Coaching Cuba Part Three: First Games in Charge

Welcome back to the Coaching Cuba save on FM20. The third instalment of the series sees us take on our first two opponents, in the first international break of our time in charge.

We began by meeting my first ever Cuban national squad. For the most part, our largely inexperienced and uncapped squad were happy with their first impression of me as a manager. However, five players have already managed to find a reason to dislike me, with just the one utterance exchanged between us.

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The fact several players already thought I seemed out of my depth did not seem like a positive sign, but ignoring that we began our preparation for the first two matches of my Cuban international reign.

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Our next port of call was to appoint our captain. I went with our highest valued, and most well-known player Jorge Luís Corrales, over the recommended Carlos Francisco. The later was less likely to play, and was not one of the higher-rated players in the squad. Therefore, I decided to make him vice-captain instead.

A few days after we first met our players, one of them was already on his way home.

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Daniel Luis’ withdrawal was significant, taking away the option of a double defensive midfield formation, which had been my original plan. However, we had to adapt, and I created two tactics, with one for each opponent we would be facing.

Matchday One- USA (H)

Our first game in charge was in the North American Nations League Division A. We were set to host the USA, in a very tough opening assignment. A squad filled with internationally established stars like Christian Pulisic, John Brooks and Weston McKennie, I knew this game would be one that required us to be defensively resilient.

This is something that I have previously struggled at on Football Manager 2020. My Achilles heel this year has been the big games against the big teams. I knew this time I needed to change the way I approached this type of game. Usually, I enter the game with a more conservative version of my standard tactic. I adapt some player mentalities, add some instructions and drop back to Balanced.

In this game, I felt this would not be enough. We did not have anywhere near the squad to go toe-to-toe with the USA, and so we set about designing a defensive tactic to hold out against one of the best teams in the continent.

Tactics

This is the tactic we ended up with. Creatively named ‘Defensive Cuba’, this simple tactic was created as a counter to the strengths of USA’s squad. Essentially built around a 4-4-2, the system uses an anchor man, paired with a Segundo Volante in defensive midfield.

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According to my scouting, USA were going to be lining up in a narrow 5-2-1-1 formation, with wing-backs offering the width. To counter this, we put a defensive winger on the left side of our midfield. With forty-five caps, the experience of Alberto Gómez meant that we could rely on him in this role, as he ensured the opposition’s wing back did not get space on our left. His stamina at eleven meant that he was fairly capable of helping out in attack too. On the other side of the midfield was a standard winger. I felt confident in Piedra as a wing-back set to defend only, meaning that Pérez was allowed more attacking freedom.

The anchor man was there to win the ball back against their number ten, and lay it off to the volante. The four players in the centre of our defence (the two CBs and two DMs) would attempt to crowd out the USA’s narrow attacking two, and attacking midfielder. If this happened we would likely win the ball back and end up in possession near our own penalty box.

Therefore I wanted one player who would simply lay it off to the more creative DM. A versatile player who can also play as a winger, wing-back, full-back or centre-mid, Carlos Francisco was perfect as the team’s main creative midfield prescience. His seventeen attribute in the natural fitness category, paired with his thirteen pace and acceleration meant that he is physically capable contributing from box-to-box, and this would be key if we were to create chances on the counter.

The false nine would look to come deeper to help out in these counters, combining with midfielders to look to create chances for our poacher. The team instructions used were also an attempt to create quick, fluid attacks through midfield. The More Direct Passing and Higher Tempo would mean our defenders would quickly clear the ball forward, denying any chance that USA would have to catch our technically limited defenders stuck with the ball at their feet.

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Attacking Wider, we would look to make the most of our opponent’s lack of wingers, and narrow system, to try and create overloads in wide areas. In transition, we looked to Distribute Quickly and Counter when we won back the ball. This would be paired with a Lower Line Of Engagement and Lower Defensive Line, both of which would allow us to soak the pressure and burst forward on the attack.

A simple tactic that looks to create quick counters, this is different to my usual FM playing style. I was looking to try something completely different, and with our Cautious mentality we would look to hold out for as long as possible, frustrating our opposition.

The Match

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So, with the bookies (justifiably) sceptical about our chances, we took our defensive tactic and opened our doors to the USA. What followed was a game that was somewhat positive, despite the scoreline.

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In our first game in charge of Cuba, we got battered in large parts of the ninety-minutes. We were up against it, holding on for dear life until the twenty-fourth minute when we gave away a penalty. Jozy Altidore converted, and we fell behind. Going in at half time just 1-0 down was a miracle, and I told the team that this had been quite a decent performance so far, despite the shots we were conceding.

Seven minutes after the restart, we conceded to Omar González, as the visitors doubled their lead. The goal came from a near post header from a corner, which was really frustrating. However, we got our own back with our own set-piece thirteen minutes later. Gomez’ free-kick just inside our own half found the head of international debutant Eduardo Vázquez. The twenty-six-year-old centre-back netted on his first appearance for his country, halving the deficit.

Five minutes later, it was bedlam in the Cuban national stadium. Carlos Francisco equalised. There are many reasons why this goal was so incredible, here are just a few:

  1. It brought us level in a game we were being battered in.
  2. It was a twenty-five-yard screamer.
  3. It was Carlos Francisco’s first Cuba goal in his forty-seventh cap.
  4. Carlos Francisco has 1 finishing…1.

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After the fairy-tale leveller, it was time to come crashing back down to earth. We were level for just one minute, before Aron Jóhansson and Nick Lima both scored, making it 4-2. We tried to hold out for a two-goal loss, but a second by Jóhansson increased the gap in the scoreline.

Overall, a disappointing but in some ways positive first match as Cuba national team manager. We managed to convert the minimal chances we did create, but inviting pressure lead to us cracking under the USA attack.

Matchday Two- Puerto Rico (A)

We followed up our first competitive fixture as Cuba boss with a friendly in Puerto Rico. After inviting too much pressure against the USA, we decided to shake up our approach against a team that I felt much more confident against.

Where USA had been over one-hundred-and-fifty places above us in the world rankings, Puerto Rico were just five. This meant that they were exactly the type of side we needed to be beating, if we had the ambition of potential World Cup qualifiers. Because of this, I decided to go for a much more positive system.

Tactics

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Creating a simple, front-foot based tactic, we selected a standard 4-1-4-1 formation. A centre back pairing was flanked by two wing backs. We once again made the most of López as a natural Anchor Man, with two centre-midfielders in front of him, both set to attack. A front three of Alberto Gómez (as an Inverted Winger), Cordovés and Lahera finished off a pretty uncomplicated formation and set of roles.

