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FM 2016: Oooooh Lilies! - Keep Darmstadt in the Bundesliga!

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SV Darmstadt 98



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The story

Darmstadt is he club nobody expected in the Bundesliga. In fact, nobody expected them to be in the 2. Bundesliga (Second Division) last year. When the current manager, Dirk Schuster, took office in 2012, he stated in a press conference: "It would be a pity if a club like Darmstadt were relegated." He meant: Down to the Fourth Division. "Darmstadt is a club that belongs to the 3. Liga", Schuster said. That was meant to be encouraging. Turned out: He was wrong.

Three years later, the "Lilies" are part of the highest German tier. The last three years have been more than a fairy tale for the SV Darmstadt 98. They have been something like a dream. A miracle. No, a double … a triple miracle. Words fail to describe what happened to this club, who actually was supposed to be relegated to Fourth Division in 2013. It was all set. Decided. The SVD was doomed. Then, suddenly, their fiercest, long traditional rivals (!) Kickers Offenbach were refused the 3. Liga licence due to going into administration and were relegated to the Regionalliga instead.

Maybe it should have been clear on that very day that we start to witness something that, being made into a movie, would be laughed at as "way too unrealistic".

In 2014, Darmstadt gained the entry into the promotion-relegation play offs for 2. Bundesliga. They faced Arminia Bielefeld, a club that not so long ago had played in the highest tier and were seen to be favorites by a very large margin. The first leg in Darmstadt shattered even the tiniest of hopes: Bielefeld won 3:1 in Darmstadt. End of story.

Or was it?

It's the 19th of May 2014. Second leg in Bielefeld. The "Lilies" are on fire. They score once. They score twice. After 51 minutes, the score reads Bielefeld-Darmstadt 0:2, in favor for Darmstadt. A lot of fans smile, but nobody really keeps his hopes up. Indeed, two minutes later, Bielefeld strikes back: 1:2.

Then comes the 79th minute. A shot from 33 yards. Into the corner of the net. Goal. 1:3. Extra time. Suddenly, Darmstadt seems to be the better team. Suddenly, everything seems possible despite the horrible defeat on home soil. 110th minute: Goal for Bielefeld. 3:2. Over and out. It seems.

122 minutes. Additional time. The last seconds are counting down. Darmstadt strikes.

Goal. 4:2. The incredible has happened: Darmstadt gains promotion to the 2. Bundesliga.

They start the adventure "2. Bundesliga" by being marked as the total underdogs. Everybody knows: Darmstadt will go down after one year. They don't have the class. They don't have the players. In fact, the team largely consists of players who have failed at other clubs. A bunch of losers. They outdid themselves in that one special night at the "Miracle of Bielefeld", but they are certainly not good enough to duplicate that for a whole, long season of 34 matches in the Second Division. Their style of play seems like an anachronism: It's based on rock solid defense, hard fight, teamwork, endurance and the determination to go beyond your limits despite all the odds being against you. They win a few matches. All the pundit nod their heads and smile: "Yes, yes, that's the usual initial luck of the underdog. It will pass."

34 match days later, Darmstadt gains direct promotion to the Bundesliga. Without the help of any patron. The SV Darmstadt 98 is not funded by a big company, by a sheikh or by any big investor. Their finances are in order, the club is debt free, but that's because their wages are small, and they have not more than a dozen professional staff people on their payroll. A dozen! The rest is done by voluntary workers (roughly 120 people).

And all the pundits nod their heads in approval, murmuring: "That's a wonderful story. It's really nice to have Darmstadt in the Bundesliga. But, honestly, they will of course go down immediately. They don't belong there. Look at their shabby stadium. Look at this bunch of players who did not make it anywhere else. Not only will they go down, we all know that they will finish last - by far."

Now, dear FM 2016 player, here's your task: Prove the pundits wrong!

Keep Darmstadt 98 in the Bundesliga!

