Season 1, Episode 3
I must admit, I’ve had as much fun playing through the first few months of season 1 as I did creating the little intro video.
Things are going very well and we’re at the end of October and 13 games into the Ligue 2 season. I wanted to take you through the events so far and reflect on how the players are performing in the tactical framework I set out.
In this update we’ll cover:
- July to October
- The Gomis Issue
- Team Performance
- Tackling a Problem
- A Pressing Matter
- Recruitment Update
JULY TO OCTOBER
The season started with a tough game away against second favourites for promotion, FC Metz. We already had 5 injuries, meaning we had a B-Team striker on the bench. It took just 10 minutes for us to take the lead through Ajax-academy graduate Hassane Bande, before Papiss Cisse added a second midway through the second half. We came away with a 2-1 victory but lost attacking midfielders Gael Kakuta and Charbel Gomez through injury. We then saw off FC Annecy and found a way to scrape a win over Sochaux thanks to this lovely goal and assist by the young Mamadou Fofana who’s retraining as a Shadow Striker.
With star player Gael Kakuta back from injury and tactical familiarity up to a maximum, we picked up further wins against SC Bastia and Havre AC, where Bande picked up a player-of-the-week performance with two assists. August came to an end with a 1-0 win over Paris FC thanks to an 88th-minute corner headed home by Opoku. A goal which was well deserved but never looked like it would arrive.
A clean sweep, so far.
I was still trying to get to know the players and had some opinions formed when something surprising landed in my inbox. I knew wide midfielder Antione Leautey had notched up a goal and a couple of assists but I hadn’t seen anything to make him stand out. He was more of a player who caught the eye due to a couple of glorious misses! I was even considering giving Bande more playing time in his place. Turns out he had some of the best-attacking stats in Ligue 2!
He’d picked up 3 assists and 1 goal in the first 6 games and as you can see, his creative skills are great.
Back to Ligue 2 action and a rotated team (due to fatigue and injury) which contained just one first-choice defender, beat Grenoble where Gomis scored this beauty.
Our first dropped points of the season came in game week 8 when we were held to a 0-0 draw by second-placed FC Caen where we lost both the xG and possession battles. Not that I give a damn about possession. Niort was dispatched 2-0 and afterwards, we welcomed the news that loanee Janis Antiste’s recovery from his torn knee ligaments was going better than expected and he was due back in training within days. He could be a massive player for us once he’s fit.
By now the team seemed to be settling into the aggressive and positive style I’m looking for. Two goals in consecutive games illustrate this perfectly. Firstly, Gomis pressures and dispossessed a Rodez defender and then finishes the move beautifully. In the following game, against Dijon, Gomis was one of three players to converge on a defender who was robbed of the ball before he then burst forward to finish off a lovely team move.
We’ll discuss Iron Gomis in more detail later…
We beat Nimes 4-2, despite having Jeremy Gelin sent off after 32 minutes, with Leautey pitching in with a lovely first-time pass assist for Cisse. Admittedly the defender could’ve done better.
In the last game of this update, we drew 0-0 against St Etienne in a game where they went down to 10 men but we were unable to capitalise as they defended gallantly. Antiste clearly isn’t up to his best yet and he missed an absolute sitter deep into injury time. Unfortunately, we also lost central defender Barry for up to 6 weeks.
An impressive, undefeated start to the season which unsurprisingly sees us sitting pretty at the top of the table. Promotion favourites Bordeaux seem to be struggling to find their feet and find themselves in 8th whilst Dijon is also doing worse than anticipated. There’s still plenty of time to go, though.
THE GOMIS ISSUE
Having read the first two articles of this series, you’ll know that Iron Gomis – one of our most talented players, came to me saying he wanted to explore his options at the end of his contract. Not an ideal situation at all as he was one of a few players I’d planned on playing a huge part in the future of Amiens SC as we aim to make it to the very top.
I’ve tried everything so far to no avail.
- Lots of playing time
- Lots of praise after good performances
- Sweet talking his agent
- Raising his squad status to Star Player
He’s still refusing to enter into contract negotiations and the clock is ticking. I’m genuinely starting to panic.
In the 13 games so far he’s put up the following stats:
- Appearances: 9 (1)
- Goals: 6 from a Non-penalty xG of 2.07
- Assists: 0 from an xA of 1.01
- Average Rating: 7.26
His 6 goals consisted of a hat trick versus Dijon.
There are areas where he’s not doing so well. He’s in the BAD data-hub quadrant for passing, passing progression and possession. There’s also a critical part of my strategy where he’s failing too. More on that soon.
Starting with the players, let’s see who’s standing out from the crowd.
Whilst it’s no surprise that Cisse and Leautey are leading with goals and assists, there are a couple of surprises there for me.
- Hassane Bande leads both the expected assists and interceptions per game so clearly, he’s deserving of more game time.
- Chibozo has the best non-penalty xG per game, although he’s mainly been used off the bench. In 2 starts and 7 sub appearances, he’s scored 1 goal and has 0 assists. He was the backup striker until Antiste returned and is now being used as a winger off the bench but hasn’t had much game time in recent weeks.
Now let’s look at the overall performance as a team.
