June 2037:


image.png.9c62c023e597bcfead1cc8ad3321a197.png Match-week 16 | vs Ottawa (h) | Match Overview | Goalscorers: Ortiz (5 this season) | Assists: None |

Just the one game in June and it was a home derbyagainst Atletico Ottawa, who, on paper, are a much stronger team than we are. Their 433 shape, with best player Barroso on the right wing meant that I went for a 4231 shape – probably my norm – with Benjamin Diallo at right back, tucking into the midfield, leaving Jonathan Parkin as the narrow left back against Barroso. With an attribute disadvantage, I had to go for a numerical advantage with the false back three, pulling the left winger slightly deeper and instructing the DM(s) – Ortiz – to sit narrower, restricting the space. The pass map shows that it worked nicely, as the two wide men on the left were the closest together in and out of possession. On the right, I instructed Danny Green, a man who has barely produced anything this year, to hold his shape and give us more width, given the inverted wing back behind him. Stretching the play but still facing a DM, meant I wanted the technical prowess of Stanko Bozíc in the middle as an AM(s) and, overall, he was good, creating 0.22 xG. Dicks, the Volante – in the absence of Heath – was the main creator, with 0.19xA, although a large number of his passes were backwards, as he looked to be safer in possession that I’d necessarily like. Danny Green’s sixty-eight touches and seven dribbles were all out wide, meaning his heat map looked very different to left winger, Jovanovic’s. By forcing Barroso inside and restricting his space with a numerical advantage, we allowed him thirty-seven touches – just two in the final third – and twenty-four passes, with his most advanced completions both being from throw ins.

Despite Ottawa being possession hungry – with a 53% average this season, we restricted that to 45%, compacting their offensive spaces and forcing them to go sideways. 6.3% of their total passes completed were progressive, compared to the 5.3% of ours, although we did complete exactly one hundred more passes with 54% of them being completed by defenders. Ottawa’s system is to not press intently and, to be honest, this proportion meant that we lacked a bit of sting in our own build up, getting lucky in the 82nd minute with a penalty that, probably, was deserved. Our xG total of 1.56 looks a lot less healthy without the penalty – 0.56xG – but, defensively, we were sound, with no shots on target and an xGA of 0.29, with the visitors clocking 0.048xG per shot compared to our 0.096.

It’s always pleasing to start with a win, however that win comes!

Elsewhere in the CPL, Cavalry – our next opponents – won 2-0 against Forge in a game that had just four shots on target. Pacific’s 0-0 draw with Valour was somewhat more exciting with the away side having thirteen shots and a pass map that really shows their commitment to getting the ball wide in the early transitions.

July 2037:

image.png.879fe25a814e046b7547d7d9811bc7c8.png image.png.82031dde741ba9f7211cf4f9e600ef72.png image.png.bacdb1b3efbe1d8ff03b63d88de59db4.png image.png.2aa6c59bab5ab6a12dda74f1597be690.png

image.png.c3c126be4b8ed960aeb667b4077d65f8.png Match-week 17 | vs Cavalry (a) | Match Overview | Goalscorers: None | Assists: None |

Moving Edgar Ortiz to a IWB role might just be a stroke of genius that eradicates his humongous ball carrying weakness, allowing me to both have a numerical advantage in a deeper transitional areaand attribute advantage against Cavalry’s best player, Neil Pitt. For reference, Neil has eighteen goal involvements and an average rating of over 8.0, winning PoTM in 60% of the games they have played this season, helping them to a ten-game unbeaten run. Cavalry’s pressing was very targeted – not so much at my defence, which brought about the addition of ‘Play out of Defence’ but as soon as we reached the pivots or the aforementioned Ortiz, they would swarm. With just seventeen touches, and one inside the opponent’s box, Daniel Jepson looked somewhat isolated. A penalty save in the second half gave me hope but their quality, and, more so, our lack of offensive quality, told as we failed to muster a shot on target and limped home with a 2-0 defeat.