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The history



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Given the introduction, one might think that Darmstadt 98 does not have a long history in professional club football. In fact, they do. Just rarely at the highest tier. For decades between the 50s and the 90s, SV Darmstadt was the club associated with the "2. Bundesliga". They gained promotion to Bundesliga twice. Both times proved to be a very short adventure. When they first played First Division in 1978/79, most of the players did not even have professional contracts. A lot were, literally, amateur players with other fulltime jobs, playing in a professional football league. Needless to say they finished last. They did have one iconic player at the team though, which was Bum-Kun Cha, a South Korean player who would later rise to international stardom as a top goal scorer for Frankfurt and Leverkusen, and take part for the South Korean national team at the 1986 World Cup.

The second excursion into the top flight tier proved little better: Darmstadt finished 17th in the 1981/82 season. This would be their last visit to the Bundesliga for a very, very long time.

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(Source: www.wikipedia.de)

The deep fall came in the late 90s. Darmstadt became a victim of financial mismanagement, slipping to the third and fourth divisions. Dark years followed. Although Darmstadt seemed to reconstruct themselves in 2004 under former player and then trainer Bruno Labbadia (who today, as time of writing is headcoach of Hamburger SV), they struggled again, being dragged down once more by mismanagement, internal quarrels and too high expectations. The healing process started slowly, but since around that time, a few years back, the Board follows a very strict path of financial rationality and reasonability. Indeed, for the last years, Darmstadt stayed without any debts.

Crest and Colors

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The nickname of Darmstadt is "Lilies", because of the lily they spot in their crest. Their colors are blue, the Darmstadt supporters have "borrowed" the shout of the French national team "Allez les Bleus!" to encourage their players. Darmstadt also plays in White and sometimes had an Orange jersey in the past as Away Kit.

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Nickname: The Lilies

Year Founded: 1898

President: Rüdiger Fritsch

(FM16: "feels he will never leave the club of his own volition")

Current Manager (IRL): Dirk Schuster

Club Captain: Aytac Sulu

Media Prediction: 18th (of 18)

Fierce Rivals: Offenbacher Kickers (local and long standing rivalry)

Other Rivals: Waldhof Mannheim (local), Hessen Kassel (local), Eintracht Frankfurt (local)

Legends: none

Favoured Personnel (according to FM16):

Dirk Schuster, Dominik Stroh-Engel, Marco Sailer

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The stadium



"Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor"

Capacity: 17,000 (only 4000 seated)

Built: 1921

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Copyright: Ungry Young Man, via www.wikipedia.org

When SV Darmstadt got promoted to the 2. Bundesliga, nobody knew if the stadion would actually get the proper licence - or if Darmstadt would have to play their home matches elsewhere (this, by the way, underlines again how unexpected the promotion to the Second Divison was). The club got the licence in the end - but only after they made some adjustments: Darmstadt 98 had to replace the old wooden benches and turn them into proper seats. Yes, that's right: Two years ago, two of the stadion's sections had wooden benches, 300 in total. They were distmanteld and sold to the fans.

That being said, there never have been many stands with seats anyway. The "Böllenfalltor" spots only 4000 seats on the main terrace. The rest of the 17,000 places are stands. Without any roof. In fact, the stands are basically built right into the hill that forms the stadium ground. Not all terraces are in use, some are closed due to safety reasons, and even on those which are used, you can spot weeds and plants growing. (Fans are regularily called to help clearing out the weeds in the summer break).

This is a stadium which has the appearence of hosting a Fourth Division team. The Darmstadt fans are very proud of this. The city has already decided to rebuilt and reconstruct the stadium (a plan that will not be set into motion before 2017), and several influencial fan groups and supporters have very vigorously opposed any plan that would include "too many seats". Stands are, for them, a symbol of "old school", traditional, romantic football. One of the most popular plans from the fan's side centers on the idea that every terrace should have seats and standing rooms at the same time to preserve the "special atmosphere".

A year ago, the Pharma giant Merck, who has its headquarters in Darmstadt, bought the name rights of the stadium - for a sponsorhip fee of € 300,000 per year. Buying the name rights has become pretty common in Germany, there are only very few stadiums left with their original names. Fortunately, Merck was smart enought to keep the old name on board and just add their company name on top. Hence the construction of "Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor". Böllen is the local dialect for aspen trees. These grow around the stadium. And yes, € 300,000 is, well, let's say, a bargain. Bayern Munich earns € 6 million per year, clubs like FC Köln or Hannover still get € 2 million out of it. Then again - SV Darmstadt is not a Bundesliga team... was never supposed to become a Bundesliga team.