Attacking-wise I’m happy with all the stats apart from the cross-completion percentage (12.80%). I would ideally want this up near 20%. Neither fullbacks are great at the crossing Left Back, Ring, has a 14% cross-completion ratio and Right Back, Mendes, has 13%. Given that my game plan is to get decent numbers in the box to be able to challenge for the ball I’m still disappointed with those numbers.
Looking into the stats, both Cisse (Striker) and Gomis (Shadow Striker) are only average in the air and it shows. Cisse has won only 23% of his aerial duels although Gomis has done better with a 45% win ratio. Neither have a great burst of speed so I suspect these are the main reasons we’re performing below expectations.
In defence, I’m hugely annoyed by the poor tackling ratio. We’re winning only 69% of tackles which is over 6% lower than the league average. The defensive element of my plan is to have tough tackling, aggressive players. Adding to my irritation, even more, is that I’ve got “get stuck in” ticked and an assistant manager who insists we “go in harder” on numerous opposition players each game!!
As such, if you aren’t willing to get stuck in, you’ll find yourself with a ticket out of Amiens.
Time to see who the main offenders are!
TACKLING A PROBLEM
Looking through the stats of my defenders I’m delighted that the lowest tackle-won ratio is 78%. The defence has been solid thus far so this isn’t a surprise.
Heading into midfield, however, doesn’t make good reading.
Despite having two very different roles, both my Defensive Midfielders should have the same qualities. Tough tacklers and more than capable of looking after the ball and progressing the team forward. The area I thought would be our strength actually looks like it might be our weakness. Well, half of it, anyway.
First choice Deep Lying Playmaker, Jeremy Gelin, is winning only 50% of his tackle attempts whilst, thankfully, Ball Winning Midfielder Mamadou Fofana has a more respectable 78% ratio. I suspect Gelin’s low aggression is a reason for not fully committing to challenges.
The backups to both positions are performing even worse (Lacheur 36%, Gene 42%) and guess what, despite them each having good tackling attributes they both have low aggression. Something for me to look out for in future recruitment.
Comparing Jeremy Gelin’s output against FM Stag’s What does “good” look like matrix I can see he’s underperforming in all but one area (progressive passes/90) for a creative midfielder.
Moving further forward to my four more attacking players, creative winger Antoine Leautey has won a huge 84% of his tackles, whilst on the other flank Gael Kakuta wins a less impressive but quite respectable 65%. Shadow Striker, Iron Gomis wins 67% and veteran striker Papiss Cisse is leading by example with 69%
With Gomis naturally being a defensive midfielder and being more aggressive than Gelin, I might try him back in the DLP position to see if this improves our poor tackling.
A PRESSING MATTER
Another area I wanted to very briefly look at is how the players are performing to my wish for very aggressive counter-pressing upon losing possession. I’ve managed to work out the successful pressure ratio for all players (other than Central Defenders, who aren’t expected to press). I consider anything below 30% to be a sign of someone who isn’t carrying out their pressing duties effectively. Over 35% I believe to be very good.
Whilst I wouldn’t expect the 37-year-old Cisse to be effective in the pressing game, the same can’t be said for Gomis. As mentioned earlier, he’s a natural defensive midfielder so should excel at winning the ball back. Kakuta is also not pulling his weight so I’ll keep an eye on him. He’s our star player and has given 4 goals and 2 assists so far from 9 starts, with some of those regaining fitness post-injury. I’ll keep an eye on his attacking performances to ensure he’s pulling his weight.
The recruitment focuses (foci?) which I set up returned plenty of players who potentially fit the bill. I’ve even been to a few U19 games! Including one where a striker I was looking at scored 4 goals and he wasn’t even the best player on the pitch. More scouting is being carried out on that particular player who scored 3 and assisted 2 in a 7-2 win. I’ll be disappointed if he’s not a diamond in the rough, even though it was only a U19 game.
The Free Agent focus I set up has been very fruitful and I’ve taken TEN players on a 3-week trial to see who fits in with my physical profile and who I might be able to afford. There are some well-known names in there, including ex-Barcelona duo Rey Manaj and Moussa Wague. All are playing in B-team friendlies which I’ve set up to give me some good information to go off.
As a result of the stats reviews I’ve carried out, I now have a good idea of who might need replacing and I already know who stands a good chance of not extending their expiring contracts. This means I can put some time into delving through the scouting reports and pulling some short lists together. I’m also aware that we’re still only 13 games into the season and the players are in a brand new system. Therefore it would be foolish of me to judge them so soon.
With Gurtner’s contract set to expire, Gomis wanting out and Gelin’s underperformance in the DLP position, I’ve got plenty to do.
I also need to pay attention to the striker situation. Cisse is 37 and both backups, Antiste and Chibozo, are on loan with no option to buy. I have a decent player in Badji, currently on loan at promotions favourites Bordeaux (who my scouts think can still improve to “decent” Ligue 1 level, despite being 25 years old) and promising youngster George Ilenikhena, (who at just 16 might have to be fast-tracked from the U19s to make some appearances off the bench) but neither are Ligue 1 quality (yet).
I’ll cover my plans and any targets in the next update. What makes things trickier is that there’s a very good chance we’ll be playing Ligue 1 football next season, which means I have to plan even more carefully. For instance, I’d identified a few players from the National League who I know could perform well in Ligue 2… however, asking them to step up TWO divisions is a big ask and gamble.
In the meantime, I’ve got lots of data to look at…