AMIENS SC – Season 3, Episode 2
In the last update, I announced I plan to permanently switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation. Over the final 10 games of the season, this new system gave improved stats across the board and should provide a stronger building block as we head into season 3.
I now want to focus on building that tactic and ensuring I have the right players for the new roles. I’ll guide you through my thoughts for each section of the formation and then look at the transfer activity I’ve carried out to give us a fighting chance of challenging for Europe.
Forgive me for not going in-depth with the Goalkeeping situation. I’ve decided to give Haug the start of the season to prove his worth and I aim to sign a young backup. If the Norwegian isn’t up to standards, I’ll aim to bring in a veteran to take over at the end of the transfer window.
Usually, when deploying a midfield box – as I intend to do – you have to make an important decision: what players you want out wide.
Using various levels of smoke and mirrors, Guardiola and Arteta use two attacking midfielders to provide width. This is usually achieved by rotating defenders and midfielders to form “the box”. Tuchel, on the other hand, used two wingbacks, deciding on less faff and not feeling the need for all the smoke and mirrors. A man after my own heart!
My plan, as the starting formation is a 3-4-2-1, is to use wingbacks. However, as I plan to use them quite aggressively than in the 4-2-3-1, I want players who have the necessary attacking skills to make a difference in the final third. Whether that be from a through ball, a cross, pulling the ball back from the byline or taking a shot on goal.
Luckily, my recruitment of Darlin Yongwa last season helped towards this as he can play anywhere down the left-hand side. Despite lots of playing time (27 appearances) he hasn’t progressed much, which does pose a few questions about his ability to meet his potential.
29-year-old Sebastian Ring didn’t really cut it in Ligue 1 and my coaching staff don’t believe he’s good enough for Ligue 1 so I’m not sure if he’ll be around for too long.
The right flank is a different situation altogether. Since switching from a 4-2-3-1 with 10 games remaining last season, I’d been using the previous right full-back, Formose Mendy, as a central defender which left me with Assogba and Tutuana to hold down the right flank. If you look at both their profiles I’m sure you’ll agree neither are (yet) good enough.
Therefore, I’ll be on the lookout for someone new to patrol up and down the right wing and provide goal-scoring opportunities for the forward line.
When it comes to central defenders in a back three, I like to set up as follows:
The two wide CBs could be flipped, depending on the personnel and who’s in front of them, but this is the usual set-up. Generally, the Wide Central Defender will be on support which allows them to push forward and work in tandem with the wingback to create overloads and overlaps.
On the other side is a Ball Playing Defender who has nice angles to play through the lines into midfield or to the wingback ahead.
These players will need to be technically gifted enough to receive the ball out wide, often under pressure from opposition wide players and quick enough to cover the space left by marauding wingbacks.
In the middle is a standard central defender on cover who needs to be able to read the game well and have the acceleration to get out into the open spaces to sweep up as necessary.
I only have one left-footed CB, and that’s Saad Agouzoul. However, he doesn’t seem suited to a role on the left of the three as his technique and passing aren’t quite what I’m looking for. Jeremy Gelin could fit the bill, however, he’s not really a natural left-footer. His left foot is deemed “reasonable” so he could do a job if needed. This isn’t a priority though and I think I need to spend money elsewhere, so Agouzoul could get the chance to prove himself.
Formose Mendy is perfect for a Wide Centre Back role on the right, whilst final Mamadou Fofana (the elder) who’s just signed a new contract, might find himself surplus to requirements. He’s not technically gifted enough to be a wide CB or ball player and would be behind Gelin or Agouzoul to be the covering central defender. At £9k per week, he’s on too much to be a backup and he’s not technical enough to play in the midfield box.
Backing up wherever needed will be either Siaka Bakayoko or Shady Delest. Bakayoko, 19 years old, made 10 appearances last season but struggled to make an impact and I feel a season in Ligue 2 would be the best option for him. Delest is a central defender who was released from PSG and my scouts were keen on it. They believe he can develop into a good Ligue 1 player so I’m going to give him every opportunity I can.
To get the most out of a midfield box, you ideally need a certain type of player. All four players need to be technically gifted enough to receive the ball in tight spaces and retain possession. They also need to have good enough awareness and vision to either recycle the ball amongst themselves or pick out a line-breaking pass.
The ability to receive the ball under pressure is even more relevant for the defensive midfield duo as they’re more likely to be targeted by an opposition press than their teammates in the attacking midfield strata whose job it is to find space to receive a pass in.
This is why Mamadou Fofana (the elder) can’t play as the Anchor, despite him otherwise being a perfect fit. His technique (7) and first touch (9) means he’d likely lose possession too many times, especially under pressure.
