Buoyed by the news I will actually see some money come into this club, I’ve set up some recruitment foci – something I actually think is a pretty nice improvement on last year – and set about trying to upgrade the quality of this team on an absolute shoe-string budget! For reference, we have around £6k per week left over in the wages and about £30k we can splash on players but absolutely no reputation to sign anyone! My squad rules have also changed slightly as I’m now allowed to employ non-Turkish players:
I shouldn’t fall foul of any of the above rules given the reputation of ourselves to non-Turks but I may have to leave a few spaces as we really have none of our own promising youngsters.
Here are my early-window dealings – with each thumbnail clickable to take you to their profile.
Signing a player with just thirty-two minutes of competitive league action this season just feels all kinds of wrong to me but I was drawn by the fact I actually know who Gokhan is – from his time as a promising FM youngster whilst at Chelsea and then a real life loan to West Ham. Highly rated by the scouting setup who watched several non-competitive games he had played, firstly at parent club Adana Demirspor – in the top flight of Turkey – and then second tier Genclerbirigi, where he was on loan for a few months. A man with nearly 200 games of experience and who has fetched in £14m in transfer fees must be considered a snip at £5k with just £200 a week outlay on wages. Lacking Natural Fitness and Pace due to a couple of terrible injuries – I fancy using Gokhan as a bit of an old school #10, utilising the top quality Ball Control and strong Passing ability that he has. He’ll be a natural ball magnet with the Likes Ball Played Into Feet, which might be a masterstroke as it could stop long, high, aimless balls being punted from the defence and the Tries Tricks and Likes to Switch Ball will only add to our fluidity, even if the fact he Dwells on the Ball might slow our counter attacks down.
I’m basically going to ask him to turn up to matches and then use the manual rest tool to ensure that he’s not overworked during the week as I feel he could be one of those who is made of glass and I will really need to look after if I want to get any kind of prolonged performances from him.
A transfer that I’m actually excited about among this summer of annoyance and, potentially, despair. Sahverdi is from Super Lig side Ankaragucu and ex-Eintracht Frankfurt, and is probably a couple of years too old to have been considered a top prospect but I did beat a number of 1.Lig sides to his signature after spending a little bit of time watching any snippets I could have the U19 Elite League, and collating his stats – as this is still impossible to do on the main Player Search page. In nearly twenty appearances for them, as a DM, he racked up some really strong stats – 0.39 xG+xA a game as well as creating twelve clear cut chances, with six assists laid on, too. Really good at winning back possession also. To sign a pre-contract with a wage that is really affordable for us was a great stroke by the Recruitment Team after I pushed his name under their noses. They went for ‘Star Player,’ which I’d agree with even though he is relatively inexperienced but does have 17 of his 36 career appearances in the top flight of Turkish football, back in the 2020/21 season.
The kind of player who I’d normally discredit being as they’re not playing first team level but the extra leg work to get a handle on their U19 team (which, to be fair, is a better level than our first team played at last year) seems to have paid off.
Statistically, Burak is a sound signing, having amassed nearly 1,800 minutes in the tier that we are being promoted into. There is nothing that really stands out to me – his solid tackling and heading ratios as well as successful pressures tells me he’s quite good at retrieving the ball and is relatively good at using it, although he probably doesn’t venture far enough up the pitch to make use of it. When things are fully in place and I actually have a recruitment team, I hope to be able to watch video footage of performances to run the rule over players like this. Instead, I am basing some of evidence on the fact that he has 2.Bundesliga experience with Karlsruhe and is from the Dortmund academy as well as playing for two seasons in the Super Liga with Hatayspor, making twenty appearances.
An in-game analyst report alerted me to Kaya, who has played at the same level as us in this past season but has impressed me with his general physicality and work rate to get up and down the pitch. Right now, we have one left back and that one stays back a lot, but I think Kaya might have the freedom to get up and down a bit more given his Distance covered and Sprints per game
We are back in training in three days time and still have a long way to go before this even looks like a squad. I’m more than a little nervous about what is to come – feeling that I’m going to have to extract every ounce of tactical nous from myself and every ounce of ability from each of these players. It’s going to be a test – that is for sure!
Here are my stats, so far:
If I go back to FM21 and FM22 – I recall that my first jobs: Meyrin and Mashuk (must have a thing about teams starting with an ‘M’!) lasted under a year as I moved on quite quickly. At Meyrin, I won promotion and then managed to jump another league to the second tier, just midway through my second season whereas, at Mashuk, I took the Anji job as a fallen giant in the same league.
If I look at this second tier, there are a few clubs with some really good pedigree that have fallen from the Super Lig in the past few years:
I’d happily move to anyone with a better rating than ours and see where I go can from there!
