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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.