Lack of complication is a theme that continues into the team instructions. In a positive mentality system, we played shorter passes, at a higher tempo. We aimed to be wide in our attacks. In transition, we counter-pressed, and looked to counter, distributing quickly when in possession of our goalkeeper. Out of possession, we played a higher defensive line, as well as a much higher line of engagement. Our pressing was more urgent.

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The main aim of this tactic was to create a lot of chances. Pressing high and attacking quickly when we managed to gain possession. The tactic is as simple as possible to try to not overcomplicate this approach. We do not have amazingly technically proficient, so any attacking based system would have to rely upon a simple, volume based approach.

 

The Match

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So, our second match as Cuba boss started with us hunting for our first victory in international management. Fortunately, ninety minutes later our hunt was over.

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We controlled a largely quiet affair, that ended in us recording a 1-0 away victory. The more attacking tactic lead to more chances, but not many ended up being on target. The one that found the back of the net, came six minutes after the break. With his second Cuba goal, Yaudel Lahera gave us the lead, as volleyed home a lob into the box from centre-midfielder Dairon Blanco.

We held out for a 1-0 victory away from home, an excellent result to follow a somewhat disappointing first game in charge.

Moving Up

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This friendly win lead to a massive improvement in our World Ranking position. Justifying my appointment already, Cuba were now a stunning one-hundred-and-seventy-sixth in the world.

Hopefully this incredible achievement is enough to change the mind of the players that thought I was out of depth, I bet they all feel pretty silly now.

Next Time

 Our next update will once again be a double-fixture, international break post. Both games are competitive, as we travel to my favourite FM national team (Canada) and the USA, in a pair of matches that could see us relegated from the North American Nations League Division A Group One.

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So, if the idea of Cuba getting relegated is something that you are interested in (you must be an American!), then be sure to check out my next blog post in this series.

Until then, thank you very much for reading!

#FM20 #CoachingCuba

 

Coaching Cuba Part Two: Scouting Missions and First Squad Selection

First Scouting Jobs

After signing on the dotted line, it became official. My international management career had begun, and I was the new Cuba manager.

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My first port of call was to start scouting players. With over two months of free time, I decided to travel North America, taking in the sights, enjoying the cultures, and then finally watching potential Cuban internationals sit on the bench in a league game.

The scouting mission started off in Montreal, a stark contrast to the sunny Havana I had begun to see as home. So, I packed my hat and scarf, and headed off to the Saputo Stadium to watch Impact notch back to back wins against Colorado and Seattle. The first match was worthwhile viewing, with our left back (and most valuable player) Jorge Luís Corrales playing the full game in a 1-0 win for his side.

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The second trip to Montreal’s twenty-thousand seater ground was not so worth my time. Impact were already 3-0 up after seventy-three minutes when our star defender came on. They failed to score after this substitution, perhaps a worrying indictment.

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After returning from my Montreal adventure, it was time to travel to Mexico, for a cup match between Atlante and Venados. The away side have Cuban keeper Raiko Arozarena on their books, and this looked like a great chance for him to get some minutes in a lesser competition. Unfortunately, he didn’t even make the bench, and the media were therefore at a loss to explain my attendance at the game.

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I must admit, so was I. We made a trip to another Venados match, this time in the Mexican Promotion League. Once again, a wasted trip as our twenty-two-year-old goalie was nowhere to be seen. If I’m being honest I struggled to convince myself that the trip to Mexico was money well spent for the Cuban FA.

Anyway, after these two mildly useful scouting trips, it was the end of August, and time for me to pick my first ever Cuban national squad.

Squad Selection

Our first ever Cuba squad selection is really not very different to the squad that was suggested by the coaches. An injury to forty-year-old record cap holder Yénier Márquez saw him lose his place in the squad, but other than that we had no injury issues.

Goalkeepers:

Between the sticks is one of our most competitive position at Cuba. Diosvelis Guerra is the only capped international keeper in the squad. His seventeen appearances for Cuba making him one of the more experienced players in our squad.

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However, he does face challenges from a pair of young uncapped goalies, both called up for the first time. Twenty-year-old Christian Joel is valued at three-hundred-thousand pounds, and looks to be one of the best prospects we have. The Sporting Gijón player is joined in the goalkeeping department by Venados third choice stopper (as we found out in Mexico) Raiko Arozarena. The twenty-two-year-old will also be aiming for his first caps during the first international break of our tenure.

Defenders:

We also have tight competition at right back. Three internationals, all mid-twenties, all around three-star current ability. Andy Baquero’s twenty-eight caps makes him the more experienced of the right back options, with eight more international appearances than Yosel Piedra. The least experienced is David Urgellés. The Camagüey defender has made just two appearances for his country, but could be adding to his tally over the next few matches.

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In terms of left-backs, we are limited, with just one natural in the position. Thankfully, he happens to be one of our best players, and the man I travelled all the way to Montreal to see. Jorge Luís Corrales has already made thirty-four appearances for Cuba, and is certain to add more to his tally over our first games in charge.

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We have three natural options at centre-back. Thirty-seven-year-old Jorge Luis Clavelo is playing his club football in Saudi Arabia, at Al-Faisaly. With an astonishingly terrible 4.90 average rating in his first three games in domestic football, it may be him who misses out on the two spots.

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The other two options are Adrián Diz, and Eduardo Vázquez. The latter is a twenty-six-year-old who plays for Cuban club Villa Clara. He looks set to make his first appearance for his country. Diz plays his club football at lower-league US club Tucson. With five appearances, since his move from Portland 2 in the new year, he looks set to add to his thirteen caps during these international fixtures.

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Midfielders:

In the defensive midfield position, we have two natural members of our squad. The front runner for the place in the team is Daniel Luis. With nineteen caps and one goal for Cuba, the natural Segundo Volante plays for Dominican Republic club side Delfines del Este. His 2019 season has been superb so far, with ten appearances, two assists and an average rating of 7.25.

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Battling with him will be experienced international Yasmany Lopez. The Anchor Man has played thirty times for his country, and at thirty-one, will still feel as if he has a role to play in my Cuban setup. With two strong options at defensive midfield (one of them a Segundo Volante), we may be forced to make some big decisions.

