Jump to content

[FM22] The Ruins of Pompey - The Ballad of Benjani - Phase 3 - Return of the (Premier)ship to Port(smouth)


13th Man
 Share

Recommended Posts

DUC9iiHaLj0uPgotrZT91LQWDfe0jLoS05dXYYPKYRJed3IEXsbqjP2wPm4NmpNuiqOZx2s1rM8ZU6CSPpfhg0YjAPXqmlmhK3v9f3Vcvm4JxfNRk7UldiZ3vxzhd4hkL_08wmq-

Tactical Interlude - the 3-5-2

While the 3-4-3 continues to be used during certain situations - against some narrow formations and to protect a lead against a team attacking the flanks - the 3-5-2 shape has taken over as Benjani’s default look.  In many ways, it might just be that the players in the squad are better suited to their roles, but Benjani feels that he’s getting more fluid movement that is harder for the opposition to deal with, while giving up very little, if any, defensive solidity compared to the 3-4-3 shape.

 

P3dPZNZwZ3xzBa_QYsi9RvJKkvIUngH7s_i83diA_DHQ0PNXUpqBTlEAhCLtEkYAZun1T6r0FTcU6tFfFccWGq1T51g23jIEY6esB9I8feO2gEfAduaRXSmFzEmThCzHb5gYPAZQ

 

Overall, the TIs are almost identical to the 3-4-3. [Link to the first of several posts going over the TIs etc and 3-4-3 breakdowns]  This also helps the side fluidly move between the two shapes based on the opposition or game situations.

Attacking Movement

LEmg--FbSRHkQuOYnEdsJMkb9TfID1CZirhjwlkawGcu4VaO2t2PS6EwSsD01JLZZ25KbvPiH7bK5RUsSYw2K6c2_l3mYlF5QHkfyiUkHztraRq0FGtVb7kge-f56R4W406bEDkc

 

In this formation, most of the forward movement is fairly fluid, but focuses on creating overloads in the channels on both flanks.  While the 3-4-3 created these overloads with the IFs, this one creates them with the two MEZ.  One benefit of the 3-5-2 over the 3-4-3, was that the holding player was now situated centrally rather than to one side.  This allowed this player, usually Levitt, to have more options when he is on the ball and helped to connect the two flanks which were often disconnected in the 3-4-3.

 

The other benefit was having two center strikers.  The AF provided a spearhead that was sometimes missing in the 3-4-3 and added a third player to the central spine of the team - previously only the cover CB and the holding midfielder.

Overall Shape

wgpShbrhe1_1h5v7Hct-p2RsiRTvhwO-SrD7y_GCeFVKWU0rln0NaODeR96woteTB6_SLsEDqywbyoVSE6EyfB6gXyXJHIbSKGv2WLIc7TSkcyC8xhflqE5DmNinKQtKMSb9ndfmNKP4UbE-9dksdXXDSQFjLK1yF-GniKp9ojPawtwdDiED5o-22VfCrtH0A0fB0EBPP9q0q_uW9VsPD6NBFD8wfECxUICO2PTVMlzycIkp56b0-N5QkW4v4h3HhAwRHOyiOxu_YYZT

 

Two heatmaps, both from wins, showing the shape that the team tends to be in - almost a 3-3-2-2, with the two mezzalas well ahead of the DLP who is in line or slightly behind the WBs.  It also shows that even while the right sided MEZ (#24) is on an attacking duty while the left MEZ (#21) is on support duty - you’ll see that #21 will occasionally end up higher up the pitch when the spaces are open for them.  This can happen as #19 (AF) will sometimes open up a bunch of space by pushing the CBs back.  On the flip side, left MEZ (#24) will often get forward when CBs follow the DLF (#9).  In that sense, the role of MEZ gives the players the flexibility to take the space that the opposition gives them.

The MEZ as a main attacking threat

Having two central forwards added a cutting edge to Portsmouth’s attack, especially with the AF sitting on the shoulder of the last defender.

 

However, the biggest change for the 3-5-2 was arguably the way the right sided MEZ (usually Mallamo) became another major goal threat.  Following the switch to the 3-5-2, Mallamo made twenty starts and three substitute appearances, scoring ten goals and assisting four. This means he was scoring at a rate of nearly one goal every other game, from midfield. Those are high level forward numbers.

 

The main way in which this happens is when the DLF (usually Marquis) pulls the CBs back as he drops into the midfield.  Mallamo then runs into the space he creates and into the space between the CBs and the FB/WBs.

 

Example 1 - Coventry v Portsmouth

UUc78hvCyx-Z0j7BaCXesJSv98MPKmTPf7AEDLRlfZDwUYmrxyEMA3MVn1fjaTdz3qIOpPE8YonXXJgt9OLGn2gpJd_2_Zxz1R3OJhmfW4x4iRmEaqR5lX6HGOHM-d8XVbNcfR2I

 

Here DLP Levitt has the ball.  Three Coventry players in his area and one runs to close him down.  As it stands, there is only one route to the right side of the pitch, (considering the forward closing off the pass to Mallamo), and that is backwards where Coventry would be able to move and reorganize.  

 

Mallamo, however, moves into the large space in the right channel as Marquis (center) drops back and begins to pull the center backs with him.

 

kU_X85_zHIOqmxQPfyDLSmaEo5q8g--CBHZLjfU56zBzrhI3SSrAySBFIFxU3NRq4k85Sh0gDV2ghRAZ8kqH433qQ5Sk1v2g8BUfLa1j9C1RX5QkHC3ZPDdUTiI5_nrkxaOwNo_7

 

With Levitt moving the ball to the left to WCB Robertson, and Robertson passing it to LWB Ogilvie, Coventry feels as if they have the ball contained. AF Fiabema (top right) is well marked, Marquis (right center) would be closed down quickly if the ball makes it to him - and it will take a pacy, accurate pass from Ogilvie to reach him.  

 

Mallamo, after pausing for a moment, rushes into the space between the CB and FB.

 

e23A1XHEtbDuS16sNNxjXGK5kunplxMBp4kGo1rZ8BEIKyvzjK0jHDCKCcQLAlDk8uwhNUmhKznwF5vWnEGBRrPDwT__3WXFhh4VDTL7DehvsnNAC3u2jGeNVFYpfbFBnzi1xapx

 

Ogilvie sees the run, and with the FB forced to be aware of Portsmouths’ right WB (bottom center) he doesn’t react in time and Mallamo is through on goal after Coventry had thought Portsmouth were contained.

 

Example 2 - Portsmouth v Bristol City

 

aaYea_dnyUXY8eDgSw2Ayv7L212XEFhh9tcG52uZbEPXiAJkVY2o0_OkPbXXeANeGUY5ctS-xeoVnVyEjDTNf76CrhGmvNz5Ia__ciNN-Bg9ibmmOyT7LfQhdRBjSSSJZJDopFXW

 

This goal was brutally simple.  Levitt plays the ball out wide to Williams (#43) and we see Mallamo’s (#24) starting position as a third forward in line with DLF Marquis (#9) and only just behind AF Fiabema (#19).  The move featured a one-two between Fiabema and Williams on the left flank, but then Williams drove to the byline and sent in a low cross.  Mallamo, one-on-one with the FB (#13) simply gets there first and converts from point blank range.  The way in which the opposition is forced to account for such and advanced midfielder along with two central forwards creates quite a challenge.

 

GeQ7zbk58irKj2SoEVFMZTt31uR5Jk8VHsbVSqF6ffAt4UCQn30VCpf6XtuwnHEXt8pf-hFAwPvP4VP81cw8xwrZsHgYh-L7mSF8hsO-RmZb3d3xg7H6YtD5MNt1Hupswu2qmGBP

 

NOTE - When the build up play comes up the right flank, Mallamo does tend to offer an option, and/or Marquis will drop.

Conclusion 

The switch to the 3-5-2 put Portsmouth’s best players on the pitch and created fluid, incisive movement and passing without changing the way Portsmouth played. The aim was still to overload the channels, and it could be argued that marking two mezzalas’ runs from deep was more challenging that the out-to-in runs of the IFs in the 3-4-3 shape. The flanks could be exposed at times, but with Mallamo doing a good job on the right flank, Benjani always had the option of shifting back to the 3-4-3. 

In time, Benjani wondered if he would return to the 3-4-3 as his primary formation - he’d really liked the movement, spacing, and play Portsmouth had gotten in League One - but for now the 3-5-2 was looking the better option for the most part.

 

UP NEXT - Onto the 23/24 season!

Edited by 13th Man
Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Replies 361
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

I like it a lot, the mezzalla is a really effective role. Overall this tactic seems more balanced as well compared to the earlier one. You could in the future also consider a third player on attack, perhaps the LWB

Link to post
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

You could in the future also consider a third player on attack, perhaps the LWB

This is something I’d done in the past but hadn’t been on my radar this save. Might have to give it a go.

Link to post
Share on other sites

ugXp5v7_ax1EWa7GLTWZRLPRBLCjikBudsV-6-DOCpAA0fOoN-oMUmGfruLnRifVHkeVG5U6H3LxN4SO2feSgBCmeV0rKQClqhmOc54MJs8UuyU-_DEHgZr_RaJS96dGNevli8QB

The Ballad of Benjani - Phase II - Put the Wind in Your Sails

Part II - What Else Can I Do? - The 2023/2024 Season

Here we go on Phase II, Part II.  Kind of a joke, but also - while Portsmouth’s League One winning 2021/2022 season seemed like a storyline in itself, the 2023/2024 season feels very much like a continuation of the 22/23 season.  Benjani is on his way towards creating a club culture and building a foundation that will (hopefully) serve as a launching point for a promotion challenge.  Benjani still feels as if the 23/24 season is too early and this will be a year of consolidation and planning for the future.

 

[Oh, and the title?  My daughter has become obsessed with Encanto, which means a bunch of new catchy Lin-Manuel Miranda songs are now stuck in my head.  Still, it fits with Benjani's vision for the season - finding what his squad is capable of while planning for the future.]

Season Preview

Portsmouth finished a reputable 10th place in 2022/2023’s Championship season, with Benjani’s switch from a 3-4-3 shape to a 3-5-2 getting the most out of the players at the club and proving far more potent.  In the coming season, Benjani hoped to… 

 

1) Solidify Portsmouth’s status in the Championship

-The goal was to avoid a relegation battle and hopefully spend most of the season mid-table

 

2)Pull back on the spending

-Portsmouth went into the red towards the end of the previous season.  While the new season would see the club’s bank balance return to a healthy state, Benjani invested heavily in young players for the future in 22/23, and hoped that 23/24 would be a more restrained year.  He wanted to start investing in club infrastructure to help the club build from the ground up.

Review - Save Principles

A quick review of the guiding save goals.

 

Loyalty

Benjani had sworn to himself that he wouldn’t treat players in the way Harry Redknapp had treated him. As long as players could play at the required level, Benjani would stick with his players until they no longer were good enough or when they wanted a move. He wouldn’t keep picking players that underperformed and he’d always pick the best possible eleven, but he wouldn’t shove players out the door, for instance, to fund acquisitions and would give players plenty of chances to prove their worth.

 

23/24 Update - Two players have fallen out of favor at this point - Marcus Harness and Ronan Curtis two veterans who weren’t great in League One and have been below average in the Championship.  Harness was done, but Benjani hoped to move Curtis in the summer if there was a chance.

 

Toughness

Benjani required his players to be mentally and physically tough, with an emphasis on the former. As he looked to building the club, Benjani wanted players who would fight to the final whistle every single game, no matter the scoreline. He also wanted players who could fight to the last whistle and to physically impose themselves on the opposition. Especially considering his commitment to loyalty, there were certain traits that Benjani would require in his new signings, though he’d likely need to be flexible at times.

 

23/24 Update - This is an area that, as we shall see, Benjani fell off on a bit.  All the signings displayed determination, but there was a worrying lack of aggression and bravery.  If Benjani didn’t want to turn Portsmouth into a poor man’s late Wenger Arsenal, he’d need to focus on getting more aggressive players in over the next few seasons.

 

Youth Development

In order to create a culture from top to bottom at Portsmouth, Benjani hoped to use the youth set up to bring players imbued with a certain ethos.  This would take time and require a lot of investment in the academy.  A disappointing youth intake in 21/22 certainly put a dent in this plan, but with most of the players unlikely to ever be good enough for the first team, he decided to focus on the culture by signing determined, mentally tough players to remain on in the academy, even if they were otherwise poor players.

23/24 Update - Along with signings like Hamilton and Fiabema, there were a few academy players that looked set to challenge for places in the coming years.  CM Tom Mills was potentially ready already, and several others were close.

 

NEW SAVE GOAL (23/24 Season)

-Move towards Total Football-

After Benjani’s dreams/visions of Cruyff and his multiple visits throughout the season, Benjani began to consciously move towards the philosophy of Total Football as much as possible.

Requirements (aka, club DNA)

Players at the club would not be subjected to these tests (see - loyalty) but any incoming signings and, to a lesser extent, players looking to break into the first team from the youth set up, would need to at least “pass” the club DNA tests.  Benjani did expect, however, for many of the players who didn’t match the club personality would naturally move on over time.

Primary

Determination

[13+ desired, absolute minimum 11]

 

Workrate/Teamwork

[13+ desired, minimum 10. More flexible than Determination, but if a player is below 10 in either category, then they must be above 13 in the other category]

 

Stamina/Natural Fitness

[14+ desired, minimum 12]

Secondary

Bravery/Aggression

[10 + desired]

 

Acceleration/Pace

[12+ desired, 9 + absolute]

 

Passing

[10+ (for now)]

 

Decisions

[13+ desired, 10 absolute, unless under 21]

DNA Note

Notice that the only technical element here is Passing.  Benjani would obviously be looking for players with technical ability, but his focus is, first, to create a culture and that will be the priority.  There are obviously attributes that various positions need, but overall, incoming players must pass the above ‘tests’ (or most of them), Benjani would use DNA as a way of choosing between two players if not much else separated them.

Edited by 13th Man
Link to post
Share on other sites

You know, I have found that especially once the new-gens start coming through, there is a total lack of aggression & bravery across the board. My main DM who is very physical and has excellent tackling has 9 aggression and 6 bravery :lol: So this might be a wider game issue. No more Joey Bartons it seems! (although that may not be a bad thing)

Link to post
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

You know, I have found that especially once the new-gens start coming through, there is a total lack of aggression & bravery across the board. My main DM who is very physical and has excellent tackling has 9 aggression and 6 bravery :lol: So this might be a wider game issue. No more Joey Bartons it seems! (although that may not be a bad thing)

DM's with too much aggression are walking cards! that fast become liabilities.

I'm not sure I agree with you about the new-gens but I will be on the lookout. And I will start with my current midfield duo (both newgens) and report back.

 

Report

CM-S: 13 aggression 8 Bravery

CM-D:  10 aggression 9 Bravery 

Both accumulate cards

Edited by Hootieleece
Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny about regens and aggression/bravery!  I have noticed more that determination is terrible, but yeah regens often have very weird holes in their attributes.

However, my best two  regens are actually very good in all these categories - Mills and (Jumping attribute 1) Salem both have 11+ for aggression, and 14+ for bravery and determination.  I specifically signed youngsters with relatively high attributes in all three categories (especially determination) but who might have been lacking in others, and I'm wondering if that helped change the 'culture' at the club to the point that regens are better in those categories.  Probably just lucky!

@HootieleeceYou're right about the yellow card machines if aggression and the hidden dirtiness are too high, but it's not always true that both are high.  I had WB Luca Pelligrini in FM20 with 17 aggression who was not carded much more than anyone else, and was fantastic at stopping counters because he'd throw himself about on the wings.  Luca was one of my favorite all time WBs (and yes, let's just forget that it was at Southampton).  Maybe a few extra yellows above the average, but not to the point that I really had to worry about suspensions.

MW9nxKmlMUAs3SxyfgPNoQ52bq4dLyrsvJqAyZTnjBJSz-IWMVBJbsaEPRzIPrb1HYtpbHUiIaZsk5KeAQne_UGsWeWoMbJM8CuUwBBCaCCaE4Cz-3ehZc-eoXwY0yx2Ul8bipri

Link to post
Share on other sites

ugXp5v7_ax1EWa7GLTWZRLPRBLCjikBudsV-6-DOCpAA0fOoN-oMUmGfruLnRifVHkeVG5U6H3LxN4SO2feSgBCmeV0rKQClqhmOc54MJs8UuyU-_DEHgZr_RaJS96dGNevli8QB

Scene 1 - From the man who brought you Jake’s Booty Call comes a new adventure…

lJb4z5Y4umEmcw8O36-CKWD8J3UeklFHC3ziUlG4V8vfbAbOpuGECY-QxG7pzM62PJKGRQ9fyb96lZLxSnXHvPtpySZ6nG9CwdkB3espftrERjEDKYqc-CvgE28opLnlbaIFdcVX

 

“Benji,” Michael Eisner greets him as he enters the room, “come in, come in.”

