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13th Man

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1,559 "That'll do Pig, that'll do"



  • Biography
    Sort of long time player (FM 2008), recent regular lurker (lockdown funtime), and currently a recovering savescummer (savescum free since February 2021).
    Love the tactical side of the game, long winded waffling, and creating narratives out of a spreadsheet computer game.

About Me

  • About Me
    Recovering Savescummer

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  • Currently Managing
    AC Milan

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  1. A Familiar Foe Juventus might have been 12 points behind AC Milan in Serie A, but they were certainly looking the better side after the first 45 of their Round of 16 Champions League tie. Having scored twice and hit the bar in the first half, Juventus looked set to run away with the tie. There had been a bit of fortune in both their goals, but they’d put Milan under considerable pressure, and certainly deserved the lead. Now they had a free kick deep in Milan’s half, a chance to kill off the tie. The kick was dealt with but Luis Diaz picked up the clearance and charged down the right flank, squaring it inside to Zakaria. Tonali, however, was there to come in with a crunching tackle and recover the ball. After charging up the pitch about ten yards, he turned it back to CB Bitshiabu, who one-touched it to CF De Ketelaere who had dropped deep. There didn’t seem like anywhere to go, but LB Theo Hernandez was surging up the pitch, and his run was spotted by the Belgian Forward. Theo weathered a series of challenges, managed to keep possession and buy the time needed for De Ketelaere to get forward…and onto the end of Theo’s cross. 2-1 - AC Milan were back in it.
  2. Waiting Game January and February weren’t exactly uneventful, but there was also a sense of waiting for something to happen. First was the fact that, by the winter break, Milan had already all but mathematically qualified for the second round of the Champions League. In fact, the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record was a 1-0 loss to RB Salzburg by a fully rotated side, and even then they had chances to win. Otherwise, while it wasn’t always easy, Milan seemed to have the answers. At this point, Lindsay knew the squad well and could make a variety of small adjustments to the personnel and the shape. Against Bologna, for instance, the visitors got an early penalty, and for 60 minutes Milan struggled to break them down. While Milan created plenty of chances, forward De Ketelaere seemed distracted by interest being shown in him and had several sitters. Within minutes of replacing the Belgian, Engstrom had the ball in the net and an assist on top of that. Transfer Saga De Ketelaere’s transition from an attacking midfielder turned into a very happy accident. He was a perfect forward for a top side in that he was like a number 10 in the buildup, but had the size and strength to be a number 9 in the box. In terms of stats, he was 2nd in the scoring charts, and considering his importance in the build up, this was especially impressive. Europe and even England, began to take notice, and De Ketelaere’s eyes were turned. Liverpool and Aston Villa came in with bids. Aston Villa offered about €60m, with Liverpool willing to get close to €100m. The problem, however, was that both were only willing to offer about half up front. In the summer, Lindsay may have taken Liverpool’s offer, but mid season he’d need more than €50m to replace such a key player. De Ketelaere tried to force a move, saying that if he wasn’t sold he’d look to run down his contract. Lindsay, not wanting him to declare that he’d leave, agreed to transfer list him for €120m - and would accept an offer if a much larger portion was up front so that Lindsay could spend it on a replacement. In the end, Liverpool did come in with improved offers, but never enough to tempt Lindsay to sell and disrupt what had the chance to be a special season. Table By the end of February, Milan had opened a commanding 10 point lead over Juventus in the league, and were 15 points ahead of Inter in 3rd. There was still plenty of football left to play, but Lindsay was delighted. It meant that he could, at least in the short term, focus on the Champions League in which they’d face… …Juventus. Disappointing, especially when they would also be facing them in the two legged Coppa Italia semifinal. It meant they’d face Zidane’s side five times in the second half of the season… Highlights Roma 