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Well, where do I start?!

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CHAMPIONS!

Three months of games since the last update but we are over the line, just. Our form was incredible, with the only blip – really – coming in an abject performance away at Osters, where we couldn’t manage a shot on target across the entire ninety minutes. With two games to go, we could have secured the title but fell to a defeat away at Varnamo, which did worry me somewhat. Against Jonkopings, I knew I had to match the result of our title rivals, who, themselves, were facing our own rivals in Ostersunds. There was a palpable release when our bitterest rivals took the lead midway into the first half and a genuine, real life, fist pump when Fofana nodded in just after the hour. In the end, two more goals – one for Varnamo and one for Jonkopings – didn’t spoil the affair and we were crowned champions and promoted back to the top tier!

At face value, we shouldn’t be getting too carried away with the league performance, if I’m being totally honest. Whilst three defeats – 100% better than the next best side – is great as is having the best defence and the best offence, eleven draws shows that we were, more often than not, unable to put a game to bed. This is particularly a worry with our away record – 5-7-3 with a total of 22 points accrued – which is around 60% of our home points. What is more, forty-two home goals to twenty-four away goals feels like something I should be checking in with, particularly as we favour a counter attacking style where possible and would, therefore, expect more opportunities to do so against attacking home sides. I know that the challenge from the top flight will be significantly harder than what we’ve faced here but I back our tactical identity and, given that is is still very much defence first, don’t feel that I really need to change much unless personnel dictates that to me. Therefore, I can quite easily dig into the stats, knowing where I want to see improvements – again, from either recruitment or player development – for next term.

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I haven’t done my research into this but I feel that, as the top team in the league, we should also be the best team in the league. I wonder how many clubs have got promoted without being in the higher percentiles for team stats – particularly those involving build up and scoring outputs. I am delighted to see that our Clearances, Blocks and Tackles are below the league average – part down to the lack of defending but then also part down to the hard hours we’ve grafted to create a strong shape and a drilled backline, who prioritise interceptions and create unforced errors as opposed to directly engaging with the opposition, as also seen by own low fouls committed total. Offensively, we are in a really strong position across most areas – as you’d expect from the top scorers. We do, sometimes, allow ourselves to become a bit rash with shooting – pulling the trigger whenever we get sight of the goal because of the speed and directness of our transition combined with our excellent dribbling outputs but I think that there is scope to investigate the ‘fouled/game’ metric: we have aggressive, fast, direct wingers and I really think that a little bit more risk in taking the man on may lead to some extra opportunities, of which I’m able to dig into some nice new metrics for:

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Around mid-season, I changed our corner setup to mainly use short corners, but kept the man there for the less often used inswinger, hoping to pull another man out and allow ourselves the best possible opportunities. It’s clear that we’re not bad aerially because we are pretty dominant defensively, losing only 16% of far post headers and 23% of near. There  is clearly a concern in the central area – with Jonsson’s (lack of) command – as we win 77% there but opponents, as an average, win 92% of theirs. Despite the red areas in our first contacts, we have still scored a good amount of goals from set pieces – 7 from corners (9 behind Orebro), 1 direct free kick (1 behind best teams) and 3 from a result of a free kick (4 less than Atvidaberg). At the other end, we’ve conceded five from corners (7 less than Sandvikens), none from freekicks or results of free kicks – which is eight behind Osters. I think, with a stronger set piece taker, I can make some further inroads here, especially as our chances in open play may be somewhat reduced.

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It is that open play that I’m also interesting in digging into. We play quite a dangerous game with the highest line (but, importantly, not an intentional high block) and put little pressure on the ball – asking the less skilled defenders to thread a ball through a bank of two fours or over the top. We do that well although we are, clearly, leaking through some times as you can see by so many defensive actions being a bit last gasp – although, given the amount of xA from set pieces that we concede per game – I envisage that a good chunk of that comes from corners. I really like that we gain possession quite high up, showing that the block that we create – pulling the wingers back – is effective. Our use of ‘counter’ in the transition stage might change the correlation between possession gains and pass attempts but it is clear to see where our very two-paced transition switches from passes around the defenders to aggressive dribbling.

Our overall player stats show some absolutely fantastic performances, but I want to dig into how they look positionally, ensuring the the squad are, on the whole, performing well in their roles.

GOALKEEPING

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When looking at the types of goals conceded, it adds weight to the fact that Jonsson maybe doesn’t command his goal as he possibly should be. Lots of goals come in close – inside the six yard box – and I do think he should be doing better there and, when you look Jonsson’ save types, you’ll see that his hold to parry ratio is nearly 1:1 – again a worry. Overall, his saves vs expected saves is great and his passing outputs are, as you’d expect for a league that isn’t really going to be built around sweeper keepers, strong. Yet my thoughts still remain that he may be a player who could be upgraded on. I’d be – almost certainly – looking for someone bigger than his 6’1″ frame, not overly reliant on one foot and with strong Handling.

