After nearly three years of success at Krk, I called an end to my time at the club. There is so much about my Krk Island holiday that I will miss, the palm trees, the sandy beaches, the friendly hotel room service guy who always gave me extra croissants with my continental breakfast.
I had taken a small club with hugely limited facilities and finances as far as possible. The promotion season was up there as one of my most enjoyable of the entire of FM19, and players such as Kristijan Batelic and Nino Mohorovicic are some of the best I’ve managed on this year’s game.
However, it was time to move on. With an offer from top division club NK Lokomotiva in Zagreb, we had the perfect opportunity to further our holiday hunting football manager career.
So, we packed our bags and moved across the country to the capital, and settled in our new hotel room for the second leg of our holiday managing tour.
A club founded in 1914, Lokomotiva are a club that tends to be in a battle for a Europa League place in the Hvartski Telekom Prva Liga. They are a much larger club than Krk, and the facilities and coaching represent that. This club offer us a huge opportunity to break into Europe for the first time, and with a huge, young (if unbalanced) squad, we really have the chance to build something special.
We improved the coaching upon arrival, bringing in a new assistant manager, new coaches, scouts and a Head of Youth Development.
- Luka Ivanusec– Throughout this year’s game, I have rarely used attacking midfielders, however, with an abundance of them at our new club, we will be looking to adjust our system to fit them into our team. The most promising is this twenty-two year old Croatian full international. Valued at seven and a half million pounds, he will be our most important creative player, and with other similar players around him, he could become the main man that we build our tactic around.
- Fran Karacic– With a lack of wingers, and a huge amount of central based attacking talent, it will be likely that overlaps will be important in providing our team’s width in the final third. The Australian wing back will be perfect for offering that, and being our only recognised senior right-back, he will need to be consistent in doing so. He got a seven point zero-one rating for the 20/21 season, and with his fifteen pace and fourteen crossing, he could prove to be a good outlet for us in both attack and defence.
- Matko Babic- With four recognised strikers at the club, competition for places up front will be very fierce during our first campaign. Top of the heap at the start of the season will be Croatian under-21 international Bright Kareem. He has scored twelve, eleven and thirteen goals for the club in the last three seasons, and is the most proven top division goal scorer at With good all-round stats for a striker, he will begin the season as our first-choice option, but will have to perform well to keep his starting position.
The Rest of the Squad
With two options in goal, Ivo Grbic is going to be our first choice. The twenty-five-year-old is valued at five million pounds, and has made over one-hundred and fifty-three appearances for Lokomotiva and Hadjuk Split. He will face competition of backup keeper Ivica Bogovic. The twenty-year-old has high potential, and with seventeen kicking will work well as our Sweeper-Keeper when called upon.
We are certainly weak in numbers at the back, with just three options at centre-back, a single full-back on each side, and one defensive midfielder who can fill into the back four if needed. With the lack of depth, we have looked at signing defenders, but have been unable to before the start of the league campaign. Therefore, to start the season we will be forced to rely on what we have. Our highest rated centre-back (Denis Kolinger) will miss the first game due to injury, so will be replaced with youth option Luka Hodak.
Once again, we lack depth in the centre of midfield. Mainly, our players in the middle are defensive-midfielders, or attacking midfielders. Our best option is the suspended eighteen-year-old Zeljko Juranovic. He will more than likely be partnered by our first signing since arriving at the club, twenty-five-year-old Karlo Muhar. Arriving at the club for one-hundred and fifty thousand pounds, he will provide much needed quality in the centre of our midfield. Our other options will mainly be used in an attacking midfield position.
Our deepest position is probably in the striking department. With four recognised front men, we will have a huge amount of options in the final third, with rotation possible throughout the long season. Babic, Kareem and Palic are all young regens who could develop into hugely important members of our squad, and the latter is a seventeen-year-old is the highest rated of our strikers. The fourth option is yet again a youngster, and Albanian international Arber Mehmetllari has netted twice in two appearances for his country, and the Lokomotiva academy product will hope to recreate his goal-scoring form for his club, in order to push his way up through the pecking order.
Throughout pre-season, I experimented with a few formations and tactics. We managed to pin two options down as possible systems for the start of the season. They are both formations that I have never used before, starting with a narrow 4-2-3-1.
I adapted my usual Vertical Tiki-Taka tactical style to a narrower formation. Normally, I have one inside forward and one outside winger. In this system, I will be deploying the best (and pretty much only) winger at the club (Drozdjek) as an attacking midfielder on the inside left, with his role not changing that much from his preferred Inside Forward position. He will be joined by two other attacking midfielders (Ivanusec and Groznica at the beginning of the season) behind a single poacher striker.
Behind them will be a two-man midfield, consisting of a Deep-Lying-Playmaker, and a more physical based central midfield player. His role will probably be either a Box-to-box or Central Midfielder with the ‘Automatic’ mind-set. At the back, a Sweeper Keeper and Ball Playing Defender will begin attacks, retaining possession before playing through the lines as quickly as possible. They will be joined with one more conservative and conventional Central Defender, and two wing-backs. They are set to attack, and have player instructions that tell them to stay wider. With our attack mainly based on central areas, they will be vital in creating the width in this system.
The second system is slightly less conventional, and is one of the first asymmetrical formations I have tried in this year’s edition of the game. In an attempt to make use of as many of our better players as possible, I have experimented with this tactic in pre-season.
The back four will play out to create attacks, with a wing back pushed forward to enter the space that is left by the lack of a right winger. The half back will offer defensive cover and aid in building from the back, with an almost spare central midfielder ahead of him, with our excellent depth in left-wing, attacking midfield and the striking departments, we have managed to fit all of them into this rather unusual looking system.
With a mobile right wing-back, we hopefully shouldn’t miss the width of the right-winger. However, this issue should also be fixed by the instructions of the false nine and AM, the former is told to ‘run wide with the ball’, and the former is told to ‘move into the channels’. They will all create moves through quick passing together due to the ‘higher tempo’ instruction, working the ball into the box for the poacher to finish. With so many players in attacking areas, this system will work well when set to press, and will allow us to play attacking and daring football.
We had eight games to try these tactics out, so I decided to split them into half. The first four, I tried out the 4-2-3-1 system, which was the one I expected to perform better. Then, in the second set of friendlies, I switched to the 4-1-1-4 Asymmetrical tactic.
The opening four games were the easier of the fixtures. We started with a win over our under -19s in June, before wins against GKS Tychy, Bursaspor and finally against Olomouc- Holice. The system seemed to allow us to create a large amount of chances, and defensively we looked solid for the most part. Our winger seemed also to perform well in his new AM role.
We then switched to the other system (which I’ve decided to call a 4-2-2-2 because any other option I could think of just sounded too weird). I was pleasantly surprised by the success we had.
Beginning with a comfortable win against Monchengladbach, we went on to dominate Burnley, before putting six past both Maksimir and Hoffenheim. This system allowed both our best winger, Drozdjek and Ivanusec our central attacking midfielder to operate in their preferred system, and this lead to a huge amount of chances created.
So, as we settle into sunny Zagreb, we look forward to a bright new opportunity at NK Lokomotiva. Despite our success at Krk, for me this is the most exciting moment of the save so far, as we look to push for European football in our first season in the top division in Croatia.
My next post will cover our start to the Hrvatski Telekom Prva Liga, as well as any transfers we make before the deadline, as we look to begin our new Holiday journey.