This feels like it’ll be quite a strange end of season review: particularly when we’ve won the league and have met my own expectations and exceeded those of the board, to win promotion to the top flight. Yet, it feels like we’ve somewhat bumbled our way across the line, without playing that swashbuckling brand of football that I have been able to do, in both my promotion season at GIF Sundsvall and the league titles at Elfsborg. The full breakdown of player stats can be accessed here.

In goal, David Raya allowed eleven goals in during his seventeen league displays. That, to me, feels like a poor return; yet a total of 4.91xG saved means that he’s come out ranking pretty highly. I dug deeper into some performances where his save ratio was poor, but, looking where the goals were scored from – I think that these relatively high xG chances mean that more has to be done in terms of not allowing them next season, with the added benefit of a keeper who is now bedded into the team and speaks the language. I don’t feel that, ahead of him, I could necessarily fault any of the false back three either statistically or with the ‘eye-test’ and the gamble of using a L(d) instead of a BPD(d) has been all about balancing risk and reward, although, annoyingly, the better early progression of late hasn’t been demonstrated with more creative forward performances.

Probably most concerning is the performance of number 10 – Javier Fernandez – his four goal contributions have come from a mammoth 9.80 expected goals and assists combined. If my newly signed playmaker had finished the season with figures of that, around a goal or an assist every two and a half to three games, I’d be delighted, but I’ve now really got to question what to make of it. Things have been very sloppy in places, particularly up top, and we’ve blown pretty hot and cold throughout, with Tchetchoua enjoying a great season, on the face of things, with eighteen goals. Yet, digging a little deeper, his goals have come from an expected 19.22 goals, an underperformance of 0.04xG per 90. As the season drew on, a switch from a CF(a) to an AF(a) was utilised to give him an opportunity to just focus on goal scoring and three goals in his last five demonstrated that. As a team, this xG performance was also true – our fifty-nine league goals, the second highest, came from 57.33 expected goals. Both us and second placed Heidenheim recorded an xG overperformance of just over one, showing that we both struggled to break down tough defences and take our chances when presented.

Carlos Molina, a huge worry from last season, registered nineteen goal contributions, up from six last year, as his move to the T(a) role really paid off. Ranking inside the top 10% of players across the continent for dribbles per game as well as open play key passes meant that, whilst we lost some creativity centrally, we still had it out wide. That being said, his six assists only demonstrates an xA overperformance of just over 1.00 assist – not a huge amount in itself. Another player who contributed well was Felix Passlack, whose seven assists and 1.41 crosses completed as well as 4.46 progressive passes, ensured a threat down the right-hand side.

That being said, I think I’m making some progress towards my long-term tactical goals. The plan here in Germany was always style over substance and, whilst I cannot believe I’ve already been here for two full seasons and ninety-three games, I think that there is a clear vision for where the club is going. I am beginning to see elements of my gameplay change, in both the minute-by-minute action, but also in the key metrics for our style:


The contentious points here come when I decide that actually something within the style isn’t working and, as such, it impacts a lot of other things, such as removing a winger to replace with a Trequartista, who, through my development, is kind of a best of both worlds but not naturally instructed to dribble as much. This then removes one third of my real ball carrying players within the team – the two wide men and a marauding centre mid – and, as such, has huge impact on the team metrics. Still, we’ve made a small improvement there and are second best in the league, although I cannot say how much that figure would differ if the methodology was kept across an entire season. Then, there are metrics that really don’t paint the whole picture. I’ve felt we’ve been weaker at the back and always could concede, yet our opponent conversion rate has dropped. This season, we’ve conceded just two less goals than last, so there must be an assumption that we’ve faced more shots – something that’d easily, and probably rightly, be construed as a tactical step back. Obviously, the next concern comes from what this style looks like when we’re not among the better teams in the league. Set out with a 2-2 box in defence with 3-3 split forward line ahead of it away at Bayern Munich and we’ll get battered, as we probably would trying to out dribble the likes of Leipzig or Dortmund but become a park-the-bus outfit and I’ll end up falling asleep in the hours of highlights I watch.

At the end of the day, though, we’re CHAMPIONS and I have, within three years, made a return to management in a top flight. This one, unlike Sweden, I’m predicting will be much harder. The summer window, before I even get to any games, will be tough as I look to strengthen and build without much prior knowledge of players interested in joining me. A move to the top flight will raise our reputation but will coincide with an increase in greed of players, especially those who think we’ll be heading straight back down. It’ll be hard but it’ll be fun! I can’t wait to write about my adventures managing in the Bundesliga for the first time in about six or seven editions of FM.

Nur de VfL!


  • 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”

Leave a Reply