It would appear that, right now, everything I touch is turning to gold. I’m able to experiment with various shapes in build ups and attacks: the 3-2 build up with HB and two IWB as well as a potent DLF/SS combo that has brought about the best in Kai Havertz. The xG table has us on par and doing what we should be (but note poor old Koln down there!) and we’ve finally addressed our shaky away form.

Rather than go into specifics of each game and each tactical move, I’ve actually just sat back and enjoyed some fantastic football and feel that I’m getting much better at finding, and reacting to, tactical opportunities. In the 3-2 build up image, above, we faced Stuttgart, who, before this, had played two up top – I think an AF(a) and a CF, probably on attack. For the majority of the game, they’d pressed high and left us 2v2 in our defence, so I made the change to bring a HB in and push the wing backs on a bit further and narrower. This was great until, ironically, the moment I paused to take the screenshot – which then seemed to be the start of the time that they’d switched to what I’d assume would be a DLF(s) or F9(s) and they no longer pressed 2v2, going with banks of four then two roamers up top. This then led to me reverting to my original style and continuing to put pressure on the opponents. In the end, we didn’t win the game but I feel that it was the kind of game that, without the close eye, we’d have lost. This is progress.

Additionally, I’m loving the busy Thursday-Sunday scheduling as it is making me consider the squad rotation. At some point, with the small first team, it’ll catch up to us but I’m able to heavily rotate, following a 60/30 principle, where my weekend squad will often come on for the latter stages to keep fitness levels up. This, again largely poorer opposition who are tiring, makes those periods of time quite fun for us!


At an elite level, I’m acutely aware of the large impact that significant numbers of tiny impacts can have. For those not au-fait with the term ‘marginal gains’ – I implore you to read up on Dave Brailsford’s work with Team Sky. As a football manager, and, as a FM football manager, one of the easiest things to do is go out and sign players. Now, I’m not against that – not by any stretch of the imagination – and nor do I criticise those who rebuild a team each year and see miraculous results. However, for my own realism impact, I try to stick away from doing that and, instead, work to get the best out of each player. There are ceilings for almost everyone and I’ve not managed at a high enough level – your PSG, Man City, Barca, Real etc – for such a long time that I don’t really know what an unlimited ceiling looks like in terms of CA but I like to try and find ways to break through that ceiling, particularly with focus on the collective as opposed to the individual.

My intention for this season, with only three players – neither of who were nailed on first team players – arriving, was to ensure that my players were doing better than last year. Whether that was through training, tactics, morale management, target setting or just interactions. Below, I have compared the per90 outputs from last season with those so far from this season, expressing them as a percentage change:


The caveat is that we have played more easy matches this season: Bergisch Gladbach, Rapid and Sparta are not Bundesliga level teams but, really, the impact of that is minimal in the bigger picture, and is certainly less important than the fact that this data is harvested from three months rather than nine. There are clearly some parts of the data that hold more significance than others – Tapsoba’s 0.44 goals/90 this season dwarfs his 0.04 from last but, really, that is not where my focus lies. I’d considered creating an average percentage change area to this that created an overall score but I’m not sure what I’d gain from knowing that Tapsoba is 125% better this season than last, particularly when the data is so hugely skewed from a penalty that I allowed him to take against Dortmund. It would also suggest that Fischhaber, my first choice keeper, has decreased his outputs by 31%, largely because he hasn’t actually created any expected assists or progressive passes yet this season.

However, there are some really positive things that I can extrapolate from the data:

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Hicham, who I was really concerned about last year, has already surpassed his goal involvement total in the league from last season and has settled in really well into an AF(a) role when needed with each of his five goals this season coming whilst playing there. If I was to look back at the data, I’d be worrying that his progressive passes have diminished but, again, when taken contextually, he’s actually far less like to progress the ball when he’s the furthest man forward. The ability for him to play in multiple offensive roles is also really important but him finding his scoring boots in probably the most. Ferhat Duran has turned into the most creative player in the Bundesliga with 11 goal contributions (4G, 7A) and is looking menacing when linking up with a DLF ahead of him against certain defensive structures. His 84% increase on open play key passes means that I’m finally getting him into roles where can be really dangerous and his long range shooting from an average 0.12xG/shot sits at 12%, which I am not too unhappy with.

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Jordan Bangura has become the cup specialist! With six goal contributions (3G, 3A) in the Bundesliga, his outputs of three assists in three in Europe and two goals and an assist in two Pokal games means that he’s one of the top performers in the country at present. I’ve set him a target of ten league assists and he’s currently at 0.36 per ninety, which isn’t too bad but will need a continued push for him to reach that. As I have mentioned before, by using the Squad view button, I can change to see just Bundesliga stats for my team and compare Bangura’s outputs to his overall, which shows he’s not a one trick pony and can do it everywhere! Lastly, Tom has become a much better player this year, improving his creativity and attacking outputs from the VOL(s) role – and has been the go-to in Europe so far. In terms of direct comparisons, which is what this can do, I’d go as far as saying that he’s performing better than Hannibal, although the sample size of less than five hundred minutes, largely against weaker opponents does skew that. But, again, competition is good. It pushes these players on.

One player who has struggled, though, is Stepan Pejsa:


You can’t win with them all and, ironically, it’s the eye test and not the numbers that are doing it for me with the young Czechia international, who has also seen himself demoted from the full squad. He’s got three goal contributions, two of which are in the league – meaning he’s a third of the way to reaching his total of last season. However, he just looks so ungainly out on the wing and his decision making and final ball are just lacking. His personality has also regressed from Fairly Professional and he’s not among the top five or ten trainers within the first team. That being said, he’s still only twenty and – according to my staff – has potential left to grow into and, if all still fails, would represent quite a significant profit on the €9m I spent on him. However, the B04 way and my way is to not give up on him, just yet!

Die Werkself!


  • 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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