian Cup once, as well as the Belarusian Super Cup once. It hasn’t exactly been a glorious existence. Historically, that honor has gone to Dinamo Minsk in Belarus, and more recently, BATE Borisov.
Right now, there’s a few very simple elements to my approach with Torpedo. Firstly, I want to develop a tactical philosophy, but that will come as I become more confident with the game again. Currently the 4-4-2 system that we’re employing has us playing very much like Leicester City under Ranieri, but I don’t see this as a long term solution because we tend to be much less effective against the teams that we probably should beat, but that’s an issue for a later date. As I said in the first post, right now I’m happy to have a stable club to manage. My focus for the first season is hopefully finishing in the Top 4, and therefore achieving European football. Ideally it would be Top 3 and prize money, but starting to make inroads into Europe is absolutely key. If we don’t finish in the Top 4, the club will be absolutely fine though, and I’m not putting any pressure on myself that way.
Aside from that, I want to focus largely on signing and producing Belarusian players. I’m certainly not against signing foreign players, but I would like those to only be countries around Belarus such as Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and of course Russia. I really want this save to have an Eastern European flavour, and as a result the tactics I’m likely to build us towards will also have that Eastern European influence. In reading the excellent Jonathan Wilson’s Behind the Curtain, Wilson mentions how the Belarusians were known for playing like the Germans, so maybe we look to build some kind of old fashioned German 5-3-2 in the future. Again though, baby steps as I get the hang of the game again. Right now, I’m just happy to have something that’s working.
One aspect I have really been pleased with so far is the form of our striker Valeriy Gorbachlik, who currently has 9 goals in 8 appearances. The switch to the 4-4-2 has massively benefitted out strikers, and that’s really turning our form around. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s getting the best out of Andrey Khachaturyan, by attributes our best player, and so far he’s flourishing in the key BBM-S role in CM. He also has the hated PPM – Shoots from Distance, but so far I’m finding that he’s popping up with some vital long range goals for us.
A large reason for this is our sheer reliance on crosses. We score way more of our goals (15 in the league thus far) from crosses than any other method. My theory is that as a result of us crossing the ball effectively, we’re scoring either from those crosses, or from the knockdowns that result if they fail. We really aren’t playing overly attractive football – although at time some of the counters can be nice to watch – but right now I really don’t care. It’s working.
… and this is why. We’re in orange (one thing about Torpedo is that their kits are inversely cool in comparison to the Soviet style logo) and you can see our two clear banks of four. Our DLF-S has come deeper to help out against their midfield, but there’s acres of space should we win the ball – and we do. With literally one pass from the right midfielder to the DLF when he wins the ball, and we’re on attack. It’s this constant threat down the flanks which is causing us to be such a threat in the Highest League.
Here is our current standing to the left, and we stand 3rd after 9 games. In reality I think we should be higher, because we’ve thrown a few duff performances into the mix, including a poor 3-2 loss to Dinamo Brest after being up 2-0 at half time. If the season ended this way I’d absolutely take it as it would get us in the qualifying rounds for the Europa League, and would get us a small amount of prize money (around £35,000 if I remember correctly). I think over a season BATE will prove themselves to be much better than we are – a quick look at their players proved so to me – but if we can stick around the 2nd, 3rd, 4th spots I’ll be very happy. The media has predicted us to finish 6th though, and I will keep in mind what I always say to others playing Football Manager – you don’t always have to overachieve. Make sure your first season is spent getting to know the club, analysing your weaknesses – for example the club had no Assistant Manager for me so I made sure to appoint one that was decent and affordable for this level – and possible strengths.
I’m sure there’s more to discuss – and I will discuss those things as the season progresses – but I don’t want to spend too long on updates any more and give you thousands of words to read. I’ll focus on specific things each time – for example here we talked about who’s benefitting from the 4-4-2 and why/how we score. So until next time, thank you very much for reading and as always if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section, or contact me via Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you once again.