 

Benjani enters a room and sees Michael’s son Eric sitting in an armchair, holding a glass of scotch

 

“Drink?” Michael motions to a well stocked bar.

 

“No thanks,” Benjani politely declines.

 

“Come, sit.”

 

Benjani hesitates a moment before sitting down on the other armchair facing the younger Eisner.

 

“I’ve brought you here because there are going to be some changes around here, and I wanted to tell you myself.”

 

Benjani’s hands tense up, but he keeps his face and eyes clear of tension.

 

“As I’ve told you from day one,” Michael continued, “loyalty is hugely important to me, and I hired you largely because I see the same values in the way you run the team. That’s why I wanted to tell you in person.” He takes a deep breath, “I’m stepping down as Chairman of this club in July. But…they’ll only have to change the first name on the office door. May I present to you,” Michael motions to his son, who smiles with a ‘oh gosh me?’ shrug, “the next Chairman of Portsmouth Football Club! Truth is, I’m eighty years old and even if I’m not always involved in the day to day running of the club, with everything I still do, it seems like maybe I should take a step back and let Eric take over.”

 

XA3LmjAiQ3QnfcaNvHNt9Jsmu-G1ISU5XDqzR-1jketCYLPz0gs93QmQtqCnRglbNr94wMtvWfrHM8ItwklalNb1R3HTT5JzV9HhhD_dWqAK5f_zQMcM4YGURW1mi0V0QJ3k0acQ

 

“Now don’t worry Benji,” Eric Eisner leans forward, his hands in a power pose, “you’ve done a fantastic job and I have no plans to replace you. I very much see my tenure as being a continuation of our leadership of the club.”

 

“As you know,” Michael adds in, “Eric’s been very involved since we acquired the club five years ago.”

 

Eric nods, “And from both this experience and my other experience running several organizations…”

 

Cut to the animated film Jake’s Booty Call where we see a flash animation man trying to hook up with women, credits roll showing Eric Eisner Director.

 

[In case you’re wondering, this is a real thing that Eric Eisner did. It’s one of the main things on his Wikipedia page. He directed a feature length flash animated movie in 2003 called Jake’s Booty Call based on a flash computer game of the same name. It’s apparently exactly what you’d expect from the title.]

 

Cut back to the office.

 

“…I’ve learned to stick with the people who’ve gotten you were you are. And you, Benji, have brought this club into the Championship and kept us here. Now, our five year plan hasn’t changed. We want to stay in the Championship, and start to inch our way…wait, do you guys say, like, inches here? Meters? Millimeters? Anyway, move upwards. Can we make it to the Premier League? Maybe. But we’ll move slowly, methodically, but always progressing. You think you can do that?”

 

8mpcKO_cAypuWnryidM496I8571VM_dwffB5tgntlBasrplIRWi0xqO6lzrCu1Axv9oiSKATrDOBVzBUBImIRTvkpWpKlBP5K_j6gjjmzNfPcaudFI7PwMgRNccd36Tx0YUzK0E5

 

“Yes boss,” Benjani replies.

 

“Please call me Eric! I know you folks use ‘boss’ around here all the time, but it always makes me think of those old…southern movies! You know, with the plantations and stuff! That’s not what we’re doing here!”

 

Benjani cracks a nervous sort of smirk.

 

“Anyway,” Eric continues, “the transfer budget is the same as what we agreed upon at the end of the season. The banks’ a bit less open this year with all those longer term deals and wages you negotiated last season. But…are you ready to get to work?”

 

Kfy_HZQi1eQjtE8kf8t6HRHW-VGdcvkdo6M03stOtDTwQ_q3rIth3szC-lJErYza8E_TJ6fKMHH6Om_18viPAmlvICdrghvkNH8liru75EkEmDZV3U2SFQ0LZYQntoL107kwBbA3

 

Benjani smiles a little, for real this time, “I’ve already begun…”

 

UP NEXT - Summer of 2023

Link to post
Share on other sites

DUC9iiHaLj0uPgotrZT91LQWDfe0jLoS05dXYYPKYRJed3IEXsbqjP2wPm4NmpNuiqOZx2s1rM8ZU6CSPpfhg0YjAPXqmlmhK3v9f3Vcvm4JxfNRk7UldiZ3vxzhd4hkL_08wmq-

Behind the Scenes - The tide comes in, the tide goes out - Summer 2023

Benjani’s plan was always a slow, steady progression. He wanted to create a culture at the club, and that would take time. He wanted a certain type of player, a certain type of back room staff…a club wide, unified vision. Happily, the Eisners were largely hands off when it came to the day to day running of the club, and were happy to give Benjani control. They also seemed to have similar overall goals - attractive, possession based football, use the youth academy and buy younger players for the first team.

 

In the summer if 2022, Benjani spent a fair amount of money to bring in a handful of young, high potential players to fill out a roster overly reliant on loan players and to build for the future. He also brought in a lot of youth players and signed academy players that fit a certain profile - determined and hardworking - to instill those values throughout the club.

In the summer of 2023, he began by signing those young players to long term contracts and hoped to keep the transfer spending to a minimum, and maybe even make a profit so the club might be able to reinvest the funds into facilities and infrastructure.

 

Summer Goal - Make a net transfer profit, or don’t spend at all

Staff

A lot of staff contracts came up at the end of the season, and while Benjani felt loyalty was important, the truth was, a lot of staff simply weren’t up to the level required. An example was the Head of Youth Development - an area that Benjani felt needed dramatic improvement. 

 

yQb4s_ijkz4xTeFvua4ooZw77-CgcMyOstJ92aOhSs7x9Y5veoZumDr8ixnqTkkGuhioGdpok8lW_fe4CADU5fGPKoFLCt58dQCD1zq6HJtz7z--NFnP7XwrfnoookESXiYSv92L

0oLXf9t3igAdoFbREEpsNqUDYVq_GcqwKhGv2fUWgVEXAlrVx8qf0asMYYOzfSlsDVfq9aBSDLnDPVEWt8kwnJJFGIYZM_iyyYtStbIpFCxIuqt-GzCChDiMpzGLFJuMUR2X4DK_

YVE5RYYe8Ahhsw5Y7NRttDYwu2rXdrcZR3Wyp4B-lI8iEMYbma1nM7QxU1EFJRvmFUu27Q4jAwwe1M97_WZ2cTU3nD9SJZGJra4H5mFC75ZpNB0d-UwWDsbqi0pu3NihOcci21BF

 

In comes 34 year old Dave Huzzey who, despite his preference for the 4-2-3-1, was otherwise a perfect fit for the kind of culture Benjani hoped to create at Portsmouth.

Various coaching, medical and recruiting positions also saw turnover. It wasn’t wholesale changes, but there were a lot of new faces in backroom meetings.

Players Out

Marcus Harness

nux7rvGkijpro_Lgskn5OtJO64rYHCsg8C1qajLo6NoQkO7UEQRfaYEyn9hyLjyqL7hadjyaw76RmDEL4QMzlUIxBBxmjmv3gHSEkX8QKHx4wRbyjKvtVpcmDEZn4PyAQ1fISIz6

i1nZGHSIbp7QeKRuX8dcUG_86KOW-ehwzDcbP5CLEwN17VfT3cakuJNw5-fTeyQZCPkrBgCJcewyBly7kgqB6FAHNJ-JyDagBEM4uWxlhwKB-JAngeAmB0AVHknrGie8rV-0mVXC

 

Harness fell out of favor midseason after a long string of poor performances.  He barely featured, and considering that he was one of the higher paid players at the club, Benjani was keen to offload him. Despite valuing loyalty, Benjani knew that Harness simply wasn’t good enough.  Sadly, Benjani couldn’t get a transfer fee for him, but he managed to get a loan deal which got all but about £1.5k of Harness’ wage off the books in what was the final year of his contract.

 

Kieron Freeman

aIp_ogdzgQphyx-fxvIfXM-UdpBOzod-3og35Cx7Rig_e90O112MD0Ahqp-eDLdNODwAr4HIo4ZxzUzynyxZA9sOs0rHBH8f3HAvjhRHAcqHJrlnRnWdLvmngW0juypQwj5KgCPJ

 

Team leaders came in towards the end of the season to plead the case for Keiren Freeman, and Benjani agreed to let him play a bit more - he thinks the man was acting childishly, but if his team leaders wanted Freeman to be given a chance, he decided he would work with them.  What did Freeman do with that chance?  He gave up a PK that cost them the loss against Lincoln.  In early August Freeman started to attract some attention. Benjani offered him out, Hull made an offer, and with the player very open to a move, the deal was done quickly.

 

KKUldZvy7Ksth-QzMDXzxPZdoQ0p2LI_IBxeJlsR70GsfYaka2qTI7Qnu_YOTGenzFH--sDugHQWZ4HFvlg9Gs7Jwei1m9QbusFC_mtahgUwI26pdYEeum8RXgSnlYMdlMUWSBBN

 

£450k for a 31 year old squad player in the last year of his contract?  Fantastic. 

 

Louis Thompson

jSpgK4yNyFDeqNytfgU4dXm0OE8hZBjULlJvxnX-7GMF9beRS6rqR3svU2lODAhooV2gnCDclmiT_19lEZv6vqwAa1XAUYRYOh3t1sxEwyW9TafTHb_qjK3rsCjOoWWzNAyb3o-X

axq-UKTThJCSkV0OXe74oje0tJWhrGjGpUDgt9d8G-qVnqAyfFOoVGmK-PWa_TnN2sIjaa2WlkDvU__6mD0zoi5UXv19TIEv5VZU8MIh3uXamuhmQECLwe5ouuozCyAU4Eysriq_

 

Louis Thompson was hard for Benjani to let go.  He had so much about him that Benjani wanted in his side, but he found himself out of the team towards the end of the year.  With Benjani’s eye towards Total Football, Thompson just didn’t quite fit.  Benjani still tried to keep him, however, but despite only getting occasional games, he wanted a big raise and wouldn’t accept Benjani’s offer of £5.5k/w and was released, demanding no less than £7.5k/w. For a squad player at best it was simply too much.

Profit - £450k

Transfers In - Part 1 - A tale of struggle

DXl4x8biOFlDYSyOph_O83jtcKRHsOzSi19_b_GudvqaB_ip9GHONkZSqDF-e30WnqFD60xob4eSXf1rp65g4RR1DQSk3UdLrzy-gixN9NpgiLBi4GCawk4Bpha3gXCqP54eFoa9-dr977giJjcB6GnUaNc1eShGdNoGH006ImX_Jg7_BAMKXbrNV1fUjJ3dgc3F35flI5xbpxv3ZkHHTeBalTcGIIk2YMoimSvYLOacXClL6Z7HWaWT1LF_wfQ15TZfNBUJ2uR1NV31

 

Club DNA - Determination 15, Aggression 14, Bravery 16, teamwork 14, workrate 17, fitness 16,  stamina 12.

 

P2mBOkTLWLeMxXx44tozTNePHgBr-HloINhkscv2NXrhOGyNUIQ6Ojpnti3se9itBNbNsWtAWyF3sGLcX30CsG_d3T7N1gAV7WJ7Zhep4YzdtKcTC7I5R_H4YJiXIR1o44NuboQ3

 

With forward Marquis thirty-one years old, and no one else at the club nearly as effective in the DLF role, Benjani knew he needed to find a similar player to replace him sooner rather than later.  The scouts bring in reports of Ivan Azon, a young striker who looked capable of far surpassing Marquis.  He was strong, great in the air and a very hard working player.

 

cegXbT0j-RLzi8v91NYdI03r6kQU7Q5iPdpCPp6K6zOVK_X50VCbthH90vnweqMEMehJr8ps7bJc7EoVoGuTdPOFHgMSbScZZQj0y7JnnH9Ezx-qSJzBxNJWKcuU2sZZYgd1JnFg

 

A transfer was agreed, and while it was a steep price (paid over several years of course) Benjani felt like he had a potential star - one worth going against his plan of making a profit in the summer of 23/24. But then…

 

k7FdxeEaGpjE-34cq3Up-PFDOgVLvhfZzs2CSRVxcXNB1XNDu7eCP5weH2wkeWoi7DtJqhdszlXGtK1iMF5Xuw0L2duF7TkJt-2ykn5NXAPA1HHa0C-3DPlB0TsU5wbTTjv8NDXk

 

Unfortunately, his scouts were wrong in their estimation of his ability to get a work permit and the deal fell through. 

 

In the end, it may have been for the best, as Benjani was forced to resign a lot of players and had to move nearly all the funds from the transfer budget into the wage budget - funds he wouldn’t have had if he’d been able to sign Azon - but it was still a major disappointment.  Benjani planned to keep track of Azon, however, in the hopes that he might one day be eligible for a work permit…

Benjani couldn’t find any other first team quality strikers that Portsmouth could afford but he did bring in 19 year old Oakley Cannonier who had been released by Liverpool.

 

Z8bPXWTtGt_0jMroq003TrJS70Mc09rBKf4kIjrVzpyjvGuqW8PZNqlNnT9Wm7NMoWpj2myd8sS_A1bMgkj0tND8u76V2grhWNjnrakCmF3zye5xp1xpJcFWlT-a1id2zrYhyehl

QI8wGQN5nlxK_qOuaVOwcF9zfYGqWCl73TpsolJ53aVBhn0xuuP25yaWSfmEAMD68bCuiyG8cJe-dknJLMj8muFT50Ax9qwkWDFhGur3MtTG0MM4MNfoA0YaikPX9t0d5tRXyx6T

 

Club DNA - Determination 14, fitness 14. Low aggression and bravery, low stamina, low teamwork/workrate

Cannonier would very much be a project, but the scouts rated him as a high potential player. With his speed and finishing ability, he had the chance to become a good player if he improved his teamwork and worked on his general intelligence.  He would primarily play in the reserves, but he would train with the first team and Benjani would look for chances to play him in competitive games. All the while, he hoped the club culture would rub off on the young striker and put him in the mentoring group with Fiabema and Mallamo and led by Marquis.

 

Midfield

With the center of midfield needing reinforcements after Thompson’s depature, but with his transfer budget mostly consumed by resigning players, Benjani needed players that he could get on a free.

In came Lewis Wing on a trial.

 

NN3PpBFCGdbv42c-Qe95kLUetgZN5ZOvZY126xfHl_W0hmsSNx23JpoP3v4xgiLrnCyfgYqx94LaYEgHr2lcUFvr4utukvFfpApSpL1pTrH8mHVTxJpk0td4p8i3H8rcxXY9FP8l

tRpgLLaV4oj-45NzWX1U8jLUwZ5yhIPte5E2LThfaFARWvjxywuRcaxBKXyafbRsVyVnXNO7H9JzM5Wh0Zzf8rpwt6uw_Zxi8TgFqDwX3HXASLsLD4pQMBb9Zy9c_QXVQDAwJK58

Club DNA - Determination 13, teamwork 14, workrate 14, fitness 14,  stamina 12. 

Benjani loved his set piece prowess and his general intelligence and work rate. He was not the best athlete, but his fitness means he can recover well between games.

Shortly after Benjani offered a contract, Derby followed suit. Seeing as though Derby were in League 1, Benjani wasn’t too worried…

Until Wings signed for them.

 

It was a bit surprising, but they did offer him £10k a week vs Benjani’s offer of £6.5k.

 

Annoyed, Benjani turned his attention to Manchester United academy graduate Ethan Galbraith.

 

CC4lPDBZd4RdiUP8g8Hwp0muU6YHfc4DYIONcIyWS6vDqc5i9Ad87Mx3P6-OAdpImq-sA2g15MfeGHZARcj_5-T-yVd5KcS3F3khDwv1nTDIiH5088IbYGRYa6e8g2EI8-2rkXuZ

98cKORZzblypIxGR8Qan0gnHJL-DXXJWCfzUz3n5LprRaLfzM5tVdHPKX7eBHv5642_MFOMD4wyMVL9X6rz6FU3SvmmhWUpOADFkWkYqqBOH9szm83ZoObAPRir7HcuPIKize2BE

Club DNA - Determination 14, teamwork 14, workrate 17, fitness 16,  stamina 12.

His signing would add another former MUFC player after Levitt, and was a similar sort of player.  He’s quick and has decent all around ability with a lot of potential - thought to potentially be a decent Premier League level.

 

Maybe it would turn out to be a better deal than Wings?  

 

But again, Hull offered a contract right after Benjani did.  After losing out on Wings, Benjani went back and added £1k to his contract offer bringing it to £7.5k/w.

 

qV86y7w95bfzfqECypdZm7Eb3l0C4gqnNj079b2AGrAmehYi-I0ntYLQQIsceDuRr5hJuwSUBP8HFBtDqr3Gj0SPRDO2Dbt6deJ9-rmIpxWlne4BfqG9GpQrwvmzhXrdzOwr_cGB

 

Again, Benjani faced disappointment as Galbraith chose Hull over Portsmouth despite the £1.5k/w difference in pay offered.