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In the game, your facilities are adequate to average. Which, yes, reflects the current situation in Darmstadt. They just improved their training facilities, but that means that they now finally do not have to do their runs on concrete floor or use another training ground somewhere in the city, if the main one is, for whatever reason, not ready for use. To sum it up: Darmstadt was completely caught unaware by their sudden rise to 2. Bundesliga and 1. Bundesliga. Their facilities are adequate for a Third Division team.

Fans, supporters, rivalries - and music



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To be fair - it would be highly exagerrated to say that the Böllenfalltor was always sold out in the past. 2011/12 (3. Liga), the average number of viewers was around 6000 - and that was a 30-year-record. Obviously, after the promotion to 2. Bundesliga, a whole city got electrified, and now, in the Bundesliga, the stadium is sold out on every occasion. It's almost impossible to get any tickets. The supporters are just as enthusiastic about the away matches. When Darmstadt played Borussia Dortmund (September 2015), 8000 supporters followed their team to the Dortmund stadium. Much more than a lot of other Bundesliga teams manage to call upon. Of course, all this is helped by the enthusiasm and the "once in a lifetime" feeling for everybody involved. Who knows if there will be still league matches against the likes of Dortmund and Bayern next year?

One important thing of note is the official club hymn. I wouldn't exactly say that it is "special" in music or lyrics. In fact, I'd personally call the text an astonishing ensemble of phrases that are close to Dadaism in their combination of silliness and banality. At the same time, the tune is as catchy as it gets and bears a very high risk of Last Song Syndrome. It also explains the title of this thread "Oooooh Lilies", so here you go.

I try to translate this a bit to give you an inkling. I don't know much about English football songs, and obviously, there are quite a few songs which are, let's say, rather simple. But this one still strikes me as quite outstanding ... special. Especially the second verse. All that being said, I have to admit that I love it. And did I mention that it was catchy? I know, I did. But it is. So you are warned before you click play on that video.

Here goes:

The sun is shining



The sun is shining.

The crowd cheers and waits for a Lily-goal.

Olé, olé, ola!

The sun is shining.

The players are ready.

It's time.

Olé, olé, ola!

Oh Lilies, oh Lilies, oooh Lilies!

Oooohooo!

Oh Lilies, oh Lilies, oooh Lilies!

Oooohooo!

Goal! Goal! Goal!

Forward Lilies!

Attack! Attack!

Goal! Goal! Goal!

Ooooohoooooo

Oli, ola!

That's a fine goal,

we all attack!

Olé, olé, ola!

The ball is round,

and it can happen

that you lose.

Doesn't matter, it's just a game!

Olé, olé, ola!

Oh Lilies, oh Lilies, oooh Lilies!

Oooohooo!

Oh Lilies, oh Lilies, oooh Lilies!

Oooohooo!

Goal! Goal! Goal!

Forward Lilies!

Attack! Attack!

Goal! Goal! Goal!

Ooooohoooooo

[video=youtube;DVo_uLrlvUw]

[To be continued: Rivalries, etc.]



The city

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So for those of you who are not so familiar with German geography, just a very quick overview on where the hell we are: Darmstadt is a city of around 150,000 people. In the Bundesliga, only Sinsheim (TSG Hoffenheim), Wolfsburg (VfL Wolfsburg) and Ingolstadt (FC Ingolstadt) are smaller. Leverkusen and Mainz are roughly the same size. Darmstadt is just south of Frankfurt and basically part of the Frankfurt Metropolitain Region (called the "Rhine-Main-Area"). Your closest rivals for the so called "Rhine-Main-Derbys" are Mainz and Frankfurt.

Literally translated, Darmstadt means "Gut city" or "Bowel city" (no, I am not kidding), but the name is just a coincidence and a malapropism, the old Medieval name in the 11th century was "Darmundestat". There's different theories of the name stems from an old king's man called "Darimund" or from the nearby stream Darmbach.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, Darmstadt was an important centre for the Art Nouveau movement. Many buildings are still heavily influenced by this. Older buildings and the complete old city were destroyed during bomb raidings in WW2. It's probably fair to say that Darmstadt has a few very impressive buildings but is not, as a city, a particular beautiful city. The city center nowadays looks rather functional. Darmstadt promotes itself as the "science city", quite an impressive number of technology companies and research institutes have their headquarters here, among them the European Space Operations Centre. The TU Darmstadt is an important technical institute and university with about 30,000 students. Darmstadt is also quite proud of the fact that several chemical elements were discovered here, and one was even named after the city, the "Darmstadtium, 110 Ds".

