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[FM23] Die Schanzer


Daniel Evensen
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Hope I'm not intruding too much by entering this forum unannounced.  After reading a few of the stories here, I thought I'd give the literary world a try while playing my latest save.  It's my first shot at this, so please be gentle.

The Phone Call

It all started with a phone call.

I could barely open my eyes enough to find it. I had a hard time figuring out which number was the time and which one was the phone number. One started with a 3, the other with a 4.

3 AM? 4 AM? Who would call that early? Was it an emergency? Some inconsiderate spammer? I knew I shouldn’t have left my phone in the bedroom.

“Hello?” I murmured, climbing back under the covers.

A friendly voice replied in German, with an unmistakeable southern accent:

“Herr Evensen, I’m happy to speak with you again! Do you have a moment?”

Now, I don’t know about how well you do at 3 in the morning. It’s hard for me to make myself comprehensible in English at that hour, let alone in a foreign language.

When I realized he was speaking in German, though, my mind started to race. I slipped out of the bedroom as quietly as I could and continued the conversation.

“Who is this?” I muttered, stumbling over the grammar and with a horrendous American accent.

The caller laughed. “Peter! Don’t you remember — Peter Jackwerth, of Ingolstadt.”

Ingolstadt… Ingolstadt… that did ring a bell…

Our business didn’t take long. I went back into the bedroom after 15 minutes. Charlotte was awake, of course. “Who was that?” she asked in that smooth, silky southern Chinese voice.

“Wrong number,” I muttered, figuring I’d explain things in the morning.


Job Hunt

Yeah, I lied. The call was for me after all. And our lives were about to change.

I’d been searching for a new job for about a year. Bored to tears by government work, and yet dismayed by a weakening economy and the threat of tech layoffs, I found myself in an unenviable position. I dropped off resume after resume to no avail, and eventually settled on a more networking heavy approach.

And that’s how Ingolstadt came up.

It’s been years since I was last in southern Germany — almost 20, in fact. I cherished my time there, however, and tried to keep in touch with my old friends.

One, an aging security guard working contract gigs in the Kriegshaber district of Augsburg, promised to let his friends know I was searching. Another, an engineer in Friedberg, told me he doubted he would be of any use, but he tried anyway.

Both of them came up with the same contact in Ingolstadt — Peter Jackwerth.

The job? Well, the job might not have been the best fit.

Yeah, I fibbed a little bit on the application. I put my experience down as “Sunday League Footballer,” since they didn’t have any lower option. The truth is that I don’t even have that lowly level of experience — a more accurate description would be “played goalie once during PE class in middle school.”

Peter must have known, though. Most of his questions were about my Football Manager experience anyway. Things like what mentality I preferred, what I thought about youth development, balancing offense and defense — that sort of stuff. Every serious Football Manager player has grappled with those questions before. I thought it was easy.

I must have said the right thing. I told him that I wanted to attack constantly (“immer angreifen und dominieren!”), that teams were foolish for ever signing players 22 years old, and that Ingolstadt should have stayed up in the 2.Bundesliga. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to hear all that or not; I simply told him what I really thought.

Well, apparently he agreed with me. Because I was now looking at a contract offer in my email, four months after that initial interview.


The Discussion

The best way to take off a bandaid is to do it all at once. Going slowly only prolongs the pain. It’s best to get it over with as quickly as you can and deal with the fallout later.

Of course, that might not be the wisest marital communication strategy.

I announced at breakfast that we were moving to southern Germany.

Charlotte gave me a bewildered look. Charlotte, née Hua Xiren (花襲人), was the belle of Suzhou in southern China and the love of my life. I still can’t get over her delicate features, beady black eyes, long ebony hair and soft voice — not even after 16 years of marriage and three children. And, Lord help me, she’s even more dazzling and mesmerising when she’s surprised.

“Are you insane?” she asked, looking at me as if I’d grown a second head.

Charlotte was the English name she adopted, a combination of interest in the E.B. White character and a name reminiscant of Margaret Mitchell’s unforgettable southern belle. Charlotte wanted to live in the Atlanta area after we married and I brought her to the United States. However, fate and the federal government brought us to northern Virginia instead, where we battled a world of aggressive drivers, hyperinflation, and horrible traffic.

I’d always wanted to take her further south and do something creative with my time. But this Ingolstadt job was not something I was going to give up lightly.

“It will be fine,” I assured her, searching for the words. We’ve spoken together in Chinese only ever since we officialy started dating. I was a poor language student in those days, and she was the undisputed beauty queen of Soochow University. I’ll save the story of how I pulled off that heist for another time.

“It will be fine,” I repeated. “I’ve lived in that area before. The food is great, the water is clean, the air is wonderful, and the football…”

“Men!” she shouted, and off she went to her room.

I respect those of you who disagree with me was the first thought that came to mind. Football Manager mode was taking over already.


Arrival

I don’t want to share all of my secrets with you. I guess I’ve just got a way with women. Either that, or my stubbornness knows no peer.

I can’t remember exactly what I told her. I think I rattled off something about how important it is for every man to pursue his dream.

I probably said something to the effect of, “Just think about Su Dongpo. He was a government official too — but his true calling in life was to compose. If he had been content with the easy government life, just think of how empty our literature would be!”

I threw in a few other literary and historical allusions as well. In fact, I was just about to mention Cleon Hobson’s criticism of Jose Mourinho’s time at United (playing not to lose instead of playing to win) when she finally agreed.

The next thing I knew, we were on a train headed for Ingolstadt.

I opened up a copy of the Süddeutsche Zeitung I found folded next to my seat. And there it was, a story about my new tenure at Ingolstadt.

It wasn’t long, and it wasn’t exactly flattering. They wondered whether I had the ability to lead the team back up given my lack of experience.

I showed it to Charlotte anyway. She can’t read German, after all. “I made the papers,” I said, smiling.

She demurred instead of showing any enthusiasm. “What does this word mean?” she asked, pointing to “verrückt” — an adjective repeated several times through the short article.

“It must be a non-related article” was my weak reply, and that was that.

I looked on out the window at the green of the Bavarian countryside. Slowly but surely, the football world started to open up to me, like the loading screens of a favorite game.

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Introductions

“It’s great to have you here, Daniel,” said the slightly plump man in front of me, smiling wryly, peering at me over his glasses. His eyes had an intense quality to them — lively, blue eyes that contrasted sharply with the grey of his beard and his balding head.

“I trust that you’ve gotten to know some of the players already, right?” That southern German accent captivated me, with its sing-song quality and sonorous smoothness.

“A little,” I managed, stumbling slightly over my words, trying to say as little as possible to disguise because of my telling American accent.

It was true, of course. I had gotten to know a few of the players. Most of the ones I met were in the medical unit, up with long-term injuries.

“You’ll feel comfortable with them soon enough,” chuckled Peter Jackwerth, head of the board and the man I now call boss. “I suppose we might have a few more personnel changes this summer, now that you’re here.”

“Perhaps,” I replied meekly. “I still need to analyze what we’ve got.”

“Well,” Peter said, hesitating slightly. “I’ll go ahead and come out with it. After being relegated, we unfortunately don’t have much of a transfer budget to offer you. In fact, we can’t give you anything at all. You’ll have to sell first before buying, I’m afraid.”

And there it was — the big kicker. A recently relegated club, complete with awful morale, multiple injuries, a completely inexperienced new manager — and no transfer budget.

