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_Ben_
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September 2026

When you take charge of a club just three days before your first game, and a derby at that, there isn't much time to sort through things. I had a look at some expiring contracts but wanted to, at least, watch the players in action before committing to a new deal for them. I saw absolutely no need in trying to build any other sessions in aside from match prep - hoping that we'd gain some familiarity quickly and use that, along with the new-manager-bounce, to get off to a strong start. September looked like this:

b3d8db344c02071e9bbcd8fde7fd7a0b.png

Literally, just work on the tactic and team morale, which coincided with the usual raise-spirits greeting and going through team conduct, of which nobody ever seems to mind.

---

30aacbbe6090961d110beb4b406449cd.png

The game itself was a great one. We played our rivals, who started way above us in the league, off the park. Granted, our shape was not as refined as I'd like and there needs to be some work on our shooting, but we were great. The shape, whilst feeling like a bit of a cop-out, doesn't really need to change as we have the players to suit. We also had far more of the ball than we ever had at Mashuk, at least, according to that stat anyway. 396 passes and 164 of those in our defensive half. With the expectation of a big team, I wonder if we will find a lot more lower blocks and teams sitting back against us.

Individually, I was impressed with the wide play of Begun and Martuzaliev, the former making a move to there from the forward role but it was defender Alexey Zarutskiy, who, on debut, shone.

61f07aae3b8bc885eb811dbbee35267c.png

Now, he scored a headed goal from a corner but also maintained a 92% pass succession rate, with 30 progressive passes out from the back. Digging a little deeper, he moved the ball well, trying to fit with our general style of play - just two long passes (and these were both back passes from the half-way line), 23 medium length passes (15 of which progressive) and all of his short passes going forwards. I am a strong believer in the Positive team mentality being a part of this, as well as his above average (for all players, let alone defenders) Passing and Composure. He's a really good ball player. Yet, what stands out to me the most is the massive fifteen interceptions. One interception in our area and one in the opposition half shows us where he, and the team, are winning the ball back, and I'm happy with that overall position. With a Jumping Reach and Heading above average for this level, I expected a good return but one offensive (the goal) and fifteen defensive, including two key, headers is another great marker. Overall, he gained possession for us 28 times, with two in the offensive half, touching the ball 86 times.

A complete performance from the youngster and a real sign of what is to come.

---

6851e2e8b619ba65846d352a35ff85b3.png

October has six fixtures, including a trip to Pyatigorsk to face Mashuk as well as visits from second place Nalchik and third placed Rotor - meaning we play three of the top four. Kuban-D sit 15th, whilst Krasnodar-2 are just above us in 8th and Stavropol are 14th. Offer me ten points (W,D,W,L,L,W) from that and I'd be delighted!

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Do you play best players regardless of position and role or find roles to suit the players and the shape?

I am finding that I am playing many of my players out of position just to make sure my best players are playing.

 

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58 minutes ago, Hootieleece said:

Do you play best players regardless of position and role or find roles to suit the players and the shape?

I am finding that I am playing many of my players out of position just to make sure my best players are playing.

 

Is it a case of skills over position?

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9 hours ago, Sonic Youth said:

Is it a case of skills over position?

I try and get the most skillful players on the field. I have an Inverted AML that I play all over the place just to get him on the field, because my current formation doesn't have wingers and Inside Forwards. He has been playing Wingback on either side!

sorry for the digression!

 

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14 hours ago, _Ben_ said:

September 2026

I seem to be plagued by Windows updates and, because I have a bad habit of not saving and just shutting the lid of my laptop, seem to be falling foul of them. I lost the Dinamo game but my replay of it today produced the same result:

5f0156a1df60456f0aafb2523e527b58.png

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32 minutes ago, _Ben_ said:

I seem to be plagued by Windows updates and, because I have a bad habit of not saving and just shutting the lid of my laptop, seem to be falling foul of them. I lost the Dinamo game but my replay of it today produced the same result:

5f0156a1df60456f0aafb2523e527b58.png

Even better :D 

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13 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Do you play best players regardless of position and role or find roles to suit the players and the shape?

I am finding that I am playing many of my players out of position just to make sure my best players are playing.

 

That's a really interesting question and one I can really dig into!

Firstly - let's take a look at the XI that I want to field for the game against Kuban-D:

e6dba21ff92ecb74bb5b779432b76276.png

Now, the first thing I look at is their preferred or best position. Now, I see absolutely no difference in an AM and CM or an AML or ML - just that they, potentially, need a bit more stamina as their starting position is a little deeper. I have been really lucky here that the better players all fit into the base 4-1-4-1 shape that I employed at Mashuk and, going further down the pecking order, don't have the depth in other areas (e.g. just 3 strikers, no abundance of CB's) to justify a new shape.

Next I look at overall positions, starting, probably, from competent. I don't feel like there is a huge hit when playing a player in another position but don't have any statistical analysis to back that up. This means that I can, potentially, field my strongest XI, if they are versatile. Begun, the forward, but an accomplished winger, can easily move back to the ML slot. Even though he doesn't have the necessary defensive attributes to be a midfielder, rather than winger, he's another number in the compact defensive shape I like to employ. Gaidarov, probably best suited to the DM role, can easily play at left back. A quick look (before a much deeper dive) of the difference between his CA and Role Ability is what I tend to go off, initially:

  • Begun drops 0.5* moving back to ML
  • Gaiadarov loses nothing moving to DL
  • Zarutskiy drops 0.5* moving to a CD
  • Kiselev drops 0.5* moving to a MC

But there is obviously more than that. This is role ability and not position ability. From my experience, the more elite roles (CWB, Reg, T, RPM etc) require a better level of player to rate well in this, which is definitely not linked to performing well on the pitch. So this is the part whereby I ignore those ratings and look on attributes and what I see in game. Here are my two starting Mezzalas, Kiselev and Smirnov:

1bbe1e0cb35f379c6eb307404f10ad2c.png

For this shape to work the best, I would want to play them as Mez(a). I can see that neither of them are great finishers so, rather than changing the entire role (the AP(a) doesn't require the ability to finish, for example), I like to change their role or develop their playing ability through traits. It's likely that I'll keep them in this role as it gives the best structure, in my opinionwithin the 4-1-4-1 shape, but I'll teach them both to Try Killer Balls or to look for the pass (especially Kiselev given his Vision and Decisions along with Passing).