DEFENDING

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Once again, all of my defenders are efficient in that they don’t have to deal with too many blocks, clearances or tackles – although the tackles attempted scatter shows a significant increase for the wide defenders. This amount of tackles surely is linked with both us trying to full wide men out to stop crosses and then also because teams often favoured a wing play style against us. However, maybe the funneling wide wasn’t always necessary as our heading outputs show that those who require strong heading performances, have it.  With a central block of four as well as two full backs, I do feel that I need to explore pushing players inside a little more often. Looking for weak areas, based on where our goals were conceded from, I must note that Forsberg’s defensive tackling was poor across the season from right back. Looking at the attribute/stat comparison that I made, I’d actually say he’s underperformed his attributes in the Positioning area (which includes tackling), although Tackling is the weakest of those three attributes and this directly correlates with the opponent’s assist locations. He’s a good young player but, maybe, hasn’t quite kicked on like the others – one to watch next year. Going forward, I’m delighted with the strong passers that we are in that aforementioned two-paced build up. The next job is a centre back who can stop play, bait a press and allow us to increase the build up speed a little closer to our goal, whilst utilising a bit more directness further forward.

MIDFIELD
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The midfielders in the team have been fantastic and, looking at our assist locations, you’ll see that Zone 14 has been really well utilised, particularly with Ludvig Navik and his twenty-four goal contributions this season. My only mid season signing saw Yaya Fofana join and looking at the passes vs assists, you can see the nice change from Pichkah to Fofana in this role. However, annoyingly for Pichkah, his season output had reset for some reason to show only 5(3) games played as a BWM(s). Never the less, his performances were really strong and his progressive passing, when in that ball winning role – as the replacement for Salaou – was really strong.  The physical output for all four midfielders was great, but, being picky – I see the VOL(a) role as an attacking midfielder and, as such, I’d like to see more dribbles from Yaya – hence a move to the Runs with ball through centre trait. Our scoring record (again, skewed by Pichkah) was sublime and Navik’s creativity has been wonderful to watch as he plays like a real old-fashioned #10.

ATTACK

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I’ve been gifted the ultimate attacking duo in Engblom and Mattson as, when looking at shooting efficiency, both strikers top right in the often/clinical area. We play to our strengths – using Engblom’s aerial ability and Mattson’s ability to demonstrate close dribbling skill. I also love that our scoring output is good across several players and our goal types are different enough to demonstrate the wider ability we have within the attacking area. The wingers are tricky and dribble towards the byline before crossing or shooting – which is pretty much ideal in the style that I want to play although, as expected at this level, the player’s offensive output shows that they are either a finisher or a creator, not both. My goal for next season would, ideally, be to develop or find someone who can bridge that gap. I would also like to develop players that can draw fouls, either through traits or high flair.

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With that in mind, I want to start the process of shaping my squad. Regardless of how long I will or how long I intend to spend here at Sundsvall, I want to create a brand of football that comes through attributes and through playing styles. Although the players are going on holiday in a matter of days, I still want to set them up on their schedules and get traits in and underway. I have read many ‘recommendations’ not to teach traits to under 18s as this is optimal development time – see it from the other side that this may mean traits are learnt quicker and have come to these conclusions based on a few areas:

  • Positional ability
  • Tactical identity
  • Sell on ability

With those three – I could choose a role that benefits the player’s position, such as asking a winger to stay wide or an inverted player to cut in, with the tactical identity, you can see that I’m using the Stops Play as part of my plan to bait a press and, in terms of sell on ability, I know that a winger who can utilise his pace (but maybe lack an end product) may become more fancied if he just knocks the ball past his opponent – although these traits are not just for that, as you can see from above. It also gives me a chance to introduce my top youth players from the intake: Alexander RosenbergDejan BegovicAlexander LundinAlfred NilssonMarcelo Svensson and Mattias Otherus will all be nurtured, receive first team minutes where appropriate and hopefully continue the tradition of what is already well underway with the club’s academy.

I’m under no illusions about the difficulty of the summer: no homework has been done as the reputation changes from promotions make it almost impossible to create a target market and we are also certainly not too well off and I’ve been given a €20k to see me into the new season. However, I do have hope within the squad we have and feel that, if I continue to give players opportunities to get better, then we’ll be ok

Author

  • Ben

    Ben has been a long time contributor to the FM community previously on The Dugout and the SI Forums. He is known for his great in-depth tactical analysis and an increasing level of understanding of data led recruitment. His FM saves are always in-depth and he delivers both his knowledge of the game and great storytelling including a talent for squad building, progressing youth players and finding diamonds in the rough. His saves are really popular within the blogging community. He is also the creator of the popular skin “Statman”

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