My lucky day.


Hated

I’m not sure how I managed to get on everybody’s bad side so quickly.

My arrival in the club wasn’t exactly a momentous occasion. In fact, some of the players seemed downright angry to see me.

Our small coaching staff was concerned when I first met them. Nobody had been training well. It seemed like most of the players just didn’t want to be at the club. And my presence? It only seemed to make things worse.

Things weren’t exactly going swimmingly at home, either. In fact, we didn’t have a home yet, which was the first bone of contention.

Audi-Sportpark, the stadium and home of the club offices, was located in a fairly remote section of town, surrounded largely by other businesses. The team had put us up temporarily in a hotel about a 15 minute walk from the stadium, the Hotel am Campus. This was nice, but wouldn’t do permanently — and there weren’t exactly a ton of housing options in the area.

We wanted to purchase one of the new houses in Niederfeld, a suburb not too far from the park. My salary, as nice as it seemed, wasn’t quite enough to get us anything really fancy, however, and Charlotte wasn’t exactly in a position to make money herself.

She could spend it, though.

The Chinarestaurant Panda was her first discovery, and was a sign of things to come. I suppose we had to eat out; there was no kitchen in the hotel room, after all, and our pots and pans were still being shipped out.

Eating out every evening, combined with the constant refrain of “I want to go back home” and “German is impossible to learn” only added to my woes. The love of my life didn’t want us to be there, and none of the players seemed to want me there, either. What an auspicious start.


Expectations

Now, you’d expect that the surly atmosphere would temper expectations for the upcoming season, right? A club of sore players with poor morale led by a foreigner who barely knows what he’s doing isn’t exactly a recipe for success.

Well, if that’s what you thought, you’d be wrong.

“I’m not asking for much,” Peter went on. “I expect that we’ll earn automatic promotion to the 2. Bundesliga this season — that should be relatively easy and straightforward.”

My jaw nearly hit the floor. Going up right away my first season? With a team that looked so poor in the second league last year? And with no transfer budget?

I nodded slowly.

“I recommend that you focus on attacking football, just like you said in your interview,” Peter continued. “Oh yes — and focus on signing young players, players with high potential.”

I suppose that will be our secret strategy. Certainly no other German football club has considered signing young players that can grow.

The fans didn’t help much, either. Geoff Wrigley, my personal assistant (and isn’t it cool to think of little old me with my own personal assistant?!), kept me abreast of the conversation on Twitter. Nobody thought much of me, of course — but everybody clearly considered us favorites to move up.

Even the press thought we were a shoe-in. The season preview had us sitting in the number 2 spot, right behind Dynamo Dresden — favorites to move up unimpeded.

I guess our players have a good reputation. It’s not too bad to be on a team that is expected to win. Unless you wind up losing, of course.


Tactics

Planning out a tactic was no easy feat.

Obviously, my ignorance and lack of experience were my first two problems. I don’t have to tell you much more about that. I guess that’s what I get for trying to fraud my way into a better job.

However, the squad itself had numerous problems. Numerous players were out with long-term injuries. Visar Musliu, our popular centerback and easily the most talented player on the squad, was out for up to 6 weeks with a leg injury. Maximilian Dittgen, a recent signing and excellent attacking option, was also out for several weeks. Even Marius Funk, a goaltender we signed on a free transfer right before my arrival, was out for 5 weeks with an injury of his own. It felt like some sort of disease had descended upon our camp, and it wasn’t helping the mood much.

And then there were the coach reports.

I spent hours sorting through those in my first few days. Report after report came in. This player is inconsistent; that player is injury prone; this one can’t be counted on in big games. On and on it went.

I took notes, just like I would on my computer. I started to put little yellow markers by the players who the coaches were so concerned about.

The first team looked okay — but our second team was riddled with yellow marks.

And the youth squad didn’t look much better.

My plan was to come up with a tactic, and to come up with one quick. I figured that establishing a tactic would give me a better understanding of who should go and who should stay. Then, over the course of my tenure here, I could slowly work through the squad, flushing out the players who either didn’t want to be here or who didn’t deserve to be here.

Signing youth was a great choice — but we needed to be more intelligent in our signings. I vowed to let the scouts do the scouting, to keep my hands off until the very end, and to be more patient. No more of those Football Manager spending sprees for me.

All I hoped is that it would work. I didn’t have much margin for error, after all.

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The Tactic

Well, we have a tactic. The nights of pouring over roster sheets and looking at YouTube tutorials, coaching books, and various blogs are now over. I’m not going to win any points for originality here, but at least we’ve got something.

Perhaps I can start seeing my family again.

The theory behind the tactic itself is pretty simple. I thought we’d be best with a vertical tiki-taka system — something in which we could exercise our apparent superiority by holding the ball for long periods of time, opening the game up with strong through passes, and wear holes in the defense before scoring.

After watching hours of video from Ingolstadt’s ignominious exit last season, I decided to hold the defensive line back a tad. I also decided to go with fullbacks on the sides instead of wingbacks, mostly in hopes that they would find themselves in a better position to come back for defensive duty.

It’s a simple tactic — four at the back, three in midfield (anchored by a halfback), two attacking wingers, and a striker on top. The 4-3-3 might seem trite in the Football Manager world, but, honestly, we need something that will give us results as soon as possible. The last thing I want to do is start us off with a losing streak.

The idea is to score goals, obviously. We want a striker who is willing to score a lot of goals. We’re also looking for goals from the wings where possible.

Now we just need the players to make this concept a reality.


Transfer Drama

I didn’t come here to rock the boat. I didn’t have much choice, unfortunately. The boat started to rock me.

I hadn’t even taken my coat off when Dominik Franke came to speak with me. I was surprised that he already knew who the new manager was.

Our discussion was less than ideal. He told me flatly that he was tired of playing for a hopeless, losing team, that he wanted to move on to something bigger and better, and that he was considering his options at the end of his contract.

I was stunned. This had the potential to throw my plans completely in disarray.

The problem, you see, is that Franke just so happens to be our only left back. He’s relatively young, the coaches seem to like him, and I thought we could make good use of him during his time here.

I did what I could to implore him to stay. He wasn’t having any of it, though, and left in a huff.

And so I did the only thing I could do. I put him on the transfer list.

Selling Franke was no easy task. We received a number of lowball offers from other teams in our immediate region. Franke was upset when I turned them down. I spoke with him and his agent, and we eventually decided that €900,000 was an appropriate price. I’m not entirely sure how we settled on that figure; honestly, I threw out the highest price I could think of and simply looked for their reaction.

After a few days Hamburg caught wind that Franke was up for sale, and made us a €750,000 offer. I couldn’t turn that one up — not as a manager with no transfer budget whatsoever — and so I moved forward on it.

But then came Jeonbuk to save the day. They made a €900,000 offer, and within a week Franke was on his way.

And now we had a transfer budget.


Plugging Holes

I’ll be honest with you. I simply didn’t see what the media saw in this side.

Our best player was an overpaid center back who is injured. Visar Musliu came in with a strong reputation, but there’s not much we can do with an injured player who happens to be popular with the media. As I came in, we were paying him upwards of €21,000 per week to sit in the medical unit and recover. That €21,000 represented 1/6 of our entire wage budget, and made it almost impossible to shape this team the right way.