0 - 1 AC Milan Coppa Italia Quarter Final Mourinho’s Roma were always a tough proposition. Though Milan beat Roma 5-1 in their last meeting, the match was actually much closer than that - with two penalties taking the match from 1-1 to 3-1 before Milan twisted the knife with two late goals. With Roma’s highly precise route one 5-2-2-1, Lindsay had to strike a balance between consistent pressure and not allowing balls over the top. While maintaining the very high DL and LOE, Lindsay instructed the players to press without too much urgency. He wanted consistent but not overly aggressive pressure to limit the ability to give up easy balls. He also instructed VOL Musah to manmark their AP, leaving Tonali and the CBs to outnumber Roma’s forward and SS 3-2 and (hopefully) disrupt any attempts to play it forward quickly, and ensure that all of the front three would be under pressure the second they received the ball. While the game plan worked, this match also came down to a penalty. AC Milan’s finishing let them down on the whole (xG 1.46 from open play) and that meant that Roma were able to carve out a few good chances (xG 0.95) that could have sent the match to extra time. AC Milan 3 - 1 Inter Milan Despite the scoreline, Tomas Tuchel’s Inter gave AC Milan a stern test. The first 15 minutes were all AC Milan, and even if Inter had 60% of the possession, Milan were ahead through former Inter attacking midfielder Octavio. Lindsay made a bit of a blunder however, and decided to pull the lines back, hoping to get more compact. Instead, it let Inter back into the match. They gained control and it took several chances before Lindsay made a change to return to the high press. Unfortunately, the momentum was in Inter’s favor and they equalized through American Reyna following a corner. At the half, Lindsay flipped the shape to better match up against Inter and disrupt their buildup. Now VOL Musah would be matched up against his countryman AP Reyna, while Tonali and the CBs would matchup against SS Goncalves and CF Martinez. The switch made the difference. Before the break Inter had five shots and a goal, after they managed only two, very poor shots. Milan took the lead after Tonali went long to Iglesias, who nodded the ball to De Ketelaere for a powerful header. Milan managed a handful of decent chances before Engstrom sealed the deal by pouncing on a soft pass by Inter, carving the defense with a slaloming run, and slotting home with his left. AC Milan 3 - 0 Napoli It took just under 2/3rds of the match for Milan to finally break the deadlock against a resurgent Napoli, but then they scored 3. The first was a great example of how good De Ketelaere was in the build up - his reverse pass into the path of Leao was a thing of beauty. After a towering header from CB Bitshiabu, the third was a gem of passing with purpose. The quick interplay out of the back, a quick but accurate crossfield diagonal into the path of Iglesias, the choice to square the ball rather than go it alone…perfection. Up next AC Milan would face a crucial run of matches in March - mostly against Juventus - as they looked to continue to fight on three fronts. They only needed to keep Juve at arms length in the league, but would have to beat them at least twice to stay in the running for the other two trophies…
  3. Tough to lose out to Total Network Solutions...erm...The New Saints, but it makes sense that the gengenpress wouldn't do the best against better quality opposition - even as it did the job against lesser. Still, great first season after promotion and you'll be in Europe! How long do you think you can make that last?
  4. Great improvement from year 1 to 2 so far! That new tactic looks a lot like the Coiled Spring I made at Austin FC (see below), and it did exactly what you were saying - draws the opposition in by giving up ground, but the shape is solid and the midfield roles proactive enough to win the ball back, and then the front three are breaking in space...then the CMa comes in as a dangerous runner from deep.
  5. However OP gegen is, it shouldn’t work without players that are at least more fit, fast, etc than their opponents. I would think it would be extra effective at the lower levels, then get less effective with good but not top top professionals (when teams have the composure and quality to play through the press), then be excellent again with the right top players. That’s kind of what I’ve found in game as well…
  6. Just that little thing! No, I expect this might be the last of this save, especially if it ends with a good CL run and/or a Scudetto.
