Season 1, Episode 2
In episode 1 I introduced why I’m now managing in Northern France with Amiens. You got to meet some of the main players and the promising youngsters who could form the spine of the team for years to come.
In this update we’ll look at:
- A change in tactics
- Preseason training
- Injuries and other player issues
- Expiring Contracts
- Recruitment Focus
A CHANGE IN TACTICS
In my last few saves I’ve used a 5-3-2. Which is a fantastic formation. In Amiens however, I’ll be reverting back to a 4-2-3-1. Kinda. I’ve a long history with the 4-2-3-1 and before the switch to the 5-3-2 it was my go-to formation. However, I don’t think I’ve used it since FM20. With this nagging away at the back of my mind I was keen to try to get back to my old favourite. As part of a recent project, I had to perform a deep-dive into the 4-2-3-1 and it made me realise why I enjoyed it so much.
I mentioned earlier, however, it’s not a standard 4-2-3-1, as you can see below:
The Amiens SC “4-2-3-1” & planned line up
Ok, it’s more of a 4-2-2-1-1.
Rather than having the wide players in the AM strata, I’ve dropped them back into the midfield. The reason for this is I want them to defend in a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1. I found that in the standard 4-2-3-1 formation the wide players didn’t track back enough. Dropping them back slightly not only helps me achieve this but I also don’t appear to lose anything in attack as they seem to get the ball in deeper areas with more space to exploit ahead of them. It’s a nice balance.
So, with that in mind let’s take a high-level look at what I want to achieve in each phase:
Out of possession
I’m planning a hybrid approach to our out of possession play. When the opponent is building up from the back we’ll sit in a mid-block in a rough 4-4-2 setup. A standard defensive line will squeeze the space between the lines slightly, reducing the area of play available to opposition players. Using the Shadow Striker (AMC) to mark the opposition pivot player, we’ll force them to the wide areas before engaging our press. Due to the 4-4-2 we’ll be in, they’ll find it hard to progress down the flanks and hopefully lose possession. To avoid being too passive, I’ve ticked the Get Stuck In instruction to disrupt the opposition even more.
This “passive” defence changes when we lose possession inside the opposition half, in which case we’ll deploy an aggressive counter press. This serves two purposes:
- To try to win the ball back as soon as possible
- To apply enough pressure to delay any counter attack, allowing our defensive players to drop back into position.
As I’m planning on using a Positive mentality, this should ensure we have decent numbers upfield which will help crowd the opposition on turnovers and cut off immediate passing lanes.
The positive mentality should encourage the team to attack with intent. Two benefits of this are:
- We should have four players attacking the opposition penalty area (striker, shadow striker and two wide midfielders). This should give the fullbacks and defensive midfielders plenty to aim at with passes and crosses.
- It should generate some dangerous passes in behind the defence for our wide midfielders and the striker(s) to attack, especially when coupled with the Pass into Space instruction.
I want us to be selective with our shots, so have Work Ball into Box selected as I’d rather create 5 good chances than 10 low quality ones.
Obviously, I’m aware I’m managing a Ligue 2 side and might have to be patient with the players. It might take two or three transfer windows to be able to play the way I want, but that’s the challenge I’m looking forward to.
I approached the preseason in my usual fashion, albeit a short pre-season due to the French start date in the game. Due to lack of depth I was careful not to work the players too hard.
My main focus, aside from getting the players match fit, was to increase the tactical familiarity. Here’s how it looked at just before the first friendly:
Here’s the weekly training schedules for preseason:
Week 1 – A boot camp with lots of physical work as well as overall team sessions. I also added in team bonding and community outreach to boost team cohesion.
Week 2 – A shift in focus to defence whilst phasing out the hard physical work.
Week 3 – A transition from defensive work into attacking training.
Week 4 – A combination of attack training and introducing more work around pressing.
Ordinarily I’d have had a week 5 schedule of pressing, set pieces and more tactical work but time didn’t allow it.
