In a season that started with a 3-4-3 system, full of attacking flair & inconsistency, I found myself ending the season playing a 4-1-4-1 and realising that a lower defensive line doesn’t mean you’re defensively minded, far from it. I approached the season under no illusion that we would be competing for a Champions League position whilst at the same time changing the identity of the club in line with The Villarreal Project.
If you’ve listened to the 5 Star Potential Podcast, you’ll have heard me talk a lot about how much I enjoy the preparation side of Football Manager and it begins with creating my backroom team. If you give any responsibilities to your backroom staff, why wouldn’t you want to make sure they are the best they can be? I have a very simple way of building the best I can and it’s pretty ruthless.
- See it like it is.
- See it how you want it.
- Make it like you see it.
DDM – Determination, Discipline, Motivation. The three attributes that make up the start of any staff search for me (and most players of the game), set up a staff filter and find the appropriate staff member for whichever specialist area you want to improve. This is obviously a lot easier at top level clubs but you can improve your backroom team really quickly if you just focus on the important attributes. [Quality of Leadership]
The original plan was to start with a 3-4-3. PSV are littered with attacking flair and with their dominance in the Dutch league I thought this system could flourish. It only took a handful of games before I realised either I’m not that attacking, or this system just doesn’t work! I switched to a more familiar 4-3-3 and the consistency returned and with it the emergence of our talisman, Donyell Malen.
There were two variations of the 4-3-3 that we used, we started games with a DM, Jorrit Hendrix is one of our hottest prospects and although the holding midfielder is far from a glamorous position, he gave us stability in games just clearing up in front of the defence.
As the game went on, teams would start to go more attacking against us and with the lower defensive line we were allowing teams to come on to us, which would often result in a counter attack for us, however the pressure was often uncomfortable so I would change the system, Hendrix would come off and be replaced by Xadas who would take up the AM position and with a positive mentality we would look to pin teams back in to their own half and close the game out. It sounds counter intuitive, but it worked.
The slow start to the season, which I blame on the 3-4-3, meant we never really challenged Ajax for the league, there were times that the gap closed but losing home and away against a really powerful side meant we were never going to topple them to league glory. Out of four games against our rivals we only managed a single victory in the KNVB Beker Semi Final on our way to winning the trophy against Heracles.
A big part of The Villarreal Project was European Success, Roig often said that the best way to hone the club’s competence and reputation is to be consistently successful in European Competition so every match must be taken seriously. Acknowledging this philosophy we went in to every match at full strength looking for a win and the maximum financial reward.
We had the opportunity to play in the Champions League, but first we had to qualify through the best placed playoffs with games against Olympiacos, Club Brugge & Porto – I think you’ll agree that on the face of it, this was no easy task but having got a lot of pre-season work done & making sure that the starting players were at the best conditioning I could we managed to navigate our way through the playoffs and in to the group stage proper.
Lady luck was with us again, drawn against Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund & Genk made me think that our best chance of playing in Europe after Christmas would be to finish in a strong third position. Four points against Borussia Dortmund meant we finished the group on 10 points and with that qualification to the 1st Knockout Round where we would face another easy opponent, Paris Saint Germain! Both games were tight affairs and if it wasn’t for a missed penalty in the first leg we could have taken the tie to extra time, but it wasn’t to be. The financial reward for finishing well in the Champions League really set us up for the following season and I have now added a new objective to the save ‘#Project88‘ where we’ll attempt to add another European Cup to the trophy case at the Philips Stadion.
End of Season Summary
Overall I’m happy with how the season played out. Runners up in the league, Cup winners & a great run in the Champions League mean we’re set up for a great Season 2 where we’ll see the introduction of the new wave of Brazilian starlets joining the squad as we look to sprinkle some samba on to the Eredivisie.
Player of the Season – Donyell Malen
In game his natural position is as an Inside Forward playing from the left, but I decided to play him through the middle as we lacked depth in that area. At 20 years of age he led the line domestically and in Europe returning 30 goals for the faith shown in him.
Young Player of the Season – Mohamed Ihattaren
You may think that Malen should be in for a shout here as well, but at 20 he’s a season pro compared to Ihattaren, who at 17 years of age played beautifully as a CM-A in my system playing half space through balls for fun and had a banger in his locker when it fell for him.
Signing of the Season – Maximilian Wittek
Who? I hear you ask. Desperate for cover at left back and armed with a relatively small budget I found a transfer listed Wittek playing at Greuther Furth in 2.Bundesliga. He’s my type of full back and listed at £500k the deal was a no brainer, he integrated in to the squad well and finished the season with 6 assists and an average rating of 7.31.
Thanks for reading. I’m loving this save, so much so that I’m running away with it before I can update the blog! As always, keep and eye on my Twitter feed @FridayNightFM for updates and also on the 5 Star Potential Podcast where I’ll be discussing the save every Monday.