---

So, to summarise!

  • I tend to choose a shape based on the best players I have at the squad
  • I tend to choose player positions, for my strongest XI, based on whether they are competent or better in that position
  • I tend to choose roles that I feel will overall benefit our style of play and then amend and develop the player to fit that but will analyse any big changes (e.g. Budunov being most suited as a F9 yet will be playing as an AF) to see whether I've made the best decision.
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October 2026

a885ed0ba359273fdbcf9b41d264358d.png

An interesting month.

We started with a strong win over Kuban, but with two goals from set pieces, didn't really get to show any attacking intent. I've kept my throw in routine and we've clearly been practicing it as both centre backs notched from them. If I could take some positives from that, then I certainly can't take any from the Mashuk game. I know them well but I wasn't aware they were absolute world beaters. However - we only had ourselves to blame: two red cards within the first forty minutes - one for two silly tackles and another for a silly tackle and a handball. I made some quite significant changes at half time to try and save a point, playing a 4-1-2-1 shape but gave away a penalty early in the second half, which was, fortunately, missed. Our nine men dug in and, perhaps, that is the solace I should take, but it was a tough team talk. Our hit and miss form continued against Krasnodar. We came away with three points thanks to a late first-half rally from Kiselev (who, like Rodin before him at Mashuk, has completely turned his form around). We conceded two silly, and one late, goals and generally looked really shaky at the back. Off the back of that, I expected a hammering against Nalchik but we finally showed the attacking intent we are capable of. However, four yellow cards and another penalty concession (which doubled their xG) as well as yet another silly goal to concede, means I'm not entirely happy.

My go to was to do what I always do in this situation - spend the week drilling defensive positioning and play:

b601d20bf2fb22a349b8cede2fc7c86a.png

It worked for 78 minutes against Rotor. We dominated - allowing them one shot and a massive 0.03xG. Yet, we somehow came away with just a point. Two personal mistakes again and two times where our defence was breached with ease means that we'd conceded twice in each of our last three games - certainly not the type of defence I like to build. I slammed the team in the press, warned a whole host of defensive players and annoyed a few people - but I can really see why this highly talented squad have struggled so far this season; the mentality of some of them is all wrong. A slightly less flashy performance ended our month, unbeaten, and with fourteen points - four more than I thought.

Two tough November games await us:

b852e3d739c8688ab3170cdeeeb9c72e.png

Another local derby at lower half Legion before we travel to the runaway leaders. I'd love four points from this.

---

As the month went on, I decided that it was a good time to tie down some of the important players, below, with expiring deals:

e09563f83d48cc19817b23e226a1a79e.png

I managed to renew these four, adding only a few hundred pounds a week to our wage bill, however, as part of the deals, my hands were tied to agree this:

3f5e3489bf244c413be524dc4e83561a.png

It, at least, means I will keep them all this season and have another six months before I either move them on, accept I'll lose them on a free or be in a position where we are likely to be promoted. With our finances quite weak, I'd rather have not had to rebuild this winter transfer window.

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Good form! Frustrating draws, but you only just got there.

Also enjoyed the position post! 

2 hours ago, _Ben_ said:

But there is obviously more than that. This is role ability and not position ability.

Totally agree…for the most part. Decisions definitely gets impacted though. I’ve read that’s true “under the hood” and noticed it in FM. A recent example - I had a CM covering as a CB in my Portsmouth save and gave up a few goals because he picked the entirely wrong space or man to mark despite having the right attributes. I’d be furious (“what are you doing???”) but then I’d remember he was out of position.

Makes total sense to me too - anyone who’s played out of position knows that things are just a bit off. The angles, the positioning, etc. After playing mostly winger and forward, and occasionally some fullback, from about age 18-28, I ended up getting moved to CB late in my “career” (injuries and I had the right attributes). It took me about a season to feel comfortable and confident back there and I was never at my best. 

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3 hours ago, 13th Man said:

Good form! Frustrating draws, but you only just got there.

Also enjoyed the position post! 

Totally agree…for the most part. Decisions definitely gets impacted though. I’ve read that’s true “under the hood” and noticed it in FM. A recent example - I had a CM covering as a CB in my Portsmouth save and gave up a few goals because he picked the entirely wrong space or man to mark despite having the right attributes. I’d be furious (“what are you doing???”) but then I’d remember he was out of position.

Makes total sense to me too - anyone who’s played out of position knows that things are just a bit off. The angles, the positioning, etc. After playing mostly winger and forward, and occasionally some fullback, from about age 18-28, I ended up getting moved to CB late in my “career” (injuries and I had the right attributes). It took me about a season to feel comfortable and confident back there and I was never at my best. 

I love and value that you've used your own experience here. As a central defender from day one of my (very low level) career, I never had to make those considerations.