I don’t know who originally put this team together. It felt like a child managed the roster, taking their favorite star names and shoving them together to see what would happen. We had an abundance of attacking right wingers, for example, and yet almost no attacking left wingers. And I was horrified when I realized that we have almost nobody to play in those midfield roles that are so important to our tactic. With Franke gone, we had no left backs, and we had a shortage at right back as well.

Our goalkeepers were also not great, which was obvious in last year’s clips. Robert Jendrusch, who I consider chiefly responsible for the lack of quality in goal, is long gone. I suppose the initial plan was to play 21-year-old Markus Ponath, a young player clearly more suited for our second squad, and one who certainly was never going to have what it would take to survive in the 2. Bundesliga.

Our other choice at goal was Marius Funk, an 26-year-old who had bounced around lower level German sides without ever impressing. He came in on a free transfer, but also came in injured, and won’t recover for a while. I couldn’t believe it. Why were we spending money on aging, talentless journeymen like this? What happened to signing players under 22 for the first team?

With all these holes and problems, and starting out with no money, I did the only thing I could do. I went over to our Director of Football, Malte Metzelder, and asked him to prepare a list of free agents that might want to come here.

And so the trials started.

The good players wanted too much money, and we let the poor ones go as quickly as they arrived. We did come up with a new goaltender, though. Lino Björn Kasten is his full name, though we just call him Lino. He’s 21, has experience playing on loan in the first division in Austria, and is clearly better than anything we had in goal before.

And, most important of all, the scouts think he has what it takes to compete in the Bundesliga.


Pundits

My first press conference was far from ideal.

I thought nobody would attend a press conference for a team as obscure as Ingolstadt 04. To my surprise, 9 reporters showed up, each of them skeptical and difficult to read.

I think I answered their questions well. The pressure of the moment almost got to me, though, when they asked me whether I felt qualified for the job. I replied meekly that I thought I could grow into it — a response that led to silent stares of incredulity.

I phoned Peter right after the meeting and asked for permission to take my first coaching course.

My first meeting with the squad was no better. I hemmed and hawed, stuck my hands in my pants pockets, and stared more at the floor than at their faces. They make this seem easier in the video game. It’s hard to face all the players at once, especially since so many of them are taller than you.

Nobody was interested in my promise of better defenders or goalkeepers. Captain Thomas Schröck promised his support, but I don’t think anybody took him all that seriously.

The pundit at home was vocal, too. I did myself a favor by working late on transfers instead of listening to Charlotte’s concerns. I told myself that I’d deal with the marriage later — after the first match, at least.


Start of the Season

The season started early for us. July 23rd seemed like a particularly early starting date, especially since the transfer window would remain open until September 3rd.

Our first game saw us hosting Bayreuth. Everybody expected us to win. Personally, I was just praying that we wouldn’t see any more injuries, and that we could get at least a point in the early going.

We were able to bring in one more piece before the first match. Sascha Härtel came in on a free transfer to handle the left back position. He was 23 years old, a bit short for his position, but came in with a somewhat good reputation. He was also a warm body, which is what we needed more than anything else.

And so it started. My managerial career started far before I was ready for it, with a squad held together with duct tape and chewing gum.

Edited by Daniel Evensen
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First Match

I’ve never been as nervous for anything in my life as I was for that first match against Bayreuth.

It’s a helpless feeling, really. Once the players are on the pitch and the game is underway, there is very little you can do as manager to influence what happens. Aside from shouting out a few words of encouragement and making a few substitutions, I found myself powerless and helpless.

What a job this is, one in which you are judged and evaluated based on the performance of others. It makes me wonder sometimes why I came out here at all.

Anyway, my nervousness faded 6 minutes into the match, when Tobias Schröck, our captain and star defensive midfielder, scored a goal on a free kick from just outside the penalty area. It was a real beauty of a shot, and there was simply nothing the Bayreuth goalkeeper could do about it.

We didn’t just hold on from there. We dominated the game. We kept hold of the ball, we slowly put together good shot opportunities, and we made Bayreuth look like a team that didn’t belong in the league.

We came up with a second goal in the 67th minute. That one was a beauty. The entire squad worked together to manufacture a goal on the right side of the point of attack, bringing the ball through to the box for a low cross, and then on to Jalen Hawkins on the left side of the keeper. His wide-open header put us up 2-0, and that’s all we needed.

Perhaps I’m a tactical genius. We wound up with a whopping 74% of the possession in the game, and looked like a team playing in a different dimension. Bayreuth barely managed a shot on target all game long, and looked robotic.

I suppose we could have scored more. I’ve felt a bit tentative in the early stages, and worry about leaving ourselves too open in the back. I told the players to take their time and make smart decisions with the ball, which probably explains the high possession rates.

There are always things to worry about, of course. I was up all that night worrying about the striker situation. Pascal Testroet, a 31-year-old veteran and media darling, did absolutely nothing in the starting striker role. We replaced him with Patrick Schmidt, a 28-year-old journeyman with extensive experience in the German lower leagues, who also looked like he didn’t quite belong.

The defense and midfield, in contrast, looked excellent. Lino had a clean sheet on his first outing, and our passing was simply terrific.

We also wound up with two players in the Team of the Week: Denis Linsmayer and Tobias Schröck. I would have also included Lino in goal, but they don’t ask me for my opinion.


Mike Krannich, one of our two assistant managers, quickly reminded me that the media considers Bayreuth relegation candidates. That’s exactly the sort of news I wanted to hear. My hands are sweaty again, and my stomach has rediscovered that familiar knot.


Personnel

You read correctly — our little club has two assistant managers. I don’t know how it happened, and I’m not going to mess with it. We’ll take it as it is and will make adjustments to the staff over time.

I’ve left most of the staffing decisions to Hubert Doebler, especially since I need to focus my attention on player transfers. In all honesty, can’t be bothered with deciding which recruitment analyst or performance analyst to bring on. It’s fine when you’re playing a video game, but I don’t have the benefit of unlimited time and endless turns in this world. Besides, it’s better to trust the staff you have than to micromanage.

There is one staffing change I did make, however. There was something about Ronald Reichel, our Head of Youth Development, that rubbed me the wrong way. He didn’t have a horrible personality by any means. He didn’t strike me as a real gung-ho kind of guy, though, and didn’t seem to have that special something that all great leaders and mentors have.

I think I did the wrong thing in Reichel’s case. I didn’t drop any hints of my plans. I simply looked around for options, discovered a Polish man named Tomasz Bochenski, quietly interviewed him, liked what I saw, and made the change. Reichel didn’t know he was being replaced until Bochenski was already in the door.

I’m not going to make a habit of this sort of thing, mind you. Youth development is absolutely critical, though, and I don’t want to take any chances. I just hope I didn’t make a long-term enemy.


Out With The Old

After that victory, you’d think that I’d stop fiddling around with ideas of selling players.

You’d be wrong.

Denis Linsmayer, who played well in that first game, agreed to a contract with Charleroi the very next day. He’s out the door, along with his salary. We were €220,000 richer because of it — money that I really wanted to put back in our scouting budget.

Linsmayer was technically another backup defensive midfielder to Schröck. The plan was to push for a more youthful approach in midfield and to find a backup defensive midfielder who wasn’t already over 30 years old.