In central midfield, Daniel Luis also looks like a strong option. He is joined in the middle of the team by our highest rated CM Carlos Francisco. A natural centre-mid, left-sided midfielder, DM, left-back and left-wing back, Santiago de Cuba’s Francisco will certainly be a crucial player for our squad, and will likely add to his forty-six caps in various different positions over the first few years. Our other centre-midfielders are twenty-eight-year-old Dairon Blanco (of Las Tunas) and twenty-three-year-old Alejandro Portal, who plays his club football at Cienfuegos.

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Wingers:

On the wing, we have a large range of options. On the left, we have natural winger Alberto Gómez, the thirty-one-year-old Atlético Vega Real player. His forty-three caps for Cuba will make him a strong and experienced option for us out wide. However, he will face strong competition from twenty-five-year-old inverted left winger Arichel Hernández. With nineteen caps and three goals (one more than Gómez), he is sure to have a part to play in our international setup.

On the opposite side, we also have some dilemmas to face in our first few games. Maikel Reyes, Livan Pérez and Gil Cordovés all represent great options on the right-wing. The latter would be my first choice. The twenty-two-year-old is uncapped, but is having a stellar first season at Venezuelan club side Deportivo Lara. However, a twisted ankle means that he will not be at full fitness for our first game. Fortunately, with two other options on the right side, I should not be caught out there.

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Strikers:

Another position crying out for someone to make it their own is that of Cuba’s main striker. A few of our wingers can play there to a degree, but we really have two out-and-out options. Firstly, twenty-seven-year-old Yaudel Lahera has scored two goals in three games for his new club CD Honduras. His sixteen caps make him the more experienced striker in the squad, but with just one goal, he hardly looks to be prolific on the international stage.

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The other option is Oklahoma City’s Frank López. One of our more valuable and high rated players, López is still uncapped at twenty-four. However, he looks like the more reliable goal scorer of our two strikers. In seventy career club appearances, he has returned thirty-one goals, for four different American clubs. This suggests that his eye for goal is perhaps more refined than Lahera, and despite his lack of experience, looks to be the safest option up front.

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North American Nations League

With our first squad selection analysed, it is time for us to look forward to our first set of international matches. As expected, our September internationals are comprised of one competitive match, in the North American Nations League, and one friendly.

Starting off with the competitive match, we host the USA at the Estadio Pedro Marrero. Perhaps the toughest start imaginable, I really am seeing this game as a barometer, and a chance to see how far away we are from the elite of the continent.

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Our second match is a friendly, as we travel to Puerto Rico. Just five places above us in the FIFA World Rankings, this is a team that should give us a tough yet winnable challenge. If we want to progress to become one of the best international sides in North America, we have to be getting one over on teams like Puerto Rico.

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After these two matches we have another month off, returning for two National League matches in October.

Next Time

The next post in the Coaching Cuba series will see us face off against our first two opponents. I will explain the tactic I used, before explaining why it didn’t work and finally, I’ll explain why we lost both matches 11-0.

With confidence that high going into our first few matches, it’s sure to be a dramatic start to our Cuban adventure.

Thank you very much for reading, if you enjoyed this post make sure to look out for the next!

#FM20 #CoachingCuba

Coaching Cuba Part One: Introduction

Coaching Cuba

In the summer of 2018 I started what I still consider to be my favourite ever Football Manager save. During the buzz of the World Cup (you know, when Trippier scored that free-kick that’s still on your Twitter timeline every single day and people started chucking beer on pub ceilings), I took my first ever long-term foray into international management, with Canada.

 

The save lasted me until the end of FM18, and by the time I moved on I had taken the Canadian national team to multiple World Cups, with generations of icons coming and going. Our first ever Gold Cup-winning squad is filled with players that are still etched into my FM memory.

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Even in saves on FM20 I still check up on the careers of Samuel Piette, our long-serving captain, Jonathan Osorio, the man who won us the Gold Cup, Milan Borjan, our most capped player, or Anthony Jackson-Hamel, who under my management became Canada’s all-time leading goalscorer.

These are FM heroes to me, even if none of them agreed to join me in the third division of Croatian football in FM19 (I was bitter at the time but I’m over it now, they had bigger fish to fry, I get it.).

Now, as we come into the home stretch of Football Manager 2020, I am going to be going back into the North American international management scene. This time however, I will be starting one-hundred places lower than Canada in the FIFA rankings.

Coaching Cuba sees me take over the Cuban national team, who currently sit one-hundred and seventy-ninth in the world rankings. Taking on the North American big guns of Mexico, Canada and Costa Rica and the even bigger guns of the USA, my job is to make Cuba a footballing force in the continent, and beyond.

United States v Trinidad & Tobago: Group D - 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup

So, with a Cuban league update from the steam workshop added (link can be found at the end of this post), we have ourselves a full squad of players to start off our Cuban journey. All that was left was for me to take down my Scott Arfield poster, cover up my red maple leaf tattoo, and move to the beautiful Havana.

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A History of Cuba (… well the football bits)

The Cuban national football team’s history began in March 1930, with a 3-1 victory over Jamaica. In the following ninety years, the Leones del Caribe (Lions of the Caribbean) have soared as high as forty-sixth in the FIFA world rankings.

The national side has reached just one World Cup finals, eight years after their formation in 1938. Held in France, the lions beat Romania in their round of sixteen match, before being eliminated at the hands of Sweden after an 8-0 drubbing in Antibes.

1938

With one-hundred-and-twenty-six national appearances, Yénier Márquez is Cuba’s most capped player. The defender wore the shirt for the final time in 2015, in a CONCACAF Gold Cup win over Guatemala. Lester Moré’s twenty-nine goals for the national team makes him the country’s highest ever goal scorer.

Key Players

The Cuban senior squad is one of predominantly home-based players. However, the three highest value players that I will have at my disposal all play their football abroad.  Jorge Luis Corrales is a twenty-eight-year-old left back, who plays his club football at Montreal Impact in the MLS. Born in Camagüey, the full back has made thirty-four appearances for his country, scoring one goal. His experience at both international, and club level, will be vital for the construction of our defence.

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Our second most valuable player will be Frank López. The twenty-four-year-old striker has recently joined Oklahoma City (OKC Energy) in the States, after successful spells with San Antonio and LA Galaxy II. The Cienfuegos born centre forward is yet to be capped by Cuba, but this is sure to change as we take over the national team.

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Finally, we have nineteen-year-old goalkeeper Christian Joel. Another uncapped Cuban national team option, Joel is a product of Spanish club Sporting Gijón’s youth academy, currently playing for their B team in the lower leagues of Spain. An emerging goalkeeping prospect, Joel will surely make the number one spot his own as we go through the save.

