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The end of the season is upon me and, to be fair, it kind of fizzled out into nothingness but our performances in the first half vs second half of the season show that we are still, very much, a team on the rise. As you can see from the recent matches below, we’ve found winning hard but – with just one league defeat in fifteen and the second best defence in that time – things are slowly and surely progressing in the manner that I want them to. The bonus, though, was the youth intake, with an absolute diamond in Oscar Johansson coming through. The youngster has already gone on to make his first team debut for the club and becomes, potentially, another jewel in the crown of this academy that has already produced me first team players Filip Aberg and Patrik Palsson as well as up and coming stars Begovic, Svensson, Rosenberg and Torstensson.

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As you can imagine, watching these games hasn’t always been the most exciting and late goals, missed chances and silly errors have been infuriating at times but we’re getting there. We still absolutely lack a goalscorer, as seen by our measly five goals in the last eight games, with only one of those coming from a striker and, the last goal of the season, in injury time, securing our eighth place finish, coming from the backup full back – Andersson – who is leaving the club. If I wasn’t so settled, I’d absolutely be looking at a repair job with Brommapojkarna, a team who embody my style of player development and, actually, have the record for the most youth clubs in all of Europe – with something like 300 of them. In game, this is modelled by a ridiculous number of promising youngsters and a huge number of ex-players plying their trade across Europe. They have, sadly, sacked Olof Mellberg, so – unfortunately for them – I now completely disagree with their principles. How could they do that to such a man?! Two other big sides – Ogryte and Halmstads – have gone down too with the other promoted side, Varnamo, just about staying up. At the top, Elfsborg won their first title in thirteen years, at a canter, too, improving from their runner up slot last year. Hammarby, on the other hand, have had a shocker and were miles off retaining their title. It does feel that there are five or six really good teams at this level with Goteborg and below all vying to be the best of the rest. This label is actually something that the board want us to achieve in the next couple of years so, hopefully, this season won’t lead into that difficult second season!

This time of the year is the one where I put even more consideration into squad building, so I’ve – initially – delved into a chart I’ve used before and I’ve recently seen used really well by @MattyLewis11 – the age vs minutes comparison scatter:

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My three mid-season signings (Emil Forsberg, Roger Lofber and Saidou Bah) aside, there is a huge gulf in minutes played this season with barely any rotational options – just a first team and some backups. This is not going to work in the longer term if we really want to continue our upward trajectory. However, the number of players with serious amounts of minutes who sit underneath the median age is brilliant; I can build around Fofana, Aberg, Palsson, Navik, Forsberg and Kusu and, hopefully, in the years to come, they will continue to grow, develop and push us further on. However, that does come with its downfalls too – Forsberg, Lundgren, Gracia and Blomqvist are all above thirty but, looking forward, none of the experienced heads, Emil aside, are actually going to be guaranteed first team football – with the ending of Gracia’s loan and Lundgren’s departure at the end of his contract. Whilst youth development is – always – at the forefront of how I play, there needs to be a consideration that experienced heads need to enter this team, too: and not just as backup players.

With that, it also gives me a nice opportunity to reflect on my transfer plans. This is what I wrote last off-season:

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Immediate:

  • Goalkeeper: I talked about Jonsson’s lack of command in the centre of his goal so ideally wanted a bigger, more commanding keeper with better reflexes than my current number one.
  • Left winger: I wanted a flair player who was able to progress the ball into dangerous areas, either to shoot or lay off to a team mate and one who may also draw us fouls in dangerous areas.
  • Defensive midfielder: A man who could step into Salaou’s shoes and win the ball back before progressing it.
  • Centre back: A man who could step into Perez’s shoes and complete all defensive duties but also be able to help us play out from the back.

