I don’t generally write season reviews anymore, mostly because I prefer to talk about my save in regards to game mechanics or approaches I’m taking. However, as I’ve just finished the first season and my next couple of posts require a bit of preparation, I felt it was a good time to give a little bit of insight into the save, as besides a few posts on Twitter (I can’t get on board with X) I haven’t really said anything so far.

Tactics

I may do a full post on my tactics soon, now that I feel the side are fairly familiar with them. The idea was to create a basic shape and then build a game model around it, using the three tactic slots to adjust the instructions and possibly roles to suit different game states. It’s kind of worked out that way, although I only really use two and it feels a bit like a home and away set up, but the building blocks are in place.

This is our primary shape, and it very rarely changes, bar moving to a 4-2-4 by throwing an extra striker on if we’re chasing a game. The roles will occasionally change based on personnel, with the most common changes being in wide areas – depending on who is playing we occasionally use an Inside Forward on the left and switch the winger to the right. We will also sometimes use a more conservative role instead of the Segundo Volante, but this is only out of necessity as we lack quality at DM and so if our starters are unavailable I’d prefer our current replacements to just focus on providing defensive stability.

Approach One – Positive Mentality

In Possession – Shorter Passing, Work Ball into Box, Underlap Right, Slightly Lower Tempo, Fairly Wide
In Transition – Counter, Counter-Press
Out of Possession – High Press, Press More Often

This is the primary approach, and the way I start every home game and away games that I deem to be the most winnable. The idea is to have the lion’s share of possession in order to control the game. We do this by pressing high and hard, and then by being patient and measured in our approach once we have the ball. By asking both the left-back and Segundo Volante to join the attack we commit 6 players going forward in an attempt to overload the opposition back line, while the IFB tucks in to give us a back three plus the BWM in front to protect the transition should we lose the ball.

Approach Two – Balanced Mentality

In Possession – Pass Into Space, Underlap Right, Slightly Higher Tempo
In Transition – Counter, Regroup
Out of Possession – Mid Block, Press More Often

This is our approach for the majority of away games, and occasionally home games where teams may be able to retain the ball better than we can. As teams are generally more confident playing at home and may come out of their shell a bit more, I’m willing to sacrifice ball share to increase our threat in transitions. I still want to commit the 6 men going forwards to overwhelm sides who also like to throw bodies forward, this isn’t without its risks but I think the pros outweigh the cons and therefore it’s a risk I’m comfortable taking and it can always be tweaked in games where sides are taking advantage repeatedly. In an effort to help with this though we do ask the side to regroup when we lose the ball rather than counter-pressing. Against sides more willing to attack us, counter-pressing with 6 men forward would give the opposition far too many chances to attack us if they manage to beat our press, so we temper this slightly to maintain some balance. The Mid Block is a bit more situational, against a side with slow attackers we would probably maintain the high press, but as we don’t have an exceptionally quick backline ourselves I just want us to be slightly more careful away from home.

League Performance

With a media prediction of 13th at the start of the season but a board aim of reaching the play-offs, my signals were mixed at the start of the season. Personally I felt that the play-offs were an achievable target, based partly on Verdy’s real life performance (in real life Tokyo Verdy have won promotion to J1 via the play-offs) and based partly on sheer arrogance!

In the end we exceeded everybody’s expectations and secured automatic promotion, a godsend considering my awful play-off record over the years! A margin of 4 points is actually slightly flattering as Machida Zelvia lost their final game while we won, but our superior goal difference meant that we went into the last game of the season with promotion all but assured anyway. We really stepped it up in the second half of the season, especially defensively (16 conceded in 21 games compared to 33 conceded in the first 21), and an unbelievable 12 game unbeaten run from mid-June to the end of August took us from the lower play-off places to pole position for automatic promotion.

Sadly a title challenge was never on the cards, despite topping the table for a couple of gameweeks early in the season, as Shimizu S-Pulse were just a world away from any other team in the division. They went top of the table in gameweek 16 and never looked back, amassing an incredible 102 points. At the time of writing, we don’t know who the third team going up will be as the play-offs have not taken place. Personally, my money is on Machida Zelvia, but I guess time will tell…

Cup Performance

With only one cup competition to play in this season, the Emperor’s Cup, I felt it was important to try and make an impact. The board expectation was to ‘be competitive’ which gave me the sense that not much was expected of us.