That should be enough to impress everybody at your next cocktail party with your immense and profound knowledge in useless facts about German cities.

Back to football.



The staff

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Welcome to Darmstadt. Did I mention the "only a dozen professionall staff members"? FM16 captures this quite brilliantly. You start with 2 coaches, 2 scouts and one physio. That's not much to get around in the Bundesliga. And yes, of course, your club is worst ranked in the Bundesliga (together with the other promoted team Ingolstadt).

In fact, your fitness coach is rather decent (3,5 stars), as well as your goalkeeping coach (3,5 stars): A fairly renowned ex goalkeeper in Germany, Dimo Wache stood between the posts at FSV Mainz 374 times. He actually lured your current first keeper, Christian Mathenia, from the Mainz youth team to Darmstadt. But I am getting ahead of myself. We will discuss the squad later.

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In any case, if you want long term success, you should somehow tackle the topic of coaches, physios and scouts. You remember that Darmstadt is quite strapped?

PS: You might notice that the two scouts you start with are of quite an age (Eberhard Schuster, 74 and Horst Franz, 75), and that their last names ring a bell... because your assistant manager is also "Franz", and the former manager you replaced was "Schuster". Yepp, that's right, these two guys are in fact the fathers of manager and assistant manager. Both do come with their own pedigree, and both have been, in the past, astonishingly good in unearthing useful players and underrated gems. Unfortunately, FM stats for Horst Franz don't really reflect that, and with JA13/JP13 you might want to replace Mr. Franz soon and probably also voice some doubt if Eberhard Schuster (15/13) is a suitable Chief Scout. From a purely RPG perspective, you have to keep those two old men on board, of course!

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The squad

Let's have a look at the Team comparison first, before we tackle the players...

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General

And here's the thing:

You have not only the weakest, but also the oldest squad of the Bundesliga. 28 years on average. (I know, that would not be much in Italy, but it's a lot in the youth driven Bundesliga). Darmstadt does have a Youth team and it just gained promotion to the Youth Bundesliga, but as of now, there are not many hot prospects hidden in that Under 19s squad. In fact, FM16 just offers you 4 Youth players, and none of them will be any help in the long run.

You do have the lowest wages, though. It's 37,000 Euro per month on average. Compare that to the 500,000 per month at Bayern Munich.

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It doesn't get much better at the other stats:

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All Positions

Darmstadt has the lowest numbers on First Touch and Passing. Don't try to set up a quick, short passing, ball possession style with this team. It will fail. At least with the current squad.

You do have an extremly high average on "Leadership", though. That's a first hint about what Darmstadt's team is made of: A bunch of fierce fighters who will take the lead whenever necessary. Your Team Rating in Strenght (2nd of the Bundesliga) and Teamwork (4th of the Bundesliga) is also noteworthy.

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I do not know why Darmstadt is so low on "Aggression". Real life teams in the Bundesliga might disagree with that FM16 statement. But maybe it'll help us to escape a few bookings.

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Defence

Let's have a look at Defence:

Darmstadt has the slowest defence of the Bundesliga, but that will not surprise you at this stage, won't it?

The Lilies are pretty decent at Heading (2nd) and Positioning (4th). So there's the first message: Sit deep, stay structured, and just don't let any ball near the goal, and you might be fine.

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Midfield

Darmstadt's midfield is the worst team in the Bundesliga in Passing, Vision and Technique.

They are average in Stamina, Long Shots and Tackling though. That's quite an interesting find, because those three attributes are rather vital to the style Darmstadt is playing (in real life). The SVD will not be able to compete with the upper half of the table, but if they put their act together, they might find a few teams to leave behind.