 

It was already midway through preseason and Benjani was 0-3 on signings for the first team, and most of the other players on Benjani’s shortlists aren’t compelling or are far too expensive. With little interest in players currently in the squad, and with contract renewals taking up a bunch of the budget, Benjani was fearing the worst.

Transfers In - Part 2 - The tide turns

[My organizing this by ins and outs means that this is not in chronological order]

 

The sale of WB Freeman actually happened after all the above troubles, and finding his replacement seemed to turn the tide of what was looking like a very frustrating summer.

With Benjani finding joy bringing in players trained at top Premier League sides but who might not quite have the ability to break through to the first team there, and after the success that the Fiabema transfer had been, Benjani brought in another young Chelsea player to replace WB Freeman.

 

-00lCNtu81Ue2BjUxH9tYkk98O3sAartYklYoai68E4nNGQhXnujsN86Oy0nZSAM-jFbgjFmjIXPwGY6NVb4ztpS_odNYKkcKe54eSSq6nSKUrclevg88T1RrTwGOuV5GWSnBxHa

RzqlYYtZ85DLc7Onnj_0q6cMg7yJc__wGzTMFLieksSVhBrssj_2TZ-N7kGV5sSQcJPi7raUND0IV4aYu8nHLpcvxWDb6ByGyj2V4Z7-n-OopgmnpwR2cvHhguTQexcWtZZJYoPh

uiAIvbwzgiTNINybQmAf6R3duHpVuc7zubDrVrm9FlV1aW_5F5flIqganuZX8DJwKA-l-KnLNg7zeM62hxfuWgzP_Sx7EG8N-cGrWHJgoDAk3B0lU2SZ1wHoIVDju-GtdiqnW7m2

Club DNA - Determination 16, teamwork 14, workrate 14, fitness 17,  stamina 14. Aggression 10, bravery 9

 

Benjani felt as if he got a very good deal with Henry Lawrence.  He’s a player who was equally comfortable on both flanks, determined, intelligent, and had a good turn of pace.  The cost was very reasonable as well - £200k up front, with £240k after 50 appearances.  While Benjani very much expected him to make 50 appearances and trigger the clause, he felt as if paying £440k for a 21 year-old after getting £450k for 31 year-old, want-away Freeman was excellent business.

 

His individual training regime would see Lawrence focus on ball control to allow him to be more of a threat going forward.

 

With that settled, Benjani turns his attention back to midfield, where Portsmouth only had 4 first team players. The new shape required 3 midfielders, so this was an area that absolutely needed an addition.  After his shortlists proved fruitless, Benjani went back and poured through scouting reports and eventually found his man in Tom Bayliss.

 

0yYFzCI-IcUHJLDbjdS91XkY7jxZ8x2CeMrWbjUtYJdkdlWV_P0mI81ucIAUiyJ9nbKGxhgQ-RhodB1h0I8GG4quW6QHRSonrjGMJd87qUs_12RsPf8DJBs3LCDFM01f1L-KXX1n

is-YjT1gp8q7pEEoj81noVnpwMN--kE6lJ210Qdnx9GMB4PV-jo7qmVb-XN38KxtDNIkBnBUSPEMMYHps3U2OvCulfX08uBVk04bLrujSlTPoZ0tPDf6hXsLvaiTOUNjkRJR7jzb

 

Club DNA - Determination 16, otherwise, pass.

Bayliss might not have the potential of Gailbraith, but the frustrations Benjani suffered may have been for the best. Bayliss also came on a free and, unlike the other players Benjani tried to sign, he had the dribbling ability to rotate with Mallamo in the attacking mezzala role and was comfortable on the right wing, allowing Benjani the flexibility to switch between the 3-5-2 and the 3-4-3. With Morrell and Levitt being relatively similar players, attacking mezzala Mallamo had been the only player without a like-for-like replacement at the club.

 

The only part Benjani didn’t like was the fairly low release clause (higher division) of £950k. Still, he didn’t expect a Premier League club to try and sign him.

 

ck4-BYauk7wooTe_dWTiWGjvHxLSpTEj7tAdYea9QMJo9SDi2ChhGbcKxaE4ZJx27-4Lnu-3d2vHL7NPj-eG4TgFzJE4U--bv51auoZQ1yDH86U529ruQqwATZpCR26FwZbvK7Nm

wBBM_9gsOOmI_V4T7gr9GZUBuH0n2lQM4PfnzwzEkQRmaZW0jKZZW_XUby6hjqiAvHPsmbyodmHMT0YvqEoyPjMnZxgK7m5S_eFPl57n50_K7cPZjaPn1mVzc7bd36u5XCndmYFQ

 

The last deal of note before the start of the season was to bring in a young keeper released by Man U. The scouts told Benjani he has a lot of potential, and the backup keepers at Portsmouth were both getting frustrated with lack of playing time. He would backup Stolarczyk, but Benjani would be confident in playing him as needed and would look to give him chances in the cups where he could.

 

UP NEXT - Preseason

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow that's a fair bit of frustration there. Interestingly, all of your CM targets are players that have done well for me on previous saves. Bayliss is class, I used to play him as a mezzalla. 

Btw I have noticed several times now that players have opted to join other clubs over mine when offered lower wages, in some cases substantially. And this is despite reputation being around the same, my team doing much better overall, and even in cases I offered them a % of next sale (I always do this with free transfers). It's got to the point where I am contemplating reporting it as a bug because it seems like the AI has an upper hand here for sure.

Link to post
Share on other sites

52 minutes ago, karanhsingh said:

Wow that's a fair bit of frustration there. Interestingly, all of your CM targets are players that have done well for me on previous saves. Bayliss is class, I used to play him as a mezzalla. 

Btw I have noticed several times now that players have opted to join other clubs over mine when offered lower wages, in some cases substantially. And this is despite reputation being around the same, my team doing much better overall, and even in cases I offered them a % of next sale (I always do this with free transfers). It's got to the point where I am contemplating reporting it as a bug because it seems like the AI has an upper hand here for sure.

I’ve also noticed this a good few times now!! I wouldn’t mind it if the player came out and said he preferred the manager/style of play etc definitely gave a reason why he chose the lower wage/other club. Would add immersion as well as giving reason. 

I missed out on Sam Lammers had him lined up as a replacement for the ageing Thy and he went to Greece for a lot less wages.

Frustration for Benjani but his passion for total football is going to see a strong season am sure off it 

Link to post
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Bayliss is class, I used to play him as a mezzalla. 

I think he’s going to be an excellent signing and he’s definitely perfect for a second division MEZ. He actually demanded to be played as one in contact negotiations. Normally I don’t like that sort of thing, but I don’t think that’ll be a problem in a shape with two mezzalas!

Funny too that you have experience with all the midfielders! Benjani was excited about each for different reasons.

9 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Btw I have noticed several times now that players have opted to join other clubs over mine when offered lower wages, in some cases substantially.

Interesting! And that @SixPointeris having similar issues. Both made sense realistically in my case - Hull are an established Championship side with a better reputation (Pompey still recovering from years in League 2) and Derby were offering Wings nearly double. Kind of wish that agents would come back to you to let you match/counter offers so you’re not blindsided though! I knew I had Wings, he asked for only 5.5k/w!

Link to post
Share on other sites

5K658-XDfFaFuV3GcZ1-4FoIQEha4o8eY5dELf7Sxh9QOxFji8kNcjmKk7USmVyIs0uny8pW115OUe2KaSuRVvi9ZryZyXIJhPqO48dcZRsHwIxE009tw-Ium5r83CutlvaQbLeU

Forgot to put this in my last post, but this is certainly interesting!  I knew that Pompey didn't have the budget of a lot of the other clubs, but to be 22nd was a bit of a surprise.  The £200k/w wage budget only half of the league average of £400k/w and simply dwarfed by the top teams - see Wolves at £1.1m/w and other recently relegated sides at £600k/w or more.

Link to post
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, 13th Man said:

I think he’s going to be an excellent signing and he’s definitely perfect for a second division MEZ. He actually demanded to be played as one in contact negotiations. Normally I don’t like that sort of thing, but I don’t think that’ll be a problem in a shape with two mezzalas!

Funny too that you have experience with all the midfielders! Benjani was excited about each for different reasons.

Interesting! And that @SixPointeris having similar issues. Both made sense realistically in my case - Hull are an established Championship side with a better reputation (Pompey still recovering from years in League 2) and Derby were offering Wings nearly double. Kind of wish that agents would come back to you to let you match/counter offers so you’re not blindsided though! I knew I had Wings, he asked for only 5.5k/w!

Yes regarding the midfielders this is exactly why I have stopped playing English saves :lol:

I agree that would be a nice feature to add, a bit more discussion or explanation...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Behind the Scenes - Preseason

17jrvxc3R_fbMXgaOnNEn7oTh_F-0LNYlEXROQhI4EYHKIMPkfLk7-_aegZ5v2DJ938304J_FlsUgCGHdLyQySusay3DNm2TuzCUYSoxM3291Zq7WbW1wGiAja0UEkI_J2_m6Hs2

[I think I might add a bit more about training this season, but we'll see if I ever really get into writing about it...]

 

After watching his players struggle physically in the 21/22 season, Benjani had set a heavily physical preseason in the summer of 2022 to prepare them for life in the Championship. He’d worried about injuries and exhaustion, but had found that his players were fit sooner with less friendlies and there were no major injuries. He’d been able to play less friendlies and have more time for training while still getting his whole squad fit.

 

After that success, he replicated the plan ahead of the 23/24 season. The first two weeks had three days of heavy physical work - endurance paired with alternating quickness and resistance training - with two days of tactical and general training. 

 

Preseason Mid

1LY64h19K-BtvJJ0qpTWx5kgKwzKrKQhx2k03xJlg9kIg6FL7dVpQjijJQUk6KvrDr0JePzoIfV1AvZ8xYweKSi9ZTceBCI2AX8W9G9efYsk_wAoVf11o5SFG-ydlkHjPhY2O-CJ
 

Preseason Late

IB7SS_5fwLN9ku--znT3FurAc32-pyDO2F6uh1Llx7n2Rev_0r0xi7RsCimPY06FGgzu_lqWwrz2yxMHFSsjkLbFdR34E5JOxZiRrf-ULaMjNvGIo3MehTfVUBMZxoDiKU9PrMLP

 

In the weeks that followed, the physical training tapered to two days with double sessions, then two days with single sessions, with the focus shifting to technical and tactical training. Again, the training schedule was a success with no injuries beyond a few minor muscle aches, and no one out of training for more than a few days. Generally speaking, when Benjani wanted to go through a heavily technical week, he liked the week to be almost a slow motion transition from winning the ball back, to playing out from the back, to ball distribution and retention, before creating and finishing chances. He felt there was a nice flow to the week, and would round it out with tactical or position specific trainings as well.

 

XZJqFin54oa87DFGFsm3phDD64qMQUZUf71hbw1_hg5yTS6mUnjRhXnpPzzYq-2umG0j3gE8W0f3P6oA5xu-W8nat7v7p4uARg_Vs8Z3_JbH5_-ZzmBL-hg_7PcEndbXHTr8SkM0

 

A busier preseason than Benjani would have liked in which they played eight games. Games against Gosport and Havant and W were part of affiliations, but did allow Benjani to see some youngsters in action. The preseason saw them lift the prestigious “Friendly Cup” defeating Kaiserslautern and FC København along the way.

 

The true highlight, however, was in Holland.

 

-H1u6u4RYqkSZ_u2DsKebU2ULcIyVaz7HS--5FrGgFpNdxn4vEtmrhiqzYMWtuBihKr3BFSbhCQFD0VYGieL1dbWR83gxZXnzFabzTMYackL0hUdbgu2_bS1ck-2h3SydVHKc4HwXnM2myhPqDGSe5dEJUnDVbaT5-bd9qcJFWKTdugge1WE7393lfPBrsiORvMcLSiRPCm8salKNWaDpzR-SuZB2G2aMEmx9IWVctGug3xb_Pmac1vUHq-L5QySJZUhMY_6SaEumJvX

 

Benjani knew not to take much from preseason results, but it was impossible not to enjoy Portsmouth’s complete domination of AZ Alkmaar in Holland.  It was true that AZ had been surprisingly poor in 22/23, flirting with relegation in the Eredivisie, but they were a decent side with plenty of decent players and had finished near the top of the league in 21/22.  Either way, the 3-5-2 controlled their 4-4-2 (midfield diamond) en route to a fully deserved 4-0 thrashing.

 

The other highlight was a reputable 1-1 draw with West Ham. West Ham probably should have won on the whole, but their goal was from a corner while Fiabema scored from a beautiful pass from new signing Bayliss.

 

Heading into the season, Portsmouth and Benjani were full of confidence and hoping they could pick up where they’d left off at the end of the 22/23 season…

 

UP NEXT - Gentleman! You can’t fight in here!  This is the War Room!

Link to post
Share on other sites

23 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Solid Pre season. Any changes to to the tactical ideals? I thought I would see a 343 diamond :brock:

Ha!  The 3-5-2 is still looking the best fit for the current players.  Funnily enough - It's actually  more like the 3-4-3 diamond that I would have expected, with the opposite mez moving into a forward position whenever the ball is on the opposite flank.  So if the ball's on the left it generally looks like -

          AF              MEZ

                       DLF

WB       Mez                 WB

                 DLP       

       WCB - CB - WCB

Yes, the mez is very often ahead of DLF Marquis, or they just trade and swap spaces.  It's a brutal combo for the opposition.

So reading those articles was inspiring and also encouraging that the movement looked so close to some versions of total football.  CB still needs a good ball playing CB, and the team as a whole needs quality to truly do it at the top levels, but the progress is happening....

Edited by 13th Man
Link to post
Share on other sites

Cutting Room Floor - August

lFs7P7z01v7xOn5XRqoBtIkN3FULaxhGbSxxITQkXT-U0Av-6TpURuJX3muIYNqXxOIxTKCjHv6AGh-RYba05J6hbwHNWmmPxpIL4fg673EuWT1ZmNU3N8JIOMtX-eqCLl8Ze0JSVcoSQbzqgECW3cZ0fORqnPtshXzsr4EZAv2EhpmUxZpIjZGbvZCSILHadw3_0ApAThWaOlAu_jKwn6AVrZs5uXBTljz1_gCS8iu3teLK-7HuFECiSVlB2oDCMHmv2LDWfCM2uPOH

pMtaTUUbnA9O9uiyCJeLhuTOblaNAj7Rq9mp1SnM0mMjok15ItDTWOm99p6rvVEGk6Ur0uuPkykvSy3RtHgH60wlP74iz1qMevM1wX0xFqf5R-_1AsAfbW78xFLC1js6_bBUn6ce

 

Stoke have become Portsmouth’s boogie team, always seeming to find a way to score while limiting Portsmouth’s attack.  This time they got a goal on a brutal crossfield ball from very deep.  Benjani had instructed high pressure all game, wanting to avoid exactly that kind of assist. Fiabema didn’t pressure a CB with enough urgency, however, and the CB was able to lift a very long ball that striker Sam Sturrige converted (3 for 3 in games against Portsmouth). Marquis was able to save a point with a nicely taken goal, but that was all Portsmouth could manage.

 

sKDIL7rI7MZFwhSDL5MQOKVG7LhEVqb1Q2rofn_CpwyHdfhcHxeKVjxYNLdpgzlv7I6ZijSO2V7pvDnztkQtrCKqH2DOUu3jnfTyNQj1T0pfsMH4BB2JLwWiR3Jq_a6OvpiD0oaB6vJk2AlcRz9l6mG2hxgpqkd4yFDIsSAIXP7sqFyIEFPJxEBZtm38b0Ugez36WT_7q37TFEapbCnmqgHebkC0WCNVOBmqrTRERI9oFGSHRE2aic4K81yjzJ5GMQOeXiIawegmMmko

 

A fully rotated side played here against the League 2 side and eventually managed a comfortable win. The game was mainly notable for giving new players their first starts. Kovar was solid enough in goal, Tom Bayliss did well, academy player Tom Mills, still only sixteen, got his professional debut, but the real highlight was former Liverpool youngster Cannonier getting himself a deserved goal on his debut.

The passing map is very strange, but Forest Green played a very narrow 5-1-2-2 and Benjani used his 3-4-3 to good effect.