I guess that I can put this into two, almost rhetorical, questions:

  1. Where is the cut off for Decisions to have a negative impact on player positioning? Is it Accomplished? Competent? Awkward?
  2. How much is the Decisions attribute impacted? Does it go 'down' 10 points? 25%? A number dependent on the opposition?
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November 2026

39dc68755ea15540bf195bc3edf98c4f.png

Just the two games here. Three points. A debut goal for Kurbanov, the latest academy player to make an appearance. Lots of questions to ask myself.

Initially, I'd look at the fact we've shipped three goals and think about my defence:

e1866c28df6c82c51f798e92eee71f0d.png

As I've only managed nine games at Anji, I decided to focus on the five games before the two played in November for a quick look at the goals that we concede. Six of the seven came from open play with one from the penalty spot. Whilst there isn't a real trend, I figured it'd make sense to look at each of the areas I think that I could improve on.

Goalkeeping (based on shot type)

be924c4437fdd4295a564fbb2d77381c.png

Now, I've been a little mix-and-match between the two of these in my time, and haven't really settled on my preferred choice. The noticeable gap between their pass completion comes from the change in distribution rather than a significant difference in quality. In fact, they are both fairly equal with Poplevchenkov being considerably taller and slower. Interestingly, both of the goals that we have conceded from crosses have come in games that Staver has played in. I don't necessarily think there is a huge issue with my goalkeepers, at present and, maybe, I just need to settle on one.

Pressing (fatigue and timing of goals)

We're conceding early in the game and late in the game. Two worries. The first is that I don't motivate them enough and we are sluggish to start and the second is that we are tired from the pressing - remembering that we haven't had a pre-season yet to get up to speed. Therefore, I am finally going to mess with some Match Plans. I've been meaning to do this for ever and just want to have a try now.

I have set up three:

bffdb3ac854402b4adb11e4669f63b92.png

With just a slightly nuanced set of instructions to protect/defend and overload, I want to be able to switch between them fluidly. I will automatically (and that is the key behind this - I will only fully get behind it if it saves me time and makes this easier) switch to the less pressing shape when we have just scored and only for ten minutes. I want to make sure we don't leave holes defensively as, full of confidence, we surge forwards. Likewise, I want us to press more and get a bit aggressive when we go behind, which will, in time, go hand-in-hand with a high level of Determination. I also want us to press less in the last five minutes of the game, hoping to keep our shape and see the game out if we are winning.

Defensive Corners

7b147dc3184ed8ee6fc965380de0e8b7.png

I think there are a few problems here. Firstly - we lack the height to really challenge bigger teams and we aren't clever enough to zonally mark as I've watched both corner goals back and seen that players have free runs into the box. Centre back Idrisov is small at just 5'10" and cannot jump, even though he's a good marker and it's only really right back Kairaliev and holding midfielder Machilov who excel at Jumping, even if their heading isn't that accurate. It is certainly something that, in the long term, will need some focus, but in the short term, I'm going for quite a risky move:

68bcbfaadef1e6e19cf505170ef672b3.png

I have put my smaller midfielders on the posts, knowing that my goalkeeper should have the ability to assist here and then instructed all of my taller defenders to man mark. I have no idea how this will play out but, with players who have defensive attributes at, or above, the average of the league, I feel we have to do better here. I have also ensured that defending corners comes up a little bit more in our tactical periodisation work on the training pitch over the mid-season sessions.

However, and more blindingly obvious to me now I've written all this - our wastefulness in front of goal. Two goals from 3.72 non-penalty xG!

---

We're certainly on the right track and, with just one defeat in nine, end the season with 20 points from a possible 27. There are ten games left of this season after the four month winter break and I want to use those to get us in the best possible position for a shot at the title next year. I think we are capable of doing this.

 

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26 minutes ago, SixPointer said:

I found the guys in the posts at defensive corners pretty useless. I’ve never really seen them make a block on the line. If so it’s extremely rare. So I usually leave them free. And use them guys as blockers. 

From just the first pre-season friendly, I've already found a gaping hole in the system:

00d3113745b2049ac13a4e6d029cd761.png

Each time, we've left one player completely unmarked. I'm going to do-away with my 'close down' option and add another man marker in there. If it is short, the man on the near post can get out to them. Neither of those corners led to anything but that's not something I can allow moving forward!

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3 hours ago, _Ben_ said:

From just the first pre-season friendly, I've already found a gaping hole in the system:

00d3113745b2049ac13a4e6d029cd761.png

Each time, we've left one player completely unmarked. I'm going to do-away with my 'close down' option and add another man marker in there. If it is short, the man on the near post can get out to them. Neither of those corners led to anything but that's not something I can allow moving forward!

It’s definitely the next big upgrade I would like from SI, doesn’t have to be ridiculous just a little bit more depth. Both my players on the edge on attacking corners standing side by side really annoys me 🤣

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10 hours ago, _Ben_ said:

I guess that I can put this into two, almost rhetorical, questions:

  1. Where is the cut off for Decisions to have a negative impact on player positioning? Is it Accomplished? Competent? Awkward?
  2. How much is the Decisions attribute impacted? Does it go 'down' 10 points? 25%? A number dependent on the opposition?

These are good questions, and I definitely don’t know the answers (yes I see rhetorical!). I think it’s interesting though. I do wonder what the formula is (something like accomplished -1 or -10%, competent -2 or -20%, awkward -3 or -30%?). Not being one to quantify things much, I would say that I rarely see those WTF moments with players who are “accomplished” and that it’s less of a problem in more attacking positions - though maybe mistakes are just less costly?

Again, from my playing days, it took me a year to know where to expect danger to come from and position myself for it. As a natural attacker, I knew what opponents might try to do, but not always where to be or how to stop it. I would wonder if things like anticipation and positioning would also be effected…Ive only ever heard about decisions though.