  7. Controlling, Powerful, Coiled [Heres a long one when most people are going short and sweet. Oh well, it was fun to write and that’s the point of all this anyway…] Brian Lindsay had found a style of play that was incredibly effective in the 4-2-3-1 Power system while at PSV. It had been inspired by Stefano Pioli’s Italy side that had defeated him in the World Cup semifinal, and he brought it with him to Pioli’s former club. It was devastating on the counter against both gegenpressing and sides that controlled possession, while it could also break down low blocks with sustained pressure from the front four and runners from deep. After a few months of sputtering, some bedding in new players, and a few tweaks to get the best out of the squad, Lindsay had Milan humming. They were playing the way Lindsay had always envisioned his sides playing. They played with pace, power, creativity, and purpose. There was plenty of possession, but it was possession with purpose - and if they didn’t have possession it didn’t matter either. Beginning 27/28 season At the break Two small changes had emerged to Lindsay’s Power system. The first was that Lindsay began to truly press other sides - opting for much higher lines, and a slightly more urgent pressing, and to really step up and make the pitch small. So many goals came from transitions, but Lindsay had enough skill in his side that he didn’t need space to counter effectively, unlike his Austin, USA, and even PSV sides. For this reason, it was better to put constant, purposeful pressure, even high up the pitch. He didn’t go for extremely urgent pressing, and would pull back the lines a bit against equal or better sides, but on the whole he opted to keep the opponent under constant pressure. That level of skill also meant that he began instructing his players to work the ball into the box more and more often. Rather than send in hopeful crosses, he wanted the players to pass and move and force mistakes inside the box - and it was working. They were getting higher xG chances and, more importantly, goals. The first choice lineup had also settled and the side were really starting to gel. Where early in the season there were times when the passes were off and things weren’t quite fluid, the side was now playing crisp, sharp football. The defense had solidified as well, only giving up two goals in a match once in three months. The other key chance was even more subtle. With the effectiveness of Iglesias as a RW and the aggressive, opportunistic Octavio returning from injury through the middle, Lindsay had unshackled Leao to devastating effect. Where at first he’d played Engstrom on the right and Iglesias through the middle, the balance was better with the new setup - and allowed Engstrom to be a bit of a super sub and excellent rotation option rather than putting too much expectation on the 21 year olds shoulders. Rather than his previous, more supporting role, Leao began to get the license to be more of a second striker. RB Davide Calabria The one correction from the above screenshot is Davide Calabria, who was Lindsay’s preferred right back over the pictured Saelemaekers. Calabria had always been the better defender, but Lindsay had expected to use the more natural winger Saelemeakers as an attacking threat. What surprised Lindsay was how effective Calabria was going forward. He had some of the best cross completion in Serie A for defenders, had a staggering 9.3 progressive passes and 2.18 key passes per 90 - both way above average for defenders. He wasn’t the most skilled dribbler, but his assist for the opener against Barcelona at the Camp Nou was just one of many examples of his effectiveness in the final third. He received the ball near the midline and drove into the box - beating his defender with a smart acceleration rather than tricky dribbling - before sending in a fierce low cross that forwards love. All Octavio had to do was get a good connection. He was also the driving force behind the opener against Udinese, winning the ball around the halfway line when he had no business doing so (see how he surges in from the low left hand corner of the screen). A bad touch would see him lose the ball upon the return pass from Iglesias, but he kept working, won the ball back, and sent in a great cross which was deflected to Leao to tap in. CF Charles De Ketelaere Though a natural attacking mid, De Ketelaere had been the only experienced player capable of playing as a center forward when Lindsay arrived in Milan. Even after bringing in Engstrom, Lindsay didn’t feel like the 21 year old was quite ready to lead the line for a big club like AC Milan. Something which seemed at first a necessity, it became clear that De Ketelaere was the perfect CF for Lindsay’s system. He served as a very different sort of player to PSV’s Haller, who was more of a pure finisher and an American Football style “lead blocker” who created space for CMa Torre. De