 

pR2N5fEQXz7U3EtE8SIW_RH4RS1RAYEo_Cye7f25Q6PexrnQarbPC-dgkfAeL9UzOrRO1WF6URg-r9HbVPDJixyGD2YWk4MF8HFW4hc1jzVOPlcQjaUJwqyYD8HjOsXNywErsoO5eJZEdrqZ4byOnlWM2TqWXgWjv9blAa3ZLInyqYi9hsgw74W8HT7iGk4wj4iu4_01xyjBnuxzeGFhZHBk4DoZ4p7TkPe79xfetHn6tImZXRkWyfhad1ozhqYZQIR4Qw35aIV4EOaD

BNODcaxmmPQuim8PJ1hyqmxTGIjcEl_m7-EySmDPNFRMd03s6HfKI5u08I1vWQVVvlEiIC3KKWGDBQtT9MlRtw2n7YtgMg-Nd7mXzGY2gnIB5m1XJ--IMVMCy2oPeOH9GPHx2T0UfzskWZo31FWonxbahLJuI2Nax5QNo1cVRJFT8gWgtS7g92eBTWHbmcbZPMgfeBPgNn_MvAQmbUm1rzBye6cgwcx0vnfgstmxpKS5Dfour1gbnpcknNVYJsZbxWW780k5Ac_3MHER

This game wasn’t as close as the scoreline suggested. Overall, Portsmouth dominated the game and it was only a late and silly penalty given away by Levitt that allowed Wolves their only decent chance of the game from the spot.

 

After losing twice to Wolves the previous season, this was a very pleasing victory.

 

cdSY9w57HBWGkiYKwy0uq-3anMK0q7-gjfIX5cwZ0Z3FBfPqKrkru72QV4F338k__6tCA-oW-xooX-yyWv8UH0IB7ilXxl2TPba_oZJCUXCSdCsBFRH1UjMHDtvRuq-UJPY3VjIgKokb-xom3Jsxtr2ili38XFWJUByDKZhFijn7FonymiBB0YSlp-3WnwWZfEFzHYUlKHKAlZIuiS7MQrvYe6uCaJN-dbRPhaZ8RaQN8paLZZPwoZT3Ee3Ieb9U6PfhlH_qrYJG3nEH

 

In an opening to the season that saw Portsmouth face several of teams recently relegated from the Premier League [Wolves - 2021, Stoke - 2018, and with Bournemouth - 2022 up next in the League Cup] Portsmouth faced a recently relegated Brighton side that they’d knocked out of the FA Cup the year before. Brighton, on this occasion, exacted revenge against their south coast semi-rivals. Benjani felt Portsmouth weren’t as bad as the scoreline suggested, but Brighton were clearly the better side.

 

bFFff-EHntmi6aTsC4848KK6754kiCH1xd68LXqZhTbsKh03qBwvS5uVsUEcbepiZCDUH8ekknRqBNbNYe7Nm6UpHDbYYs-iszJa3pYoGgKTDSYKONTw7AAeOS8SyHNTwnMFtuDutL20J7wGpbkqjHTpFzgk9HLFuf6UcVooCi78DgJ1TFHQ0diNJbKCTt33aNrLz2Nkwk3hxaF6dTWnprFupzWP3yQTdR-PUfVaoqPGe48ztkVjIXWE0jy00SqUq90FbW3N4RIHfIGH

qzwsrkGpyoEUCzR8T7cI_-yl0Ojxyoil3iSfq7Jc6QOUx9yxD8f4yX6Nb6vM_SJNXplavW5j25jHN879Gqjqa3nI5OvZQZjOwtdE2ndSqMiRtbj3GxOEuznmGlOQTYL0q-J6Z7EH

 

Last game before the end of the month was in the league cup against Bournemouth.  It was a heavily rotated side, but not quite to the extent that the first League Cup was. Benjani didn’t expect much against a side only just relegated from the Premier League.  The side battled again, however, and managed a 1-1 draw and kept their nerve in a penalty shootout to progress to the next round. They deserved it too, Bournemouth’s penalties were honestly poor and backup keeper Kovar should have saved at least two of the first five. He finally saved one, though, and Hamilton made no mistake on his turn.

 

3AoAFkrP4vCGInToIXwbVUv_DHxQX59PI3lyV3pOcwbcmzq9uvycEaSDLmmVuo2QZqqWXYgX6BGj0rFaVR0YOiNOck_y1hgGAwC3TbIZalni7e10JvavrOlsIsfjODK5i3RF7WgW

 

With August coming to a close, the media was hyping up deadline day, but Benjani didn’t expect much…[spoiler some stuff happens]

Link to post
Share on other sites

Keep it up! I want a win for a birthday present (Sep 15th) in the next installment. You are playing tough sides early which could be good for your campaign, but I always would rather build up the momentum against the weaker sides and play the tough teams midseason if possible.

Link to post
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Keep it up! I want a win for a birthday present (Sep 15th) in the next installment. You are playing tough sides early which could be good for your campaign, but I always would rather build up the momentum against the weaker sides and play the tough teams midseason if possible.

Definitely always love a nice easy start if i was given the choice 

Link to post
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Brighton was always going to be a tough

They were after Pompey after knocking them out if the cup. Still, Benjani got the tactics right, the players played fairly well, but were undone by one really good passing move and a corner. 

 

5 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Keep it up! I want a win for a birthday present (Sep 15th) in the next installment. You are playing tough sides early which could be good for your campaign, but I always would rather build up the momentum against the weaker sides and play the tough teams midseason if possible.

I get what you and @karanhsinghare saying, but there’s something nice about getting them out of the way. Keeps you humble and keeps you from thinking you’re invincible when you have a run of easy games.

Link to post
Share on other sites

ugXp5v7_ax1EWa7GLTWZRLPRBLCjikBudsV-6-DOCpAA0fOoN-oMUmGfruLnRifVHkeVG5U6H3LxN4SO2feSgBCmeV0rKQClqhmOc54MJs8UuyU-_DEHgZr_RaJS96dGNevli8QB

Scene 2 - Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!

[Snob/fancy pants points if you get the reference. Admittedly, it was from well before my time and according to my students I’m old and the technology that was reasonably cutting edge in my teens is now #antique on TicTok. Not that I’m bitter about that or anything.

 

Also, does the actual drama of the day warrant this 'scene'? Probably not. But it was my first truly crazy deadline day in my FM 'career' and it really went down to the wire. Some creative license was taken in terms of timing, but it's not that far off...]

 

31 August 2023

Transfer Deadline Day

13:00

 

Hanz Zimmer’s low, throbbing synth music gives tension but also excitement to the moment as the screen fades in. [Temp music is from the opening scene of The Dark Knight when the Joker robs a bank]. 

We see Benjani watching training with assistant manager Joe Dunne.

 

“Transfer deadline day, boss!” Dunne says with relish. “Looking forward to heading into the War Room after training!”

 

“The War Room?” Benjani chuckles, “I’m really not expecting much. All of nothing happened last year. I’m mostly thinking about Huddersfield at the weekend.”

 

“You hear the rumor?”

 

“I really don’t care about rumors, Joe!” Benjani laughs with a shake of his head.  

 

“Cardiff and Preston are supposedly interested in Ronan [Curtis].”

 

“Really?” Benjani asks, eyebrows raised. 

 

“Thought you weren’t worried about rumors, boss?”

 

Benjani looks back to the pitch with a little smirk, “Well, those rumors have been on and off all summer and nothing has come of it…but, let’s offer him to them. See what they are willing to pay for him.”

 

“Really?” Dunne turns to Benjani. “You want me to call Darrel?” [New Director of Football Darrel Whyley]

 

Benjani nods with a shrug, “He’s not going to play as much as he wants this year behind John [Marquis] and Bryan [Fiabema], and he’s out of contract at the end of this year. I don’t see him signing another contract with us.”

 

“Along with not doing very well on the pitch,” Dunne agrees. “Alright…”

 

Dunne turns and pulls out his phone, fade to black.

 

13:55 - Ten hours to the transfer deadline

 

Cut to Benjani on the pitch with the players, winning a header by standing his ground and holding off tall Raggett to flick the ball past him, but then he turns with the ball and he can’t get going fast enough and is easily caught by pacy WCB Hamilton. Benjani laughs as he stumbles and there are chuckles all round.

 

“Right,” Benjani says, breathing heavily, “I don’t have half the pace I used to, but see how by using your body to position yourself you can…”

 

“Benjani!!!” comes a call from the stands.

 

He turns to see [Director of Football Darrel] Whyley.

 

“Check! Your! Phone!” He yells.

 

“Alex,” Benjani says to a nearby coach, “take over, please.”

 

The camera follows Benjani as he jogs to where he’d left his phone near the touchline.

 

“Oh…”

 

“War Room!” Dunne pumps his fist as he passes Benjani and heads inside.

 

Benjani smirks, shakes his head and follows Dunne.

 

Cut to the inside of a conference room. We see Benjani, Dunne, Whyley, Chief Scout Martin Hinshelwood, and several other members of the recruitment team. All except Benjani have laptops open in front of them. The camera circles the conference room table.

 

“Preston is offering £700k for Ronan Curtis,” Director Whyley says. “Well below our £1.6-2.6m valuation.”

 

Benjani leans forward and puts his hands to his temples, “But he'll almost certainly be gone on a free next summer if we don’t sell him now. Better to get something for him now than nothing later. Still…Are they open to negotiations?”

 

“It’s a non-negotiable offer.”

 

Benjani closes his eyes.

 

“I would take that, but I feel like we can do better. Reject the offer.”

 

The camera whips around and cross fades.

 

15:32

 

“Goal.com just posted the story that you’re still open to selling Ronan,” says a staff member.

 

“You think Preston or Cardiff will call back?” Dunne asks.

 

“Don’t know,” Benjani shrugs, “but it won’t be the worst thing if he stays…”

 

The spinning camera is now on DOF Whyley, who puts down his phone.

 

“Preston is offering £700 thousand, non-negotiable…again.”

 

Eyes turn to Benjani, who takes a deep breath.

 

“Still no,” he says, “we need a better offer.”

 

Whyley nods and picks up his phone, but before he makes the call he looks at his laptop and his eyes go wide.

 

“Benjani,” he says, “Luton are offering £1.6 million for Connor Ogilvie. £800 thousand up front and £800 thousand over two years.”

 

b-sBYbVV0PNSdZtZeGrsQLaJFpp-7uXo78eElIFsSkfkKwvKd3SyiRtaQ4MF54QrJ12jHEFvAn0ZabNxQoCKc9MTIqtjvk7KtYW2Dk2VPZez7ZQGVCj-XznyKb-uop0Y1qYq7JdW

tSG-lkyhOfJgSs56_AIVjyY0g5y_nJtIGydYtvEIZ7dDT-W-ohJil2462RiggncTYWE0N1d2CywqmKpXh_N8BZqoFJRNGo4SdrEIKnNnpuqxmnqE198BE053FkyX9VidKsRfGoN3

 

There’s a surprised silence for a second. Then Benjani speaks.

 

“Ask for £2.6 million, that’s the upper limit of our valuation yeah? I like Connor and I’m not letting him go cheaply. Split it the way they did - £1.3 now and £1.3 in installments.”

 

Whyley nods at him, and picks up his phone, says something to an assistant who starts typing into his laptop.

 

“Connor?” Dunne shaked his head, “There have been rumors, but this is still a surprise…”

 

“I like Connor,” Benjani sighs, “he’s been a decent enough player for us, but I can’t turn down that kind of money…I won’t be mad if he turns them down, but…”

 

“They’re countering with £1.9 million.”

 

“They’re willing to negotiate then? Tell them £2.4 million.”

 

He nods.

 

“If they agree…” Dunne gasps.

 

Benjani just sits, leaning forward, eyes closed.

 

“They say 2.4 is acceptable.”

 

Benjani turns to Dunne, who nods.

 

“Do it. I’ll call Ogilvie,” Benjani sits back. “He’s a good player, but 2.4 for him is just too good.  Who do we have on the lists who can play wide center back on the left?”

 

“Look at you,” Dunne laughs, “just like your old gaffer Redknapp, wheeling and dealing!”

 

“Don’t you dare!” Benjani points to him with a smirk. “I’m going to tell him it’s his choice, that I’ll be happy if he stays. I’m not shoving anyone out the door.”

 

“Except Marcus [Harness],” Dunne says gleefully.

 

“Darrel,” Benjani turns to Whyley, “let’s put an ad out for our about to be vacant assistant manager position, yeah?”

 

“Are you…” Whyley looks at Benjani with wide eyes.

 

“He’s joking, Darrel,” Dunne laughs. “You’ll get used to it.”

 

“Am I?” Benjani deadpans.

 

Darrel looks at him for direction, Benjani looks back at him for a long moment before Whyley finally feels confident it’s all a joke.

 

“Okay, back to business, wide center back, left footed. Martin, who do we have?”

 

“There’s Toti, who is transfer listed at Wolves for 1.5 million…” says Chief Scout Martin Hinshelwood.

 

“Tell me about him…”

 

06PZ62zTC2P3Pt0fP3y7Bnh4EPYwsL01-KVn8nDBswgX5p7RhMBGVsyKdgG0WOr-BhDM7bKdpotpa226Zvjo8Wnjk0_tdj0RFkzab-d4cp4lvvxP-J7npxQEMP9z6hDiL8JElw2x

kSpZvH-Hawt17d3DZAN8C8Nc_oaCr5QuouvngRHtFQz0grfEmMfYwr27HWLzzbFpQ7XQbkhRaCS720myJKpPg4hDz95nMol6nEmh9OJ9bEvGGAmxuCwWNmWsOIuAWKFuEudiuxvy

 

“…the one issue is that he is Bissau-Guinean, so the work permit might be an issue, but he’s currently at Wolves, so hopefully it would work.”

“Offer them £800 thousand,” Benjani says.

 

Spin cut.

 

15:47

 

“They’ll take £900 thousand and a 30% profit from next sale clause.”

“Do it.”

 

Spin cut.

 

MLPHcrtHb9fLu4dxNcS9MwahHc1jUO6x1fEUN4hmC72flXfrSm9olQCr5mZQi9HcdtgOB8cvVv75pXoRLHS8m7GppDsIoDzKDAvTD0KEIv9qbfvrJgrA3ichJcTeyvcqx4F3YIgL

 

17:30 - six and a half hours to the deadline

 

“His work permit application was rejected!”

 

Groans around the room.

 

“Who else?” Benjani asks chief scout Hinshelwood.

 

“Preston is now offering 800 thousand for Curtis.” Whyley cuts in.

 

“Less than I’d like but we made 100 thousand pounds by saying no, don’t know if that’ll work again…”

 

He looks to Dunne.

 

“Oakley [Cannonier] will get more playing time…” Dunne adds.

 

“Anything from Cardiff?” Benjani asks Whyley.

 

Whyley shakes his head.

 

“Okay, do it.”

 

Whyley nods to an assistant.

 

“Back to,” Benjani turns back to Hinshelwood, “Center backs?”

 

“Kean Bryan is a good player we’ve been looking at…” Hinshelwood starts.

 

“Didn’t he just sign for West Brom?” Whyley says around his phone. “He trailed here and was asking for what…20k per week?”

 

Hinshelwood furrows his brow and starts to type into his laptop, “Not from what I remember…”

 

“I’m pretty sure,” Wyhely says before calling back Preston.

 

“Anyone else?” Benjani asks.

 

“I can’t recommend anyone for the first team,” Hinshelwood sighs. “No left footed center backs anyway. Are you sure that Bryan trialed here?”

 

“Darrel?” Benjani asks Whyley. “Got any suggestions?”

 

“Anthony Stewart at Wycombe is a good bet.”

 

“We scouted him Martin?”

 

Hinshelwood shakes his head.

 

“What do you know about him Darrel?”

 

“He’s good on the ball, strong and experienced. He’s 30, feeling stuck in League 1, and I know he’s looking for a way out. He’s an upgrade over Connor for sure.”

 

“Right,” Benjani nods, “I don’t like not having scouted him, let’s get some stats on him as soon as we can and let’s see what we can get him for.”

 

20:06 - Four hours to deadline

 

knR80ZFYKPC67PazppxcuW7z5EwTRZjQdKRuxDTeK_AYfGp7tADj8eK3xk04XUH7zDi-7Hlrpuu-pyw--3NocCribQsRmo1kxSS2FX-oyfLzlky6DAob0pcjm84p0RYE2BKneIBW

 

“Connor [Ogilvie] and Ronan [Curtis] have both signed. Both are done deals.” Whyley reports.

 

“Anthony [Stewart] should be signing momentarily….there, he’s signed…wait…Cancelled??? Lack of funds?”

 

yYqYenyfMtcYvh885evVllbHywi0ZNzpqfqLiC1mACZPKb8NubcVPSgP_YD1V__mZwqehMqzQS_Ck2y-8fIlFRGhKpZQoHWk_GXNVTWd4JwYKBtHyxrRYoUrI4QmajXXLfc8h9Ga

 

“How do we not have the funds?” Benjani furrows his brow, “Connor’s deal brought in 1.1 upfront and Ronan another 800 thousand even at 55% transfer income retained…maths aren’t my strong suit, but I’m pretty sure that’s enough to cover the £750 thousand initial fee!”

 

Whyley and his assistant both furiously type into their laptops before the assistant groans and shows Whyley his laptop.

 

“Two installments of six months,” he says, “not twelve.”

 

“So it’s all on this year's budget then?” Benjani sighs heavily. “Ask them if they’ll take the deal that we meant to offer.”

 

“I don’t…”

 

“Which one of you wrote up the offer?” Hinshelwood [chief scout] spits out.