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The rest of the squad is filled with home-based Cuban talent, with experiences internationals like Yasmany López, and up and coming Cuban league prospects such as Atlético Venezuela’s winger Gil Cordovés. This squad is sure to offer challenges, as well as great opportunities, as we begin our adventure in North American international football.

The Challenge

With just one World Cup appearance, and one Caribbean Cup win to celebrate, the Cuban national team is in need of some glory.

Taking my experience of North American international management, I will attempt to replicate my success with Canada (just without the help of Junior Hoilett), steering Cuba to Gold Cup contention, and hopefully World Cup qualification.

Our first assignment will be the North American Nations League, offering us an early chance to battle off against the best in our region. We will also have an early opportunity to get battered 8-0 by USA, really setting the expectations as low as possible for the rest of our stint.

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Presuming we don’t get sacked within one or two international fixtures, the Coaching Cuba blog save is sure to be a long-term adventure, with highs, lows, wins, losses, and the occasional anti-Trump’s USA joke.

If that sounds good to you, then be sure to look out for the next post in the series. Thank you very much for reading!

cuba

#FMOverload #CoachingCuba

Link to the Cuban National League update: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1947662317&searchtext=cuba

 

 

 

FM20 News Reaction- Rating the New Features

The nineteenth of September 2019 turned out to be the day that Football Manager fans everywhere had been waiting for. When the game’s social media accounts announced that the new features of FM20 would be made public, I, just like many others, became glued to my phone. Whilst giving my thumb a much-needed rest after refreshing Twitter for hours, I finally received the notification I was waiting for, and the new features were released.

Five main features were explained. They all will be ones that hugely impact the player’s experience of the game, as once again Sports Interactive have found things that we didn’t even know we needed. With that being said, here’s my reaction and opinion of the five main new features in FM20.

Playing the Pathway

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This feature re-imagines the concept of the player role. For many additions of FM, a player has been a ‘Key Player’ or a ‘Backup’ option. However, with this new system, much more depth is given, and more clarity is allowed in communicating your plans for a player’s game time. This completely changes the dynamic of contract negotiation in the game, as a player who is just a touch away from being first team quality, can see their path into the first team.

You now can explain to them that for their first season they may be a squad player, but as they develop over the year and other players maybe deteriorate in ability, they will become a regular starter in your team.

Signing young players will now make much more sense, as you are able to explain to the player your long-term ambition for them. Before, you would have only been able to offer one single role to go with their contract, but by adding to the recently formed ‘Promises’ system during contracts, FM have added some much needed and hugely beneficial detail to the contract system.

Feature Rating: 9/10

 

Backroom Staff

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As someone who gets quite attached to backroom staff members, and actually gets quite offended when my ninety-eight-year-old scout decides to retire to spend more time with the great-grandkids, I am happy to see more detail and interaction involved in this area of the game.

This new feature seems to be centered around the idea of more suggestions and more useful advice from the members of your backroom team. They will now suggest starting elevens for upcoming games, based on position suitability, form and tactics. This will make the decisions you make in terms of team selection a lot more informed by your colleagues.

In my Football Manager saves, I do tend to use staff a lot, and with new drop-down menus and new advice from them, this new feature seems to be a handy, if not revolutionary change to the way that backroom staff work in the game.

Feature Rating: 7/10

 

Club Vision

FM20 F3

Perhaps the biggest addition to the new game, this is similar in theme to the Playing the Pathway feature. Adding much more detail to the objectives given to you by the board, this negotiation based feature allows you to suggest a long-term vision to your club.

You can discuss an overarching ‘Club Culture’, which defines how your club will work in a more general way. The example given in the screenshot is ‘Sign players under the age of 20 for the future’. This allows you to define the long-term trajectory of your playing squad, with the board expecting you to purchase younger options to develop your team.

Also negotiated with the board will be smaller, more specific objectives such as ‘work within the wage budget’ and ‘sign players to develop for profit’. These promises can be discussed, which prevents the previous issues of unfair objectives, and allows you to suggest smaller goals that are do-able and still lead to success, but aren’t going to jeopardise the future stability of your perhaps financially restricted club.

Finally, the ‘Club Vision’ feature adds a new five-year plan concept. This means that you and the board will agree upon a long-term direction for the club, setting on-the-field objectives for you to reach within a certain period. This gives the game much more of a long-term based feel, and will allow players who like doing one-club saves the ability to set out goals with their board for the distant future. The new five-year system will allow you also to limit the expectations of your employees early on in the save. Perhaps you don’t feel the squad is good enough currently, so only set a first season goal of staying in your current division. However, with the exciting young prospects you have, maybe you think that within three seasons you will be able to develop the squad enough to achieve promotion.

This new feature adds a long-term element to football management that fits in with the way modern football seems to be going. Clubs like Liverpool and Spurs are seeing the benefits of buying into the long-term philosophy and vision of a particular manager, and it’s great to see FM attempt to add that concept into the game.

Feature Rating- 10/10

 

 Graphics Improvement

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A development in graphics was also announced by SI. This is something that may be important to others, but I am not too fussed by. I suppose an improvement is better than not having an improvement, but it’s not an element of the game that particularly matters to me. With that being said the players and managers certainly look better, with developments to their models.

New kit textures and new realism added to the clothing changes the way that the players, referees and managers look within the game, allowing more natural looking fits to everything they wear. So, from November, my in-game manager will not only be richer and more successful than me, he will also be better dressed and more fashionable than I am.

In addition, the pitch graphics have also been developed, allowing different grass colours, and along with the new crowd developments, the match day will look better than ever I’m FM20. Overall, these developments are great for people who are put off FM due to the graphics, but for me (a better human than them) they are minor, but still appreciated improvements.

Feature Rating- 6/10

 

Development Centre

FM20 F4

The final addition to the game is a new area to view information regarding the youth at your club. The ‘Development Centre’ allows you to view the development of the most promising youngsters at your disposal, with new ‘first team candidates’ menus offering you advice as to which young players would be most suited to a step up to the senior squad.

The progress graphs will make it clear to see who is developing the most, and also who has had a dramatic and perhaps unexpected rise in ability and potential. You are also advised as to which members of your youth squad ‘needs attention’ and which ones should be watched, with the usual staff predictions made about which current senior player they could overtake in footballing ability.

This feature develops the concept of a youth department, and offers more depth and more information about the youngsters at your club. This will make it clearer and easier to see which players will develop into first team stars.

Feature Rating- 8/10

 

With these new features announced, my excitement for the new game has shot through the roof. Roll on November.

 

 

Holiday Journeyman: Season Four Part One

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.