Also: Darmstadt has the best Teamwork of all 18 Bundesliga teams (15,09). It's a pretty nice evidence on what Darmstadt's style is built on and that you basically have to be a teamplayer to be included in the squad at all. Current manager Dirk Schuster is quite strict on that. Surprisingly enough, he hired some players who were dropped out of their teams because of a lack of teamplay. It's one of his mysteries how he turned those into teamplayers. But again, we'll get to that later when we have a closer look at the players.

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Attack

Darmstadt's main strikers are sloooow. Not a good sign for the FM game, where in past versions often quick strikers were the best choice to have.

They are best in the league in Jumping Reach, because manager Dirk Schuster prefers his strikers to be giants. Unfortunately, the 15th place in "Heading" does not necessarily send the message of a lot of header goals. Let's see how we can combine this into a working tactic...

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Meet the players

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Goalkeepers

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There was a time when first team goalkeeper had to be the oldest guys in the squad. It was basically a football law. Not anymore, especially not in the Bundesliga. And Darmstadt is no exception here, even though they represent the oldest team in the League: In fact, Christian Mathenia, your undeniable first choice, is the youngest player of the team!

The other two are the oldest. Not much to ponder here: Mathenia is clearly your number 1, the other two goalkeepers are backups. And you better hope you never need them.

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Christian Mathenia, 23

Strenghts: Reflexes 17, Handling 15, Concentration 15, Stamina 16

Weaknesses: First Touch 7, Agility 9, Rushing Out 5

Mathenia joined Darmstadt for the 2014/15 season, the one where the Lilies claimed promotion to the Bundesliga. He was, in fact, not meant to be the first team player, but established himself quickly and pushed the older Patrick Platins aside. I rate him a quite decent goalkeeper, and his stats are even a bit better than I would judge him in real life, where he is sometimes a bit error prone. It is true that Rushing Out is certainly not one of this strengths. You should not put him under the pressure of an unexpected counter attack. But if your defence is solid and steady, Mathenia is a great goalkeeper with his reflexes and his concentration.

Patrick Platins, 32

Strenghts: Jumping Reach 15, Strength 15, One on Ones 13

Weaknesses: First Touch 7, Decisions 10

Platins joined Darmstadt just as Mathenia did, in 2014. Originally, he was meant to be the main goalkeeper. Mathenia took his place, and when the SVD went up, he didn't have a single league appearenace for Darmstadt in his CV. It probably says something about him, that he's still around and accepted this. His stats are fairly average. There's no blatant weakness, but no real strength neither. Classic #2 goalkeeper, where you hope you'll never really need him.

Lukasz Zaluska, 33

Strenghts: Aerial Reach 16, Reflexes 15, Tendency to Punch 19, Jumping Reach 15

Weaknesses: Decisions 7, Positioning 7, Anticipation 8

Zaluska was backup goalkeeper for Celtic Glasgow from 2009-2015. He has joined the Darmstadt squad just recently. His contract with Celtic expired and he was unemployed for a while, before signing his contract with Darmstadt. This is a pattern you will see more often when we get to the rest of the squad: The Lilies have been quite successful in scouting players you can sign on a free. I consider him a more interesting goalkeeper than Platins, because he has real strengths, but also real weaknesses.

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Central Defenders

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Aytac Sulu, 29

Strengths: Heading 17, Bravery 18, Determination 18, Leadership 18, Teamwork 18, Workrate 18, Stamina 18, Concentration 15

Weaknesses: Pace 10, Passing 9, Technique 9

This man is the rock of your defence. Aytac Sulu is the type of guy who will stand on the pitch despite a broken nose. In fact, that's just what he did last year: He had several bones in his face broken and started playing after 5 weeks, wearing a mask. A few games later, he suffered a loose tooth from an ellbow, and tore the tooth out on his own, before continuing to play. That's Sulu in a nutshell for you. He embodies the whole spirit of the Darmstadt playing style: Never give up, fight for your life, give everything you can, never doubt. For his teammates and for the fans alike, he's an iconic figure, and I don't know how the FM system will react if you take away the Captain's badge from him, but I don't recommend trying. The irony about his development is that two years ago, Aytac Sulu actually thought about ending his career for good. He had played for German 4th Division, Austrian 2nd Division and had an unsucessful spell in the Turkish Division. A year in the Bundesliga had certainly not been in the cards. Yet here he is, and without a doubt he will be one of the pillars of your team.