 

“It was an honest mistake,” Whyley shoots back. “An honest mistake that means we have four hours until the deadline, only four first team center backs at the club then?”

 

Benjani opens his mouth to speak but Dunne speaks first.

 

“Gentlemen!” Dunne cuts in, “There’s no fighting in here! This is the War Room!”

 

All eyes turn to him and the room falls silent.

 

“Really?” Dunne chuckles. “No one?”

 

Silence.

 

“Dr. Strangelove? No?”

 

“Oh, I love Doctor Strange,” says Whyley’s young assistant. “I…don’t remember that quote though…”

 

“No,” Dunne groans dramatically, “Doctor Strangelove, the Peter Sellars and Stanley Kubrick classic! Still no?”

 

Silence.

 

“Fine,” Dunne shakes his head. “You all need to watch it. But the point is, Kean Bryan wasn’t the lad who went on trial with us, that was Matt Clarke and he signed for QPR not West Brom.”

 

“What?” Benjani’s eyes go wide.

 

“I knew it!” Hinshelwood cries.

 

“Then why didn’t you say something?” Whyley shoots his way.

 

“I did!”

 

“Gentlemen!” Benjani says with a twinkle in his eye. “There’s no fighting in the war room.”

 

“Actually the quote is…never mind,” Dunne says.

 

“Okay, I can understand, it's sometimes hard to tell these English names apart - Kean Bryan?  Matt Clarke?  Sound the same to me,” Benjani says with a twinkle in his eye and the slightest of smirks, “are

we getting Kean Bryan then? What can we get him for?”

 

“Somewhere in the range of 1.1 to 2.3.

 

“Offer one million.”

 

Whyley eagerly picks up his phone.

 

sfD-8W7zMgDFHgFsTaUDx2WKMcoS3byYcZxNRJvgbt7sOYMXgMqWcT39mooFvjNHvzkuFbMBMPN1t8PtMzjPHJozeqOtFl9jClF9bQ6Go1Y9T4PsoTve1BLNTVGUUMNWTq6UrbZQ

[£800k up front, £500k over two years]

UgUuy3XKroNjj7YTEViqilj7IQ1xaKf3VPaHr33sbSoVJsZi8XcdwObDG5Hi_t4BS7VLo_rg1iZH1o-hwGdbNeK-IuS2E_SFaZ-JL7IpVE-NBIk5wXfnE2oVUjxv4mdUmgvUBUDt

 

[Club DNA - pass across the board, but an overall upgrade on Ogilvie other than bravery and aggression and will bring added pace to Portsmouth’s backline…with an overall profit of £1.1m from the deals]

 

JJZSdURlflvwZXfJ0BAEfooaojbyWRYGmsVW6U6hFKF-WYx_SkWcluzpPwPlYueBPhFzLdo5kyZULeYpOyAjDX9YdPAkd73yZ1oX4HwRswc-JXZE53qK9gryBio8MbEXE7Rbosza

 

21:25 - 2.5 hours to deadline

 

“He’s signed!” Whyley says with relief. 

 

Cheers around the room, Benjani lets out a long breath, eyes closed.

 

“Okay,” he says after the cheer dies down, “I think that’s enough excitement for one night! What are the totals for the window, Darrel?”

 

“For the transfer window we spent £1.5, 1.7 million if you count the appearance clause in Lawrence’s transfer, and we’ve brought in 3.7 million overall. Profit of two million pounds.”

 

IHdjUqWf2l2JtLOFrJqchGkD17s9dsO30Kb78FCFryL8oKyZ_Rfr4H4UeT3n7QuQ5QI2g8eIb_Snpx89Mvjd4Wd1Op8Da9s5kMnkTSpj0q2wtAoVejqj6WNgvqrmhuXcU80EuBqB

AATEo8GMoxgPmhB-gw-ojcEMJ45NploeOQC_yiX-1H-FnrK1ZOiUW_k8ErNXzJ63D89Ilqil-JyzVwHXEpWVW9RQCcyTvGXQRt_oQvuoOQfqdb3WAn6sQwQTxtHfEyIii_BYJtMU

 

“Fantastic! And I’d say we’ve improved the side overall,” says Dunne. “Even if we lost some forward depth selling Ronan.”

 

Benjani nods wearily, “I’m going home. Darrel, no more business tonight, yeah? If anything comes in, just reject it.”

 

“What if…?”

 

“Reject,” Benjani says sternly but with a chuckle, “it.”

 

“Understood,” Whyley nods with a smile of his own.

 

Fade to black.

 

UP NEXT - A September to Remember - Tactic Breakdown and Update in 1

Edited by 13th Man
Link to post
Share on other sites

I see you had a busy deadline day.....I actually try to avoid the mechanic if possible because I often splash the cash for players that only incrementally improve the team. I try to identify my prospects and signees for Day one of transfer period. Only time I really get looped into it is if AI sends an offer I can't refuse for a Key player then I often have to scramble!

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

I see you had a busy deadline day.....I actually try to avoid the mechanic if possible because I often splash the cash for players that only incrementally improve the team. I try to identify my prospects and signees for Day one of transfer period. Only time I really get looped into it is if AI sends an offer I can't refuse for a Key player then I often have to scramble!

 

I normally do too, usually just find myself pressing reject over and over. This time worked out very very well, even if it was a bit stressful. The left WCB position was one being targeted for future improvement and to get £2.6m for a player Benjani liked but was inconsistent (and had low determination). Paying only half that for a player who he’d been looking at signing but couldn’t afford was excellent business. Then offloading Curtis and his wages was nice as well.
Would have been simpler if I hadn’t mixed up Matt Clarke (a former West Brom player) with Bryan Kean (a ‘current’ West Brom player) and gone for him right away.

Still, £2m profit and, on the whole, improve the side? A good “days” work I’d say. Portsmouth have one of the smaller budgets in the Championship, and that £2m is huge.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Getting rid of Ronan Curtis will help the team immensely! Good Luck with the rest of the season. My journeyman save got me to Germany at Hertha! Time to dethrone Bayern playing like Bayern!  I am enjoying this career (yours) immensely this and a few others are giving me food for thought.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Getting rid of Ronan Curtis will help the team immensely!

Benjani was pleased with that.  Curtis wanted out too so it was easy.

3 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Nice exciting transfer deadline day there, as you say a throwback to the Harry Redknapp era :lol:

Just make sure Benjani doesn't hear you talking like that, yeah?

Link to post
Share on other sites

ugXp5v7_ax1EWa7GLTWZRLPRBLCjikBudsV-6-DOCpAA0fOoN-oMUmGfruLnRifVHkeVG5U6H3LxN4SO2feSgBCmeV0rKQClqhmOc54MJs8UuyU-_DEHgZr_RaJS96dGNevli8QB

A September to Remember - the 3-5-2 matures and the 3-4-3 makes a triumphant return as well

I normally like to build up the drama as I write updates, and with this save and its Disney theme I’ve gone all creative writing/pretend film. September of 2023, though, is one I need to ‘break the fourth wall’ for. It was one of those months when everything clicked. New signings got used to the way Pompey play and brought new pace and quality, youngsters came of age, the 3-5-2 became even more deadly…and Benjani’s in game tactical switches all seemed to go exactly as planned. NOTE - I have some GIF links in the text of several goal descriptions. They'll give anyone interested a better idea of the movement and passing etc.

 

zDVTFUpinJ279UweQX2PMpqxBYxuhVnPpOUFx9GjTJ4LoGSF3Hyh3gpvZoZN9Jg86yOv5gsHejquHsgFTQzS-elxO1KDHUl0Dp8IeNqgxJi2Awe0Ugac9PIG3KN0iT3SIL1-xJxd

 

The month started a bit slow, with narrow wins over Huddersfield and Bournemouth - though the later was very pleasing - but then Pompey truly ‘got the wind in their sails’ and crushed Reading, Preston and Barnsley in quick succession. A League Cup loss against Newcastle kept it from being a perfect month, but Benjani had decided to rotate heavily in that game to maintain their strong league form (making 9 changes) and the fact that the squad players made a good account of themselves against a Premier League side was impressive.

And now, for the tactics!

 

Open a bit wider

JKs0lGxWSLTP1Jjt_bhnwjd7NC9CM-IfzGib3Bd8JSfETfSzgzOcULZ4D6SDuymDE1v8juoKlJTMYTqVn3SpU5xRqhlCe0Xte6MAbXkuhNJg9rkMzDp2YG5_ZgCf_ZrHRzV9jVxwyEiWJ3hCmgG5nWPBr5mclWugjoilsqbMMOrkJG1iIowXqOHYvA26McpEeDe6QbfaxbtLV0C3VV0rTcSsorCr_w6vFOxQm-_4cSqeqk41GIc3Z9mKHnvT__iyA8UrXHdwJX8KZTkE

 

Huddersfield had spent a season in League 1, and Portsmouth were favored despite being the away side. As such Huddersfield set up in a low, narrow, compact block and tried to make use of their 5-2-1-2 to hit Pompey on the break. Huddersfield had a few chances, but Portsmouth were certainly the better side. Still, it took a long time to get the breakthrough, and it was hard to tell if Benjani’s tweak led to the goal or if it was just the building pressure taking its toll.

 

High LOE

Seeing how Huddersfield were mostly only dangerous on the break or by going direct, Benjani upped the LOE to higher while keeping the DL at higher as well as he didn’t need his side compact if they were bypassing the midfield.

 

Wide Width

Benjani usually liked to play slightly narrow to give players on the ball options. Early in the second half, though, Benjani saw that Huddersfield seemed to be congesting the passing lanes and leaving the flanks wide open. He needed his players to be a bit further apart to drag the defense out of position, so he moved to a slightly wider. The spacing very much helped creating space and may have helped lead to the winning goal.

 

Position switching

In the buildup to the goal, we can see how the fluidity of the shape and the movement of the players create space and the quick, mostly one touch passing opens up a defense that is forced to make snap decisions about who to mark or close down.

 

B2HlMxu5uJ5QJKBx-QyKnPDss07Q2kzaW08yoXZRfWF0lrU3NTdqlB7wV-8hUoRKyShrM8pHFsVXcxRHoeAzxvzgJrF_hZxB0zckyKNk-ufHavah_NaAdCinH-dzOSZWBrlAq5Xk

 

We can see the position switching already happening in the first screenshot.  DLF Marquis (9) is wide of right WB Johnson (15) with right mez Mallamo (24) almost as far forward as AF Fiabema (19).  Also see left mezzala Morrell’s position at the edge of the box and DLP Levitt (6) sitting back to recycle central possession.

 

Ewkg12BRPt-kjlQYQX1SCfiJOqLd-V5kDhsV38Zak24B8E2MejH0PJTg2w8eqRCgJhPCFvCdxWgt2ZEidfs-qcfmZKa4MmCw8-XibqFNyENQQ9us60DySttOm8y36Pu1AIoYvg5O

 

Huddersfield are able to clear the ball, and they think they have a forward open in #22.  However, WCB Hamilton (14) is able to drop quickly and intercept the ball with his great pace (more on that later).  Mallamo drops quickly, as do Marquis and Johnson, their runs crossing each other, but Hamilton heads it to Mallamo - who isn’t marked as Huddersfield try to push out of their box.  

 

LJrtuDuhdwkifKZA4g3ys-RcDo1ts7F_LKC62Yt9Ouc7hDx01rMUEf3sLpHQJywzXwJTnz6mAgHGdmWeH6K47gDmxKNIU-oZeUqSXA9P4EQrkMJCPu0UGDd3cmI1qdIoW5cBBRyN

 

The Huddersfield wingback (17) follows Marquis’ out to in run and he is doubled by the CB (4) while a center mid moves over to close down Mallamo.  Mallamo turns the midfielder and dribbles at the corner of the 18 yard box with Johnson following him to give support.  Marquis intelligently continues to move towards the center of the pitch to give Mallamo more room.

 

Sdir26dXXe6-Bc6Rz0YEdwPj_fs2sSLTvE7554Kr4q8Buvki0_O8CGpmdCpNxOGXK8VJK-jbwILaYy9yEddKY9Mc7mqs6EIOV_vzCev-EojJgvQeoDEf9-mnceWSOcMm0VmfwXRv

 

After attracting the WB (17) along with his marker, CM #8, Mallamo drops the ball off to Johnson and then drops into space a bit himself.  Marquis also drops off a little, drawing his defender deeper with him, creating the bit of space he’ll need to score the goal a few touches later.

 

7EdKvewJZR0sy__SPDVTTSM8EVOyd0uQEgupk9YcWNWFeLyoQHqBp066x1Dis77fF16vio_NhOyBBAsYL9OdOJ79ajLqc9nvvSEbcQFQzW9HD7Ye-aDSggZ6BV5h97Skgid82hul

 

With Mallamo dangerous on the dribble and a good shot from distance, Huddersfield have to pay attention to him.  CB 4 and WB 17 both come his way, and CM 8 is also distracted. Marquis begins his run into the open space he’d just created in the box.  Mallamo plays a ball around the corner for Johnson to run onto.

 

B5GmRHnYhaH23_QFPRsym6kMiL1YaKnlDWUudrweTo_lca7K40nGVj96Cn3GSc7Ofv1t_Hlp4e0FOyJlbF23cyYoexnHlVVGAR5NKrEvow0hAA-alo7MxKMPw4eTgmHee9yDLHpp

 

Johnson plays it into Marquis’ path first time and the forward finishes well under pressure from the cover CB.  The finish was still excellent, but the movement is what made the goal.

Against a team that was largely out to make life difficult, sometimes you have to break them down mentally as much as open them up with pretty passing. As the game drags on and concentration starts to lag, these moments can finally open up a stubborn defense.

 

Flight of the OIs

sg4lwCFW9ZRKenFxmedZDFlvd3a55sEZ_bcooSjvgV3sjXqjOU1r8qd9M2KL27XPH2pwTjZ2ix1oe606crlPWRT1FINT6TU0RGweBT0PltExPUcJhLGipQjoz-P6kU3FR1q5eEO0dG_bbiBdyvsnA7C1bpM61v3XJmo_BGbVIZTjyVOjstrwd_wK5xNyHo1RGqVW08ie5KVENocTa_pKB53zlOMULEVIYCsn5vP9BJdSpiDxQAb0JcQjKU6ms2ujbaZVClRPUwO7ydjP

 

[Note, you’ll see a 2-1 scoreline in the results screenshot. My save file got somehow corrupted after the game and wouldn’t load next time. Had to go back a week (3 file rolling save to the rescue!) and I just vacationed it because I’d put a lot into the win and just wanted it done. Happily, Pompey won it 2-1. I would have savescumed it though I’m not especially ashamed to say…]

 

After beating Bournemouth on PKs in the League Cup, this was the true test. Bournemouth had been yo-young between the Premier League and Championship for a few years, and proved a stern test for Benjani. This time, for his defensive adjustments - specifically OIs.

 

In the early stages Bournemouth were more dangerous. Despite playing a 5-2-2-1, they were playing a lot through their WBs. Benjani didn’t want to force them inside were their shape would still give them an advantage (4v3 in midfield) so instead he told his players to mark and close down both WBs. The marking proved key, as they suddenly had less room to run and build up a head of steam.

The other keys were to close down two former Wolves teammates Moutinho and Connor Coady. The now very old but still skilled Portuguese player especially was pulling strings until Benjani had his players mark him out of the game. He had no pace left, so with someone always on him, he could no longer contribute as much.

 

With Bournemouth’s avenues of attack cut off, they became toothless.

 

Pompey didn’t do much better, though, until Harrison came on for Fiabema, who was snatching at his chances. Harrison quickly proceeded to get in behind an aggressive Bournemouth defense and put the ball in the net not once, not twice, but three times. The first was inexplicably called offsides (replays showed it was level, and it was a TV game - what happened to waiting until the play was done to raise the flag???). The second was correctly ruled offsides, but the third time he managed to put WB Williams in behind then rush into the box for a cutback to score.

 

RuXvzkvEcQFXZSh8HzMbTUzyfzWpuFj1KhKprCSySkcit0U3kj0y3aVon7CLQRobjqcfcf9YE63jgJXniRR8KdJ60QrKoP5gwUvPGei7SoL05okBfitfQPN-ASw1kNOln3JbaBd9

 

Bournemouth had been on the attack from the beginning - leaving only one back for corners and eventually leaving four forward for defensive corners by the time the goal was scored - but could not break down Portsmouth. The clean sheet was almost as pleasing as the win (and why I’m doubly annoyed at the weird save problem!).

