Der Kult : II.I : Making Midfield mistakes

Wilkommen

Welcome back to Hamburg, where FC St. Pauli are lagging behind their recently promoted domestic rivals, Hamburger SV. After an underwhelming first season, with a vaguely positive ending, my first task was to replace…well…at least half of the squad. With a couple of first team players out of contract in 2020, and a fair few in 2021 (including but not limited to Mats Moller Daehli), I realised that to make strides on the pitch, I’d need to invest in/replace more players than I had previously planned. Time to make the same mistakes that I make every year on Football Manager, then…

INTERference

#Error4132?

In my SEASON ONE UPDATE I discussed my pride at getting a few players lined up for Summer 2020, as well as signing a couple of players in the January itself. What I hadn’t realised it that, with my first access to some decent funds, and frees, I’d gone a little overboard with overhauling the over…squad.

16 players in
10 players out
Net Spend = €1.4m

So that’s quite a turnover, with almost all of the inbounds going into our first team squad. We also happened to sign ten new centre midfielders, and we had eight jostling for 3 positions in the middle of the pitch by the time the Summer transfer window closed. Whoops. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever done, but those that remain are extremely similar in terms of type of player, as well as age, experience, and quality, so it could prove to be my downfall.

Every single year on Football Manager, the first January in-game rolls around, and I agree to so many transfers that I don’t know what to do with them once they arrive. This is the first year that I’ve not gone for a load of Newgens, but at least if I’d have done that then getting to grips with my first eleven would be a decision made for me (N.B. I am scouting a bucketful of the little blighters anyway, so watch this space).

With that in mind, the new players who I consider key going into the season are David Otto and Andreas Poulsen:

David Otto_ Profile

David Otto, fresh from serial tricksters 1. FC Heidenheim 1846 for €1.2m, arrives to play as our DLF(A), and should be able to develop a little bit on top of providing immediate 2.Bundesliga quality

Andreas Poulsen_ Profile

Young Dane Andreas Poulsen (who looks eerily like FM Samo), will play left wing back after arriving from Borussia Mönchengladbach for €1.3m. He’s a little light on the defensive side, but most of his use should be in an attacking sense, I hope

How do our new boys play into the tactic, you ask? Well, in a traditional Ted way, we were winning at the end of last season, so why analyse performances when I can simply be a lazy bastard and just leave it as is:

FC St. Pauli_ Overview-3

TIs, TIs everywhere

That’s right, we’re sticking with the 4-1-3-2. A couple of player roles may have been adjusted slightly, but in general it’s the same style of play I’m always after – quick, direct play through the middle, with CWB/WBs as wide alternatives should the ball either happen to fall out there, or if we’re slowed down too much and need a crossing option.

Of the starting 11 (the one shown above is my best XI going into the season), 4 of them are new players, but then only two of the nine substitutes allowed in 2.Bundesliga remain from the previous season. It’s a massive turnover of players, and as mentioned in my previous post, brought the average age down. A lot of the players brought in are in their early 20s, and have no experience of the division. I sense the tactic isn’t even in its final form. It could be another year of transition, obviously wouldn’t mind a promotion push, but top-half is a necessity in order to keep my job.

Injecting life?

Another year, another league full of teams of very similar quality. We started pretty well, had a little wobble, and ended with a loss before the winter break during the opening part of the season. The tactic was looking good. Plenty of the good points from last season remain, including balls from deep via our wing backs, some swift countering, good dribbling, and even decent possession on the edge of camped opposition boxes.

FC St. Pauli_ Fixtures-3

Nine wins from an opening 18 in the league was a decent return for a ‘top half’ squad (sans ‘Wonderkid’ Joshua Zirkzee)

So after these 18 games, we sat 4th in the table, however only 10 points separated 2nd-9th position. A good run could help us escape the pack, but a meltdown would consign us to another season of scrapping to stay out of mid-table mediocrity. With around €2m to spend on transfers, as well as a lot of room in the wage budget, I decided to go big in an attempt to allay one of my trademarked collapses. I wasn’t entirely sure how ‘realistic’ it was to sign these two jokers for FC St. Pauli, but screw it:

Sergio Gómez_ Profile-3

After not featuring for Borussia Dortmund at all during his time there on my Football Manager 2020 save, Sergio Gomez joins for €1.1m, and instantly becomes our highest earner

Benoît Badiashile_ Profile

Another player dissatisfied with playing time, Benoit Badiashile joins from Monaco for €2.2m. We now have a unit at the back who can actually trap a ball

The idea here was for sleight Sergio to slot in as a CM(A), and big Benoit to play alongside homegrown centre back, Florian Carstens, as a BPD(C). That was the only tactical adjustment made going into the second half of the season. Funds, and quality, had been injected. A promising start had occurred. Surely this would transfer into some epic results on the pitch?

