I want to keep my tactical thoughts a little more condensed in this update but the major concerns that I felt were not with the solidity of our defence; the goals conceded are hugely skewed towards defensive mistakes and just not being as good. Instead, I felt that our midfield was not giving us the most opportunities to overload the middle. Early in transition, our shape was lending itself to trying to recreate the box with the central mid – Osterhage – dropping deeper to collect the ball. However, that was stifling us of on-ball opportunities higher up the pitch. That, combined with the frequency of facing a 442, meant that the 3-2 shape had become a little obsolete – five defensive players around just two of their forwards as their wide midfielders rarely press centrally. With thoughts of ‘remove the attacking WB and go central again’ thoroughly, and forcibly, removed from my head, I changed the idea of the box midfield to encompass more of a 3151/3133 shape (with different combinations) and even a 235, with a holding midfielder sitting in front of the defence and then a CM(a)/BBM(s) combo that gave me two players in zone fourteen, with the addition of the AP(s) pulling inside as the WB(a) overlapped. Possibly not end-game with this but, given the shape restrictions due to the players I have, it certainly felt more useful.

I must say, things worked out pretty well…


A strong end to the season with just one defeat in the last twelve sees us end up in sixth place. We’ve shot up the table, moving from fourteenth to seventh by the end of the transfer window but have pretty much performed on a par with those above us, failing to close the gap with too many dropped points. That being said, we’ve been on top in most of these games and have been somewhat held back by a little lack of creativity and a lack of a proper scorer up top. Alvarez finishes the season as top scorer but has barely contributed anything since his goal against Braunschweig back in March and, despite all of Tillman’s praise, just five assists for our best player isn’t the greatest of returns. Summer will be difficult – we’re losing money and have some high earners, meaning that I’m going to be heavily restricted and will have to look at both integrating more and more youth but also selling players and replacing them with cheaper options, almost certainly harming any attempts at a promotion push next year. That being said, I must take the rough with the smooth and be thankful that I’ve not suffered similar to Schalke’s plight as they now drop out of the third tier and out of the playable leagues that I have running.

What I am excited for – given the move from a calendar schedule to an autumn-spring schedule is a break! It’s been eighteen months since an off season, where I can begin to analyse, create and adapt for our next push.

Looking further down the line, our youth intake was strong and has given me a number of options to work with over the coming years. With nine players reaching the upper threshold for age in the U19 and the purposeful decision to move to a team without a II club, questions must be asked about their longer term playing pathway and whether I realistically see them being able to be a part of the first team, or not. From this group – and this is not solely based on potential ability – I believe that Molina, Tchetchoua, Sommer, Voss and Thiede all have the attribute balance, personality and have performed well enough in my youth tactical approach to be considered for first team football. Upon this intake, I moved those five to the first team in order for them to experience training, mentoring and some game time. This then left me with the decision of what to do with the others; my initial thoughts are to try and sell them for a tiny fee with a buy back clause involved, just in case they are able to kick on and develop. With these places up for grabs, I signed eleven of the youth intake and have really high hopes for the six below:

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A Japanese centre back who has the potential to become a Libero in my system: what else could I ask for! Katsuhiro is pretty well rounded and, with his potential in a role that is empty, I feel he can slot in next to Fischer, who occupies the IFB role on the left. He needs some physical work and to improve a little bit in the defender part of his job, but, for his age, looks mentally strong and pretty well suited to progress the ball from deep. Nils Lennart Schonwalderwas designated as the star of this intake and it’s clear to see why. At just sixteen, he’s incredibly well developed technically and has a good level of intelligence. His area of development, later in this cycle, will certainly be around his physicality – right now he looks unable to fulfil a demanding midfield role, particularly that false sense of bravery – getting into the tackles but then being muscled off the ball far too easily. Klussman’s personality, lack of natural fitness and smaller stature very much make him second fiddle in the now-vacant DM role. However, he’s not too bad when it comes to creativity from deep – although that’s not currently something that I’m necessarily looking for.

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Both Samake and Sadirov excite me! As wrong-footedwingers who are more than just wingers, I see this as becoming a nice double header. The young part-Ivorian lad is nippy and agile and has an eye for a pass whereas the Russian has that but is also a little stronger when presented with a scoring chance. These two perfectly suit the IW(s)/IW(a) combo I envisage us running with going forward. Both are a little unathletic but are both young enough that there will be natural gains here. By training both on the T(a) schedule, I hope to develop clever, technical, agile wide men who are able of carrying the ball and finding the final pass. I do have some concerns around the personality traits of Sadirov but will look to learn what is working well in terms of praise and criticism in order to get the most from his development. With the vacancy made by Molina’s age and Kohler already in the first team, this feels like a strong area for the academy at present. Maik Bothmann really excites me for a creative striker role but also as a player who can finish a chance on the last man. He’s pacey and agile even if a little blinkered when on the ball. His need is clear – technical ability – but, providing that he naturally grows stronger, this can be his focus for the next four to five years.

As I said, the summer will be tough. I’ve already utilised the help of intermediaries and will be hopefully offloading the below bit-part players:


Some money will be recouped here and I will be moving on those who haven’t played or have really underperformed in the first team, after being brought in by the previous regime. Furthermore, I will have choices to make about the over-age players from the youth team who will hopefully clear some extra money on the wage bill and give me an opportunity to bring them back, should they develop with first team football. Lastly, I have the sell if needed pile, currently with two men – below – who could help generate funds and, in Hajziri’s case, not leave for nothing, in order to strengthen elsewhere:


Let’s see what happens!


  • 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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