I wanted to make a few other player sales, but held myself back for the time being. We had weeks left in the transfer season, after all, and I wanted to give the scouts time to find some real high quality players. Sometimes it’s better to go slowly.


In With The New

We did bring in a few new faces, however.

Our scouts had nothing but glowing things to say about Philip Fahrner, a central midfielder stuck in SC Freiburg’s second team. I jumped at the chance and signed him for a song — only €425,000, with a wage scale that starts off low.

Fahrner could be a real asset for us in the future. The scouts and coaches all thought that he might be a Bundesliga quality player in the future. I wasn’t convinced that anybody at this club knew exactly what a Bundesliga quality player looked like, but I figured I’d go along with it and see what would happen.

Benjamin Hemcke was the second new face to come in — another central midfielder.

Hemcke’s story was similar to Fahrner. He was rotting away at FC Viktoria Köln, with no real shot at playing in the first team squad. We managed to get him for only €200,000, and gave him essentially the same wage deal that Farhner received.

We’re weren’t done in the midfield by any means, but at least this ensured that we would have a little bit of depth.

And, finally, we found an answer to the depth problem at right back. Lion Semic came in from Borussia Dortmund II.

Our scouts really liked Semic, and I jumped at the chance to sign him. The thought is that he might be a 2. Bundesliga standard player in the future. I hoped that he would be more than just that, though we’ll see. We paid €215,000, which I thought was reasonable.


Next Match

We didn’t have much time to rest. Our next match was coming up soon, this time at Borussia Dortmund II. This would give Semic the chance to face his former team straight away.

It also meant more time away from home for me. I’m sure Charlotte and the children will be fine. They’ll have plenty of opportunities to get used to my frequent absences.

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Dortmund

The 5 hour bus ride to Dortmund was relatively uneventful, the sort of quiet trip that would put you to sleep.

As for the game itself — it was even more boring.

We couldn’t convert on any of the chances we had. In fact, we couldn’t do much of anything other than pass the ball around.

We’ve shown that we are able to maintain possession at this level. However, it doesn’t seem that we have any players who are interested in actually scoring goals for a change. We had 65% of the possession in this game, and yet only managed 7 shots in total — against the Dortmund reserves side.

I started to think that we need another tactical readjustment. We needed some firepower in this team.

Anyway, a 0-0 draw is better than a loss, I suppose. It would certainly be off with my head if we had lost this one.


Goodbye Testroet

Pascal Testroet, our 31-year-old journeyman striker, departed Ingolstadt 04 after only two games.

He had an awful performance against Dortmund II, and didn’t seem interested in even trying against Bayreuth. I knew he would never improve and simply saw no point in continuing to pay his high wages. There’s certainly no reason to do so on a squad that is brimming with young attacking players who want to play on top.

We sold Testroet to Oostende for a paltry €185,000. I suppose we could have done a little bit better, but at least his wages are off our books.

Now I just need our scouts to come up with something I can use.


The Test

Our next match pits us against Union Berlin in the first round of the Deutscher Pokal.

We really don’t have any business playing against a Bundesliga team of Berlin’s caliber, even if they aren’t doing well in the league at the moment. I consider myself an optimist, but I still don’t see us getting one over on the big club this time around.

At least the match is at home. Charlotte and I have a house to close on.

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Deutscher Pokal

Our match against Union Berlin was a huge letdown.

We started out well, but gave up a goal in the 27th minute on a deflection. Berlin struck again less than 10 minutes later, and we were in the unfamiliar position of being 2-0 down.

Lino was absolutely distraught after the game, especially about that second one. He thought he had a handle on it, but the ball wound up being deflected. I did all I could to reassure him.

We did get one back, though. Benjamin Hemcke, our new 19-year-old midfielder, provided a goal in the 37th minute that gave us at least some hope.

That was all she wrote, though. The 2-1 defeat put us out of the running for the Deutscher Pokal.

I guess nobody expected us to do much anyway. It still hurts, though. You want to win whenever you have the chance.


Tactics

After reading about how isolated Hawkins was from the rest of the squad, I decided to move the striker back a bit more. We’re going to play with a false nine up front for our next match, and will see how it goes.


More Inbound Players

We had two new players come in during the short interlude before our next match.

The first, Alysson, is a 19-year-old Brazilian center back who is more a depth option for us than a serious player for the future. I believe that we need a few more bodies in the back, and he’s probably as good as we can expect at this level.

The second is Darly N’landu, a 22-year-old French midfielder who should give us a bit more depth in the midfield. Our Director of Football found him, and I thought he seemed like a solid choice.


Bayrischer Pokal

We’re playing away against Wasserburg for the Bayrischer Pokal, one of the many local German cups.

Everybody expects a win. I hope that we can score some goals for a change. We’ll keep our focus on maintaining possession, but we’ll also see what we can do to get a few more goals out of these boys.

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18 hours ago, Mandy42 said:

You had me at "silky southern Chinese voice"

but welcome! Hope you enjoy your time here.

And my stories better have been some of those you perused ;) 

Haha, thanks!  I'm just trying to get the creative juices flowing as I slowly move from match to match.  It should get easier as I settle in.

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Wasserburg

We need help.

We didn’t lose. However, we also didn’t dominate the way we should have.

We went the full 90 minutes with Wasserburg without really threatening. We had 12 shots, but only 2 were on goal.

We went to penalties after 90 minutes. We won the shootout, but it feels like a loss.

The fans are up in arms, claiming that the problem is the tactic. We continue to dominate possession, but we can’t seem to get any meaningful shots in.

Our performance analyst showed me yet again that our passing tends to focus in our own half of the pitch. Perhaps we should think about playing with a higher defensive line after all. I don’t want the players to necessarily take on more risk than they should, but, honestly, at some point we do need to move the ball forward.

I’d also like to see fewer shots from right outside the box. I’m not sure if the problem is the players or the tactics. It’s hard to say with such a small sample size.


Injury Update

Our injury crisis is almost done, and we’re seeing player debuts left and right.

Tobias Bech, the young Danish winger that the club purchased before I arrived, made his debut against Wasserburg. Bech is supposed to be a high quality player, but he didn’t seem to mesh with the offense right away. I’ll give him some time.

N’landu and Alysson also both made their debuts, and actually played quite well.


Domestic Bliss

It’s also time for me to focus on my home life again.

Charlotte is busy getting things prepared for our move in a few days. She asks me questions every evening about everything possible: the finances, home decorations, the local school system, the language — everything except for football.

Of course, football is the only thing I’ve got on my mind.

I do my best to feign interest in the mundane and ordinary topics that she wants to talk about. I think she knows, though, that my mind is elsewhere.

She gave me an angry glare at dinner the other night. I guess I was acting a tad strangely now that I think about it. We were having homemade “fengzhen” noodles, and I guess I was steering chunks of meat along in my bowl in a certain pattern, trying to replicate passing patterns in search of an opening.

And don’t even get me started on the scouting issues. We’re limited to 3 non-EU players on the roster at this level. The 19-year-old Alysson is our third — but our coaches think that he should be playing at a lower level. The scouts, meanwhile, keep telling me about a 22-year-old Brazilian striker who apparently looks excellent and is available on a free transfer.

You can imagine how Charlotte felt the other night when I started muttering in my sleep about young South American boys.


Osnabrück

We’re up in Osnabrück for our next match, another 3. Bundesliga contest. The drive is long enough that it makes sense to stay in a hotel. Of course, this means more time away from home for me.