NK Lokomotiva

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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.

Key Players

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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The Rest of the Squad

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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.

Defenders:

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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.

Midfielders:

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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.

Attackers:

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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.

Tactics

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.

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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.

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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.

Friendlies

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.

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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.

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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.

Summary

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.

#HolidayJourneyman

 

 

Holiday Journeyman: Season Three Part Five

After a good run of form in our new counter-attacking system, we hit a block in the form of a five-one loss at the end of April. So, with four games of the season remaining, we enter May with a big decision to make regarding our future.

The choice has been made, with a massively over performing squad, financial difficulties and strong options elsewhere, I have decided to call an end of my time at NK Krk. After two and a half successful seasons, I will be moving on in June.

Therefore, with four games remaining and safety already secured, I was determined to end my time at my first club on a high.

May

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This began well, with a one-nil victory at home due to a goal from the league’s top scorer Nino. However, we followed this with a two-one defeat away, and threw away a two-goal lead at home in our final game on Krk Island.

We made up for it in our last game of the season though, in potentially the most exciting and dramatic game of the entire save.

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We went two goals behind against NK Varazdin in the final fixture of the Druga HNL campaign. However, loanee Zugaj got us back in the game. Dalibor Gerc our excellently performing young winger got a straight red card that seemed to throw the game away from us when the opposition followed up with a third goal fifteen minutes before the break. However, a goal from our left-back Manolo Bilic followed by a red card for one of their players left the game firmly in the balance at three-two going into the interval.

Straight away after the restart, Nino sealed the golden boot with his fourteenth of the season to pull us level against his old club, before goals from winger Josip Galesic and centre-back Smolcic gave us a five-three lead going into extra time. Varazdin would pull one back, but we’d hold out for a five-four victory in our last game in change of NK Krk. A fairy-tale ending to our time at the club.

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We finished firmly in mid-table, a huge overachievement with a side expected to finish rock bottom.

Season Review

Player of the season: Averaging a goal every other game, and winning the league’s golden boot in his first full season at the club as a permanent member of the squad, it was easy to give Nino Mohorovicic our player of the season award. His fourteen goals were crucial in our campaign, as he stepped up time and time again when it mattered. In many games, he was our only goal scorer, with his hat-trick against Hadjuk Split’s B Team the highlight in a very successful season for Nino. At our new club, he will be missed.

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Overall it has been an excellent end to our third season in the save, and with the back-to-back overachievements, we have managed to secure ourselves a massive step up as we move clubs.

New Club

From the beginning of pre-season in the 21/22 campaign, we will be managing in Croatia yet again. However, we have accepted a job in the top division of Croatian football, with last season’s six placed side NK Lokomotiva.

Playing in the Hrvatski Telekom Prva Liga, or Croatia’s Premier League, Lokomotiva just managed to secure Europa League football in the previous campaign. Going from a third-tier sized club in Krk, to an established continental club who are in European competition for the upcoming season, is undoubtedly a huge step up. With better staff, facilities and finances, this represents a chance for us to further our career, after huge success at Krk.

However, with this being the Holiday Journeyman save, there were things we needed to consider before taking the new job. Lokomotiva are a club based in the north of Croatia, within its capital city of Zagreb. With every club in this save, they needed to pass the Holiday Rule before we could manage them. This means that if a club is not situated in a location that I would like to visit on holiday, we cannot sign for the club.

So, I googled Zagreb, looked at what it had to offer, and it’s fair to say it has passed the test.

zagreb 1

Zagreb 2

This stunning city, will be where I will be based for the next chapter of the save. I will miss the beaches of Krk Island, with the rushing to the pool at six in the morning to secure a sunbed, and the sand in my socks, and the litres of factor fifty sun cream I would have to pour on my pale skin, but I am happy with my decision, look forward to moving to the city.

…okay I’ve done a bit of research and I will still have to put sun cream on in Zagreb because its currently thirty-four degrees Celsius there. So, not ideal, but still I’m excited for the job ahead at NK Lokomotiva.

Our next blog post will detail the beginning of the fourth season in the Holiday Journeyman save, as we move to our new club. Thank you for reading!

#HolidayJourneyman

Holiday Journeyman: Season Three Part Four

Holiday Journeyman Season Three Part Four

We returned from our winter break with the need to turn our form around. I had decided that a continuation of our disappointing results would confirm that I will continue my career elsewhere, leaving Krk after two and a half seasons on the island.

I finalised one more loan deal before the window ended, and it was a surprising one. I had been looking at Slaven Belupo centre forward Mile Zugaj since the end of our promotion season. He had racked up a huge twenty-three goals in twenty-nine appearances on loan in the league we had just won, and took the golden boot award. Unfortunately for us, his parent club were unwilling to let him go. However, six months on he was yet to make an appearance for the side in our division, and he requested a transfer. We were able to agree a six-month loan deal with an option to buy clause, making him our highest rated striker at the club.

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He came in as another option up front, with main striker Nino sitting on six goals for the season. He also allowed us to switch up the formation and tactic to something which I had been wanting to try for a while at Krk, details of that later, as we started our first game back in our customary 4-3-3 Vertical Tiki-Taka system.

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At first this seemed a good decision, as we recorded a big four-nil win over Solin on our return to competitive football. We outclassed a side that were in mid-table with us, in what was our best performance of the campaign by a long margin.

However, we didn’t quite follow this up how I would’ve liked us too. I’m not sure if our players’ breakfasts had been poisoned, or if our squad changing room had been sprayed with a type of gas that makes people dreadful at defending in football matches, but something had changed.

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Nino’s goal was huge for us, and could’ve seen us win all of the points. That is if BSK Bijelo Brdo hadn’t managed to score six against us, it was very close. They just edged past us in a tight game that could’ve gone either way. It is such fine margins in football, if we’d have managed to stop just five of their goals we’d have managed to get a point, as a manager you just can’t legislate for that kind of misfortune.

We followed this poor result with a change of tactic. We had been losing matches in which we had a lot of possession but no chances or shots on target. This was getting irritating, and we were relying on our midfield to score far too often.

Therefore, with three good options up front, I switched to a more conventional 4-4-2, with a false nine and a poacher as the strike-force.

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With a flat back four, we continued to start Gale. Bilic returned to his best role as an inverted wing-back, as we switched the left sided inside forward to and out and out winger.