We went on a great run, defeating fellow J2 side V-Varen Nagasaki in a 4-3 thriller before going on the road twice to defeat J1 sides Kyoto Sanga and Kashima Antlers. Our luck ran out unfortunately, with a quarter-final defeat to a third J1 side in Hokkaido Sapporo, who have gone on to reach the final. We gave them one hell of a run though, before cruelly falling to a 5-4 defeat thanks to an own-goal in the last minute of extra time. Heartbreak.

Transfers

As mentioned in ‘Before we Begin’, I started this save on the Real World game mode and with the first transfer window turned off. The plan was to not do any transfer business at all in season one, and instead spend the year scouting and shortlisting players ready for my data driven recruitment approach (more on this in a later post). This plan took a hit however, when I found that four players had agreed deals to leave the club, three of whom were some of our best attacking talents. Koken Kato, Toyofumi Sakano, Vazquez Byron, and most painfully Mario Engels – who scored 20 goals in 22 appearances before his departure – left major gaps in our squad. It did, however, free up some wage budget and so we took a few gambles on some free transfers to fill some gaps and bring some much needed fire-power. 

Ken KrolickiDM, 16(1) apps, 5 goals, 3 assists, 7.12 avg rating. 

Ken was brought in to provide depth and competition for Koki Morita in the Segundo Volante role, and ended up securing himself a place in the starting eleven. Koki is a home-grown player and performed admirably in the first half of the season, but he has a lot of limitations and Ken simply brings more talent to the role. 

Renan FonsecaCB, 16 apps, 2 goals, 1 assist, 7.04 avg rating.

Depth at centre-back wasn’t an option, but quality depth was. Kaito Chida and Hiroto Taniguchi had built a decent partnership, but with third centre-back Kohei Yamakoshi playing exclusively as an Inverted Full-Back, beyond them we only had club captain Tomohiro Taira (subject of an awful blog post from me back on Football Manager 2019 and far past his prime) and Naoki Hayashi who never really felt secure. Renan came in and settled almost immediately, bringing a safe yet progressive passing style to the defence that we hadn’t seen previously. 

Stanley OhawuchiST, 4(10) apps, 1 goal, 0 assists, 6.61 avg rating.

Stanley is a real dud. We brought him in on trial with a view to him being the Mario Engels replacement, with the thought that his strong pace, agility and off the ball should get him in behind on a regular basis and the goals would surely flow. This turned out to not be the case at all, as not only was Stanley not scoring goals, he was barely taking any shots, and by the end of the season his only role was to come on as a late sub out wide to dribble at tired full-backs. I’d like to move him on in pre-season if I can, but I fear we’re stuck with him for another year until his contract expires.

Michel DouglasST, 16 apps, 14 goals, 2 assists, 7.33 avg rating.

Luckily, for every Stanley, there is also a Michel. Only brought in as I felt we were one light, Michel is more well-rounded than Stanley but I felt he would be slightly less threatening. How wrong I was. His debut was the cup game against Kashima Antlers, where he scored a hat-trick, and from there he continued to excel, providing the goals that we needed to secure promotion. He’s 31, so isn’t going to improve, but I believe he’s more than good enough to make the jump to J1 and his goals will be crucial to keeping us up.

The approach to transfers next season will be vastly different, with £5million to spend, data to analyse, and new registration rules to follow. I’ve managed to tie down all of my club homegrown players to new contracts, a crucial move this early in the save, but they are backups for the most part so some careful planning will be needed. 

Youth Intake

I said in ‘Before we Begin’ that youth intakes would be crucial, as the need for a quota of club homegrown players in the matchday squad must be met. As mentioned above, our current crop aren’t good enough to be first-team regulars, so some new talent will always be welcome. Luckily our first intake has been fruitful, with 5 players signed to youth deals, and decisions yet to be made on a few more. 