Ketelaere’s 11 goals in the league put him behind only Lazio’s Pedro and Juve’s Vlahovic on 14 each, but he was so much more than that for Milan. Along with playing that role De Ketelaere’s passing ability and natural inclination towards the 10 spaces meant he acted as a sort of false 9 in the buildup, but then would charge into the box where his height and strength made him a potent target. Looking at the scoring charts also showed that Milan had three more players in the top 20. Bruno Iglesias and Robert Engstrom both had 8 and Leao was on 6. Not only this, but that same trio all were in the top 10 for non penalty xG per 90. LW Rafael Leao Which brings us to Milan’s truly world class player. The Portuguese winger actually had an uninspiring start under Lindsay. He was playing well in August and September, but not at all like the top, top winger Lindsay knew he could be. With his passing and dribbling ability - and with very much goal scoring Engstrom starting the season on the right wing, Lindsay had originally used Leao in more of a support role. Lindsay figured he could get the ball a bit deeper, dribble and create while running at the defense. He’d also been using Theo Hernandez as a CWB to start the season. This combination, however, seemed to have stifled Leao. When Bruno Iglesias started to excel as a IW and AP on the right, Lindsay gave Leao the license to attack more [IWa]. He began to emerge as the player Lindsay knew he was, and then went to another level when Lindsay began giving Theo Hernandez a bit more attacking role as a WBa. The two could then overload the left side, but higher up the pitch. Sometimes Leao would be isolated on the FB and could beat him on the dribble, but having Theo as an outlet and making overlapping runs gave him options. Suddenly both players went from being some of the least effective players in the side, to game changers. Despite his slow start to the season, Leao was averaging an assist every other match, attempting just under three dribbles per 90, and scoring his fair share of goals as well. Against a stubborn Empoli that had resisted a rotated Milan side, the match was entering the final half hour when Lindsay reluctantly put Leao on. The winger changed the game within his first minute in the pitch. Within 15 minutes, it was 3-0. Leao contributed an assist and two great goals - one a brilliant solo effort and the other a poacher’s goal. LW Bruno Iglesias In all three of the above examples, who was the player first on the end of Leao’s cross, then chipping in with two assists? Bruno Iglesias, who had to be in the running for the signing of the season. Within two months he’d become a crowd favorite at the San Siro and one of the most important players on the team. At only €8.5m, the Spaniard had proved a steal. His movement off the ball was fantastic, and things always seemed to happen when he was on the ball. For his goal against Empoli and his second assist for Leao, Iglesias’ movement was so casual, effortless, but intensely effective. He waited for his marker’s attention to drift before timing his run to perfection in both cases. For the assist, he didn’t hesitate when he received the ball. Even with the goal open in front of him, he recognized the angle was tight, and spotted Leao’s run to the far post for the tap in. He just always seemed to drift into areas where he could cause problems, in all areas of the pitch. He was a bit like two previous attacking midfielders who left Madrid in Ozil and Odegaard, but he was much more like the latter in terms of his effort and aggression. The foundation All of this wonderful football was built on the rock solid foundation of the back four. All four CBs had been excellent with Tomori the standout star, but Simaken, Luiz Felipe and the summer signing El Chadaille Bitshiabu all performing without issue. The latter was especially impressive in a run of games where the more experienced Simaken was out and Filipe had to fill in at LB. Bitshiabu not only filled in well, but excelled, giving Lindsay second thoughts about putting Simaken right back into the preferred 11. Right in front was a wonderfully complimentary midfield double pivot in Sandro Tonali and Jonas Musah. While neither Tonali nor Musah were as creative or dynamic as Simons had been at PSV, in some ways their partnership was better. Both were capable passers, tacklers, and worked hard on and off the ball. While Tonali was a bit better in the defensive arts, Musah’s ability to carry the ball and make those lung busting runs through the middle helped Milan break the press time and again and occasionally lead the counter. Youssef Maleh was an excellent deputy for Musah in the Volante role, while the 19 year old Filipo Testi was proving a reliable backup for Tonali, showing wisdom and composure beyond his age. Potent Passing While it’s not surprising that a team at the top of the league would be good statistically, it was