What a week! I’ve spent it skinning and not playing, but the hours with the game open all count on the journey I want to make as an FM manager. I’ve managed to create a panel that shows attributes as a total bar for each training area, superimposed on the statistical analysis for like areas – Ball Control attributes compared to Dribbling outcomes, for example – and that looks like this. It’s a pleasure to see just how much Carström is outperforming his attributes but will always make me wary that a dip may well be around the corner, or, hopefully – I can maintain this and prove that I can make players better.
Never the less, in game we’ve made some lovely progress – starting with a pre-season built around the teachings of Mr @danielgear:
Three cups, all with ridiculous non-accurate naming systems but a way that we have five training days and two performance days across a week, with plenty of rotation between the squads on successive match days. What has surprised me, hugely, is that we were able to take apart mid-table top tier Norwegian side Sarpsborg 08 as well as beat 5th place Allsvenksan side Djurgardens on penalties, despite a late-game collapse from 2-0 up.
Tactically, I feel that we’re in a really good place and the work put in upon takeover has really helped. I know we have a strong squad for this level and, whilst we haven’t changed or strengthened the team as much as I both wanted and expected to have to, I feel that we are in a really positive place for the season ahead with a thought that I’ve been able to, pretty much across the board, out-think the AI managers.
Full match reports can be seen by clicking on each thumbnail.
The Svenska Cup plays as a bit of an off-season prep for most teams, coming in February and March before the actual season kicks off. With no Swedish teams making the latter stages of the European competitions, I felt that it was a bit of a free hit – making sure we were physically able to compete against better footballing teams by being ready and sharp.
We opened up with a strong win against relegated top tier side Varbergs, but found some nice joy in a deviation from our standard 3-box-3 shape. The change that I talked about in the pre-season report, using the aggressive Martinsson as a replacement for the more defensive-minded Forsberg made all the different. Salou became a HB(d) as opposed to a DM(s), allowing the right back slot to move from an IFB(d) to a WB(a). The shape starts as a 3-3-4 but becomes far more aggressive and actually allowed Martinsson to crash the box and score as we put the game to bed. As a season opener, this was great: 2.91xG to 0.51xGA but this control was reiterated by individual performances:
- Navik: 1 goal, 0.66xG, 1 assist, 0.21xA, 1 clear cut chance, 2 key passes
- Mattsson – 8 dribbles
- Carström – 0.9xGA
- Salaou – 15 progressive passes and 2 assists
With nothing to lose against AIK, we went for it and actually felt really strongly placed to create a big upset. We were under the cosh a little bit less than the graph probably suggests but looked good value and, leaving with a point felt like a real step forward for us. Eskilstuna were relegated from our level last year and we made light work of them, creating a whopping 4.01xG with three clear cut chances. With AIK failing to beat Varbergs, our place in the next round was secured.
We were pitted against Malmö – arguably one of the toughest ties to face but also had a little extra to it. Ole Gunnar Solskjær had been in charge of Sarpsborg when we battered then in pre-season but had now moved to Swedish to take over the reigns and, clearly, wanted to avoid another beating at my hands. The comparison of the teams gave little away in terms of their style aside from their defenders were not likely to be too advanced. My game plan was to give them the ball in their defensive half but restrict them from anything other than long balls over the top: not the smartest idea with a relatively slow defence but a calculated risk given the potency of their attack in and around the box. Overall, it worked really quite well. They nearly had three quarters of the ball and nearly quadrupled our xG total but – overall – they weren’t that much better than us and we certainly did ourselves proud.
Full match reports can be seen by clicking on each thumbnail.
The season started with a highly entertaining derby against Östersunds – we had enough chances to win it ourselves but, to be fair, so did they. I made a slight tactical error against their 4-4-2, using Martinsson as the aggressive wing back and Salaou as a HB(d) – this compromised our midfield structure and left Pichkah alone in the DM area, creating a triangle more than a box and removing the superiority we would normally enjoy against two centre mids. We had the best of the play against Sandvikens but need to be really careful against defensive corners, as seen by a dangerous spell of about five minutes when the game could have changed. Skövde posed little threat and we had a chance to play with the set piece creator ourselves. Without anything in the way of attacking corner threat and a first contact chart that – maybe (I think) – suggest we only make the first contact less than a quarter of the time and it’s always at the back post, I’ve gone for a short routine that looks to draw players out; the only drawback so far has been the offsides for the corner taker. We came from behind against GAIS, with Navik netting a screamer before our work on corners paid off and Matsson took advantage of something I’ve never seen before: a counter following their keeper going up for a corner. The youngster rolled the ball into the net, to score from 35 yards out as we recovered really well from two goals before half time. Ever the perfectionist, I told the team to remain focused and dropped the risk level to Cautious, which made youngster Alvarez Perez anxious; it was then him, both times, who failed to cut out balls leading to their two goals. I can’t get a lot from his Balanced/Media friendly persona but this is one to watch! Our unbeaten league form was ended by Örebro as a soft penalty was converted and we looked a little toothless going forward but our recovery against Trelleborgs was strong. Carstrom netted the goal of the game and I’ve noticed that this is becoming a far more regular pattern for us – a slower and more controlled build up before a change of pace and a clinical entrance to the final third. In fact, our team stats show us as the highest average possession in the league:
Digging a little deeper into this – the highest pass attempters, per 90 mins, are the layers that occupy the two defensive midfield spots, the right back spot and the two centre backs. It feels that, even without asking them to play out of defence, that our possession is coming at the base of the box, with strikers Damus and Engblom both recording less than 22 passes attempted per game with only the keeper Jonson stopping the rest of the bottom six being my three attacking mids and the strikers. I am, overall, fine with this but it’s something to consider, especially against teams who will set out to make this happen by defending really deep and not engaging with our initial build up.
Our early season form has seen us rise to second place in the league and I am feeling pretty confident about building on this and forming something that resembles a promotion push. Our strong form has been built around the performances of my three attacking midfielders:
Three young homegrown talents, of which you can see full profiles by clicking on their thumbnail. As I mentioned in the intro part of this post, their attributes are now plotted against their statistical outputs and it’s great to see that they are all performing really well compared to what may be expected of them. All three are excelling in ball progression, carrying the ball forward and completing a high number of sprints. Navik and Carstrom are the two creators within the team, either will through balls or crosses and Bengtsson, as he fully returns from injury and adapts to his new role, is second in command to lead the line from his IF(a) role. Carstrom, for me, is the revelation as last season he made 7(17) appearances as he was second to Durmaz, the loanee we had.
Lets hope that they can keep it up!