 

Double Mezzala, Double Trouble 

GAap9FZKdjR3F6CsYouSSEgACPHm9X9hrVrj7S4g--HDYP87DurI8GskZr_tPrK1bhYsCwnCdECVTpz065IlZHMQksFs4wEb1GScbuPw8ZGVZZEZMOO2RBFlAAUZCB1clchp2dQYLZ6V0jaNj---DrEG86M6L5e5ZiFkiFWxpMuC4PliSvham_CWI5ORaetJTVwTEiaBtkINTmqFxsm8Zvos4UXwqcrM5jXvEywS-_M5q6USZfGJ4leogr26dF3dFFctrmIYbvZRWncN

qHPDaRPpiN24gmK-sPtB17J8zd2YRyXKNBDoklgeoomMz5F-DmNIcfygf2KItmjJm3uBRM4RN-drJvcorjJ4CcABH3Som2fSsNIORX7RE2x3RapsvQy1BOI_a8NBEOsxqjgjBczs

 

The game was more even than the scoreline suggested but Portsmouth were definitely good for all three points. Reading kept the ball well but were generally conservative until Portsmouth were already up by two. 

 

The game was won with two howitzers from distance - one from each mezzala - sandwiching a well taken penalty by forward Harrison.

 

A side note, forward Harrison simply continues to perform even if his role has diminished since he was the side’s leading scorer in 20/21. This despite being a terrible fit for the club DNA. He was a physical player, though, and despite being a bit mentally weak, Benjani seemed to be able to get him working hard with lots of praise.

 

Back to the mezzalas, the opening goal came from a quick switch of play which found Mallamo in a huge pocket of space. 

 

_GxmzvQvHs7MCsgtCDCtCxorkAeORcWBqxJ2JgeJRVg2FYZXjLVCqPQxVeVstq9C7PmFhQ_psIpe27woumSqowj5uh9fXCUeOyR--gasyMWBi_s0ukl4VdODVXwjrUrhCOjJQeEY

Harrison, despite being the right sided DLF, had drifted left as Portsmouth were in transition, and squared the ball to Mallamo.  Mallamo drove at the defense before unleashing a shot at goal from 25 yards. 

 

This might seem like a long way out, and I know there’s some grumblings about shooting from distance being OP (which might be right) but this was one of my favorite ways to score in my playing days - get at a sprint and have a pop before the keeper was ready.  The main thing I wanted to highlight here is the way Mallamo both seeks space and goes forward instantly to join the attack.  This quick switch from left to right opens up Reading - it was about seven seconds from when left WB Williams picks up the ball and Mallamo has it in the back of the net - and the movement absolutely baffles the defenders.  

 

Reading had gotten a goal back after Harrison’s penalty - finding Portsmouth’s Achilles heel of passes over the top from deep - but Morrell scored to return the lead to two. Again, his movement off the ball was excellent. His support role makes him a little less aggressive than Mallamo and on this occasion he drifted to the edge of the box, where he was found for a cutback. Reading couldn’t sort who should press him, and Morrell had all the time in the world to pick his spot.

 

Both those goals were low xG because of their distance, but considering the time both players engineered for themselves, Reading couldn’t feel hard done by.

A fourth was scored by WB Williams after some excellent, lightning fast interplay between him and Fiabema. He also scored a nearly identical goal in the following game and that game was all about pace so I’ll leave it for that….

 

Pace, pace, pace

A197JECXNs2jF6Onzkw2ChodT3nVZlSzn8SQ2tLqXfdFsbrePJ0DBjPUCmzOVh735l5EYWWnbKtqv2cEALr15GGWeLDG-rHjtTuIgYn11APj-m2NbOFAmx6wSajF8z3jTQ5VdjJowHaGt-ITQCp01hkmWvds_2CpOuZl9rVcPcBpy1B9A62U2NG_Nn7CBhkyUwwPz6Z8v1YyRK_JXCqOKYlWUoVO2ssMWm11bimwQP17gVuV4FC0BF4HWMtrzJqTUo_ehPYm-6xP_0CY

-Lnf2bDEAtGF1wi9MdAnfstrIlr2qnLHBnpnUJiTXELS0QePjPgFVF2yi5UYuHpaKiIk4UYhSOS3a_Wx6aF_4udg0F2GB4KcHDUMXNgvac0V85kbYdpvBkpeG4XPfCCd74qFXB6c

After a tough 2022/23 season that saw Portsmouth fight for every point, and despite their excellent late season form, Benjani wouldn’t have expected to see his side top of the Championship and flying high. Preston were seventh in the Championship going into the game, so Benjani expected a tough game, and he got one, despite how the game turned out.  As it turned out, Portsmouth’s 3-5-2 lined up very well against Preston’s 4-2-3-1 as we’ll see…

 

There was an element of luck to Portsmouth’s first, with a hurried clearance by Preston’s keeper too low and too soft.  Fiabema was in the right place at the right time to head the ball back into the net with the keeper unable to recover. Preston could feel hard done by, but it was the high press from Portsmouth, specifically mezzala Mallamo in this case, that caused problems and rushed the clearance. Preston played route one, so Benjani had again upped the LOE, and both forwards are always instructed to press.

 

The second came from a nice passage of play down the right.  It started with a simple enough ball into DLF Marquis who is coming back for a pass into feet.  Marquis then squares it to Mallamo who is in line with him and occupying the fullback - allowing WB Lawrence to surge into the open space on the flank and the outside forward doesn’t follow him.  With acres of space, the wingback drives forward towards the byline before delivering a low, hard cross that is turned in by a desperately retreating CB, but would have gone straight through to AF Fiabema otherwise for a tap in

 

Just like he had against Reading, Fiabema sets up WB Williams with a cutback in the box.  Whereas that move required a bunch of quick passes, this one was nice, simple, and quick.  Levitt plays his DLP role perfectly in sending a perfectly weighted pass from the right side of the pitch into space for left WB Williams to run onto.  As a note, Levitt isn’t making the highlight reels and his ratings aren’t crazy good, but he’s been magnificent.  He’s the hub through which the team plays, and this is a good example. 

 
I9Td1Qw5CLOYqAlIQl9GwhKY36vnQchsqIVhlTVUgzhzKRzu1bhnbrR5FqV1CFTE1jBDuqJp9fBK2FUqG8h3Af22xxT32uen-ino_gI9mVerro8rvJShuhIwn48d8BMmGtE-NdcG

 

Back to the goal - AF Fiabema makes a run in behind and Williams hits him in stride.  Fiabema is forced wide but cuts it back to Williams who, just as Lawrence did on the other side, exploits the space between the wide forward and the fullback to run unmarked into the box.

 

Bryan got his first goal for the club in the aftermath of a corner, but the final goal was another good example of Portsmouth’s maturing movement.  Quick movement and passing sets Lawrence free down the right before his low, hard cross is turned in by Harrison.

 

The thread linking all these goals I highlighted?  Pace.  Pace of the ball movement, and, crucially, pace in the side.  Players like Fiabema and Williams are both, if not elite, very fast players and the new addition Lawrence on the right adds some needed pace as well even if he’s not as fast as the others.  Mallamo too has a decent turn of pace for a midfielder, and all this combined with quick, incisive passing (higher tempo and positive mentality) has made the side increasingly tough to defend.

 

A necessary sacrifice…

AYJUO3sMARZswMQ6WeDL0huvGO92h8AddQh2lVq-_yjridezJevf1RYxvU-n4YOgjVqnbnHgRcLUgaH_tYWMdD9DUggxyzQPFutACSDTdKwqC1e_BwInpATZIeJbUDLSUAPTY1imjVmFEAXdzdCKG8BWtT_j74Bb8dZJnFrGuHqwL-JlJiCdjr_-p2JC863J-1o6ZA3isp9gObtZW8GjtvxcmqM-Wz9nhX2ag6aHWk5-8l3lGz2N_tuPbo5SVnVfR2Tym822YbFEoKaG

 

A team with 9 changes to the starting line up put in a respectable performance against newly super rich Newcastle (8th in Premier League) which only made four changes from the weekend.  Newcastle were well worth the win, but Portsmouth’s chances were actually generally pretty good and the game could have easily ended a draw.

 

Return of the 3-4-3

dzu5HG7S8E5BcICirtXlrgH8BQaJ-oWV_TqEyW-ZTIqX_VbvnWMmDy3j6LpL3mBEc8DCgge9Ygbv1d6M-GNfmN355mA-orcWv0VgO6ygnlPqSVlisULRU0CEDYiqWXLP_ttzxOk3o48UPF-EB36n15VtcymA1mIaQVEFN5lUeynNO2Vn9AZ4qkcY3wOkjxLdQrIWh1hfDl3pAjxP9EJOZ2Pug4PkBMlyRc3UnI-8lq9WCXp0xYg0cBb5V5UjtK8Og7F_8hr9RjJGXmU9

 

Last game of the month travel to Barnsley.  Starts off with a glorious ball early from Hamilton bypassing the whole team that Fiabema runs onto, jinks around the keeper and fires into the net, cool as you like.

 

Barnsley’s 4-4-2, though, starts to make too many inroads down the flanks.  They were playing a conservative passing game where they stayed tight, compact, and forced Pompey to chase more than Benjani liked, especially out of the narrow 3-5-2. Not too long after the goal, Benjani switched to the 3-4-3 and instructed the players to force Barnsley inside.

 

Barnsley Passing Map

W8S1I82s5q1_o7K6Zn3hJY-Rlf9Buae95cibeKOBAiFKHkjExDOGIygQNt59O6KRCk1FrKiIT95W0ZxrFnIIT9_ynUG9PPJe90SM3yZu5Eb3oNKSL0Z3nu_YNQoISO-TfA-5ckrM

 

The tactical switch worked like a charm and Barnsley barely had a chance for the rest of the game.  What surprised Benjani more than anything, was that Portsmouth were just as dangerous in attack as they were solid in defense.

 

eA3JPmLeawrjJf4c8eQIN_O4uGDtv-GCsZBk3-Cd_6-nxIdXnhoXwdtBSsEbBqQqmYG5MxeZvaGJ5kh1ETPpHWDdzqtEy2O3_pT0KU8ozFPW8aolEwffKW1hB_WrCoQzcUTC9GEP

 

A few tweaks seemed to help.  Morrell played as a B2B rather than a RPM, while Levitt stayed a DLP, and Marquis was used as an attacking DLF which seemed to add a bit more penetration.  The second goal came from Levitt moving a bit forward and he, like his midfield parters against Reading, unleashed a screamer from distance when given too much space and time and put the game out of Barnsely's reach.

 

The final goal, though, was an interesting one.  With left WB Williams tiring, Benjani replaced him with WB Johnson but moved right footed Lawrence to the left and played him as an IWB.

 

PGxcOLLNnps4aMQilJbmZqXNbWdc4E7YIXOuD2yCGcL5l31YeVa8z0_jj9OWooA6m-j8MBzPJIpMW2YSjaq9yJhINGfnqPAesTBSiMeri58884GePDsnN8TVw6I3YqQRZPOdjQMl

 

This opened up space for Bryan as a WCB and led to the 3rd goal.  With the Barnsley FB pulled inside, Bryan had the flank to himself - played into Fiabema in the box who cooly laid it off for a Marquis tap in.

 

WZuLfcCBZX6UQpB1rxQnsFC_wdpDCoacfDwgPRjhe8gyTRRUZ6qbak1QmrmHUJvAKXyefC85upSVSFKN57kBNL-GdJ8lteAqFyFPmwBUx47yCWWc_gqc55WzLoZdZVC4J3sYMhSD

 

In the end, September was quite a month for Benjani’s Portsmouth, winning five in a row and climbing to the top of the Championship table. Just as important, though, was the evolution and maturing of the tactic and the players within it.  WB Williams seemed to be coming into his own after a lackluster 2022/23 season, WB Lawrence recovered from a rocky August to perform very well, and deadline signing Bryan played as if he’d been at the club for years, his pace and ability on the ball adding tremendously to both Portsmouth’s defense and attack.

 

4s4nUwdcQsqah75XqioX81yvpLPg18QPw7nArI6l6tyHzy7x5BjcPr2jLNbYm3ddXz6RIrUuhaiSKP6dm8mLJ6Hq6CdF_1ddEEMpCu2pxNaczt8ABNDvmTqdI9aqL67fuGDQ2vX4

 

Benjani wasn’t sure if being at the top of the table was truly a good thing - they were not ready for the Premier League - and he knew that teams would start to play Portsmouth a bit more conservatively, but it was impossible not to enjoy the moment while it lasted.  October featured top Championship clubs in Cardiff and Watford along with other challenging fixtures, but Benjani hoped to continue the good work that his side had been doing in September as the season continued…

 

Edited by 13th Man
Link to post
Share on other sites

What mentality are you using? Upping the mentality often helps against buses. As I found out in my current save......the "Irish Bayern" faced Parked Buses every game in the IPL and won most 3-0 by using Attacking or Very attacking on a 4-2-3-1 Wide that was designed around positive mentality.

It's not as fun as playing with roles and formations to unlock goals, but it works!  (Especially when you have better players on average)

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

On 31/01/2022 at 09:03, 13th Man said:

ugXp5v7_ax1EWa7GLTWZRLPRBLCjikBudsV-6-DOCpAA0fOoN-oMUmGfruLnRifVHkeVG5U6H3LxN4SO2feSgBCmeV0rKQClqhmOc54MJs8UuyU-_DEHgZr_RaJS96dGNevli8QB

A September to Remember - the 3-5-2 matures and the 3-4-3 makes a triumphant return as well

I normally like to build up the drama as I write updates, and with this save and its Disney theme I’ve gone all creative writing/pretend film. September of 2023, though, is one I need to ‘break the fourth wall’ for. It was one of those months when everything clicked. New signings got used to the way Pompey play and brought new pace and quality, youngsters came of age, the 3-5-2 became even more deadly…and Benjani’s in game tactical switches all seemed to go exactly as planned. NOTE - I have some GIF links in the text of several goal descriptions. They'll give anyone interested a better idea of the movement and passing etc.

 

zDVTFUpinJ279UweQX2PMpqxBYxuhVnPpOUFx9GjTJ4LoGSF3Hyh3gpvZoZN9Jg86yOv5gsHejquHsgFTQzS-elxO1KDHUl0Dp8IeNqgxJi2Awe0Ugac9PIG3KN0iT3SIL1-xJxd

 

The month started a bit slow, with narrow wins over Huddersfield and Bournemouth - though the later was very pleasing - but then Pompey truly ‘got the wind in their sails’ and crushed Reading, Preston and Barnsley in quick succession. A League Cup loss against Newcastle kept it from being a perfect month, but Benjani had decided to rotate heavily in that game to maintain their strong league form (making 9 changes) and the fact that the squad players made a good account of themselves against a Premier League side was impressive.

And now, for the tactics!

 

Open a bit wider

JKs0lGxWSLTP1Jjt_bhnwjd7NC9CM-IfzGib3Bd8JSfETfSzgzOcULZ4D6SDuymDE1v8juoKlJTMYTqVn3SpU5xRqhlCe0Xte6MAbXkuhNJg9rkMzDp2YG5_ZgCf_ZrHRzV9jVxwyEiWJ3hCmgG5nWPBr5mclWugjoilsqbMMOrkJG1iIowXqOHYvA26McpEeDe6QbfaxbtLV0C3VV0rTcSsorCr_w6vFOxQm-_4cSqeqk41GIc3Z9mKHnvT__iyA8UrXHdwJX8KZTkE

 

Huddersfield had spent a season in League 1, and Portsmouth were favored despite being the away side. As such Huddersfield set up in a low, narrow, compact block and tried to make use of their 5-2-1-2 to hit Pompey on the break. Huddersfield had a few chances, but Portsmouth were certainly the better side. Still, it took a long time to get the breakthrough, and it was hard to tell if Benjani’s tweak led to the goal or if it was just the building pressure taking its toll.

 

High LOE

Seeing how Huddersfield were mostly only dangerous on the break or by going direct, Benjani upped the LOE to higher while keeping the DL at higher as well as he didn’t need his side compact if they were bypassing the midfield.

 

Wide Width

Benjani usually liked to play slightly narrow to give players on the ball options. Early in the second half, though, Benjani saw that Huddersfield seemed to be congesting the passing lanes and leaving the flanks wide open. He needed his players to be a bit further apart to drag the defense out of position, so he moved to a slightly wider. The spacing very much helped creating space and may have helped lead to the winning goal.

 

Position switching

In the buildup to the goal, we can see how the fluidity of the shape and the movement of the players create space and the quick, mostly one touch passing opens up a defense that is forced to make snap decisions about who to mark or close down.

 

B2HlMxu5uJ5QJKBx-QyKnPDss07Q2kzaW08yoXZRfWF0lrU3NTdqlB7wV-8hUoRKyShrM8pHFsVXcxRHoeAzxvzgJrF_hZxB0zckyKNk-ufHavah_NaAdCinH-dzOSZWBrlAq5Xk

 

We can see the position switching already happening in the first screenshot.  DLF Marquis (9) is wide of right WB Johnson (15) with right mez Mallamo (24) almost as far forward as AF Fiabema (19).  Also see left mezzala Morrell’s position at the edge of the box and DLP Levitt (6) sitting back to recycle central possession.