 

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11 hours ago, _Ben_ said:

November 2026

39dc68755ea15540bf195bc3edf98c4f.png

Just the two games here. Three points. A debut goal for Kurbanov, the latest academy player to make an appearance. Lots of questions to ask myself.

Initially, I'd look at the fact we've shipped three goals and think about my defence:

e1866c28df6c82c51f798e92eee71f0d.png

As I've only managed nine games at Anji, I decided to focus on the five games before the two played in November for a quick look at the goals that we concede. Six of the seven came from open play with one from the penalty spot. Whilst there isn't a real trend, I figured it'd make sense to look at each of the areas I think that I could improve on.

Goalkeeping (based on shot type)

be924c4437fdd4295a564fbb2d77381c.png

Now, I've been a little mix-and-match between the two of these in my time, and haven't really settled on my preferred choice. The noticeable gap between their pass completion comes from the change in distribution rather than a significant difference in quality. In fact, they are both fairly equal with Poplevchenkov being considerably taller and slower. Interestingly, both of the goals that we have conceded from crosses have come in games that Staver has played in. I don't necessarily think there is a huge issue with my goalkeepers, at present and, maybe, I just need to settle on one.

Pressing (fatigue and timing of goals)

We're conceding early in the game and late in the game. Two worries. The first is that I don't motivate them enough and we are sluggish to start and the second is that we are tired from the pressing - remembering that we haven't had a pre-season yet to get up to speed. Therefore, I am finally going to mess with some Match Plans. I've been meaning to do this for ever and just want to have a try now.

I have set up three:

bffdb3ac854402b4adb11e4669f63b92.png

With just a slightly nuanced set of instructions to protect/defend and overload, I want to be able to switch between them fluidly. I will automatically (and that is the key behind this - I will only fully get behind it if it saves me time and makes this easier) switch to the less pressing shape when we have just scored and only for ten minutes. I want to make sure we don't leave holes defensively as, full of confidence, we surge forwards. Likewise, I want us to press more and get a bit aggressive when we go behind, which will, in time, go hand-in-hand with a high level of Determination. I also want us to press less in the last five minutes of the game, hoping to keep our shape and see the game out if we are winning.

Defensive Corners

7b147dc3184ed8ee6fc965380de0e8b7.png

I think there are a few problems here. Firstly - we lack the height to really challenge bigger teams and we aren't clever enough to zonally mark as I've watched both corner goals back and seen that players have free runs into the box. Centre back Idrisov is small at just 5'10" and cannot jump, even though he's a good marker and it's only really right back Kairaliev and holding midfielder Machilov who excel at Jumping, even if their heading isn't that accurate. It is certainly something that, in the long term, will need some focus, but in the short term, I'm going for quite a risky move:

68bcbfaadef1e6e19cf505170ef672b3.png

I have put my smaller midfielders on the posts, knowing that my goalkeeper should have the ability to assist here and then instructed all of my taller defenders to man mark. I have no idea how this will play out but, with players who have defensive attributes at, or above, the average of the league, I feel we have to do better here. I have also ensured that defending corners comes up a little bit more in our tactical periodisation work on the training pitch over the mid-season sessions.

However, and more blindingly obvious to me now I've written all this - our wastefulness in front of goal. Two goals from 3.72 non-penalty xG!

---

We're certainly on the right track and, with just one defeat in nine, end the season with 20 points from a possible 27. There are ten games left of this season after the four month winter break and I want to use those to get us in the best possible position for a shot at the title next year. I think we are capable of doing this.

 

Lovely read of a post. You get into detail I can never even think of, and your analysis is always spot on. 

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December 2026 - March 2027

a0dff2371449d4f13b5f6fb0bd5b1558.png

Nine points from nine and a decent mid-season run out for the players.

951f942e05cdb813c9470063b8ed3ebf.png

There is still that underlying issue about our goals conceded statistic though. There has been some improvement when you compare my tenure to the overall season:

  • Under my tenure: 15 goals in 12 games - 1.25 GA/90
  • Whole season: 40 goals in 27 games - 1.48 GA/90

But things still aren't quite right! The Volgar-M game saw the new setup for defensive corners come into place but a late goal against Tuapse came, as you'd expect, straight from a corner. Both goals against Biolog came from through balls - given to our high defensive line and lack of pace (8 for both) in my full backs. To remedy that, I've moved our DL back to 'Standard'

I've successfully added the match plans (and I am remembering to untick 'Allow Substitutions' each game) which seems to be working quite well and now I need to just finalise my standard team shape before I then go into a bit more depth for specific plans against specific shapes and players. That is always the final part of my jigsaw and we're making good strides towards it.

At the other end of the pitch, we've had no issue with creating good xG - as Budunov (10 goals in 12 games) and Kiselev (10 goal involvements in 12 games) have shown. We do, however, seem to be particularly wasteful in front of goal - particularly at set plays and from crosses. I instruct the team to put in low crosses but this is not always possible when the opposition area is crowded and we are, seemingly, significantly weaker in the air than other teams. The amount of good xG chances we rack up but don't convert from headers does concern me and will be something I will try and address through recruitment.

---

Our youth intake also arrived and I believe it to have been bugged as we received an astounding thirty-seven players through! However, as to be expected for this level, the majority were very poor and I only kept five:

7d45b528064bb0594908d62adf82d07c.png

IsmailovPanov and Dudin are the talents here and I'll look to give them some minutes going forwards.