incredible to see 7 Milan players in the top 20 for most key passes per 90, and that number rose to 8 when you included Musah who came in at 21st. No other side could come close to matching that - Juventus and Lazio featured three players and Inter two. Even more impressive was that previously Leao and Iglesias were 1st and 4th, while AMa Octavio rounded off the top 5. This not only showed the quality of the players, but the fact that the Power system was putting those players in a position to succeed - with even the rotation option Maleh coming in with 1.97 key passes per 90 to put him 15th. Power, Precision or Control AC Milan could win in a lot of ways. They could play through a stubborn low block by powering through it. They could control matches when they needed to, but they didn’t always have to control possession. Despite having a lot of gifted passers, AC Milan were not necessarily a possession hungry side. While they certainly tended to dominate possession, they had a habit of good results when they allowed the opponent to possess the ball far more - Udinese had 60% at halftime of their 5-1 drubbing, Barcelona enjoyed 61% possession in their 4-1 defeat, Inter had 63% in a 1-1 draw that AC really should have won, and even Cagliari possessed the ball for nearly two thirds of their Serie A match only to fall 4-1. This is what gave Lindsay a feeling that it could be a great year. AC Milan didn’t need to change the way they played - their plans A, B, and C were all built into the system. Sit in a low block? Milan’s front four would pick their way through with precision passing and excellent finishing. Gegenpress? Milan would wait for the too high tempo to lead to mistakes, pass through the high press and exploit the space left in behind. Control possession? Milan could absorb pressure, keep the ball in areas that weren’t overly dangerous, then exploit the space in behind - or put pressure high and force errors and mistakes from the defenders trying to play out from the back. Play on the counter? Milan had 3-4 back to gobble up long balls and put the ball quickly back into the final third. There would surely be sterner tests ahead. The Champions League draw had been rather kind to Milan, and many of the big matches in the second half would be away, including Juventus, Lazio and Roma. Still, things were looking excellent domestically, and that could allow Lindsay to put his focus on the Champions League…
  8. Being big, tall, and fast can really be a massive advantage at the lower levels. I should know, that was pretty much me, though I got a bit more intelligent and skillful in my mid 20s. Seems to be working so far though! Wonder when sides will start to park the bus on you?
  9. At the Halfway point After a very difficult run of fixtures in September, and with a month and a half of Lindsay’s system under their belts, AC Milan truly took off. Not only did they remain undefeated, but they only failed to win two matches in three months. One was a simple case of having an off day (0-0 v Sassuolo) and the other was a 2-2 draw against OGC Nice who seemed to thrive against Lindsay’s Power system. Even so, Milan went down 2-1 before rescuing a point, and even had chances to win. As they faced the lesser sides in Serie A during December, they went from merely potent and defensively solid to unstoppable and impenetrable - scoring 2, then 3, then 4, then 6. League Highlights Strangely, the two most important league matches in these three months both ended in 5-1 wins, both against sides challenging at the top of Serie A. Udinese - 24/10/27 Udinese were having a wonderful start to the season and had spent a few weeks at the top of Serie A before falling a bit after a loss to Roma. They were defensively stout with their 5-1-2-2(DM) formation but also had no trouble scoring or holding onto possession. To combat their midfield possession, Lindsay instructed Tonali to be a bit more progressive and aggressive [DMs instead of DMd] Udinese had a lot more of the ball in the first half, but AC Milan had no trouble absorbing the pressure and hitting the home side on the counter. Milan scored the opener after their counter broke down, but they won the ball back almost instantly with another perfect execution of the counter-press by RB Calabria before Leao turned the ball in. Leao then knocked down a pass from deep to De Ketelaere and Musah’s De Ketelaere benefited from a Leao knockdown and Musah blasted a pullback into the net from the edge of the box - all off the counter. It actually could have been worse for Udinese, with Milan hitting the post and, in all, registering 7 clear cut chances. Better yet - the result put AC Milan top as Juve drew at home to Fiorentina! Roma - 27/11/2027 A tricky Roma side managed by Jose Mourinho. The savvy Portuguese had the capital club playing very well, and their counter attacking style could easily have caused Milan problems. And it did early, with Tammy