 

Ewkg12BRPt-kjlQYQX1SCfiJOqLd-V5kDhsV38Zak24B8E2MejH0PJTg2w8eqRCgJhPCFvCdxWgt2ZEidfs-qcfmZKa4MmCw8-XibqFNyENQQ9us60DySttOm8y36Pu1AIoYvg5O

 

Huddersfield are able to clear the ball, and they think they have a forward open in #22.  However, WCB Hamilton (14) is able to drop quickly and intercept the ball with his great pace (more on that later).  Mallamo drops quickly, as do Marquis and Johnson, their runs crossing each other, but Hamilton heads it to Mallamo - who isn’t marked as Huddersfield try to push out of their box.  

 

LJrtuDuhdwkifKZA4g3ys-RcDo1ts7F_LKC62Yt9Ouc7hDx01rMUEf3sLpHQJywzXwJTnz6mAgHGdmWeH6K47gDmxKNIU-oZeUqSXA9P4EQrkMJCPu0UGDd3cmI1qdIoW5cBBRyN

 

The Huddersfield wingback (17) follows Marquis’ out to in run and he is doubled by the CB (4) while a center mid moves over to close down Mallamo.  Mallamo turns the midfielder and dribbles at the corner of the 18 yard box with Johnson following him to give support.  Marquis intelligently continues to move towards the center of the pitch to give Mallamo more room.

 

Sdir26dXXe6-Bc6Rz0YEdwPj_fs2sSLTvE7554Kr4q8Buvki0_O8CGpmdCpNxOGXK8VJK-jbwILaYy9yEddKY9Mc7mqs6EIOV_vzCev-EojJgvQeoDEf9-mnceWSOcMm0VmfwXRv

 

After attracting the WB (17) along with his marker, CM #8, Mallamo drops the ball off to Johnson and then drops into space a bit himself.  Marquis also drops off a little, drawing his defender deeper with him, creating the bit of space he’ll need to score the goal a few touches later.

 

7EdKvewJZR0sy__SPDVTTSM8EVOyd0uQEgupk9YcWNWFeLyoQHqBp066x1Dis77fF16vio_NhOyBBAsYL9OdOJ79ajLqc9nvvSEbcQFQzW9HD7Ye-aDSggZ6BV5h97Skgid82hul

 

With Mallamo dangerous on the dribble and a good shot from distance, Huddersfield have to pay attention to him.  CB 4 and WB 17 both come his way, and CM 8 is also distracted. Marquis begins his run into the open space he’d just created in the box.  Mallamo plays a ball around the corner for Johnson to run onto.

 

B5GmRHnYhaH23_QFPRsym6kMiL1YaKnlDWUudrweTo_lca7K40nGVj96Cn3GSc7Ofv1t_Hlp4e0FOyJlbF23cyYoexnHlVVGAR5NKrEvow0hAA-alo7MxKMPw4eTgmHee9yDLHpp

 

Johnson plays it into Marquis’ path first time and the forward finishes well under pressure from the cover CB.  The finish was still excellent, but the movement is what made the goal.

Against a team that was largely out to make life difficult, sometimes you have to break them down mentally as much as open them up with pretty passing. As the game drags on and concentration starts to lag, these moments can finally open up a stubborn defense.

 

Flight of the OIs

sg4lwCFW9ZRKenFxmedZDFlvd3a55sEZ_bcooSjvgV3sjXqjOU1r8qd9M2KL27XPH2pwTjZ2ix1oe606crlPWRT1FINT6TU0RGweBT0PltExPUcJhLGipQjoz-P6kU3FR1q5eEO0dG_bbiBdyvsnA7C1bpM61v3XJmo_BGbVIZTjyVOjstrwd_wK5xNyHo1RGqVW08ie5KVENocTa_pKB53zlOMULEVIYCsn5vP9BJdSpiDxQAb0JcQjKU6ms2ujbaZVClRPUwO7ydjP

 

[Note, you’ll see a 2-1 scoreline in the results screenshot. My save file got somehow corrupted after the game and wouldn’t load next time. Had to go back a week (3 file rolling save to the rescue!) and I just vacationed it because I’d put a lot into the win and just wanted it done. Happily, Pompey won it 2-1. I would have savescumed it though I’m not especially ashamed to say…]

 

After beating Bournemouth on PKs in the League Cup, this was the true test. Bournemouth had been yo-young between the Premier League and Championship for a few years, and proved a stern test for Benjani. This time, for his defensive adjustments - specifically OIs.

 

In the early stages Bournemouth were more dangerous. Despite playing a 5-2-2-1, they were playing a lot through their WBs. Benjani didn’t want to force them inside were their shape would still give them an advantage (4v3 in midfield) so instead he told his players to mark and close down both WBs. The marking proved key, as they suddenly had less room to run and build up a head of steam.

The other keys were to close down two former Wolves teammates Moutinho and Connor Coady. The now very old but still skilled Portuguese player especially was pulling strings until Benjani had his players mark him out of the game. He had no pace left, so with someone always on him, he could no longer contribute as much.

 

With Bournemouth’s avenues of attack cut off, they became toothless.

 

Pompey didn’t do much better, though, until Harrison came on for Fiabema, who was snatching at his chances. Harrison quickly proceeded to get in behind an aggressive Bournemouth defense and put the ball in the net not once, not twice, but three times. The first was inexplicably called offsides (replays showed it was level, and it was a TV game - what happened to waiting until the play was done to raise the flag???). The second was correctly ruled offsides, but the third time he managed to put WB Williams in behind then rush into the box for a cutback to score.

 

RuXvzkvEcQFXZSh8HzMbTUzyfzWpuFj1KhKprCSySkcit0U3kj0y3aVon7CLQRobjqcfcf9YE63jgJXniRR8KdJ60QrKoP5gwUvPGei7SoL05okBfitfQPN-ASw1kNOln3JbaBd9

 

Bournemouth had been on the attack from the beginning - leaving only one back for corners and eventually leaving four forward for defensive corners by the time the goal was scored - but could not break down Portsmouth. The clean sheet was almost as pleasing as the win (and why I’m doubly annoyed at the weird save problem!).

 

Double Mezzala, Double Trouble 

GAap9FZKdjR3F6CsYouSSEgACPHm9X9hrVrj7S4g--HDYP87DurI8GskZr_tPrK1bhYsCwnCdECVTpz065IlZHMQksFs4wEb1GScbuPw8ZGVZZEZMOO2RBFlAAUZCB1clchp2dQYLZ6V0jaNj---DrEG86M6L5e5ZiFkiFWxpMuC4PliSvham_CWI5ORaetJTVwTEiaBtkINTmqFxsm8Zvos4UXwqcrM5jXvEywS-_M5q6USZfGJ4leogr26dF3dFFctrmIYbvZRWncN

qHPDaRPpiN24gmK-sPtB17J8zd2YRyXKNBDoklgeoomMz5F-DmNIcfygf2KItmjJm3uBRM4RN-drJvcorjJ4CcABH3Som2fSsNIORX7RE2x3RapsvQy1BOI_a8NBEOsxqjgjBczs

 

The game was more even than the scoreline suggested but Portsmouth were definitely good for all three points. Reading kept the ball well but were generally conservative until Portsmouth were already up by two. 

 

The game was won with two howitzers from distance - one from each mezzala - sandwiching a well taken penalty by forward Harrison.

 

A side note, forward Harrison simply continues to perform even if his role has diminished since he was the side’s leading scorer in 20/21. This despite being a terrible fit for the club DNA. He was a physical player, though, and despite being a bit mentally weak, Benjani seemed to be able to get him working hard with lots of praise.

 

Back to the mezzalas, the opening goal came from a quick switch of play which found Mallamo in a huge pocket of space. 

 

_GxmzvQvHs7MCsgtCDCtCxorkAeORcWBqxJ2JgeJRVg2FYZXjLVCqPQxVeVstq9C7PmFhQ_psIpe27woumSqowj5uh9fXCUeOyR--gasyMWBi_s0ukl4VdODVXwjrUrhCOjJQeEY

Harrison, despite being the right sided DLF, had drifted left as Portsmouth were in transition, and squared the ball to Mallamo.  Mallamo drove at the defense before unleashing a shot at goal from 25 yards. 

 

This might seem like a long way out, and I know there’s some grumblings about shooting from distance being OP (which might be right) but this was one of my favorite ways to score in my playing days - get at a sprint and have a pop before the keeper was ready.  The main thing I wanted to highlight here is the way Mallamo both seeks space and goes forward instantly to join the attack.  This quick switch from left to right opens up Reading - it was about seven seconds from when left WB Williams picks up the ball and Mallamo has it in the back of the net - and the movement absolutely baffles the defenders.  

 

Reading had gotten a goal back after Harrison’s penalty - finding Portsmouth’s Achilles heel of passes over the top from deep - but Morrell scored to return the lead to two. Again, his movement off the ball was excellent. His support role makes him a little less aggressive than Mallamo and on this occasion he drifted to the edge of the box, where he was found for a cutback. Reading couldn’t sort who should press him, and Morrell had all the time in the world to pick his spot.

 

Both those goals were low xG because of their distance, but considering the time both players engineered for themselves, Reading couldn’t feel hard done by.

A fourth was scored by WB Williams after some excellent, lightning fast interplay between him and Fiabema. He also scored a nearly identical goal in the following game and that game was all about pace so I’ll leave it for that….

 

Pace, pace, pace

A197JECXNs2jF6Onzkw2ChodT3nVZlSzn8SQ2tLqXfdFsbrePJ0DBjPUCmzOVh735l5EYWWnbKtqv2cEALr15GGWeLDG-rHjtTuIgYn11APj-m2NbOFAmx6wSajF8z3jTQ5VdjJowHaGt-ITQCp01hkmWvds_2CpOuZl9rVcPcBpy1B9A62U2NG_Nn7CBhkyUwwPz6Z8v1YyRK_JXCqOKYlWUoVO2ssMWm11bimwQP17gVuV4FC0BF4HWMtrzJqTUo_ehPYm-6xP_0CY

-Lnf2bDEAtGF1wi9MdAnfstrIlr2qnLHBnpnUJiTXELS0QePjPgFVF2yi5UYuHpaKiIk4UYhSOS3a_Wx6aF_4udg0F2GB4KcHDUMXNgvac0V85kbYdpvBkpeG4XPfCCd74qFXB6c

After a tough 2022/23 season that saw Portsmouth fight for every point, and despite their excellent late season form, Benjani wouldn’t have expected to see his side top of the Championship and flying high. Preston were seventh in the Championship going into the game, so Benjani expected a tough game, and he got one, despite how the game turned out.  As it turned out, Portsmouth’s 3-5-2 lined up very well against Preston’s 4-2-3-1 as we’ll see…

 

There was an element of luck to Portsmouth’s first, with a hurried clearance by Preston’s keeper too low and too soft.  Fiabema was in the right place at the right time to head the ball back into the net with the keeper unable to recover. Preston could feel hard done by, but it was the high press from Portsmouth, specifically mezzala Mallamo in this case, that caused problems and rushed the clearance. Preston played route one, so Benjani had again upped the LOE, and both forwards are always instructed to press.

 

The second came from a nice passage of play down the right.  It started with a simple enough ball into DLF Marquis who is coming back for a pass into feet.  Marquis then squares it to Mallamo who is in line with him and occupying the fullback - allowing WB Lawrence to surge into the open space on the flank and the outside forward doesn’t follow him.  With acres of space, the wingback drives forward towards the byline before delivering a low, hard cross that is turned in by a desperately retreating CB, but would have gone straight through to AF Fiabema otherwise for a tap in

 

Just like he had against Reading, Fiabema sets up WB Williams with a cutback in the box.  Whereas that move required a bunch of quick passes, this one was nice, simple, and quick.  Levitt plays his DLP role perfectly in sending a perfectly weighted pass from the right side of the pitch into space for left WB Williams to run onto.  As a note, Levitt isn’t making the highlight reels and his ratings aren’t crazy good, but he’s been magnificent.  He’s the hub through which the team plays, and this is a good example. 

 
I9Td1Qw5CLOYqAlIQl9GwhKY36vnQchsqIVhlTVUgzhzKRzu1bhnbrR5FqV1CFTE1jBDuqJp9fBK2FUqG8h3Af22xxT32uen-ino_gI9mVerro8rvJShuhIwn48d8BMmGtE-NdcG

 

Back to the goal - AF Fiabema makes a run in behind and Williams hits him in stride.  Fiabema is forced wide but cuts it back to Williams who, just as Lawrence did on the other side, exploits the space between the wide forward and the fullback to run unmarked into the box.

 

Bryan got his first goal for the club in the aftermath of a corner, but the final goal was another good example of Portsmouth’s maturing movement.  Quick movement and passing sets Lawrence free down the right before his low, hard cross is turned in by Harrison.

 

The thread linking all these goals I highlighted?  Pace.  Pace of the ball movement, and, crucially, pace in the side.  Players like Fiabema and Williams are both, if not elite, very fast players and the new addition Lawrence on the right adds some needed pace as well even if he’s not as fast as the others.  Mallamo too has a decent turn of pace for a midfielder, and all this combined with quick, incisive passing (higher tempo and positive mentality) has made the side increasingly tough to defend.

 

A necessary sacrifice…

AYJUO3sMARZswMQ6WeDL0huvGO92h8AddQh2lVq-_yjridezJevf1RYxvU-n4YOgjVqnbnHgRcLUgaH_tYWMdD9DUggxyzQPFutACSDTdKwqC1e_BwInpATZIeJbUDLSUAPTY1imjVmFEAXdzdCKG8BWtT_j74Bb8dZJnFrGuHqwL-JlJiCdjr_-p2JC863J-1o6ZA3isp9gObtZW8GjtvxcmqM-Wz9nhX2ag6aHWk5-8l3lGz2N_tuPbo5SVnVfR2Tym822YbFEoKaG

 

A team with 9 changes to the starting line up put in a respectable performance against newly super rich Newcastle (8th in Premier League) which only made four changes from the weekend.  Newcastle were well worth the win, but Portsmouth’s chances were actually generally pretty good and the game could have easily ended a draw.

 

Return of the 3-4-3

dzu5HG7S8E5BcICirtXlrgH8BQaJ-oWV_TqEyW-ZTIqX_VbvnWMmDy3j6LpL3mBEc8DCgge9Ygbv1d6M-GNfmN355mA-orcWv0VgO6ygnlPqSVlisULRU0CEDYiqWXLP_ttzxOk3o48UPF-EB36n15VtcymA1mIaQVEFN5lUeynNO2Vn9AZ4qkcY3wOkjxLdQrIWh1hfDl3pAjxP9EJOZ2Pug4PkBMlyRc3UnI-8lq9WCXp0xYg0cBb5V5UjtK8Og7F_8hr9RjJGXmU9

 

Last game of the month travel to Barnsley.  Starts off with a glorious ball early from Hamilton bypassing the whole team that Fiabema runs onto, jinks around the keeper and fires into the net, cool as you like.

 

Barnsley’s 4-4-2, though, starts to make too many inroads down the flanks.  They were playing a conservative passing game where they stayed tight, compact, and forced Pompey to chase more than Benjani liked, especially out of the narrow 3-5-2. Not too long after the goal, Benjani switched to the 3-4-3 and instructed the players to force Barnsley inside.

 

Barnsley Passing Map

W8S1I82s5q1_o7K6Zn3hJY-Rlf9Buae95cibeKOBAiFKHkjExDOGIygQNt59O6KRCk1FrKiIT95W0ZxrFnIIT9_ynUG9PPJe90SM3yZu5Eb3oNKSL0Z3nu_YNQoISO-TfA-5ckrM

 

The tactical switch worked like a charm and Barnsley barely had a chance for the rest of the game.  What surprised Benjani more than anything, was that Portsmouth were just as dangerous in attack as they were solid in defense.

 

eA3JPmLeawrjJf4c8eQIN_O4uGDtv-GCsZBk3-Cd_6-nxIdXnhoXwdtBSsEbBqQqmYG5MxeZvaGJ5kh1ETPpHWDdzqtEy2O3_pT0KU8ozFPW8aolEwffKW1hB_WrCoQzcUTC9GEP

 

A few tweaks seemed to help.  Morrell played as a B2B rather than a RPM, while Levitt stayed a DLP, and Marquis was used as an attacking DLF which seemed to add a bit more penetration.  The second goal came from Levitt moving a bit forward and he, like his midfield parters against Reading, unleashed a screamer from distance when given too much space and time and put the game out of Barnsely's reach.

 

The final goal, though, was an interesting one.  With left WB Williams tiring, Benjani replaced him with WB Johnson but moved right footed Lawrence to the left and played him as an IWB.

 

PGxcOLLNnps4aMQilJbmZqXNbWdc4E7YIXOuD2yCGcL5l31YeVa8z0_jj9OWooA6m-j8MBzPJIpMW2YSjaq9yJhINGfnqPAesTBSiMeri58884GePDsnN8TVw6I3YqQRZPOdjQMl

 

This opened up space for Bryan as a WCB and led to the 3rd goal.  With the Barnsley FB pulled inside, Bryan had the flank to himself - played into Fiabema in the box who cooly laid it off for a Marquis tap in.