As usual, we are expected to win. We’ll see how it goes. I’m starting to really feel the pressure of these expectations.

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Frustration

The Osnabrück game was a disaster.

It all went wrong. We dominated possession as usual, but Osnabrück hit us hard on the counter attack. Felix Higl had an incredible match, scoring a goal and frustrating us at every level.

We were able to hold onto the ball, but kept it in our own end for whatever reason. We didn’t make any real effort to attack, and found ourselves under constant pressure for the entire match.

At times I wonder if the boys remember what the purpose of the game is.


Desperation

The long bus ride back home was pretty hard to stomach.

I sat next to Robert Deising, our Head Performance Analyst. He had quite a few things to show me, most of which were things I really didn’t want to see.

Some of it was pretty basic. We’ve got a pass completion ratio of over 90%, which is insane. And yet we’re only expected to score 0.59 goals per game based on our positioning, which is a real problem.

I hate to say it, but part of this problem is probably my mentality. After seeing all those video clips of Ingolstadt suffering in the 2. Bundesliga last season, I thought the best approach would be to bolster the defense first before worrying about the offense. I’m starting to think now that we need to simply attack and let the rest sort itself out.

Robert showed me that most of our passes have been in our own half, which is a huge problem. We’re talking about well over 70% of these wonderful passes we’ve made taking place in our half of the pitch. We can’t score goals if we don’t get the ball forward, and we need to do whatever we can to move that ball forward.


Advice

“You boys always make this so complicated,” Charlotte told me one evening as I was hurridly sketching out play diagrams.

I glanced up at her quickly.

She smiled and shook her head. “If you want them to attack, just tell them to attack. It’s that simple. Stop trying to be fancy and just attack.”

Normally I’d pass this off as the silly rantings of an outsider who doesn’t understand the game. However, I’m ready to try anything at this point. The board has made it quite clear how upset it is with our lack of offensive attack, and I’m sick of watching us play far below our level.

“You’re a genius, honey,” I said, folding up my papers. “Time for bed.”


Personnel

I’ve learned something in my years of Football Manager fiddling. If you’ve got toxic players, get rid of them.

I went over the squad from top to bottom. Those players I had flagged as unreliable or heavily injury prone found themselves suddenly in the II squad and on the transfer list. We’re going to go with youth and new faces from now on, and we’re only going to play the players that actually want to be here.

Speaking of which, we do have some new faces to report.

Fabián Luzzi, who has the sort of name that makes the Western girls swoon (but no effect on my wife, thank goodness), comes in from Barcelona B. He’s 18, he’s got a good attitude, he’s got a good amount of pace and a high upsie, and he might be the striker that we so desperately need.

We also convinced him to sign for very little, offering him huge bonuses for goals and international appearances. If he hits those bonuses, we’ll be in great shape. If not, we won’t have to pay him.

Tiago Matos comes in from Radomiak, a 21-year-old centerback with a bit of an upside in his future. Again, we got him on a low contract, promising to pay him a huge wage after a signle international appearance. I don’t think he’ll ever start for Portugal, but you never know.

We did have to pay a bit over the odds for Matos, though. We’ll see how this one goes.

Jean-Marie Nadjombe is a left back who also has a pretty high upside. We signed him chiefly to play behind Härtel, who has started every single game for us so far as our only left back.

The scouts say that Nadjombe is quick and is a good jumper, which could help us on corners.

Finally, I went ahead and picked up a Brazilian striker named Saldanha, after hearing my scouts rave about him for a few weeks.

I was worried because we can only register 3 non-EU players in the 3. Bundesliga. However, it turns out that Saldanha won’t come on until the end of the season, at which point we (hopefully) will be entering the 2. Bundesliga. There is no restriction on non-EU players once you rise up to that level.

Plus, Saldanah was free. Not bad for a 22-year-old Brazilian striker.


Saarbrücken

Saarbrücken is next. They come to visit us. Everybody expects goals and a win.

I changed up the tactic, but only slightly. Instead of breaking everything apart and starting over, I decided to keep the vertical tiki-taka, but made a few changes to try to inspire more offensive play.

We have a bunch of new faces in our squad, so I’m not really expecting all that much. All I want to see is us come up with some kind of offensive threat during the game. Anything would be better than yesterday’s match.

Robert came up to me the morning of the match, muttering something or other about some guy named Calogero Rizzuto and his crossing ability. We’ll focus on trying to shut him down defensively.

We’ll see how this works. I need some sort of result soon, or it’s my neck.

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Surviving

In retrospect, the Saarbrücken game was a success.

No, we didn’t score. However, we did put up an offensive threat. We were also able to combat their high-octane, high-flying offensive attack.

Unlike the Dortmund II game, this 0-0 draw felt like a small victory. It was especially nice not to be destroyed despite the fact that we had two players make their debuts.

Fabián Luzzi, he of the dreamy name, is apparently the youngest player in FC Ingolstadt 04 history. He did well, in my opinion. I think we have something here, provided that we can learn how to set up opportunities for him.

Robert Deising was there once again, showing me the match stats and charts. Luzzi was isolated from the other players, a problem that we’ve had all season long. The back of the rotation can find each other with passes, but nobody seems to know how to push the ball forward.

However, we absolutely were able to neutralize the Saarbrücken attack. I consider that quite a feat against a team that is near the top of the league table. Focusing our efforts on closing down Rizzuto was the key. Even though we didn’t win, we came out of it looking like the better side.

I’m optimistic for the future again.


My Problem

I’m afraid that I’m addicted.

No, no, I’m not back on Football Manager again, not like I was in the old days. The days of playing for 8 to 10 hours a day while pretending to be in work meetings are long gone. Why play it when you can live it?

My problem is youth players. I can’t stop signing them, and I just can’t bring myself to play with the older guys instead.

It always happened to me while playing on the computer. No matter which team I chose, I always found myself wanting to pass up on the experienced players in favor of the youth.

I think I’ve got a good excuse for acting that way around these parts, of course. Everybody was surly and upset when I came on board a few months back. It’s natural to let the players who want to leave go elsewhere and find replacements for them.

But it just doesn’t end.

I ran to Sebastian Knosp, our head scout, and asked him if he had any left wingers in mind. All he said was “Kabadayi,” and I knew right away who he meant.

Yusuf Kabadayi is a top player on FC Bayern’s II squad. We’ve been looking at him for a few weeks now. He’s expensive, but I think he’s worth it. He just might be the piece of the puzzle that we’re looking for.

And, well, I did something that only an addict would do. I sort of “paid” for him on credit — using future installments.

As if that’s not bad enough, we’re trying to do the same thing now with his former teammate, Aleksandar Pavlovic - who I see as a potential replacement for Schröck next season.

Perhaps there’s a “wonderkids anonymous” meeting I can find somewhere.


Rot-Weiss Essen

We’ve got the first real big test of the season coming up. We’re playing on the road against Rot-Weiss Essen, a team that is playing absolutely superbly.

We need to score goals, and we need to score them soon. I know that the boys have it in them. They just need to take a few more risks and we’ll be there.

I spent a bit of my preparation time reading the latest from Cleon Hobson about attacking. No, we’re not going to do a crazy 3-at-the-back formation with attacking wingbacks in a defensive position like he does. We’ll stick with the 4-3-3 and the vertical tiki-taka, thank you very much. The last thing I want to do is confuse these boys any further.