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April 2027 - Defensive frailties

We've just beaten Taganrog 3-1 and jumped to fifth in the league but I feel that this warrants its own post. We are still making the same mistakes at the back. Now, I know that this is the Russian third tier and I am well inclined to expect shoddy defending and poor decisions, but this is a constant issue. If you read my Swiss Army Knife thread last year, you'll know that I only really started taking a tactical deep dive then, so I'm not pretending I know the answers. All three of these examples are the same though: beaten by a long, high, through ball.

Example One: A poor miss

421ee9cde2b65e5a9204ef8cc7a253a9.gif

Example Two: A goal and an assist for their keeper

cd2c04ed4a1b7ee73661ab45b6d73708.gif

Example Three: A decent save

6c45d0fe511a9ffe148f1ca6194e5c3d.gif

---

For me, as a defender in a past life, blame lies at their feet. They aren't tight enough to the one forward. However, another part of me is thinking about the press. We try and press quite aggressively, but we don't have the numbers in the AM and ST strata to effectively do that - so are we being drawn out of place to make these balls even easier?

I need to weigh up the options:

  • Can this be trained out of these players? (e.g. match prep and tactical familiarity)
  • Are their traits or styles making these thing more susceptible?
  • Are their attributes making these things more susceptible?
  • Are my tactics the reason that these things are happening?
  • Is the quality of player to blame and, by recruiting, this would be minimised?
  • Is the quality of player to blame but the level of football (and, as such, player ability) going to lead to a continuation of this?

 

 

 

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10 minutes ago, john1 said:

Wait, you had 37 players via youth intakes?!

Yes, somehow! I have never seen anything like that before. They weren't poached players or anything, either. Sadly, as I said, very few were of use and, anyway, we're too poor to keep them all!

11 minutes ago, john1 said:

Are you glad that Rotor, didn't give you the job, looking back on that now?

Yes and no. With Rotor, who are currently 2nd, I think I could have had a shot at getting promoted this year but I'll have to wait until at least next year with Anji. However, the squad I have here is absolutely fantastic and the football (offensively at least) is wonderful to watch.

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18 minutes ago, _Ben_ said:

April 2027 - Defensive frailties

We've just beaten Taganrog 3-1 and jumped to fifth in the league but I feel that this warrants its own post. We are still making the same mistakes at the back. Now, I know that this is the Russian third tier and I am well inclined to expect shoddy defending and poor decisions, but this is a constant issue. If you read my Swiss Army Knife thread last year, you'll know that I only really started taking a tactical deep dive then, so I'm not pretending I know the answers. All three of these examples are the same though: beaten by a long, high, through ball.

Example One: A poor miss

421ee9cde2b65e5a9204ef8cc7a253a9.gif

Example Two: A goal and an assist for their keeper

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Example Three: A decent save

6c45d0fe511a9ffe148f1ca6194e5c3d.gif

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For me, as a defender in a past life, blame lies at their feet. They aren't tight enough to the one forward. However, another part of me is thinking about the press. We try and press quite aggressively, but we don't have the numbers in the AM and ST strata to effectively do that - so are we being drawn out of place to make these balls even easier?

I need to weigh up the options:

  • Can this be trained out of these players? (e.g. match prep and tactical familiarity)
  • Are their traits or styles making these thing more susceptible?
  • Are their attributes making these things more susceptible?
  • Are my tactics the reason that these things are happening?
  • Is the quality of player to blame and, by recruiting, this would be minimised?
  • Is the quality of player to blame but the level of football (and, as such, player ability) going to lead to a continuation of this?

 

 

 

The press does look half hearted, couple that with poor centre back play and it’s a recipe for them sort of issues. 
what’s the CB’s anticipation like? Are they just not anticipating the long ball and being caught out? Does the first line of the press have the attributes to match the desire needed? 
That the questions I would be asking myself. I was worried about my AML and AMR having the ability to press so I go with a standard LOE and a high line to keep me compact. But I use opponent instructions for my 3 central players who can press to centrally to try stop the CB’s and keeper with long balls. 

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1 hour ago, SixPointer said:

The press does look half hearted, couple that with poor centre back play and it’s a recipe for them sort of issues. 
what’s the CB’s anticipation like? Are they just not anticipating the long ball and being caught out? Does the first line of the press have the attributes to match the desire needed? 
That the questions I would be asking myself. I was worried about my AML and AMR having the ability to press so I go with a standard LOE and a high line to keep me compact. But I use opponent instructions for my 3 central players who can press to centrally to try stop the CB’s and keeper with long balls. 

Great couple of points. It seems like you an apt point to use this tweet:

457dbf8bdab0b7e2492e697a13761156.png

It also gives me a nice chance for a scatter plot!

d36ad38e9c7af338520137998031f6b9.png

Here, I've compared the press ability and intelligence of my players, with defensive players marked in blue and offensive in white. You can see that the vast majority of my best pressers are, in fact, defenders. I know that my offensive players will be hit by the bias in Concentration for defensive players, but they aren't too intelligent, overall. Therefore, I think that I need to fine-tune the press triggers. In the Opposition Instructions screen, I've set up various instructions;

  • Push any wide defensive players inside but not to aggressively close them down. My wide men are withdrawn and this will pull them out of shape.
  • Tackle the centre backs hard if we are near them but don't rush around trying to close them as they are unlikely to have the skills to do much more than just a hoof
  • Push the wide offensive players inside, hopefully, towards my more congested central area. This could work two-fold to also stop crosses.
  • Trigger the press on the DM and central midfield areas - where I have more players, better pressers (Kiselev being the main one) and two Mezzalas, who are able to act on the counter

It also tells me that I need to do this:

8c644db5ec7fb664e83e72c63459ff7b.png

We need to get in the market to improve the likes of Markov and Ponomarev. 