A rag-tag group of incoming transfers built around some statistical work and then a lot of DoF usage, which, at this level, isn’t far off what would be realistic. “Oi, scout, find me a new left winger that can play football!” Would be the question and Alpay Kocakli might be the answer. Fresh from a, well, erm.. spell, at Sanliurfaspor, in the same league that we played in last year. His overall statistics tell me he made 18(7) appearances for a total of 1,562 minutes with two goals from 3.01 xG and three assists from 2.89 xA.
Overall, his metrics aren’t amazing, except for one…
He sits proudly in the best quadrant for progressive dribbling, for me, meaning that he dribbles and is then able to lay the ball off before being fouled. Whilst winning fouls is all well and good, Mr Grealish at Villa springs to mind, the ability to lay the ball off first is also important to me here. Not quite dynamite, but pacey enough and a decent bit of agility to him, I think that he could be a pretty solid find from the recruitment team.
Next in is Serdarcan Eralp, from Genclerbirgili, who play at the level we play at right now. With 18(14) appearances, two goals from 2.71 xG, six assists from 5.72 xA, he’s, again, nothing spectacular. However, for a team that finished in the bottom half and a player who didn’t not get many starting minutes, to be in the green quadrant again for Attacking Output is a really strong position to be in. An assist every three games, roughly, is a pretty strong metric for a player if they were playing from the start each week and that’s what he’s hitting off the bench. I look forward to seeing how he and Gokhan Tore play the AM role for us.
Ozan Oruc comes in as a player who I want to learn to develop. On loan at non-league 1922 Konyaspor, he’s somehow prevented 0.26 xG – but I know that these metrics don’t work in leagues that aren’t modelled. I’m more interested in the 76% save rate – which is good but also the fact that he’s held 23 shots put parried 75. A clear sign of an eccentric kid who needs some grounding. However, my recruitment team raved about his potential and decided that he’d be worth a gamble.
The National-2 is hardly a place where talent is developed but that is where last incoming of the moth, loanee Elhadj Bah, spent last season, on loan from Samsunspor. Six goals, from 6.41xG and no assists from 1.64xG are, again, not great but he’s experienced open age football and offers me some much needed Pace off the bench for a year. He has played at this level before, albeit briefly for Samsunspor and his wage demands are fairly comfortable.
It feels, and looks, thanks to this chart – like an old squad and is lacking anything developmental and certainly anything academy based, which is not where I want to end up. However, at this stage – to be able to have a squad of twenty-odd players who, with the right coaching and tactical nous, could stay in this division, feels a million miles better than what I saw at the end of May!
Pre-season is a time for me to put some finishing touches to our style, with, in particular, focus on our defensive play, which was terrible even as a strong team in the league.
We still have a couple of games left of pre-season as I’ve looked to go fairly intense with friendlies in order to bed in our new recruits and ensure that fitness is not another barrier, behind, possibly, ability, in order for us to get results. We warmed up with a good trio of wins against teams of lesser standing than us in the domestic game but threw a 2-0 lead away against Panionios, of the Greek second tier. Whilst I always make a full eleven changes at half time, this was a pretty poor end result for a game that we battled really hard in. There is nothing particularly tactical I felt about the concessions as I look to build on my shape and am currently at this point:
A couple of amendments to our shape from last year – with the creativity of Sahverdi Cetin, I’ve opted for a DLP rather than a DM and that may also decrease the passing length, although I still want us to go from back to front, quickly, but, ideally, through the players rather than up and over. As I cannot have an IWB with two defensive midfielders, I’ve asked the FB(s) on the left to sit a little narrower and cut inside, hopefully filling the gap vacated in transitional play. In our first friendly, you can see, roughly, the attacking shape – as we move into a 2-4-1-3 kind of position. I, ideally, want free roam for that AM between the lines and am happy that I have most vertical areas covered although there is a general lack of width on the left hand side now. With the build up here happening on the left, he is also a little further forward than he would be when we move down the right and that creates more of a 3-3-1-3 shape for us. I may tip the Pass Into Space on but that is game dependent on the opposition and whether we have full vertical corridors free, but, in the instance above, I didn’t feel it would be beneficial to us.
The main changes come in terms of out of possession shape. I’ve moved to a complete Low Block now but have increased the Defensive Line in order to really compact the shape. To make us a little harder to break down, still, I’ve told the team to Regroup when we lose the ball. I know that this may impact our ability to win the first and second ball – something I lamented last season, but, with the amount of long balls I’m seeing at this level, getting ourselves back into position is key. Not shown here, and often opposition dependent is the Trap Outside instruction – which will make our shape narrower and naturally push players out wide. We have a relatively tall defence, the sixth highest in the league and plenty of cover on the flanks – a conservative full back or a defensive minded DM. You can see in this extreme example – with Panionios chasing the game – that we are still quite narrow and compact vertically with quite a high line. Unfortunately, we offer no pressure to the centre backs, who, annoyingly, are able to ping a 60 yard pass between our lines and they finish – but that’s a rare occurrence. If it starts happening all of the time – I’ll do something about it, but, like a screamer from 25 yards, sometimes I just accept that it happens and move on!