However, Hobson does make some excellent points. We’ve got the possession down. We now need to make sure we’re winning the ball in midfield, we are moving the ball forward, we are using our width on the wings appropriately, and that we’re setting up our striker for success.

I think we can do it with this setup. We just need to have better cohesion.

We also need to pay attention to our pre-match scouting. The dangermen are Felix Götze, who I remember from my days playing with Augsburg on FM, and Clemens Fandrich. If we can shut them down, I think we have a chance.

Maybe tomorrow is the day our season turns around.

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Overwhelmed — Again

Well, not much changed against Rot-Weiss Essen. They attacked us from all angles, dismantling our defense and scoring two goals in the process.

I’ve got to blame Nikola Stevanovic for both goals. He completely misplayed his man on the first and let the defender in on the second. He’s played poorly for us so far this season, and I’m tired of it. He counts as a foreign player (we’re only allowed to have 3), and I think it’s time to simply move on.

In all honesty, though, we weren’t competitive in the slightest this time around. The only positive statistic we had were passes completed — and even that was problematic.

Yusuf Kabadayi played well in his debut, but suffered a slight hamstring injury that should keep him out for two matches. I think we’ll manage without him for the time being.


Raiding Bayern

As our poor performances mount, my desperation for something winning continues to grow. We finalized the Pavolvic deal, which I talked about briefly yesterday.

However, that simply didn’t feel like enough to me. And so I went back to the scouting desk to look for another player recommendation.

This time we picked up Angelo Brückner, our third signing in a row from FC Bayern München’s II squad. The scouts like everything about him. He’s got a good personality, is consistent, is quick, and should give us some better quality in the fullback positions.

We also made some rather crazy promises to lure him in. Like I said, I’m desperate.


Wiesbaden

We’re hosting SV Wehen Wiesbaden tomorrow, a match that we really should win. I’m really worried about my future here if we manage not to win this one.

 

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SV Wehen Weisbaden

I had a good feeling coming into this match, I really did. I felt that we got most of the complainers and toxic players out of our squad. Our younger players were hungry and eager to go, and I thought for sure that this would be the day our fortunes would turn around.

Well, the good news is that we scored again, finally. The bad news? Tobias Schröck, our defensive midfielder, scored the goal.

Schröck is now our leading scorer with 2 goals. And I’m starting to worry that I really might not have much of a future at this club.

Schröck’s goal came at a great time. Wiesbaden went up 1-0 right before halftime, and we didn’t seem to have much of an offensive attack at all. We were able to get the ball forwards, and the players were finally starting to take some chances, but it didn’t seem to have much effect. Our team lacks offensive cohesion.

We did dominate possession again, holding onto the ball 64% of the time. As usual, that possession largely consisted of passes to ourself in our own half.

There were a few bright spots. Angelo Brückner became the latest in our series of young players making their debuts. Brückner played well, and looks to be a good signing for the future.

Schröck’s heroics won him Player of the Week, which I think was a bit overstated. I’d probably feel better about this designation if we had actually won.


Injury Woes

Remember how I told you a few days ago that we’d regret paying Visar Musliu all that money?

Well, I was right. Musliu injured himself in training and will be out for 7 weeks.

We’re paying about 1/5 of our wage budget to a player who hasn’t started in half of our games this season because of his injury problems. I tried to offload him right before the end of the transfer window, but nobody would take him — because of the injury problems, of course.

I hate blaming our struggles on things like injuries, but it’s really hard to ignore with a squad like this. We’ve got too many injury prone players, our highest paid player is rarely fit enoug to play, and the older players have a major attitude problem. It’s really hard to win under these conditions. I really don’t think the tactic is the problem; I think it’s the locker room atmosphere.


Monthly Review

I’ve been seeing a lot of Robert Deising, our head performance analyst. He came up to me again with a few notes on how we looked statistically in August.

There aren’t a whole ton of surprises. Lino is performing extremely well in goal, which we already knew. If we hadn’t signed him on a free transfer we’d probably be last in the league.

Marcel Costly has played poor in defense when we’ve used him at right back. I knew this before our latest match, and decided to play him as an attacking midfielder on the left. He played poorly there as well — and, of course, nobody seemed interested when I tried to sell him on transfer deadline day.

Tobias Schröck is probably the best player in the league at his position, which also isn’t surprising. He is still our captain. I love watching him play, but am also very much aware of his age, and will likely move him on after this season — assuming I’m still around, that is.

On the flip side, Benjamin Hemcke has performed particularly poorly in the attacking mezalla role in midfield. We’ve been forced to start him there anyway, since David Kopacz, who really should be starting there, only just came back from an extended injury.

I think we’ve done all we could to stop the bleeding. The board and the fans seem to recognize that, though they’re not going to have much more patience with me if things keep going south.


SC Freiburg II

Next up is another match against a reserve team. We’ll be in Freiburg taking on SC Freiburg II.

Everybody hopes that we’ll start attacking and scoring goals. I’m most worried about Justin Butler, who we’re going to start up front yet again. He hasn’t scored at all this season, and I’m really starting to regret signing him to a contract extension right after I arrived.

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Breaking Through

Charlotte was right.

I don’t like to admit it. It hurts my pride.

It’s too simple, after all. She doesn’t know anything about the sport. She knows nothing about tactics. She doesn’t spend the time pouring over Jonathan Wilson books, scouring the internet for tactical recommendations, or searching through endless scouting recommendations.

But she was right. All we had to do was tell the boys to attack, and they attacked.

We weren’t brilliant against SC Freiburg II. We did have our moments, though.

Justin Butler finally broke through with a goal in the 35th minute. Valmir Sulejmani followed up with a second two minutes later, and I thought we were really going to make it.

Our defense fell apart in the second half, however. Freiburg was able to score two more in short order, and came dangerously close to scoring a third.

Butler should have had that third goal, actually. He had several chances inside the box, and, well, he just flubbed them. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure or his finishing, but whatever it is, that intangible thing prevented him from putting us over the top.

No worries, though. Butler got the Man of the Match, and even wound up with the Player of the Week award.

A 2-2 draw isn’t brilliant, but it’s a lot better than what we’ve been doing so far. Maybe I’m not a failure after all.

Hey — it beats losing.


Defensive Crisis

In place of the constantly injured Visar Musliu, we decided to bring up a young player named Luca Lechner. He’s young and home grown, and looks like he has quite a bit of potential. He’s also not quite 17 1/2 years old.

Schröck might wind up having to play centerback for us from time to time, unfortunately. The Musliu saga is really concerning, and I feel sick to my stomach every time I think about how much we’re paying him to sit in the infirmary.

My plan is to sell Musliu once the winter comes around. I just hope he’s healthy. If he remains injured, we might have to keep him around until his contract expires. What a mess.


Domestic Bliss

“You’re a genius, honey,” I said at dinner, hoping to smooth things over a bit. Things had been topsy-turvy at home up until the end of transfer deadline day. I’ve only recently begun to convince myself that I might be able to keep this job after all.

She glared at me in silence.

“I mean it,” I continued. “You were right about attacking. We drew, sure, but at least we scored. That’s a lot better than where we were.”

“Did you really think you’d score by passing the ball around in your own half?” she replied, with more than a hint of sarcasm in her voice.