6-12 months:

  • Striker: With Damus and Mattson both untested at this level and Engblom no longer at the club, I could easily find myself lacking an actual goalscorer. I want to trust them but I need to be busy creating a list of alternatives for when, or if, the time and price is right.
  • Centre Back: Captain Blomqvist is getting no younger and his lack of passing ability may grow to hamper us at a higher level. I’ll be on the look out for right footed centre backs, or, should my left footed centre back search not be fruitful, continue that one.
  • Left Back: With Team Leader Olsson not interested in renewing, I’m left with converted midfielder Andersson in this role. He could be great but he showed last year that he might not be. One certainly to watch.

12-18 months:

  • Right Back: Forsberg was, on paper, the weakest performer and is tasked with quite a tough job in the IFB role. I want to tie him down a bit longer as he develops but do have some reservations.

Johansson came in and has performed really well – although I still have my reservations about his handling ability, given that the number of shots parried to held ratio is considerably different to what I had with Jonsson last season. Tankovic and Forsberg have been decent additions to the left wing slot but Gracia and, to some extent, Frej have been disappointments in the centre back area. I jumped a little earlier than planned to bring in Bah and I think, overall, he’s settled well – it’ll be just up to him how he pushes on next year. However, the shopping list that included both full backs will probably be amended as both Aberg and Forsberg have made it into my top four players, as seen below:

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Both full backs operate very differently, with an inverted wing back and an inverted full back but I am equally happy with their performances and how both have grown into key members of the first team. Navik has been rejuvenated following the move to the 433 shape, excelling in the CM(a) role after finding space tough to come by as an AM(s) in the 4231 shape. He’s ended with thirteen goal contribution this season, a team high, and is still developing into a really strong 8/10 hybrid. Palsson’s directness embodies our style in attack and – with twelve goal contributions – he’s contributed everywhere, leading the average rating for those with over five hundred minutes played. However, to improve this club, I need to consider where we sit as a team. The easiest way to do that is to draw up some positional comparison with the remainder of the league. Whilst my metric bars and the pizza charts, above, compare against the top leagues in the world – the Allsvenskan isn’t one of those and, as such, I may be missing a trick by not seeing where the strengths and weakness of the teams that we face weekly are.

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For context, this chart compares any players in the Allsvenskan who are natural in the above roles and have played over 1000 minutes this season. For my own team, it is those who have played in these roles and have amassed over 500 minutes (given my issues with comparative data having no rotational options).

I’m quite surprised to see that my strikers have performed so well against the rest of the league, considering that I didn’t have anyone reach over ten goals this season. However, it’s clear to see where our strengths lie in the AF(a) role – not heading or creating. Whilst I’d love to bring through a more complete striker, or, even just a taller advanced forward, I think that I’m quite happy with the outputs here from Bah, Mattsson and Lofberg. My happiness of continued with the attacking midfielders and I hope that the slight change to the team tempo will bring down the amount of rushed, long shots and improve – at least – the conversion rate of them. Elsewhere, they are progressing the ball and creating above what the rest of the attacking midfielders in the league are doing. My central and defensive midfielders are doing ok – but, on deeper inspection – are actually doing well given that they are making less clearances and blocks – suggesting less overall defending (we rank tenth in the league in overall possession won and mid table for box passses against). The centre back area is the one where I need to create the most change in the off season. Our aerial woes are clear to see but we seem to be getting by by intercepting more and being safer in possession; something has to change here! The goalkeeper stats, whilst green (I couldn’t quite work out if saves tipped was a positive or a negative!) show the concern that I have, with Johansson – on average – parrying 0.3 more shots per game than the other keepers. Only in-game experience will tell you that this concerns me, given where the second ball is being won or lost.

What this does do though is create some nice benchmarks for recruitment, particularly from within this country. Financially, we aren’t in a great situation and I think that my non-exploratory signings will mainly be from the domestic market, so I can begin to apply my knowledge to things. For example, a new centre back: Over 70% header win ratio, completes more than five progressive passes per ninety, over 80% tackle ratio.

With that in mind, it’s off to scour the land in search of replacements to make ourselves that little bit better!

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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