I hope that this shape can merge defensive solidarity with direct, counter attacking football and then we can also do our thing at set pieces, which, strangely, looks a lot like what the board also want…
August has been a baptism of fire to the new league for us! Three points from nine, or 1 PPG won’t be enough, based on last season’s results, to keep us up. I know it’s early days but we have to find ways to keep a little more solid at the back, something which haunted us even as a strong team last season. My problems seem to be deeper though, with me dealing with this issue on a weekly basis:
Only Kerem Paykoc is trained at the club and a look at anyone else who is also trained at club leads to nothing, aside from Caglar Soyuncu, who I doubt would be happy to drop down to the second tier from Lyon! Looks like it will be spaces on the bench, which isn’t ideal when I can use up to five of ten subs in this division.
Eyupspor 1-0 Menemenspor
Away at a side that finished eighth last season was always going to be a tough start but we battled well, if a little naïve going forward. Star striker from last year Ali got the start but, really, was not to blame for our poor showing in front of goal. When you look at our passing stats, above (left is long, middle is medium and right is short), you can see the big issue that we have with our direct play right now – it’s just not sticking. To lose possession nearly as many times as we have completed along pass is nearly as worrying as the ease of the other passes – with 2.6% of all sideways passes being key and 2.2% of all progressive passes being key, despite the poor completion of them. These stats corroborate with what I saw – we either went long and lost it most of the time, or went short and played it around the defence. Something to think about!
Their goal was probably the fault of nobodies, although I would have liked stronger hands from the keeper. A deflected cross can go anywhere and, despite our marking not quite being as I would have wanted, there is no real need for an inquisition here. You win some and you lose some like this and I’m not too disheartened as, overall, we were defensively pretty strong.
Adanaspor 3-2 Menemenspor
An absolutely gut-wrenching defeat here. 2-0 up with fifteen left and we come away with nothing.
Bah’s goal and our threat and want to counter attack is great and something that we’ll really need to perfect at this level to be successful and we raced into a two nil lead with Alpay’s first goal for us – a shot from a corner. I don’t have a lot to say about our their first goal – we maybe should have won the first header and, because we didn’t, left their winger open to finish easily but that, again, feels like semantics and just some polishing of positioning. However, their second goal was absolutely down to some awful goalkeeper positioning and left me feeling absolutely furious. The third goal is just a complete capitulation and we just look absolutely unable to stop anything. It’s a heart-breaking moment as our attacking play as really good until then and maybe just a pass or two short of getting the final ball right and leading to a goal-scoring chance. It’s one of those where – as you can see from the line up, where I have to ease the five new faces in and get them happy and suited to my team. Play like that again and I think we’ll win just as many as we don’t!
A little experiment saw me change the role of Cetin following a race into a 2-0 lead. As DLP(s), his passing range wasn’t great and that makes me consider how important a designated playmaker is in a compact, counter attacking formation – instead maybe using a DM role with a few customised tweaks to allow him to become a kind of quarter back. Here is his pass map as DM(s), which, as I said – doesn’t show much difference and bodes well for the future, if only to stop the moves where the ball goes back to him, or stops for him – like these eighteen received passes.
At this point, we have now lost the same number of games this season already as I did in the entirety of last season. But…
Menemenspor 2-0 Genclibirigi
We’re on the board! But, arguably, our worst performance of the season to date. I guess that’s to be expected when a low block meets a 4-4-2 mid/low block with limited pressing from wide, with, probably, a similar level of playing quality. Both goals were low xG chances as our opener, Eralp’s first for the club, flew into the back of the net and we doubled our lead with a fizzing effort from Bah after a quick turnover in possession. With twenty-one unsuccessful crosses and just four key passes – down from twelve against Adanspor – it was really not the most beautiful free flowing game but we left with three points and some more confidence. Although they didn’t add anything extra today, I am quite happy with the ‘make the most of set plays’ instruction from the board, as that kind of thing will certainly help us when we face games like this.
Early season but we’re out of the drop zone and I would love it to stay that way!
Genclibirgili is the team I have my eyes on, should the opportunity arise. They’re a much bigger club in terms of infrastructure than ourselves and, despite not playing well this season, could be a club I can spend a couple of years at, building a nice base to get into the top flight with. Just look at the comparison of them on the left and us on the right:
Both keepers have played pretty poorly, if I’m honest. They aren’t up to standard and there are so many times when I’m literally shouting ‘SAVE THAT!’ at my screen!