Elsewhere, Ottawa survived a late onslaught to beat York 2-1, whilst Forge recovered from their defeat to beat our next opponents, Valour, 3-0 away from home. A missed penalty but still over 2.0xG created, allowing the hosts little more than a sniff gives me hope for what is to come. Lastly, Vancouver dominated against Pacific but could only muster a 0-0 draw; their xG total of 1.06 to 0.16 means they extend their unwanted record as biggest xG underachievers, having scored just fourteen from 19.44 xG this season. Dean Upson’s side still are way ahead in terms of possession and pass completion but seem to be struggling to finish, despite another league high of 46% shots on target rate.

image.png.ed6efa4805069e2c546f36c0c6d2af6f.png Match-week 18 | vs Valour (a) | Match Overview | Goalscorers: Green (2) | Assists: Dicks (2) |

A slightly altered defensive shape, bringing in the least technical man I’ve ever managed – Robert Bender (yes, there is also surely a joke about the names in my double pivot, there). This was designed to allow Osborn a bit more freedom to move forward, reducing the number of defensive passes we are having and increasing our attacking options. Hereyou can see his completed passes as a L(s) compared to that as a BPD(d) in the Ottawa tie – a clear example of getting him into the action a bit more. That being said – the one defensive minded player I did want to get on the ball, Ortiz, was quiet in his seventy-four minutes. We went behind early but a cracking strike from Danny Green, worth less than 0.05xG, brought us back on level terms. Arguably, we were the better team but an away draw, at this point, is still valuable.

Elsewhere, our next opponents – Vancouver – were battered 4-0 by Ottawa, creating just 0.14xG. I watched the goals back: their first came from a keeper unable to claim a cross, the second was from a freekick where they were outmuscled, the third as they failed to reclaim a second ball from a corner and the fourth from a pot-shot that the keeper reallyshould have saved! Winger David Maitland completed eight dribbles whilst youngster Dimitri Pavlenko, the centre mid, was involved the most. York recovered to end Cavalry’s unbeaten run, winning 2-1, whilst Forge scored five goals from 1.05xG, conceded none from 1.50xG in a surprise result against Pacific FC.

image.png.8b2d60594bc48dbcdbb0307bf726bad0.png Match-week 19 | vs Vancouver (h) |  Match Overview  | Goalscorers: Winn (1) | Assists: None |

A game of relatively low quality but a game in which we picked up three points, opening up a little gap between the teams in the playoffs and those not. The foundations of my playing style are there but just nine touches, a season low, for Daniel Jepson – up top – is really making me consider how I get the best out of my attacking play, as the ‘chaos method’ that I employed at Bayer truly seems a level above what these players are capable of. From the total of forty-nine passes my AM and ST received, you can see that there is just a tiny amount in that Zone 14 and, as a team, we just don’t operate there.

So – right now, we’re caught between styles: fluid, chaotic counter attacking (we’re still second in the standings and have increased our dribbles/90 by 0.47 per game in compared to the total at game week fifteen), which we seem to lack the off the ball movement for, and patient, work the box type play (we’re also still third in this metric, having increased by 1% since I took over as well as an increase of, on average, four more passes in the opponent’s box per game). Ultimately, I need to be able to do both and, somewhat concerningly, given this is my first venture into this style, the buck will stop at what creative players my management team can acquire and keep at the club.

Danny Green has been a revelation in this chaosapproach, with a huge number of dribbles as he fires himself inside the top 7 in the league. However, the standout – for me – is his inability to then create something from it, with a poor number of key passes.


This is when I watched a @GIMN video. I shouldn’t have! I’ve always known about deeper, more complex stats but haven’t had the time to properly calculate them. This time, I have. Following on from his superb guide, I’ve counted all of the shots and worked through the four games I’ve managed so far, trying to get an indicator of Green’s, and the rest of the team, Expected Goal Chain and Expected Goal Build Up. Here is a quick tour of what both of those elements mean, taken from StatsBomb:

“This metric is defined by the number of Expected Goals in which a player has participated; if the player has participated in a play that ends in a shot, the xG of the play will be added to this metric. In this way, we give value to players who are often part of passing sequences that end in a shot. In a specific play we might think that his importance is far from what happens later if his action is a five-metre horizontal pass, but when we extend these actions over time, in the long term, if the player is involved in numerous actions that end in a shot, his relevance within the team will be justified and well valued by the metric in question. If the player is an attacker who is involved in many moves, he will have a lot of xG Chain, hence it is one of the metrics included in the striker radar, but this reaches an extra value for wingers or attacking midfielders with an incidence in the construction of moves ending in a shot. A good way to summarise this metric is to define it as the possessions that end in a shot that pass through the boots of the player in question, whether the possession is four passes or more than 20.”