Abraham breaking through the lines and scoring 1 v 1 with Maignan. Lindsay, however, pushed up the LOE without doing the same for the defensive line, and upped the pressing. They harassed Roma, especially their WB outlets and it paid off. First, Leao scored a fantastic touch goal after a wonderful assist from young Swede Engstrom. The match remained on a knife’s edge, until early in the second half when Roma gave up a penalty - converted by Theo Hernandez - and then gave up another at the hour mark. While it was certainly lucky for Milan, they deserved at least one of those due to getting in and around Roma’s box constantly. Champions league highlights AC Milan took care of both Rosenborg and Rangers with rotated sides, as would be expected. The other two fixtures featured joy and frustration as Milan demolished Barcelona, but could only draw against OCG Nice side that seemed to have Lindsay’s number. Barcelona (A) - 24/11/27 The Catalan club were struggling in the Champions League, but it was still a massively satisfying win at the Camp Nou. Barcelona kept over 60% of possession, but AC Milan played like the classic Italian sides. AC Milan calmly let Barca have the ball in safe areas and pouncing on mistakes, as well as happily playing through Barca's high, intense press regularly. The exceptions were Barca's beautifully worked 8th minute goal, and the match could have gone much differently after Tonali gave up a very soft penalty. Maignan saved, though, and it gave Milan the platform they needed to leave Barcelona with three points. To go up 4-1 before the half was really a wonderful accomplishment. What Lindsay appreciated most, though, was that two of the four goals came from pure effort. Iglesias’ 12th minute strike came when he pressed the right back and forced a miscommunication between him and Ter Stegen in goal. When Iglesias nicked the ball off them, he had an open net. De Detelaere’s goal came when he pressed he pounced on a slight mistake from CB Cristensen as he was trying to clear the ball, charging in to smash the ball past Ter Stegen. OGC Nice (A) - 7/12/2027 OGC Nice simply made Lindsay look bad, though a 2-2 draw was an improvement upon the 3-0 defeat Lindsay suffered with PSV. They were one of the few teams that could actually break with enough pace and precision to expose Milan. The first goal was a central overload on the counter, while their second was a crossfield ball to the left winger who scored a great goal. Milan, however, were by far the better side in the second half, and De Ketelaere’s 83rd minute goal was long overdue. Luckily, it was Milan’s first stutter in the Champions League and they were all but guaranteed to avoid the first knockout round. The tables Milan had emerged as leaders following the Udinese win, and by the winter break had gotten a five point cushion. Juventus suffered a disappointing draw against Fiorentina and a shock defeat against Parma. Udinese were still the surprise package of the season, while Napoli managed to bounce back from a rough start and were knocking on the doors for a European place. AC Milan weren’t perfect, but they were starting to look dominant as the second half of their schedule featured mostly sides in the lower half of the table. Their first half fixture list would finish with a decent Fiorentina side and a good Atalanta side on the other side of the winter break. Six matches in, and Milan were atop the table with enough points to nearly guarantee qualification for the second round of the knockout stages, especially when the remaining opponents were AA Gent and RB Salzburg. UP NEXT - Tactics and player highlights
  10. Good start. Annoying when the tricky fixtures come on the Tuesday after a Saturday match, but I guess it was true from Braintree as well. With that goal difference of 23 I should think you'll start pulling away before long though...unless the other sides start to tighten up and you can't break them down.
  11. Sad about the finance bug, but Nancy should be fun. Great start after a so-so preseason. Also really like the system. Very proactive and a good balance with attacking roles having cover - thinking specifically the BWMd + WBa on the right. I'd imagine good movement with the front three as well, with the SS running into the space made by the TFs and causing problems. Certainly looks like it's going well so far!
  12. Stumbled a bit over the finish line, but managed it anyway. Got the double and a promotion on the resume. Let's see what the next season holds!
  13. Real Madrid are definitely a fitting destination for this stage. It’s actually quite surprising that no one else came knocking after such success! Speaking of success, incredible threepeat with Benfica, and to do so while making a profit…
  14. Makes me both want to switch over to FM24, and not at the same time. Especially as the VOL is a key role in my system…
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