That is more like it!
Armed with some lovely new Joma kits (see below – with thanks to the magical program of Kitbasher) we are well underway in my second season at the club. After the tough start to the season, to pick up ten points this month feels great but I know not to get carried away – the season is long, our squad is short of depth and teams will become wise to how I set up against them.
Caykur Rizespor 1-1 Menemenspor
The low block working it’s magic again!
Caykur are in just their second season at this level after a period of yo-yoing between here and the top tier and are predicted to be near the top of the league this season. I also noted that they lie fourth in final third passes for and top in final third passes against as well as having a huge 70% of the ball this season. I knew that our job would be to just allow them to have the ball but a long way from our goal. Looking at the left hand side pass info – you can see that 405 of their 629 passes were in their half, which equates to around two thirds, whereas ours – a measly 86, equates to around half. Our compact shape made it hard for their forwards to find space – completely less than 100 – 14% – of the team’s total passes. We went behind thanks a ball through the channels where, maybe, if my DM had been picking up the runners instead of shielding space, we’d have been better off but I’m not too disappointed at our overall shape. The equaliser was a nicely worked move finished by Ekrem in a pretty rare foray into their area.
There are many positives to take from this and I really feel like we’re starting to do the best we can with the squad that we have.
Menemenspor 3-1 Pendikspor
A strong win against league leading Pendikspor!
I know it’s early in the campaign but this turn of form, especially after the results last month, is a fantastic thing to witness, and, you have to argue to that our performance warranted this. One thing we need to get better at – though – is the great compact shape, with no pressure, then turning into a through ball and causing us all kinds of problems. Our first goal was fortunate – a defensive error that we have been on the end of so many times before has finally came out as a positive for us. However, again, we were immediately pegged back, before I had chance to change the shape, talk to the players or anything. There is clearly a lack of Determination and Concentration within the team to deal with, literally anything, when we are fresh off the elation of scoring. We did go ahead, thanks to a strong header before a near post header sealed the win for us. It would have been more emphatic still if Bah hadn’t missed a penalty to seal his hattrick.
More great stuff as we climb the table again.
Tuzlaspor 0-2 Menemenspor
An easier game on paper but one that we deserved to win never the less.
We opened from the penalty spot before Ekrem scored to put us out of sight. I am still growing into the low block/high line business but it’s clear that it’s working in terms of how we stand off opponents, allowing them a league high of 4.10 passes between each of our defensive actions. Once again, a very happy manager!
Menemenspor 2-0 Giresunspor
Five unbeaten now and we’re really getting into our groove.
However, I must make comment about our playing style, of late. I don’t want us to be a long ball team but, at this level, with this quality of player, we will sometimes look like one. That was true when we came close thanks to a ball through the channels and a lovely round of the keeper from Bah. It’s not the long ball style that’s the biggest difference in terms of my desired play, it’s the change that I’m seeing in terms of my own tactical preferences from my save last year. I really like to overload the middle and use strong, all round 8’s to dominate and score goals – but, obviously, here I’m playing with two 6’s and a 10. I’m finding the 10, usually Serdecan, to play well but still not be able to get into goalscoring positions as much as I would want him to.
This shape also sees me have, essentially, a fluid front four (perfect) but a four that are so far ahead of the play that there is usually little time for anyone to get forward and into the box (less than perfect when looking for numerical overloads). It’s potentially, a little silly to change things whilst we are winning but it’s worth considering that eight goals have come from crosses in the last ten games but our cross completion is a mere 18%:
We’ve scored eight times from the twenty seven we have completed (29%) but we’ve actually scored eight from the 150 we have attempted (5.3%). For me – through balls are and counter attacks are the perfect combination (on the eye, as the manager) and that’s something that I will need to look to address, tactically, despite our good form right now.
Very much moving in the right direction here with the top scorer in the league. I’ve got one eye out for any job availability and, to strengthen that case, have started a coaching course. Overall, my first thirty-four games in management, at Menemenspor, have gone pretty well!
Altinordu 1-0 Menemenspor
The unbeaten streak has ended, but we have gone down in a game where nine times out of ten, we’d have won.
I decided to trial Serdecen as an AM and you can see his pass map left as CM(a) and pass map right as AM(s) – not hugely different. When also comparing the heat map – last game (left) against four previous games – you can see that it’s pulled the team together a little more, which, hopefully, will ease the way that we can counter attack
But then this happened…
I’ve made a brave decision, putting all my eggs into one basket – removing any compensation issues and the distraction of managing a club I may soon be leaving. Fingers crossed that this actually works!