A simple attack and defend midfield two was used to create more balance, with Kovacic and Maric both struggling to perform in more complicated roles. The idea of the tactic would be to win the ball back quickly, before progressing through the lines using quick passing and movement from midfield. The attacking midfielder and wingers would drive forward with the ball in counter attacks, creating overloads in attacking areas on the break. The false nine would drop deeper to help in these fluid counter attacks, looking to find the poacher in scoring positions. I started using a pressing forward, but quickly changed to a F9.

Our first fixture using this system was a success.

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A three-nil victory over fellow mid table Hrvatski Dragovoljac at home, with a long-range goal from new attacking centre midfielder Kovacic, and a header from Smolcic directly from a corner kick giving us a half time lead. New signing Mile Zugaj struck with twenty minutes to go on his first appearance for Krk, with an edge of the box shot driven past the keeper to make it three.

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We followed this up with another excellent result, away to top of the table Dinamo Zagreb II. A late free-kick was score by Kovacic, justifying his inclusion in the new tactic. The next result was perhaps the best of the save so far. We hosted fourth placed Hadjuk Split II, and managed to put together an excellent and complete counter-attacking performance.

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Nino became the league’s highest scorer with a hat-trick, which combined with a close ranged effort from centre-back Bruno Gale after a goalmouth scramble from a corner. This was an exceptional display, as we put four past one of the best teams in the division.

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We continued our good run with a victory away to fifth placed NK Osijek II, and a draw to NK Lucko. Our run came to an abrupt end with another tight game, as second bottom Hrvace smashing five past us at their home ground.

So perhaps our change of tactic hasn’t quite eased our woes in the league. The consistency still isn’t there for us, and with sporadic collapses occurring it becomes clearer that our squad maybe is at the pinnacle of its ability and potential. Mid-table in the league we have just been promoted to is an excellent result, but I am still unsure if it is the best I can do with this team.

Summary

With a new tactic seemingly breathing new success into our season, we seemed to have hit a purple patch. However, ending the month on a low is difficult to take.

The most interesting thing to happen in April though, was not the matches we played.

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After an interview, I was approached to become manager of Croatian top division club NK Lokomotiva. A squad with seven-million-pound value players, this represents a huge step up from Krk. Moreover, it is a step up I can make without even leaving Croatia. The club is based in Zurich, which certainly passes the save’s *Holiday Rule*. Therefore, with four games to go in my second full season at the club, I have big decisions to make.

In the next post, I will conclude the season, and make the all-important choice about my holiday future.

*The Holiday Rule*- I am only permitted to join clubs that are based in locations that I have an interest in going to in real life. I am also allowed to join them if I have been there in real life. If I have been there in real life and hated it, I cannot join the club…sorry Weston-Super-Mare.

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Journeyman: Season Three Part Three

After a mixed run of form throughout the first couple of months of the season, we went into October questioning how much longer we would remain at NK Krk. Despite our secure mid-table position in the Druga HNL, the club’s finances were a mess, our form was stuttering, and the local supermarket had run out of Cornettos.

The run of games that followed would raise more question marks over our future, as we would finish for the three-month Croatian winter break in dire form.

October

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We followed our back-to-back draws in September with three more on the trot. Having taken the lead against NK Lucko through Nino, we needed a ninetieth minute equaliser to salvage a point.

Next up was a bore draw at home to Hrvace, followed by another dull affair at NK Medjimurje. Both games we were lucky not to lose, but poor finishing in the former kept it goal-less and another Kristijan Batelic goal got us a one all draw in the latter.

We then got our first loss of the month at home to fourth placed HNK Gorica. A decent performance from Krk saw us take the lead under ten minutes in through Nikica Stepcic, but the favourites equalised, before taking the lead quarter of the way through the match. After a red card for an opposition player’s late lunge, we pulled level with three minutes left on the clock, who else but Batelic to score it. However, another late goal took all of the points away from us, an exciting game, but I had nothing to show for it, except presumably a sweaty shirt and tie in the blistering Croatian heat.

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The month finished with another draw for Krk, as we travelled to Orijent 1919. Another late goal was needed, as we trailed by two goals to one with a minute left of the game. Up stepped Dalibor Gerc. An academy prospect who was drafted in to due to suspensions and Croatian league regulations (every team must start every fixture with at least three under twenty-one players), and he certainly took his chance. Meeting the end of a Josip Galesic cross, he tapped home his first competitive goal on his debut to rescue a point.

 

November

Gerc would continue to be a shining light in our poor form as November began, handing us the lead in a home tie against fourteenth placed NK Varazdin. However, in typical Krk fashion, that was not the end of the story, we were denied a long-awaited win by a ninety-third minute leveller.

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One week later however, we would finally taste the sweet flavour of victory under the palm trees of Krk Island, well…when we got back from the away match at NK Zadar, anyway.

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An opener from youth sensation Gerc made it three goals in three appearances for the local born hero. Loanne Ivan Krajina doubled our tally, as we finally managed to hold on to all three points.

Two Disappointing loses followed our third win of the season.

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The first was at home to sixth placed NK Rudes, a tough opposition who simply proved too much for our newly promoted squad. The second was much of the same, a good performance against second placed Sesvete away from home ended in defeat, despite a fourth goal for Dalibor Gerc, and a fifth of the season for last season’s hero Nino Mohorovicic.

 

Winter Break

This would end the first part of the Druga HNL. We were in poor form, but still five points off of the drop zone in eleventh in the table. We needed to improve our defensive cover in midfield, with our attacking midfielders such as Batelic and Kovacic only helping us offensively.

Therefore, over the winter break I chose to bring in more midfield stability and variety.

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This highly-rated defensive midfielder was scrambling around at Trnje, in the league we had just been promoted from, on loan from NK Locomotiva of the top division. We made an attempt to take over his loan deal, but had to settle for lesser options as the move was rejected.

The first of these backup choices came in the free signing of Viktor Maric. Who came in to play as a more defensively minded midfielder. At twenty-two, he helps us meet our quota of young players in a starting eleven and offers competition to our struggling DM’s of Bryan Derwich and the injured Alilovic.

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This signing was followed by the loan arrival of a player called Boris. Hopefully he is better at defending our goal than the other Boris is at defending our national health service (sorry for the football themed satire I’ll never try it again).

Boris Pranjic joined for the rest of the season from top division NK Istra 1961. Another young and versatile centre-midfielder, he will once again challenge our struggling midfielders and offer cover to the ones who are performing well.

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These two deals would be our only pieces of transfer business, as we went through the mid-season break. More would follow after however.

Our friendly results followed that of our league fixtures, with a couple of loses, wins and draws.