As you can see, we’ve made great strides and it shouldn’t take too long to get full understanding. I’ll make sure to add sessions into the training schedules over the first month to increase the marking and width familiarity. The position/role/duty familiarity hasn’t increased much as the players hadn’t yet been assigned their role-based training. As mentioned earlier, I didn’t want to overwork them so I wanted them to be able to concentrate on learning the tactical system and get their fitness up.
INJURIES & OTHER PLAYER ISSUES
Of course, even the best laid plans come unstuck occasionally.
Backup striker/winger Chibozo (on loan from Juventus) strained knee ligaments and missed the entirety of preseason as well as the first few games of the season. Speedy winger Gomez picked up a bruised thigh in a preseason game and missed two weeks, whilst Iron Gomis strained ankle ligaments in the final week of preseason, putting him out of action for a month. Speaking of Gomis, what a nice surprise on day 2 of my managerial career with Amiens, when he informed me that he wanted to explore his options when his contract runs out at the end of the season. Now, this puts me in a predicament.
Do I try to persuade him to stay, knowing the risk of this annoying him and starting off on the wrong foot with a really good player immediately? Or be understanding and hope to keep him on side in the hope of persuading him to change his mind?
I took the latter option so we’ll see how it pans out. If I give him plenty of playing time, praise good performances and, of course, win games we might be in with a chance. Although I’m also fully aware I’ll lose him for nothing if this mission fails…
There’s some decent players on expiring contracts… and not much spare money to re-sign them with. We’re already spending our entire wage budget.
We already know about Gomis from my day 2 surprise and I’m still working on him. Gurtner is club captain but he’s 35 and a high earner so I’ll need to see what other options are out there before making a decision. His attributes will be declining soon, so unless he’s willing to take a drop in wages he might have to be allowed to leave.
His backup, Charruau, is also out of contract too which isn’t an ideal situation to be in. Papiss Cisse will be 38 by the end of the season and I’ll probably look to the future rather than keep him around. Traore and Bianchini are both on loan in the French National League and are both useful players. I’ll keep an eye on their loan performances for a couple of months and keep in regular contact with them before offering anything.
Lastly is Degrumelle, a versatile 18-year-old. He can play as a fullback or a winger and could provide decent depth when needed. If he shows good improvements I’ll be tempted to keep him around.
Whilst none, other than Gomis, are vital to my long term plans, I want to avoid a large turnover of staff at the end of the season if possible. In better news, 15-year-old George Ilenikhena has signed a professional contract. He’s a 5 star potential striker so I’m hoping he can progress well throughout the first few months. If he performs well in the U19s I might call him up to the first team squad later in the season.
I have to hold my hand up here and admit that I’ve not delved into the new recruitment focus feature as much as I should’ve.
Here’s what I’ve got set up so far:
I’m obviously on the lookout for a new goalkeeper, but as of yet that’s the only positional focus I’ve created. For the other positions I’ll wait a couple of months to see how the tactic holds up and how the players perform. This will also give me a good idea of benchmark stats to look for.
As my scouting network only includes three scouts and is limited to France, here’s what I’ve got them searching for:
- Ligue 2, National and Under 19 league players judged to be over 3 star potential.
- Players who have contracts which expire within 12 months or are currently free agents (with over 3 star potential).
- Ligue 1 players who are currently unhappy.
- Players in Africa over 3 star potential, due to the connection the French leagues have in bringing through Africans. (I also ensured some scouts and coaches have extensive knowledge of some African countries to hopefully help here).
I’m quite excited about seeing the results of these. Especially the search for Ligue 1 players who find themselves unhappy with their current situation or club. There’s potential for a bargain right there.
After a good set of preseason fixtures, with the only loss coming when our backups played a surprisingly strong PSG-2 side, we head into the season in a confident mood.
Obviously, a nightmare start would be to have seven injuries before two games have even been played…