 

WZuLfcCBZX6UQpB1rxQnsFC_wdpDCoacfDwgPRjhe8gyTRRUZ6qbak1QmrmHUJvAKXyefC85upSVSFKN57kBNL-GdJ8lteAqFyFPmwBUx47yCWWc_gqc55WzLoZdZVC4J3sYMhSD

 

In the end, September was quite a month for Benjani’s Portsmouth, winning five in a row and climbing to the top of the Championship table. Just as important, though, was the evolution and maturing of the tactic and the players within it.  WB Williams seemed to be coming into his own after a lackluster 2022/23 season, WB Lawrence recovered from a rocky August to perform very well, and deadline signing Bryan played as if he’d been at the club for years, his pace and ability on the ball adding tremendously to both Portsmouth’s defense and attack.

 

4s4nUwdcQsqah75XqioX81yvpLPg18QPw7nArI6l6tyHzy7x5BjcPr2jLNbYm3ddXz6RIrUuhaiSKP6dm8mLJ6Hq6CdF_1ddEEMpCu2pxNaczt8ABNDvmTqdI9aqL67fuGDQ2vX4

 

Benjani wasn’t sure if being at the top of the table was truly a good thing - they were not ready for the Premier League - and he knew that teams would start to play Portsmouth a bit more conservatively, but it was impossible not to enjoy the moment while it lasted.  October featured top Championship clubs in Cardiff and Watford along with other challenging fixtures, but Benjani hoped to continue the good work that his side had been doing in September as the season continued…

 

Magical stuff! Results business and your certainly getting them, but now your doing it with your system working how you want it to. I love the fluidity in the movement of the players it’s a real throw back to real total football. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

On 31/01/2022 at 00:41, Hootieleece said:

What mentality are you using? Upping the mentality often helps against buses. As I found out in my current save......the "Irish Bayern" faced Parked Buses every game in the IPL and won most 3-0 by using Attacking or Very attacking on a 4-2-3-1 Wide that was designed around positive mentality.

It's not as fun as playing with roles and formations to unlock goals, but it works!  (Especially when you have better players on average)

 

Benjani's been using positive, though sometimes dropping it to balanced when possession gets too sloppy.  I don't love doing that because changing mentality messes with everything, but it's sometimes worth it, especially if I up the press, DL/LOE etc to compensate.

On 01/02/2022 at 09:04, SixPointer said:

Magical stuff! Results business and your certainly getting them, but now your doing it with your system working how you want it to. I love the fluidity in the movement of the players it’s a real throw back to real total football. 

The movement has been fantastic.  I'm kind of wondering if the 3-5-2 is the way with making a total football approximation.  The twin mezzalas are fantastic in the system and their combination with the forwards is really tricky to defend.  The way they bomb forward when the ball is on the opposite flank actually ends up being more like a 3-4-3 in attack, and their deeper starting positions mean they run free unless the opposition is ready for it.  Marquis' movement as a DLF has been superb as well.  The one thing that's missing is a creative central CB, but that's a bit much to ask at the Championship level. Currently, Benjani is fine with 'the tower' aka Raggett.  He sometimes loses headers, but it's really rare and at the level Pompey are 'at', that's a huge asset.  Benjani still dreams of a libero in the role though...maybe someday.

As you'll see in October/November, the movement and attacking suffers as the players tire, and there are times when the mezzalas get too excited and run forward without giving deeper players options on the ball (I've dropped one to a CAR to decent success on those occasions), but overall it's working really well.

Edited by 13th Man
Link to post
Share on other sites

6 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

Benjani's been using positive, though sometimes dropping it to balanced when possession gets too sloppy.  I don't love doing that because changing mentality messes with everything, but it's sometimes worth it, especially if I up the press, DL/LOE etc to compensate.

The movement has been fantastic.  I'm kind of wondering if the 3-5-2 is the way with making a total football approximation.  The twin mezzalas are fantastic in the system and their combination with the forwards is really tricky to defend.  The way they bomb forward when the ball is on the opposite flank actually ends up being more like a 3-4-3 in attack, and their deeper starting positions mean they run free unless the opposition is ready for it.  Marquis' movement as a DLF has been superb as well.  The one thing that's missing is a creative central CB, but that's a bit much to ask at the Championship level. Currently, Benjani is fine with 'the tower' aka Raggett.  He sometimes loses headers, but it's really rare and at the level Pompey are 'at', that's a huge asset.  Benjani still dreams of a libero in the role though...maybe someday.

As you'll see in October/November, the movement and attacking suffers as the players tire, and there are times when the mezzalas get too excited and run forward without giving deeper players options on the ball (I've dropped one to a CAR to decent success on those occasions), but overall it's working really well.

Your systems really does make me consider a back 3 for my final system but I’m still trying to fight that urge. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

8 minutes ago, SixPointer said:

Your systems really does make me consider a back 3 for my final system but I’m still trying to fight that urge. 

Come back to the 3!  Or not.  Funny though how your systems are making me miss my 4-3-3s and mine are making you miss your 3atb.

4-3-3 will almost certainly play a role in my next save, but this one is going 3atb all the way.  I was going to go back to 4-3-3 in FM22 until these wonderful WCBs dropped and I couldn't help myself!  Glad it happened this way as this total football experiment has been rewarding.

Link to post
Share on other sites

ugXp5v7_ax1EWa7GLTWZRLPRBLCjikBudsV-6-DOCpAA0fOoN-oMUmGfruLnRifVHkeVG5U6H3LxN4SO2feSgBCmeV0rKQClqhmOc54MJs8UuyU-_DEHgZr_RaJS96dGNevli8QB

October/November - The 'art' of rotation

This would certainly be another part of the season that the movie would skip over, but it did get me on a topic I don’t think I’ve written much about, but which is a key part of playing FM - rotation! 

In September there was only one week with a midweek game in the league, so it wasn’t hard to keep players fit and Benjani could use subs tactically - if a player was having a bad game or snatching at chances, if he wanted a bit more workrate in the midfield, etc. In October and November, however, the schedule was relentless, with two games every week.  Even the international break didn’t help much when several of his key players were off playing in youth national sides or with Wales (Levitt and Morrell). Benjani was forced into tough decisions on who to rotate and sub in every game and found his hands tied in terms of tactical flexibility because of it. These months ended up being not so much about tactics as they were about simply keeping enough players fit. The result? 

 

ub7hf5m0iXGHQ6T7idWVcndGNLv-cP7k0Lu8zVZ0MeN5BN1TE9OCS5FrYQwckezToioY0yr5gJnAqWZ0ZVwEcBX6Yz1FXYAY3Y13Pm88-FEThETR-VNe5CweS-xHPpp0s5RaqweR

 

Draws, so many draws. Come from behind twice draws (Cardiff), concede from a corner in the 94th minute draws (Middlesbrough), bore draws (West Brom), five draws in a row draws. Draws that showed heart and determination, draws that showed a lack of concentration. 0-0, 1-1, 2-2 draws. Draws that make the word draw turn into a sound instead of a word with meaning. There was a gravity towards equal scores, they were …inevitable.

 

The key takeaway though was the central importance of running in Benjani’s system. It wasn’t quite like the genenpress with its super urgent pressing, but the players needed to be in constant motion - both with and without the ball - for the system to perform well. When the players got tired, things started to fall apart. Passes weren’t so crisp, the players couldn’t (or wouldn’t) cover for each other on defense, and, most importantly, the slower off the ball movement was easily picked up and the opposing defense wasn't so challenged with who to mark or close down.

 

The key then, when the games came thick and fast, was to find a way to field eleven fit players each game, and then make sure they didn’t drop dead by the end. The later was crucial too, knowing that the next game was only a few days away.

 

Even as intensely frustrating as they were, Benjani knew that October and November were successful months. Especially with the third smallest wage budget in the Championship, Portsmouth couldn’t afford twenty two top players. Neither could any teams at this level, but Benjani was consistently asked why he used so few players compared to other sides - truth was, he really had a reliable first team squad of eighteen. Beyond that an aging WB Lee, and youngsters Connonier (forward) and Mills (CM) were all available in case of emergencies. Luckily, the injuries were few and minor and only the veteran Lee was called upon.

 

He managed to come up with a system that made the best of limited options. The squad was a bit smaller than the year before in terms of legitimate first team players, but there was also greater flexibility in the players that remained. All the squad players could play multiple roles if not multiple positions (with the exception of WB Johnson who could only play right wingback).

 

Starts

During runs like this, Benjani tried not to start any player for more than two games in a row, and if he did, he made sure to sub them around the 60 minute mark to keep them reasonably fresh for the following game.

 

No matter what, he found players couldn’t start four games in a row without getting exhausted before halftime.

 

When the squad players did start, he really tried not to sub them for usual starters unless they were truly playing terribly, or were exhausted themselves.

 

Still, he didn’t like to make more than 3 changes to the lineup per game from the preferred 11 in order to keep continuity. That did mean that sometimes more than 3 changes were made game to game, but that usually meant players returning to the starting lineup while others were rested or squad players returned to the bench.

 

Subs

If he planned on starting a player three games in a row, he would make sure to sub them early in  the second game where possible. Not having to play the final 20-30 mins made a huge difference in keeping players fit.

 

Scheme

All but a few of the first team regulars (outfielders) were versatile players, at least in terms of the roles they could play. This meant players were moved around a bit to keep the squad as fresh as possible, depending on the needs in the game and future plans. This meant a complicated web of who would start when, who could sub, who could play which role, and an injury or the needs of a specific game often forced a change in plans.

Example - Central midfield 

This is kind of a hypothetical as I didn’t take notes and when you add together the whole outfield 10 it makes things that much more complicated anyway. Instead, I’ll give an approximation of what it looks like in one position group over four games.

 

Benjani’s three preferred starters were Mallamo, Levitt and Morrell in the mez(a), DLP(d), and mez(s) roles respectively. There were two squad players in Tunnicliffe and new signing Bayliss. Benjani didn’t like to start with the technically limited Tunnicliffe if possible, preferring to bring out the aggressive, hard working player later to preserve a lead or to aggressively hunt down the ball with fresh legs from the mez(s) role. Bayliss, on the other hand, was the rare case of being a like-for-like replacement for Mallamo, and Benjani often rotated him with Mallamo on a game-to-game basis, but he also did well in the mez(s) role.

 

Levitt was the only player that Benjani felt was irreplaceable, his passing ability was well above anyone in the squad, but Morrell performed well enough when played there.

 

The priority for Benjani was to keep Levitt as fresh as possible but also to play him as much as possible. Happily, he had a high natural fitness, but he still couldn’t play 90 mins two games a week, week in, week out.

 

Game 1 - Saturday - Morrell, Levitt and Mallamo (sub Tunnicliffe for Levitt)

If Mallamo, Levitt and Morrell start a Saturday game, Benjani would prioritize subbing Levitt, then Morrell, depending on in-game events and scoreline. If they were ahead, Benjani would hope to sub Levitt for Tunnicliffe, moving Morrell to the central DLP position. If they were behind, Bayliss might come in for Morrell to add some penetration on the left. Let’s say we take the former (Tunnicliffe for Levitt).

 

 

Game 2 - Tuesday - Morrell, Levitt and Bayliss (sub - Mallamo for Morrell)

Tuesday’s game sees Bayliss, Levitt and Morrell start. Again the focus is on saving Levitt for future games, so even though Morrell played the full 90 at the weekend, he may do so again here but then be rested the following weekend. Let’s say Portsmouth need a goal, though, and the opposition are sitting deep. Benjani decided to keep Levitt on and instead replace Morrell with the more attack minded Mallamo on the left.

 

Game 3 - Saturday - Morrell , Levitt and Mallamo (sub - Bayliss for Morrell)

Levitt’s good fitness (and maybe a day off) mean he’s okay to start again, so it’s back to Morrell (subbed early on Tuesday), Levitt, and Mallamo. Levitt is unlikely to last the game, but if he can it might be worth keeping him on because he’ll almost certainly need to be rested for the following Tuesday’s game. If that works, Morrell is the key because he’s the other player in the squad able to play the DLP role. In this game, he is subbed at 60 mins for Bayliss, and with an eye to the following Tuesday. Benjani also takes Mallamo off with fifteen minutes left, switching Bayliss into the attacking mezzala role and Turnicliffe as the support. Levitt, exhausted, plays the full 90.

 

Game 4 - Tuesday - Bayliss, Morrell, Mallamo (sub Tunnicliffe for Mallamo)

In this game Levitt is rested. Ideally, he doesn’t play at all, but he’ll likely have to come on at some point for either Morrell or Mallamo. If they are winning though, he’d rather bring on Tunnicliffe.

 

Overall

Of course, with ten outfield players and only three subs, things didn’t always go so smoothly. Injuries, suspensions, and game events would also dictate subs and starters. On the whole, though, the system worked well.

The Games

ZRghkxOP8ZyCUxe_YvH0SRf64Dah_2HghQOyhbzub7UQBH16g1vJOWg78FhgD4HmhZ0a5Aaof_9LC6rlEhluasFbkiys4cpjzi2HOMwrbGZKGjJQZSposTA_j9q5kCoKLyF6X1dHfOmlRM2tKRRIkQsXz51DXb5Ji4o7lZxpksk5OemlD8eQo-kLzL0jihxG1uvmXpKR_wgjSPzmsn6hRYDBqd8IMeO6xW9CclRmOdbwIDKguUuH8V8zTKA3BrwjX2RtdHqpiXiK62dJj6Srsguof1iM4C3O9zO2_XvjuToSeRWpp0uoMm9ToKdaXlo7vSgIkeGHGe3e0shgVPo6SrUXHWZYnlxilEbRMkpM2v2MmANoKJFVxNsmdOpAiEFkPJtxkM1dcNF3iG1x2BatiEjJk4ZGgHuQyY58Edi_LlVp79hRyrdhJzYOyiXYt3ewT2KkYkvd3afJ5vgbFmXIK18Vxwws0Du5lCS2jYDzN-agcsta-qoLOgpd8csI8d4vV5WzH_IHd9IDoQuMkDrOUUn4cOQsEUI2yGs58pegPKg3kh8lU9kauypQ6hx--wzyKm28aBBI7vC3Bbm0_WXxTiXF0Th2_-Fj9RyMCx7etLxKPK81reJkyKTBGr3Ohzy1i1Muvz253X19ylMuK9lInKlWFy7iGdFs5oJLSyecShnN1618YHWNMPhdi4EqsziY5KDAscir4RnuV3nsxMHDfxPeQKo8-sbvt0lu0UMGIqIIe8sxKzA24mLGHpG2FC1PTFeCV9bOaukTRoCs7Ka_8gRIdIOjnkZAXiKj6LdGos4ujYmFUbn1X8WGr-unshDIUbCcNDb6juVGINFPe_dEjxJ3cPnXHNrh-wAYgmNDufgjXYr3ciMDTAzUkQDsCHYj7NLSoApTqysXY4VcQUNe65VHHJGmYKN_eCUDjftilgRIkj1FaLrPh7wV8A13i08et2M2feHDsLsA6xOQWupe73rYpen7JPJinFgtARzzSmn5WVInDU_Xq9rmxi8kfDe6uA4jdKO0R7E-vBu3f6tgzM3oRbU7yexS24pH0HeBNAodqpivJRyrAbSpglmz3JXc

6KG2aWlq1wtiyq-5hx-wcTaODfr4gL2IKVf_eMCddZKRvdgTAP4NpyegKFACJAhdTuTSdOJtD0Az4fXse5U1VO5IxpwXUG9Q7msRizrCDkXNHsz5wEEKYQwaozMPiKlY7qKbdeAuZ8as9vA67ljk23USw_8HC8HoPXKc02s6mJTPs8fGk25OKZ5htveW7IQ6dY5Ba4mQv4gDoBbwUkWUiBhvTI0Y273NrPt6guLnNvd68nvm6Fvrg9lQ7kwErfv3NUao2v4n98NPhvaG

 

What was so frustrating was that Portsmouth truly dropped a lot of points in this run as well, with an xG total of 16.97 to an  xG against of 10.89, Portsmouth significantly outperformed their opponents. Many of the games were fairly close and a draw may have been a fair result, but a few bounces, a few chances buried or an obvious run picked up could have easily given Portsmouth four or more extra points.

 

Still, considering the resources at the club, the players, and the club’s recent history, the fact that Portsmouth only lost once over that two month period and remained within touching distance of promotion to the Premier League could only be considered a success. They ended the month in third [forgot to take a screenshot].  December was packed with games as well, but at least had a two (!) full weeks without an international break or a midweek game!

 

3VB8AM-a_VvgjxLFrhm41_9PHWGmMGw5nyLA86wBxSRpE05avrEMWp5sn2imiwYlrpWTWBriIxSiE0WYKpX3qb9769UvZNzlGZ4iGGW5USv1HCiNbjvKydkJAMrMgCxdr4rge01a

Link to post
Share on other sites