“The spirit of xG Build up is based on knowing which players are part of passing chains that end in a shot but without taking into account the last two links – shot and last pass -, thus measuring midfielders, centre-backs or full-backs who have an important influence on their team’s possessions”

Below shows our xGC and xGB for the previous four games, for anyone who has played more than one full game worth of minutes. The %GC and %GB are the total number of contributions to the chains, divided by the total value, given as a percentage. The higher, the more involved a player is.


Just like any data, this can be interpreted incorrectly. For example, you can see the Ortiz has been involved in 13.42% of all the xG we have created so far. However, he scored a penalty and that doesn’t credit any one with the assist, so, therefore, you’d look at his xGB rating for a clear interpretation of his creativity, which, unfortunately, hasn’t quite hit the heights that I’d want. Another really interesting point is that of Jepson – a man who I’ve maligned considerably, yet his work in the earlier build ups – therefore, not the pass and the shot, is pretty strong and he’s always been that ‘assist pass – 1′ role for us so far. I’m not entirely sure that is what I want as he’s my primary goal scorer but it does take some of the heat off his performances. Despite being horribly un-technical, Benders work in the middle hasn’t gone unnoticed, with Dicks also performing really strongly and contributing lots. I am looking forward to having star player Heath – who has not played yet under me due to injury – back to add more creativity to that role.

This is something that is really useful but, currently, is just not a realistic data collection, given the time that I’ve spent for this on just four games. However, it does allow me to look at players like Hutchinson, the centre back, who is being outperformed by his partner Osborn – although the latter is a L(s) usually compared to a BPD(d) and then the difference between IFB(d) Parkin and IWB(s) Ortiz. Again – the context is that the latter is learning that new role and will need to settle there before I truly see the fruits of his labour, should there be any.

– – –

In other games, Cavalry continued their mini stutter with a 1-1 draw at home to Valour, which opened the gap between us in fifth and them in sixth to three points. Cavalry battered them and Neil Pitt was outstanding, yet again. Pacific drew 2-2 at home with York United and, just like their drubbing in the previous match week, can be disappointed to only draw as their 2.21xG was over three times that of their opponents. Ottawa failed to capitalise on Cavalry’s dropped points as they drew with Forge, missing a penalty and creating over 3.4xG in the process.

Whilst the top five all qualify for the playoffs, there is a big gap between Cavalry (36), Ottawa (35), Forge (33) and then York (23) and us on 22. Hopefully, we can continue the run going long enough to cement a playoff spot this season.

image.png.46c09e54d7f86d1e5226ffb61990afcb.png Match-week 20 | vs Forge (a) |  Match Overview  | Goalscorers: None | Assists: None |

Very tired legs meant that I went into the Forge game with five enforced changes: no Ortiz, Hutchinson, Parkin, Green or Bozic . The mish-mash side were pressed highly by Forge and we just looked uncertain trying to play through their press. Our shooting opportunities often came from well worked moves, where we moved quickly when in the opposition half, as seen here and here but, largely, our finishing was of poor quality and we didn’t work the keeper as much as we should have. Jepson’s confidence – as he heads into his ninth hour without a goal – is shot and his ability to hold off defenders in our build up was non-existent as his lack of strength led to Forge’s first goal, which was, to be fair, taken beautifully.

Elsewhere, Cavalry seem intent on dropping the top of the table place, as they could only draw 3-3 with Vancouver, whilst Valour and York played out an entertaining game in which Valour won, leapfrogging us in the league. Ottawa were unable to capitalise on Cavalry’s slip up as they drew with bottom of the table Pacific despite dominating for the second week in a row. Connor Rolls, Pacific manager, still finds his job insecure but – my appointment aside – there has been no other movement in the league.

– – –

With our fitness all over the place, I’ve sent a couple of the lads on holiday as we now have a thirty-six day gap to our next fixtures: a double header against Vancouver in the Amway Canadian Championship. There are a couple of non-CPL sides here but the winners will be joined by the Canadian MLS teams, so, hopefully, I can avoid them.


It’s been a tough ride so far – we’re not scoring many and we look poor in quite a few areas. Maybe some of this is coming off the back of my time at Bayer but there are still significant holes to be filled as we enter the transfer window. However, for the first time ever, I’ve got literally no control over who comes in and who leaves my team, with me having the sole focus of getting that squad to perform well! I can only hope they do a good job!


  • 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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