“Well… I just…” It’s not easy to compliment somebody who doesn’t want to be complimented. “I mean,” I stammered, “maybe I should have hired you to be my assistant after all.”

She laughed at that, with a hint of scorn in her voice. “I’ve got more important things to do than worry about that silly game,” she said. “And you should have gone for that 4-2-3-1 Gegenpress from the start. Everybody knows that.”

I couldn’t argue with that.


Mannheim

We face SV Waldhof Mannheim next, in a game that we really ought to win. If we don’t win this one, I’m going to start regretting buying a house.

I still think that our poor run has more to do with dynamics than with tactics. A win or two might be just what we need to get things running right around here. And if these young players develop like I think they will, we’ll be unstoppable before long.

Hope springs eternal.

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Mannheim

Excitement turned to disappointment again as we blew yet another lead. Sulejmani and Butler both scored after we went down 1-0 early, showing that we can indeed score goals when it counts. However, Mannheim managed to pull one back 31 minutes in, and we couldn’t break their defenses.

The 2-2 draw leaves us in a very frustrating position in the league, and leaves me searching for answers. Is the tactic really working? Do we have players who simply can’t finish? Is there a way we can get this turned around with no remaining transfer budget? Do we just need time for cohesion on our squad to improve?

For the first time this season, we did not dominate possession. Our offense was a sight to behold, however. We threatened Mannheim at every stretch, and played like a team really looking to score. I told you that Charlotte was right all along. Tell the boys to attack and they’ll play like an attacking team.

We could use some better momentum in our matches, however. We seem to pile on the momentum in chunks, and then spend the rest of the time playing catch-up. But I’m not sure if this is a tactical issue or something about our lack of squad cohesion.


Gossip

A few assorted points for your reading enjoyment:

  • Markus Ponath, the 21-year-old who was the starting goalkeeper when I arrived, received a red card during his most recent loan game. Ponath has been playing for Würzburger, which is really where a Regionalliga goalkeeper like him belongs. I never thought he’d wind up with a red card, though.

  • Articles in the media have come out questioning Jalen Hawkins now. Hawkins has started 7 games for us, and yet has only managed to score the single header goal that came in our very first match. He’s had a low average rating, and doesn’t really seem to be present. Unlike Butler, we don’t have an extended contract with him, and I’m wondering if we should move him on in December.


Straubing

We’re playing on the road against Straubing in the Bayrischer Pokal. We should win this match, though you never know with this squad.

I’m hoping that a win will get the morale up a notch. Maybe I’ll finish up this coaching course one of these days, too.

 

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Straubing

Peter doesn’t care about the Bayrischer Pokal, but I do. I don’t want to lose any of these cup matches, even if the board doesn’t judge me on it. We can’t afford any losses to teams far below us. We need our players to believe in themselves and to start playing as a team.

And that’s what we got against Straubing.

It started out poorly, just like all good stories do. After a few good offensive attempts in the opening seconds, we gave up an absolutely ridiculous goal in the second minute of the game. Lino really should have been able to grab it; the Straubing player really didn’t shoot it all that well, and it was the sort of shot he’s handled before.

I was seriously worried that the poor cohesion had impacted the entire team.

And then it started to turn around.

Jalen Hawkins, who the media has started to turn on, had a little “excuse me” header to nod hom the equalizer for us.

And then came our young Spanish maestro, Fabián Luzzi, the 18-year-old wonderkid, to put us ahead.

Luzzi had the game of his young career. He wound up with two goals and came inches away from a hat trick. He ran Straubing ragged, and looks like a good purchase after all.

We won in the end, 4-2, and should have probably had one or two more.

It was another one of those matches where we dominated possession and simply looked like the better side from start to finish. We passed better than they did, we shot better than they did, we maintained a constant attack from start to finish, and we started to look like a team that is going places.

Of course, Straubing aren’t exactly world beaters. They’re far below us in the ladder, and never really expected to compete against us. Going down 1-0 against them was a really bad sign.

But I don’t mind. A win is a win.


Luzzi

Fabián Luzzi is his name, or Fabián Roberto Luzzi Rangel, if you want to be technical about it.

He’s a wonderkid, and he ceratinly looks the part. He’s got the hair, the face contours, and the natural style to succeed with the fans, and he’s got the skills and the mentality to compete at the highest levels, provided that he gets the chance.

If it feels like just yesterday that we picked him up, that’s because it was only a few weeks ago. He was hidden in the Barcelona B side, one of the big Barcelona signings from a few years back that managed to blend his way in with all the other young players.

Technically speaking, our scouts shouldn’t have ever found him. We had such a paltry scouting budget at the beginning of this season that we weren’t looking any further than southern Germany. It was the Franke sale that allowed me to increase that scouting budget, and it was the Franke sale that helped finance the purchase of this wonderkid.

In other words, if your unhappy players ask to leave, it might not be a bad idea to agree and sell them.

Luzzi’s got the looks and the name to succeed. He’ll also see a huge wage rise if he manages to get an international cap. I don’t think he’s in any danger of doing that coming from the German third tier, but we might have to worry about that contingency if he really starts putting on a show soon.

Luzzi’s pace is impressive, and he has this ability to do things that the defense simply does not expect. He seems to think that he’s a left winger, but he’s not going to touch that position in this squad. It’s center forward for him, and I expect that he’ll put away those silly notions of playing on the wing over the next few weeks.

Oh — he also speaks absolutely no German at the moment. He’s got a bit of basic English, so he can talk with me. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of grunting and head nodding.

And, no, there’s no worry about Charlotte becoming enticed by the young handsome Spanish star. If we manage to get our scouts out to Asia, though, I’d better watch out.


Dynamo Dresden

We’re playing up in Dresden in our next match.

Peter told me in our last meeting that he expects us to lose. He didn’t blame anybody or cast any aspersions my way. He just came flat out with it: “I expect us to lose the next match.”

Honestly, I think we can win if we get the cohesion going in the right direction. Dresden are in 8th place, which is disappointing for their fans, and have experienced the same kind of surprisingly disappointing results that we have this season.

The sad news is that we’ll have to play without Angelo Brückner, who pulled his hamstring while doing attacking drills in training the other day. It’s not particularly serious, though. He’ll be out for a couple of weeks, but should be back to normal before long.

In all honesty, I think we can cause an upset in this next match. Things are turning around, and momentum is on our side. I can feel it.

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Kutschke

We were done in by one of our own.

Stefan Kutschke, a former Ingolstadt player who was sold before my time, did one over on us. He scored 2 goals for Dresden to help power them to a 3-1 victory.

I was excited at the start when Justin Butler scored a surprise goal on an excellent strike. However, it was all for naught, as our battered and bruised defense didn’t put up much of a fight at all.

Dresden absolutely dominated the match, winning almost 60% of possession and outshooting us, 18 to 4. It looked like we didn’t even show up.

We seem to have gone full circle in the beginning of this season, going from a squad more than willing to dominate possession but unable to attack to a squad eager to attack but unable to retain possession or defend. Our passing remains excellent, but our defending is extremely poor — and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight.

14 of those 18 Dresden shots came from inside the box, which is a huge problem. Misliu’s injury proneness is a major issue, and I’m very upset that he was brought on in the first place with such a high wage.

I don’t know where to go for answers.