 

Edited by _Ben_
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April 2027

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An almost flawless month and one where we are really demonstrating the hard work that's going into our tactical direction.

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We started with a draw against Druzhba in a game that we were largely best but failed to turn that superiority into goals. Granted, there was just over 1.5 non-penalty xG, closing the gap up but our final ball was rushed and left a few questions for me. Against Taganrog we were really strong overall but, as you saw from the three gifs above, fell foul to three attempts that literally came from the same starting reason - a through ball. I addressed a couple of things from there and, like magic, kept two clean sheets and felt that we were completely unchallenged. 

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Budonov's rich vein of scoring form has shot him up the rankings for goals scored. I cannot fathom how my predecessor couldn't find a place for him, given his attributes!

---

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This concerns me and certainly dampens the great mood in the camp. However, at this point, I am no more than a Head Coach and, as such, cannot worry myself with this. I do have plans for the summer and do want to strengthen through some good recruitment, but if the board don't want to/can't provide me the money, then so be it.

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Those balls over the top can be killer it’s true. It seems like you’ve gotten it figured out as April looked good! So take the below with a grain of salt but…

I don’t necessarily blame the CBs, though, as it’s hard to defend those balls when you have to turn and catch up to a player already hitting top speed. I put the blame as much on the forward players that make it too easy to put those balls in. I’ll bet your pressing in the center has been helpful.

I also will sometimes up my LOE (usually at one notch lower than my DL) when I see this kind of route one play. I don’t press them hard or mark with OIs (except, sometimes the DMs or holding players). I lose some compactness, but those deep players aren’t usually going to have the composure and technical ability to launch a pinpoint pass under even mild pressure.

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2 hours ago, _Ben_ said:

Great couple of points. It seems like you an apt point to use this tweet:

457dbf8bdab0b7e2492e697a13761156.png

It also gives me a nice chance for a scatter plot!

d36ad38e9c7af338520137998031f6b9.png

Here, I've compared the press ability and intelligence of my players, with defensive players marked in blue and offensive in white. You can see that the vast majority of my best pressers are, in fact, defenders. I know that my offensive players will be hit by the bias in Concentration for defensive players, but they aren't too intelligent, overall. Therefore, I think that I need to fine-tune the press triggers. In the Opposition Instructions screen, I've set up various instructions;

  • Push any wide defensive players inside but not to aggressively close them down. My wide men are withdrawn and this will pull them out of shape.
  • Tackle the centre backs hard if we are near them but don't rush around trying to close them as they are unlikely to have the skills to do much more than just a hoof
  • Push the wide offensive players inside, hopefully, towards my more congested central area. This could work two-fold to also stop crosses.
  • Trigger the press on the DM and central midfield areas - where I have more players, better pressers (Kiselev being the main one) and two Mezzalas, who are able to act on the counter

It also tells me that I need to do this:

8c644db5ec7fb664e83e72c63459ff7b.png

We need to get in the market to improve the likes of Markov and Ponomarev. 

 

Love the graph, the plan also seems to be clear as well hopefully it helps with balls over the top 

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46 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

Those balls over the top can be killer it’s true. It seems like you’ve gotten it figured out as April looked good! So take the below with a grain of salt but…

I don’t necessarily blame the CBs, though, as it’s hard to defend those balls when you have to turn and catch up to a player already hitting top speed. I put the blame as much on the forward players that make it too easy to put those balls in. I’ll bet your pressing in the center has been helpful.

I also will sometimes up my LOE (usually at one notch lower than my DL) when I see this kind of route one play. I don’t press them hard or mark with OIs (except, sometimes the DMs or holding players). I lose some compactness, but those deep players aren’t usually going to have the composure and technical ability to launch a pinpoint pass under even mild pressure.

 

38 minutes ago, SixPointer said:

Love the graph, the plan also seems to be clear as well hopefully it helps with balls over the top 

Thanks both!

This is very much a work in progress as I learn about the players, the shape and the level that we are at. Certainly loved digging into the footage and the statistics and trying to correct things. I seem to have been pretty lucky thus far with the outcomes of those things.

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23 minutes ago, Hootieleece said:

Changing the statistics, you want will be tough though, but I think you know how to do it.

Whether it works, or not, I feel that it'll be a great bit of discourse about style against substance. We could win the league losing the ball more than this year, winning it back deeper, or playing tiki-taki possession ball or we could fall flat on our faces trying to continue the ideology I've started here. Or, of course, we could do the complete opposite of these two things; time will tell.

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June 2027

Recruitment. Recruitment. Recruitment. On a budget.

First up, I've identified those who I felt needed to move on:

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Dark red indicates current first teamers and, potentially, a problem as Magomedov is a team leader. Never the less, the group of players are weaker than the whole squad and considerably so when compared to the first team. They will also save me a total of £1.5k p/w, which is very much needed as we're already overdrawn this season. In an attempt to recruit as realistically as possible, I've lent on the support of my scouting team as well as my Director of Football, who really needs to start earning the wage he takes. Sadly, I've been beset by messages like this:

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However, I know that, at this level, the vast majority of free transfer business is done post contract-expiry time so I hope to be considering more options come July. My scouting team are off working on it right now...

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21 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Remarkable improvement at the end of the season. 

Whilst I absolutely take the compliment - I must stress that, I think, this should have been expected given the fact that they lost just one player from the side that played in the second tier. I just think that the dressing room had been lost, which is the normal thing a new manager changes.

I'm excited to see what I can do with them following a full season of my own doing.

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Early July 2027

I always have liked to complete my transfer business early but, even for me, to be happy with the quality within the squad by the second week of July is early. I have, again, attempted to be as realistic as possible here, using the scouting recommendations (so not the Player Search screen) and players my DoF has pinpointed.