Here’s how I’ll initially set up:
When setting up a midfield I believe you need to carry out three specific roles:
- A Destroyer – A tough-tackling player who can win the ball by whatever methods necessary. In this case, it’s the Anchor
- A Line Breaker – This is someone who will get up and down the pitch and break the lines of the opposition’s midfield. This could be done with off-the-ball movement or with the ball at their feet. I’ve chosen a Segundo Volante as this will give a nice selection of both.
- A Creator – the playmaker who can either control the tempo of the game or be more of a risk taker and create goal-scoring chances by through balls or their dribbling abilities. My creator will sit at the top of the box, looking to find space to exploit.
The other role is one which I wouldn’t choose from a three-man midfield but as a box has four corners, I can add it in here. We need a Goal Threat. As per the previous 4-2-3-1, I’ll be using a Shadow Striker. Someone to support the lone striker and often burst beyond them to provide goals and assists.
I currently have no one for the Anchor position so will need to recruit for that, which we’ll go through shortly. I have two options currently in the team for the Segundo Volante role, however, I’m not entirely confident in either as both are still developing. Mathis Lachuer isn’t as good at dribbling as I’d like and Mamadou Fofana (the younger) isn’t quite as good in a defensive capacity as I’d ideally want… However, cash is limited and I have other priorities so we’ll see how the recruitment goes.
Also at Shadow Striker, I have Angel Jose Chibozo who provided 7 goal contributions, mainly off the bench, last season. Despite this, it’s an important position and I’m not 100% confident with any of the options.
No recruitment should be needed here unless a large offer comes in.
I’ve managed to sign the following players:
As mentioned earlier, Ezequiel Bullaude has finally signed his contract and is a great young player to pick up on a free transfer. Able to play out wide or centrally he’s a good well-rounded attacking midfielder. I suspect he’ll play as the advanced playmaker.
The next pickup is a signing from fierce rivals Stade Reims. Right wingback Maxime Busi has bags of pace and stamina, meaning he should be able to bomb up and down the right flank all game long. He’s also got some nice traits. Unhappy with his playing time under Will Still, I was able to pick him up for a deal worth £900k. A definite upgrade over what I currently have in the squad.
Mathys De Carvalho is a young defensive midfielder who was let go by Lyon. He’s got good ball-winning skills and could be a useful option in a couple of seasons. Depending on how the rest of the transfer window goes, he might be my backup, Anchorman.
Did someone say, Anchorman? Well, I’ve managed to pick up who I think could be my favourite signing of the season. Aggressive, strong and tough tackling, Junior Onana will be crucial in the middle of the park. He’s signed from RC Lens for an initial £650k rising to £1.2m.
I was also forced into signing someone at the Segundo Volante position after Mamadou Fofana (Junior) demanded a move and was sold to Bournemouth for £3.5m. Luckily, I’d just been scouring the Ligue 1 squads to see who hadn’t played many games last season when I came across 22-year-old Habib Keita. Tough tackling, solid and aggressive – spotting a pattern? – he’s also very talented with the ball at his feet.
Habib will cost just £1.9 million, mostly in instalments. He, along with Onana, could be huge signing for us.
Speaking of bargains from other Ligue 1 sides, I managed to pick up a great prospect in goal. Standing at 6 feet, 5 inches, Lucas Lavallee is a 5-star potential 21-year-old who I signed from PSG for a measly £275k.
To finish off the pre-season signings I bought Manchester City right-back Issa Kabore on loan, with me paying his £10k a week wages. He’ll be backup to Busi but I expect I’ll be trying to work out a deal for him sooner or later.
Just before game 1 of the new season, a loan bid came in for Sebastian Ring from Mjalby AIF in Sweden. They’ll pay half his wages as well as paying £500k for his services, with another £400k optional fee.
Anyone who reads my Twitter (@fm_throwing) will notice I was bemoaning the fact I want to sign a player from OGC Nice who they want to sell (to the point of agreeing to terms) but the player doesn’t want to leave them as he only joined in January 2023. I’ll keep on at that player as he’d be the best signing of the bunch.
BOARD OBJECTIVES AND TACTICAL CHANGES
The board objectives for the upcoming season are the same as last season. They’re delighted with the amount of playing time given to young players. Admittedly, this has been in part due to the various injury crises, but I’m glad to be doing my bit!
Naturally, the leaky defensive performances of last season have left them reeling and, whilst I’ve signed no new central defenders, I have added two very solid defensive midfielders which will hopefully help!
They’re pleased with the possession football we were able to produce last season, however, to help increase this I’ve knocked the tempo down to standard and the passing range down to slightly lower.
The high-tempo pressing should remain the same as last season, with the added advantage of an extra player in the forward line to help out.
As for the wage budget…. I’ll do my best….