Monthly Review

Our club finances look good at the moment, though our financial status isn’t all that great. This is due in large part to the transfer debt I had to take on, which itself is a byproduct of our lack of a transfer budget. I’ve discovered that Ingolstadt 04 in 2022 is quite literally playing football on hard mode.

The only bright aspect of this month is that Justin Butler somehow managed to place third in the September Player of the Month running. That’s not bad for a 21-year-old who has a lot more potential than actual talent.

Aside from that, there sadly isn’t much to smile about.


Inauspicious Signs

There are whisperings afloat that my job is in grave danger.

Nobody’s said anything about it to me directly, of course, but that feeling is in the air. Staff members try to avoid looking directly in my eyes. Nobody wants to talk about the future anymore.

Malte, our Director of Football, keeps showing me 26-year-old players that he’s stumbled across. I suppose he could sign them on somewhat good deals, though I’d much rather stick with the board’s instructions to bring in players under 22. We don’t need another Misliu situation on our hands, thank you very much.

Charlotte, meanwhile, has stopped eating out, and the children don’t talk about school anymore. We just might wind up moving again after all.

As for the squad, well, winding up in the relegation zone in a league that we’re supposed to dominate isn’t exactly helping the morale situation.


Zwickau

Our next match is at home against FSV Zwickau.

Peter thinks that we’re going to draw, but hopes for a win. All he really seems to care about at this stage is that we figure out a way to attack.

I’m convinced that our tactic is where it needs to be. As for the quality of our players, however, I’m starting to wonder if my transfer policy wasn’t a bit too aggressive.

Is the end near?

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The Long Road Downhill

I don’t see how this season can get any worse.

We lost to Zwickau, 2-1. We gave up an early goal, as usual. Justin Butler came back with a great goal to tie us at 1 each. It wasn’t enough, however, as we the game winning goal in with under 15 minutes left to play.

We’re in 19th place now, and show no signs of recovering. I hate to say it, but it’s only a matter of time before the board takes action.

Now, I can still find some silver lining in the dark clouds that approach. Butler has looked fantastic in the last few matches, and seems to be developing into the sort of player we thought he could become.

We’re scoring goals now, which is better than what we were doing to start off the season. However, the risks we are taking are leaving us far too open in the back — precisely the problem that saw Ingolstadt relegated last season.

The pressure is mounting, and I don’t like where this is heading.


What Went Wrong?

So what went wrong? What is to blame?

I’ve got a few ideas.

  • Tactics: My tactics at the start were far too conservative. We did a good job at not conceding goals and not losing. However, we weren’t playing to win, which was a problem. I may have overcompensated by introducing too much of an attacking approach in hopes of gaining back lost points, which is why we find ourselves losing so frequently.

Honestly, though, I think our current tactics are fine, and I think we’ve got the right players to fill those roles. The fans and even the board might criticize the tactics. However, what they are really upset about is the results, not the plan. If we parked the bus after scoring an early fluke goal in every match, I’m sure they would all be delighted with our “attacking approach.”

  • Reputation: In all honesty, my reputation and experience isn’t high enough for a club at this level. I probably should have looked for a club further down the ladder for my first experience. With no respect from the players, any change I try to make is immediately unpopular and only makes matters worse.

  • Morale: Even if you ignore my lack of reputation, there is a huge morale problem at this squad. The ugly specter of poor morale seems to be raised with each passing day, and I don’t see how it can improve if we don’t win. Squad cohesion will continue to be a problem as long as the players don’t want to be here. Even our most reputable and influential players are willing to leave at this point.

  • Injuries: This is the other big killer. 4 first team starters were out with injuries when I arrived at the club, and we’ve been plagued by recurring injuries ever since. It is extremely difficult to field a cohesive side capable of winning anything with so many injuries and unavailable players.

  • Budget: I’m not necessarily angry about coming on with no transfer budget at all. However, paying Visar Musliu €21,500 per week for 4 starts at center back and to spend the rest of his time hurt is absolutely ridiculous. In retrospect, my first move should have been to sell him.


More Month in Review

The board have given me a C- grade, despite our losing streak and continual problems.

The fans, on the other hand, have given me a C grade, and seem to be happy with the good form that many players are in. That’s impressive when you consider that we were favorites to win this league back at the start.

The dressing room atmosphere has improved slightly, and nobody has any support for me. We have a lack of highly influential players, though I’m not really all that concerned. I’d be much more worried if our more surly players wound up having more influence at this club.


Marcel Costly

The worst thing about losing is that you start trying to find scapegoats.

I’ve already started playing this game. My sights are now set on Marcel Costly, our 26-year-old winger who also plays right back for some strange reason.

Costly’s statistics this year are far below average. He hasn’t had a single good match for us this season, and I can’t find a place to play him. He trains poorly, responds poorly to my feedback, and seemed delighted when I threatened to put him on the transfer list.

Of course, nobody wanted to pick him up. I’m not surprised. Who wants to buy a 26-year-old grouch who can’t tackle, can’t pass, can’t shoot, and doesn’t want to improve?

Marcel likely won’t stay here long, and I don’t think he’ll be the only one to leave. If I’m able to say on board through some miracle, it will likely be because of widespread and sweeping changes in personnel. And that’s not going to be pretty.


1860 München

We’re off now to face our bitter rivals. 1860 München, who were once a prominent team in German football, are now the darlings of every underdog-loving Football Manager fan around.

1860 München aren’t exactly having a dream season of their own, and are currently in 13th place, far away from the leaders. This shouldn’t be too surprising if you’ve followed their progress in recent years, of course.

The fans are excited for the match. The pressure is on me, however. If I can’t figure out some way to get these boys to win, I’m not likely to last as manager for much longer. There must be something we can do to turn the ship around, though I’m not sure what it is.

Fortunately, Peter told me that he doesn’t expect us to win. This is one of the few times in my life that I’ve been relieved to face such low expectations. I’m not sure how long that will last, of course.

We’ll find out soon enough.

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1860 München

I actually don’t want to talk about the match. It was that bad.

We weren’t just beaten. We were pulverized.

We lost 7-0. Nothing we tried worked. We had no offensive attack, no answer on defense, and I wanted to leave the stadium by the 60th minute.

I know that we haven’t had a good season so far, but the truth is that we were closer to even on paper, even given our young squad. Nobody showed up, nobody felt like trying, and on we went to the worst defeat I’ve seen yet.

It was painful.


The End

I knew that was the end for me.

I didn’t even respond when Peter asked for a meeting to discuss my future. I deserved the sack, and knew that I couldn’t convince the boys to win after all that.


Or is it?

There was a chill in the air that early October evening in southern Germany. The wind felt cold and foreboding, as if a storm were brewing.

I didn’t know what to do. Should we stay and look for another job? Should we kick out our renters back in Virginia and move back? Should we look for something elsewhere?

I had been moping around the house for a few days, driving Charlotte absolutely nuts. “You men with your silly games,” she would scold me for a while before engrossing herself in her cell phone.

That night was different, however.

“I just wish…” I began after dinner, as we sat in the living room, pondering the unknown. “I just wish I had a new beginning, that’s all.”

Charlotte laughed.

It wasn’t a sarcastic laugh or a cruel laugh. It was an ironic laugh, a sort of “why didn’t you ask me sooner” response.

“I think I can arrange that,” she began, and twitched her nose.

And then… Then something happened that simply defied reality.

(To be continued)

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