Hayato Miyazaki (GK) and Norikazu Okubo (CB) are the best prospects according to my Assistant Manager, shortly followed by Shuichiro Mugikura who has been immediately set to retrain as a left-back, rather than a left-midfielder. Soya Kurusu (CB) and Junma Nishihata (AM R, ST) have also shown enough potential to be offered deals. 

On the brink are Tomokazu Abe (AM RLC), Masatoshi Sasaki (AM R) and Shinpei Tanaka (M RLC) who could potentially one day be good enough to be squad players at our current level. However, all being well our level will be far higher by the time these guys develop. 

The ‘Danny Birchall’ List

To round off this post, it’s story time. 

My most successful (but definitely least interesting) Football Manager save ever was all the way back in 2011. I managed Manchester United, the club I support, for about 30 seasons and repeatedly rebuilt the squad winning countless Premier League and Champions League titles in the process. 

Danny Birchall was a huge part of my success. A right-back that came through the youth academy, he was literally my very own Gary Neville and captained the side for at least 12 of those glorious years. Years after the save had finished, I found the save file and decided to boot it up for a healthy dose of nostalgia, and upon looking back at my beloved Danny Birchall… discovered he was garbage! Star ratings weren’t so front and centre back then, and clearly my ability to assess players was awful back then, he was genuinely Championship level at best based on his attributes. That’s the beauty though, he was still integral and always performed; I never once looked to replace him with a better player because I never felt he was a weak link in the side.

The situation now is slightly different of course, because I could see the attributes back then and just misjudged the player, but as a tribute I present the ‘Danny Birchall’ list, where throughout the save I will pick out some players that have been important and/or interesting, and at the end of the save I will switch to a numerical skin and take a look back at those players to see how their attributes stack up to the impact they made. 

My first two inductees are pretty simple to decide, they would be my picks for Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year. 

Hikaru NakaharaAMR, 43(2) apps, 10 goals, 27 assists, 7.37 avg rating.

Hikaru Nakahara has been absolutely unreal this season, playing predominantly off the right hand side as the Inverted Winger. An incredible 37 goal contributions in 45 games puts him as far and away our biggest threat, and it soon became obvious that securing a new contract for him should be priority number one. He’s here until the end of 2025 and will be a key player for us once again next season I’m sure.

Hidemasa KodaAMC, 25(15) apps, 10 goals, 7 assists, 7.16 avg rating.

Hidemasa Koda was identified early on as the biggest talent at the club, but I feared he would find it difficult to earn opportunities as he was behind the likes of Nakahara and Kosuke Saito in the pecking order. A strong pre-season confirmed his talent and put him firmly on the radar, and he went from strength to strength as the season progressed, benefitting massively from the departure of Vazquez Byron which meant that Saito was now playing mostly off the left and Hidemasu could make the number 10 role his own. With Saito attracting interest from giants Sanfreece Hiroshima and Yokohama F. Marinos it’s likely that Koda will become the established first choice next year, and with a step up to J1 hopefully can kick on and fulfil his evident potential.

So with season one over and very successful, it’s time to kick on and establish ourselves as a J1 side. Our recruitment will be crucial to that project, so it’s time to break out the data and see what we can achieve! Until next time…

Author

  • adam_otbfm

    Adam, known in the Football Manager (FM) realm as @adam_otbfm, is a fervent gamer and content creator. With a penchant for football simulations, Adam delves into the intricacies of FM, sharing his findings on his blog "On the Break." His creative ventures include replicating football legends like Kaka in the virtual pitch, showcasing a blend of nostalgia and modern gameplay. Adam's musings extend to social platforms like Twitter, where he actively engages with the FM community, sharing his gaming journey with @SJK_Seinajoki. His insightful content and avid participation enrich the FM community, making him a valued member in this virtual football world.

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1 thought on “Tokyo Verdy – Season One Summary

  1. What a fantastic idea integrating the Burchill list. Any real FM player loves a trip down memory lane.

    Congrats on promotion too! Looking forward to your recruitment approach.

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