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The results were not surprising, with much better teams like Slavia Prague making easy work of our inexperienced Krk team.

Job Hunting

With my intention to search for a new challenge at the end of the season I began to apply for certain jobs, and take interviews. I ended up being offered just one of those over the winter break.

The possibility of becoming the Porto B manager was presented to me during the break. Although Porto as a city most certainly passes *The Holiday Rule*, I decided to turn the offer down as I had told them I would like to take the job immediately. Porto B have had three managers in the last two seasons, so I decided to wait on this job as it would probably still be an option in the not too distant future.

In addition, the idea of managing a high-profile club’s B team sort of defeats the object of the Holiday Journeyman concept that I have wanted to create. I would love to try managing a B-team, but this save was made to try out new countries in nice places that I would like to travel to one day, and jumping to a high-profile club, even at the B-team level, felt like it would be taking away the exploration aspect of the leagues I have loaded.

I was offered an interview at Western Sydney Wanderers, and this was another good option for me. I told the owner I would like to see out the current season, and I was not offered the position.

Summary

So overall with our bad form and structural problems as a club, I will probably be leaving the beautiful Krk at the end of a season in which anything above bottom would be a wild overachievement.

If we finish the season in sensational form, and I believe I truly could take NK Krk further, I would be delighted to stay, but a continuation of current form would mean I would leave the club.

However, I will be seeing out the season, and with three months and twelve games to go, my next post will follow our progression through the end of my time at my first club of the Holiday Journeyman save.

 

*The Holiday Rule*- I am only permitted to join clubs that are based in locations that I have an interest in going to in real life. I am also allowed to join them if I have been there in real life…on a holiday obviously, Swindon wouldn’t count.

#HolidayJourneyman

Holiday Journeyman: Season Three Part Two

August

With our preparation for the new season complete, we returned to competitive action and began our Druga HNL campaign against NK Zudar. With the sun shining, I piled on the factor fifty and prepared to manage in front of the loyal Krk supporters once again.

With a tough season ahead, I have decided that as this is a journeyman save, I would be looking to move on should things go wrong.

I’m not saying my Krk Island holiday is over just yet, I’ll just say that I am getting to the point where I am sick of my hotel room, I’m getting annoyed with tourists asking me to take pictures of them in front of landmarks, and I’m even bored of my buffet breakfast (which usually consists of a slice of melon, a croissant and a weird thin sausage). All I’m saying is, if the season starts to go badly, don’t be surprised if my internet history consists of daily visits to Trivago and Last minute.com.

So, with that warning, we began our season. A packed 308 capacity home stadium saw us take on Zudar on the opening day.

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An excellently timed volley from Josip Galesic gave us our first goal in second tier football. We created more chances than the opposition, and had the better of the game. However, a disappointing moment of defending allowed them to equalise with less than ten minutes to go in the first half. This performance showed me that this side did have what it takes to hang in with second tier teams. Our custom vertical tiki-taka tactic was still managing to create chances, and with a team that did not have a huge amount of personnel changes from last season.

This told me that it was not the time to cash in on the promotion, it was not the time to pack away the sunglasses and flip-flops just yet. The two games that followed in August highlighted this point.

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In an almost carbon copy first half to the one against Zudar, we took the lead against Rudes in our first away game of the season, before conceding just before the break. However, this time we had more to say after the interval, and last season’s top scorer and player of the season Kristijan Batelic restored our advantage twenty-one minutes from time. However, he did not cover himself in glory eleven minutes later, getting a straight red card for a two-footed lunge. This gave the home side all the momentum and belief they needed to pull level again, with a direct free-kick levelling the contest in injury time.

Our third game of the new campaign was again an example of our ability to take the game to second tier sides.

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New loan striker Ivan Krajina scored his first goal for the club off of the substitutes bench, to level up with NK Sesvete in added time. However, once again this was a game where our attacking and fluid football allowed us to better a team with (on paper) better players than us.

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With three times the amount of shots and nearly sixty percent of the possession, we once again could consider ourselves unfortunate not to win the game, as we continued to draw our way through August in our first Druga HNL season.

September

The month that followed however was far less consistent. We managed to get both our first two wins, and first two losses before ending up the month with a pair of more draws, taking eight points in total from September.

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Our back to back wins at the start of the month left us unbeaten after five matches, and fifth in the table. We started off with a win away in a classic match at NK Solin.

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We took a three-nil lead in just twenty minutes, after goals from the likely sources of Stepcic, Batelic and finally the first goal of Nino’s competitive career with NK Krk. After our second-choice striker had salvaged a draw the previous game, our loanee hero of the promotion campaign stepped up to show his worth, justifying his transfer. Solin rallied to score two before the final whistle, but we managed to cling on to our first three points of the 20/21 season.

We followed this up with our first home win of the season, a thrashing of last season’s ninth placed side BSK Bijelo Brdo on Krk island.

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The score was equal just before the break after yet another goal from Batelic was cancelled out. However, with a minute of the first half remaining an own goal from the opposition regained our lead in the tie. Left-back Manolo Bilic added to our advantage before another goal from Batelic and Nino’s second of the season sealed a five-one lead against the ten man opponents.

However, we followed this impressive victory with disappointment away at Hrvatski Dragovoljac.

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A thriller away to the side that finished the previous Druga HNL in sixth place ended in a five-three defeat. Despite the first Krk goal of £1,300 signing Jurica Kovacic, we were handed our first loss of the 20/21 season. This was followed by another loss, this time it was less disappointing. We recorded a one-nil loss at home to last season’s champions Dinamo Zagreb’s B-team. This was certainly not a disaster, with a much better team only managing to edge past us in our first season in the division.

The second biggest club in the league, Hadjuk Split’s B-team, were top of the table when we took the trip to their ground. A two-all draw was an excellent result for us, putting an end to our losing run the league.

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We went two goals behind in the first half, but mounted a comeback after a goal from Kovacic. He has been playing in our team’s Mezzala role in the midfield, and has been somewhat hit and miss. He has at times and has also been deployed as a Deep-Lying-Playmaker, but this goal is certainly his biggest contribution of the season so far.  Canadian backup centre-back Kosovar Sadiki was making just his second sub appearance of the season when he headed in a ninety-fourth minute equaliser for the biggest result of our season so far. He has still yet to make a start, but has been worth his contract fees just for this huge goal, with the former Stoke City youth player launching wild celebrations along the Split Riva after the game.

We finished off our month with a much more low-key affair. Another B-team came to Krk Island, this time NK Osijek. The teams played out a goalless contest that ended September 2020.