Whilst there hasn't been a complete overhaul and there are still some 'weaker' players within my squad, I feel that I have adequately strengthened in the areas important to me. I am also not a huge fan of wheeling and dealing - normally identifying target areas and only focussing upon them. However, this summer has seen a couple of examples of the former as I have looked to increase the quality whilst reducing the wage bill.

fdeda5cea608f946ea403f644f51c42f.png

Victor SemenovDenis BugaevMagomed BykovskiyArtem KulikovNikita KaplenkoAndrey MarjanovIgor Uljanov (not shown).

---

First through the door was Artem Kulikov, on a free from fellow third tier side Baltika Kaliningrad. Whilst not being the strongest, on paper at least, he probably presents as my favourite buy of this window. My scouts found him and, due to his expiring contract, I was able to approach him in the middle of June. His profile shows the synergy that I want between player attributes and player statistics. Looking at his stats from last season, below, you can see that he performed really well going forward, ranking highly for shots, xG and overall goals. He also drew fouls and was above average in his key passes - all of the required metrics for my Mezzala role. However, his attributes, in particular Work Rate (12), Stamina (15), Aggression (15), Natural Fitness (13) and Tackling (10) are at, or above, the average for league midfielders and fit in nicely with our pressing game. I don't feel that Baltika played a particularly aggressive press last year and, therefore, feel that this could be a real coup in terms of our style.

a5abfdd2cb5f84ac1ed2ad9383ae9908.png

All of the remaining deals were constructed and brokered by my Director of Football. He firstly identified goalkeeper Semenov, who I considered to be an upgrade on Evgeny Staver, even if his Distribution was a little worse - which is countered by our instruction to distribute short anyway. It also allowed me to offload Artem Poplevchenkov to Saturn as I couldn't justify two goalkeepers on the same wage (£500p/w) with one being backup. It's been a mighty fall from grace for the number one at the club just six months ago but I feel I've certainly come out with a better player.

Kaplenko is a hugely experienced Belarussian, who has experienced life as a key player for DInamo Minsk and has had second tier experience before this. Whilst his legs are going, his mental and technical rounded-ness is key here for me and the fact that he is physically imposing, too, will only pay dividends for us at both defensive and offensive set plays. 

Two loanees, both from CSKA and both with zero wage contribution, Bykovskiy and Bugaev offer immense quality and, more importantly, squad depth. Whilst both are inexperienced in adult football, I hope that they can join in with a strong, but young team, and provide cover where needed. The former, as a two-footed centre back, is likely to experience more football as one of those berths is potentially going to be vacated with a player sale.

Lastly, Marjonov comes in as some welcome cover on the wings and youngster Uljanov signs for the youth side for a minimal fee of around £500.

---

I feel like this is probably the limit for new signings in a window in order to retain some stability within the team and to also ensure that we aren't overspending on wages and appearance fees. It does leave me with a very strong first team - one that I truly believe can challenge for honours here.

It also adds to my pool of young, high potential players, who I want to spend time developing over the course of this season and into the future.

 

 

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July 2027

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From the ridiculous to the sublime! A whirlwind of a month.

Since I decided to stop and think about friendlies, I've found them considerably more useful than the old 'just improve morale' job. I schedule a tougher friendly on the Monday with an easier one on the Friday; allowing my first choice players to get fit and my weaker players to earn a chance to be in and around the team. However, I picked the wrong team against Khasavyurt and absolutely thrashed them, leaving them all unfit for a tougher tie against Iranian Tractor S.C, to whom we then lost. You don't learn from these mismatches as we just dominated in the first tie, not being troubled defensively but not really ever properly testing the mettle of my shape and style, along with my new recruits. 

Overall, pre-season wasn't quite what I wanted!

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However, competitive football has been phemoninal!

We started against Kuban, showing our ruthless style - allowing them to keep the ball and not pressing in areas that would not be fruitful for them but came down hard on them when they approached our goal and countered with ruthless efficiency. That followed against Druzhba, although this time we had considerably more of the football as they were slightly less risk-averse than their predecessors. To batter relegated Rostov the way we did, allowing them a grand total of 0.11xG is amazing. We left it late but got the three points we deserved. This came after another mammoth win, with my 'B' squad, against Legion, in what, technically, is a derby.

Not only do we top the league, we've also scored the most (2.97 per/90), created 0.29xG more than any other team per 90 minutes (1.91), gone four without conceding, won nine in a row and scored thirteen in a row. This is an imperious start to a very important season for us.

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Whilst there isn't a lot of data to analyse so early in the season - I think that this graphic is particularly key. The top two are from last season - a season whereby only half of my own data was used, with the other half from the previous regime. I set myself some targets earlier of moving the defensive actions further forward and gaining possession higher up the pitch. You can see that we have significantly reduced (12%) the total number of possessions gained in our own box or just outside of it and our defensive actions in those areas are down 15%, too. 

I'm really happy with this!

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I don't talk too much about development these days, and that is strange as that really was the catalyst to my in-depth write ups. However, it's still going on behind the scenes. At this level, I'm tending to focus more on traits and ironing out weaker areas rather than really pushing those marginal gains with their attributes. Obviously, the two attributes that are worked the most are Work Rate and Determination given the chats and formal warnings with the players. You can see that Budonov hit a rough spell in February last year and the growth in his Work Rate and Determination come from this:

8662c5849c716b84d8cc007b56fd9e9f.png

However, the bigger change is the trait. I've tried to build on his lack of Strength and Bravery but good Work Rate, Technique and Off The Ball to get him to Move Into Channels. I already love his on-the-ball traits and some of the finishes he's produced are emphatic but I think he can be even better. 

