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Another month complete here in Halifax and we’ve, somehow, found some fantastic form!

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September 2037

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| vs York (0-0) | vs Cavalry (1-1) | vs Valour (5-1) | vs Vancouver (1-6) |

We started the month off with a strong draw away at York where the top two performers were both of the goalkeepers. Our use of possession was good but, as we may find going forward, particularly when legs are tired and squad depth isn’t quite what it could be, that possession is somewhat placid and lacking cutting edge. Two dras in a week as the first of three Cavalry ties this month ended one all. However, unlike the York tie, this was all us and we should’ve capitalised on 2.40 non Pen xG. Alex Osborn – from our upping of focus on set pieces – got our only goal of the game but created 0.74xG in total, a game high. Gordon Winn, excelling in his DLF(s) role up top was the prime creator, with 0.82 xA but we our downfall, their equaliser, came in literally the only spell of the game where they had any control. Disappointing but a real sign of how far we’ve come. Another huge xG win and overall huge win as we put five past Valour. Winn’s hattrick was the highlight as he tucked away an Ortiz penalty that’d been saved. Unlike the Cavalry game, we were far more counter attacking, sitting – purposely – a little deeper to allow for more spaces between their lines, which Green (6), Paprocki (4) and Marques (2) exposed with their dribbles across the game. Against Vancouver, we went one better and recorded our second 6-1 away win in the space of two months. Another huge xG total – 3.34 – and six different scorers, with Dicks now taking over penalty duties following Ortiz’s miss. We tried, time and time again, to expose spaces between their full backs – particularly on the left where their midfield offered them little protection and Parkin’s nine progressive passes caused problem after problem from left back.

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| vs Cavalry (1-0) | vs Forge (0-0) | vs Cavalry (3-0) vs Ottawa ( 1-2 ) |

A win with the last kick of the game in the first leg of the Canadian Cup following a penalty, this time from Heath. Three penalties in three games feels somewhat of a lucky streak, but the quality of play across all three games has been great. We were a little less dangerous than the previous two games, as you’d expect from four games in fourteen days but I felt that the progression of Ortiz was something that I need to continue to build on and utilise: he was strong throughout and, whilst not creating any xA, he was a part in most of our moves that led to shots. Wednesday to Saturday games aren’t easy and our even more fatigued legs just about played out a draw – but, interestingly, our sixth xG win in a row, against Forge. Their 3-4-2-1 shape is quite different to most in this league at the moment so it’ll take some time to get used to how they play and what they do, but, for a team chasing the top spot, this is a great result. Our first xG loss, but, importantly, still a comprehensive goal victory in the second leg against Cavalry, putting us through to a semi final against MLS side Montreal. Cavalry weren’t truly in the game but a couple of really big chances made the stats favour them, when, honestly, our two early goals had completely killed the tie. Jepson’s – in particular – was a great showing of a turnover high up the pitch, a direct run and a great finish. A quick turn around from, honestly, quite a dodgy penalty means that Ottawa will sweat going into their last game, knowing a will will be needed to secure top spot and, as such, a bye into the latter rounds of the playoffs. For us, though, it’s showing that we can mix it with the best!

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Just the one game left in the main stage of the league next month as we host Pacific, who are completely out of contention, likely to be joined by Vancouver unless the strangest goal swing goes in their favour!

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I think that, approaching this from the Head Coach perspective, I’ve had to think about how I show myself that I’m doing a good job, or not. I’ve said this many times across this thread but, as a Villa fan, I’ve been overwhelmed by how different some of the players now look under Emery as opposed to under Gerrard. I was able to gather performance data from the day of my takeover – where no matches had been played – to partway through the month (as I didn’t know how long it would take to extrapolate) and, with that, I’ve been able to dig into whether the players are now better under me than they were under Jake Gibbons.

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When I took over, Winn, Paprocki and Bender were not registered and, since then, some players have played less than two hundred minutes – a sensible change metric – or have been replaced by one of the four new signings that came in during the window, so the above graphic shows the eleven players who played a fair bit ‘then’ and who are still playing a fair bit ‘now.’ The first thing to note is that a percentage increase is green and a percentage decrease in red, however, that is a broad brushstroke and includes negative stats such as fouls conceded or non-contextual things such as passes attempted.

Straight from the off, the work with offensive set pieces has paid off with Osborn and Hutchinson both far more involved going forward. However, the caveat is, given that both of them are actually poor at heading despite their size and physicality, is that we haven’t actually increased their output (although Osborn has since scored). They’re gathering significantly more xG and, once I’ve taken the time to analyse the current set piece efficiency and prioritise development of new routines, should see that work come to fruition. Osborn has clearly, under me, been given a lot more freedom and is now playing as my Libero, wit results justified in a near 200% increase in key passes and 150% increase in expected assists. He’s also become slightly more press heavy, largely because we do counter press in places and he’s far more advanced than he was before, but that has come with a near 50% increase in fouls. Likewise, both he and Hutchinson have seen a sharp increase in their blocks, which I usually attribute to last ditch defending, in this case coming when our high line or counter press has failed.

Ortiz looks to have regressed but his move to an IWB(s) means that he’s been much further from goal and, as such, has shot much less. What it has done though is got him on the ball a bit more and an increase of just over 10% in his key passes must be considered great considering his far less advanced starting position. Naturally, all of his defensive metrics have hugely increased, too. Despite not being a great ball player, Parkin has made massive improvements in this area but has, since turning to an IFB(d) become a lot safer and is no longer bombing down the wing to get crosses in.

The midfield duo of Heath and Dicks have both had their shackles removed and have license to get forward and shoot, although Dicks’ outputs have been skewed from the few games where he deputised in the VOL(s) role as opposed to his normal HB(d) or A(d) role. However, even those latter roles have been more dynamic than he’s been used to with much higher outputs of pressures yet less actual tackles, blocks and clearances, as he harries rather than ends up in last ditch situations.

Danny Green – often mentioned – has an over 75% increase in his dribbles, with the desire for him to hold his position high and wide instead of whatever he was doing before. That has also allowed a significant increase in his shooting metrics as his little purple patch continues. Up top, Jepson has become far less of an out and out striker and has begun to contribute far more to other areas of play. Of course, it’s a concern to see my first choice striker’s stats diminish but part of the run saw him in a huge goal drought, bereft of confidence. Yet, as I’ve said in the media when asked, he was still getting into strong positions but just not getting his shot away or rushing his chances. Now that his drought is over, I hope to see continued development across all areas of his play.

Results aside, I think I’ve shown some really good progression with individuals within the team, ensuring that players are now over performing their attributes and, as trust in me still isn’t quite where it could be, things are going really, really well.

However, the next generation of Halifax players won’t be coming from my youth intake! To end this overwhelmingly positive update, our youth intake was pretty terrible! Only Paolo CarducciShaun Brandon and Qasim Mohsen will be kept and, to be honest, none of them look like they’ll amount to much!

– – –

October sees the regular season end, my first foray in CPL playoffs and, probably, the culmination of my cup run as we stand little chance against Montreal

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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