So, we finish our first couple of months in the Druga HNL eighth in the league table. With some key players underperforming, our team has changed a lot through the first nine fixtures. Going into October, it will be important to find some consistency in terms of results, our team selection, and also where to eat, as I’ve tried far too many Croatian restaurants over the past few months, and I need to find a local.

Thank you for reading my season three update, the next blog will take you through our fixtures in October and November, as we get closer to the winter break in Croatia.

#HolidayJourneyman

FMO Dortmund Season One Part One: Introduction and Pre-Season

This is the first post of my new blog save, with 2018/19 Bundesliga runners up Borussia Dortmund. Using the fantastic FM Inside update (https://fminside.net/), I have been able to use the new squad that the black and yellows will have for the new 19/20 season, as we try and challenge Bayern Munich’s dominance at the peak of German football.

Confirmed Transfers

With the update set into the game’s database, I would already have a number of new additions, as Dortmund have acted quickly in the transfer window.

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Firstly, the return of former captain Mats Hummels from Bayern will be a huge boost to our back four. One of my favourite defenders in real life, he will instantly become a key member of my side’s dressing room. He is capable both technically and physically, and will provide support to the younger members of our defence.

Two wingers arrived, in Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt. Once again players who I highly rate in real life, these will battle out with a set of already capable wingers at the club, and will provide us with great depth in the wide positions. Both are fairly young with space to grow further, and can give us the boost in attack we will need to compete for the title.

At left back, in came Hoffenheim’s Nico Schulz for twenty-two million pounds. He will once again offer us good depth, battling with Portugese international Raphaël Guerreiro for a place in the back four. However, this signing was somewhat ruined by an injury he picked up very early on in our pre-season in the save.

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A broken ankle will see him out until the end of the year, with the new full-back unable to make his debut anytime soon.

The two other signings arrived from Barcelona. One, Mateu Morey, is a free youth signing who will be of use to our squad in the seasons to come. He is joined by Paco Alcacer, joining on a permanent transfer after his eighteen-goal loan spell saw him as Dortmund’s top scorer in the 2018/19 season. He will be our main striking option for the beginning of the first season of the save.

My Transfers

With the club’s first team business already completed for the new season, I chose to focus on youth during the transfer window. My first signing highlights this.

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For a fee of ten million pounds, our first signing of the save would be twenty-one-year-old Mönchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus. He is a Mezzala or Advanced Playmaker naturally, but can also play as a Box-to-Box midfield player. This cover will be helpful as we try and work out which system and midfield balance will work best for us, and having a player who can play in a variety of roles will help our transition between systems should things not go our way initially.

 

Our second signing is a popular Bundesliga prospect in Josha Vagnoman. He is a player who I have used in previous FM saves in 2019, and he has grown into a world class right back. Therefore, I thought that spending five and a quarter million to bring him in from Hamburg was a decent decision, as he would offer a future option in his position, with Piszczek retiring at the end of the season, and Hakimi returning to his parent club. Therefore, having a right back in our club who has high potential is going to be useful to us.

Finally, I allowed my director of football to make offers for players both first team and youth during this window. This is not a system of signing players I usually use, but with a high level DoF like Michael Zorc (with twenty ‘Judging Potential’), I thought it was worth a go. His only signing which I confirmed during the summer was the sixteen-year-old Kobenhaven striker Mohamed Daramy. He arrived for £325k and went into our U-19 squad for the next season.

On the way out of the club were many fringe players, or individuals who I felt I would not be able to give game time. I wanted to try youth options when rotating rather than lower ability squad players. Therefore, players such as Omer Toprak, Andre Schurrle and Jeremy Toljan left the club on loan. A couple of the youth players who were unlikely to get starts left on loan too. Leonardo Balerdi and Felix Passlack left for German clubs Darmstadt and Stuttgart respectively.

First Season Objectives

As with most of my saves, I will be treating the first campaign as a feeling out process. I am expected to achieve UEFA Champions League qualification, so will need to earn a top four position in the Bundesliga. I believe this is very possible with the squad we have available, so I will attempt to use the first season to find the best tactic and system for the players we have.

Tactic

Initially, I decided to go with the tactic that I have used in the past and had success with. I will use this custom vertical tiki-taka with a 4-2-3-1 formation to start with. I normally would use a 4-3-3 but as I have used this formation in the past, I decided to start with it as I felt it fit the options we have better than a three-man midfield would.

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Roman Bürki will be a sweeper who sits behind a back four. With Schulz and Diallo both injured, Guerreiro and Ajkanji will partner Mats Hummels and Real Madrid loanee right back Achraf Hakimi in defence. The wing-backs will be responsible for offering overlaps and creating attacking overloads in wide positions, particularly on the left with the inside forward, who will come inside to the half space.

Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney will start as a double pivot in midfield, playing as a DLP and a BBM respectively, offering both playmaking efforts and defensive support behind the three attacking midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 formation. They will rotate with younger members of our first team squad like the newly arriving Neuhaus, and also Julian Weigl, Mahmood Dahoud, and finally the high potential eighteen-year-old former Barcelona youth start Sergio Gómez.

The attacking three initially will include just one of Dortmund’s new additions. Julian Brandt will sit as the Inside Forward on the left-hand side. He will cut inside and look to create openings for attacks, linking up with Marco Reus’ in the Shadow Striker role behind the striker. To the right side of him will be teenage English sensation Jadon Sancho. His excellent performances during the 18/19 season created a huge buzz around him. He is going to be a crucial part of our team, and will start as the outside Winger on the right, looking to get around the opposition left-back and get in behind to create scoring opportunities.

Our striker will be a Deep-lying-forward in Paco Alcacer. He will drop deep and interchange with the shadow striker, who will both look to find space throughout the middle, and will work almost as an unorthodox front two. Both have good technical ability, and will be able to play off of each other well in attacking areas.

Friendlies

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We started our pre-season fixtures with a friendly against our youth team in June, and we got off to a great start. We would continue this winning streak throughout our next seven friendlies, ending up with a one hundred percent record in pre-season. Excellent performances with goals and assists from newcomer Florian Neuhaus put him right in contention for a starting spot, with many other first team players adding to the thirty-eight-goal run throughout June, July and August.

Summary

So, after a successful pre-season we look forward to our first games of the season. Our Bundesliga campaign begins with the hosting of Augsburg at the Singal Iduna Park, as we look to prepare ourselves for a battle for a place in the Champions League.

Thank you for reading, join us next time for our first competitive matches of the new season.

#FMOBVB