Oh boy.

The above are just three goals conceded during a 5-1 buggering over by the mighty Darmstadt 98, with my warmest regards to backup goalkeeper, Mohamed Gassid (more on him next time). Honestly, they could have got double figures. They were good value. It could have happened to anyone. Ignore the fact they finished the season in 9th, they deserved to go up.

The problem with the above is that the goals are all so different – we conceded from through balls, crosses, set pieces, defensive mix ups.  January and February were simply calamitous months, and I didn’t know what to do. I was going to bemoan our injury list, as we lost our entire first-choice back four for around 8 weeks, and goalkeeper for a couple of league games, but it’s completely my fault for not properly strengthening. Some of those playing were part of my ‘asylum’ programme, such as one of the centre backs, and the ‘keeper, so weren’t entirely adequate. I’m such a moron.

FC St. Pauli_ Fixtures-4

A fantastic return of 15 points from 16 games in the second half of the season. Well done, TedRedwoodGaming

Awful scenes. Truly awful. I can’t really pick out any positives until the last few games of the season. Our promotion push turned into an absolute farce, and in the end we were lucky not to drop into mid-table. Remarkably, we were still within touching distance of the playoff place with two games to go, such is the nature of the division, but the dream disappeared as quickly as it arrived, with a plethora of 1-1 draws consigning us to a third season in 2.Bundesliga.

Despite getting a good average rating, Sergio Gomez was utterly wasted as a central midfielder (who saw that coming?). Joshua Zirkzee performed remarkably, even when forced to feed off scraps. David Otto wasn’t getting involved as a DLF(A). Something was drastically wrong. You can probably tell where I decided to change my tactic (yet again), as we went undefeated for the last few games of the season. We looked a lot better than we played, too.

I won’t bore you with more pictures when I can just use words, so the crux of it was that Gomez was pushed into an AP(A) in the AMC strata, and the DLP(D) was transitioned into a DM(D). I tried to get the most out of a truly remarkable playmaker at this level. It worked. Suddenly the wing backs were flying forwards again, we had a solid presence at defensive midfield, and David Otto, now operating as a PF(A), was making the most of his linking-up attributes, and his work rate. A lot of joy we had around this time was due to Gomez’s positioning and ability on the ball – what a shock. Yet again, I intend to leave this going into next season (I’ll be showing our tactic in the first post of Season 3, to allow for any TI tinkering). I also don’t intend on massively changing up the squad going into our third campaign in 2.Bundesliga, but if anyone excellent becomes available then you’ll be sure that I will snap them up. I’m a transfer glutton/buffoon, after all.

Progress not showgress

At least we are not regressing, as I often have with my second season at many-a-club in previous versions of this beloved game. We’ve overhauled the team, and will continue to try to beyond the starting XI, we’re always fiddling with the tactic, we’ve made some good movements off the pitch with our facilities (more in the next post on that one). The board is…

FC St. Pauli_ Overview-5

Satisfied?

I’d say ‘pleased’ is quite strong. We were shocking in that second half of the season. A second consecutive 8th placed finish, one point better off than last season, two points closer to the playoffs, and a goal difference of +14 (+13 from Season One), are all improvements from the first season, I suppose.

Bundesliga 2_ Profile-2

Ingolstadt would go on to relegate VFB Stuttgart in the playoffs

The end of season awards went roughly as expected. A 7.17 average rating brought the award home to cult hero, Marvin Knoll. For whatever reason, Joshua Zirkzee didn’t get a look in (perhaps due to his loan status?), despite scoring 18 goals, and keeping us in the top-half. Of the ‘key’ transfers in, David Otto banged 13 goals and came second in the Fans’ player of the season contest, however Andreas Poulsen was absent from the top 3:

Ted Redwood_ Inbox-4

Ugochekwu Williams, a ‘New-gerian’ signing in August 2020, got his hands on an award, bless him

So, just like in Season One, it’s a season of change, a blog of babble, and the tale of FC St. Pauli falling off a cliff. I did expect this kind of campaign, seeing as we replaced a lot of the squad with younger models, but it is still a bit of a disappointment. Only the single point gained, although many lessons learned.

As always, for those expecting any kind of in-depth tactical analysis, or MONEYBALL lessons, you’ll be sorely disappointed. For those hoping for some buccaneering, bona fide, electrifying, stupefying #LiberalFM – bitte. I’ll be back shortly with some more useless garble/trivia about our second campaign in Hamburg, so that’s something to look forward to.

Regard,

Ted

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