At this stage, I don't feel there is anything else necessarily I want to develop but I need to take a deeper look at the other roles within my team and will update on the progress of those over the coming posts.

 

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57 minutes ago, SixPointer said:

Flying start! And I find your result with a clear desire to give the ball to your opponent something else really! I think playing the style you are is perhaps the hardest way to play tactically so you really are doing something special 

I don't think it's always a case of giving them the ball! We can be really poor with our final ball and I know SI has acknowledged that smaller teams tend to play too cautious and, as such, hog possession of the ball. Given that we're certainly a big (reputation) team in this league, I can see that being part of it, too. However, I've always really admired fast, counter attacking football and, as we go on and progress in this save, will need to ensure that I have a) a plan B but also b) a development of this slightly old-school style!

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Nicely done moving the defensive actions and possession gained higher up the pitch, that's certainly progress! Funny that coupled with, as @SixPointermentioned, conceding possession to the opposition.  It's true that the weaker sides will just sit back and pass the ball around, but good on you for being patient and letting them do it and/or hitting them on the break.  I always struggle with being patient, especially when the minutes tick by without anything happening.

It's not what I'm currently doing with my Portsmouth save, but there's something especially nice about comfortably defending while the opposition passes the ball around uselessly, then transitioning and hitting them with a brutal counter or an incisive attack.  Several of my favorite wins were 2-0, 3-0 scorelines with below 40% possession for my side,and few to no clear cut chances for the other side.

Also an excellent start, only 1 goal conceded in four games is really nice!

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21 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

Nicely done moving the defensive actions and possession gained higher up the pitch, that's certainly progress! Funny that coupled with, as @SixPointermentioned, conceding possession to the opposition.  It's true that the weaker sides will just sit back and pass the ball around, but good on you for being patient and letting them do it and/or hitting them on the break.  I always struggle with being patient, especially when the minutes tick by without anything happening.

It's not what I'm currently doing with my Portsmouth save, but there's something especially nice about comfortably defending while the opposition passes the ball around uselessly, then transitioning and hitting them with a brutal counter or an incisive attack.  Several of my favorite wins were 2-0, 3-0 scorelines with below 40% possession for my side,and few to no clear cut chances for the other side.

Also an excellent start, only 1 goal conceded in four games is really nice!

I think my style will evolve over time - as the quality of opposition increases, as will my need to press them. As a central defender by 'trade,' I've always wanted a tight defence and I've achieved that with a holistic approach to defending, which has been pleasing to see! Going forward - it's not just the brutal counter attacking - we also get very lucky, such as in this game I'm currently playing:

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The score? 3-0 to us! A thunderbolt plus two goals direct from freekicks. Those marginal gains and extra set piece sessions are invaluable.

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The beginning of promotion begins.

Raul looks a decent player, probably lacking slightly in a bit of composure and a tiny bit more dribbling (though passing looks a better fit with those mentals). Probably too early in your developing of players that level of minutiae :D

Did you see that Man City breakaway? Have you been seeing that? Or is it more like Liverpool’s breakaways?! They would be some nice replays :thup:

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20 hours ago, Sonic Youth said:

The beginning of promotion begins.

Raul looks a decent player, probably lacking slightly in a bit of composure and a tiny bit more dribbling (though passing looks a better fit with those mentals). Probably too early in your developing of players that level of minutiae :D

Did you see that Man City breakaway? Have you been seeing that? Or is it more like Liverpool’s breakaways?! They would be some nice replays :thup:

There's literally no development at this level, sadly. It's all about moulding the play around your players which further increases the absolute luck I had joining Anji, who played similarly to Mashuk, only better!

We are very much a Liverpool-esque counter. In particular, I see some lovely interplay between the winger making a diagonal run as the Mez passes him. I'll grab a video next time I see it!

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August 2027

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We are on fire!

This is an absolutely insanely good month and we have pulled a huge lead, along with Rotor, at the top of the league; we are looking well on our way to reaching those pre-season targets.

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We started with a great performance against Biolog, including the first hattrick of the month for the red-hot Kiselev, who has produced some ridiculous statistics this season, including more than one in five of his passes being key. We followed that with domination of Volgar-M, not even letting them have a shot on target, yet still only having 38% of the ball. Another big win over Kuban-D came before my first concessions of the season, against Dinamo. They, to be fair, were fresh from an 8-1 and played with a lot of confidence! We crept passed Krasnodar, when compared with our previous domination, and restricted Legion to nothing going forward, either.

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September is really busy but I genuinely don't see us losing in any game other than to second tier Khimki in the cup. We're an unstoppable force right now!

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I've been playing around with Training discussions with my players, looking to see what kind of level constitutes a warning and whether there is a cut off or a clue in how a player will react. Here are my initial findings:

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Discussing  anything below a 6.50 rating seems to elicit a positive response at this point. It's interesting to see that Determination, from this tiny sample, doesn't seem to play a part as both Begun and Kairalliev have been warned. I don't want to game this but it's just an interesting thing to see how long these bad periods of training go for and also whether dropping players, changing between training mesocycles etc has an impact.

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A small sample as you acknowledged but it is interesting that a negative reaction tends to mean a lower rating for the following week (with the exception of Magomedov), and a positive reaction seemingly increasing the training rating (apart from Zarutskiy).

I tracked training ratings for about a 6 month period on FM19 but frustratingly never took notice of reactions to warnings and praise for whatever reason. I only used it to try make my save more authentic, i.e. consistently good trainers tended to play more games for me, relative to their squad status.

Edited by brookie1402
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