Luca Caldirola, 24

Strengths: Marking 14, Tackling 14, Positioning 15, Concentration 15, Teamwork 17, Anticipation 16, Decisions 14

Weaknesses: Heading 11, Determination 10, Acceleration 10

Preferred Moves: Tries to Play way out of Trouble, Does not dive into Tackles

Caldirola signed for Inter Milan at the age of 18, was captain of the U20 squad and certainly what you would call a "hot prospect". Inter sent him out on loan for three years, then sold him to Cesena – who sent him on loan. He came to the Bundesliga when Werder Bremen was looking for a decent, talented left footed Central Defender in 2013. Long story short: Caldirola has now the image of being one of those "perennial talents" – a bright future that never came to pass. When Bremen sent him on loan to Darmstadt, nobody really missed him. Exactly the type of player the Lilies were looking for. As Darmstadt player, he has developed quite remarkably. Caldirola is a quite nice counterpart for Sulu: He lacks the aggressive determination of his captain, but makes up with useful marking and positioning skills. Unfortunately, he's obviously only on loan.

Slobodan Rajkovic, 26

Strengths: Marking 16, Tackling 15, Determination 17, Bravery 18, Teamwork 16, Strength 17

Weaknesses: Technique 8, Composure 9, Agility 8,

Preferred Moves: Marks Tightly, Argues with Officials, Dives into Tackles

A very similar story to Caldirola: Rajkovic once played for Chelsea, was sent on loan three times, before being bought by Hamburg. He never really made it into the first team there, collecting only 40 appearences in four years. HSV did not extend his contract, and Rajkovic found himself a free agent in the summer of 2015. It should be noted that he certainly could have clinched a deal somewhere in Europa or worldwide with a much, much better salary and that his current salary is far from what he earned in Hamburg. He is a quite aggressive player and uses his physical strengths on the pitch to his advantage. In fact, he's the best in Tackling and Marking in your team. You can use him instead of Caldirola if you need more muscle on the pitch. All in all: Your central defence is not one of Darmstadt's weak areas.

Benjamin Gorka, 31

Strengths : Heading 17, Jumping Reach 17, Stamina 17, Strength 17, Teamwork 16

Weaknesses: Positioning 11, First Touch 8, Pace 8

Gorka is in one of the few players who was part of the Third Division squad in 2012/13 who almost got relegated. He is a very useful backup, especially if you want to counter any threat of an opposing team with dangerous heading abilities. Also: He is very cheap and earns just € 3500 per week.

Summary: Use Sulu as your captain, decide between Caldirola (more finesse) and Rajkovic (more muscle) depending on the opponent. Gorka is a decent backup and adds his impressive jumping abilities. But look out for fresh blood: Caldirola is only on loan, and your central defence is not getting younger.

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Fullbacks

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Florian Jungwirth, 26

Strengths: Marking 14, Tackling 14, Concentration 14, Teamwork 15, Stamina 16

Weaknesses: Heading 10, Dribbling 10, Acceleration 11

Jungwirth is a natural Defensive Midfielder and a natural Fullback. He is a very versatile player with quite a lot of useful attributes and very few real weaknesses. He represented Germany on various youth levels, but his club career somewhere took a wrong turn, when suddenly Dynamo Dresden did not extend his contract, and the following spell at Bochum was rather unsuccessful. Joining Darmstadt in 2014 changed his fortune: He was first team player in Defensive Midfield for the team that clinched the Bundesliga promotion. The reason why he is listed under Fullbacks is mostly because the competition in Defensive Midfield is sharp, while your team has only one more natural Right Fullback.

Junior Díaz, 31

Strengths: Marking 15, Tackling 15, Aggression 16, Bravery 16, Stamina 16, Pace 15

Weaknesses: Passing 9, Technique 10, Decisions 10

Preferred Moves: Marks Tightly, Dives into Tackles

Junior Diaz was too old for Bundesliga club Mainz, but not at all too weak for Darmstadt. He is one of the new signings of the summer 2015, and Darmstadt signed him as a free agent (of course; you get the pattern …). The Lilies had only one natural Left Fullback (Holland) and wanted backup. In reality, Diaz has established himself as Number One on the left. He is a sturdy defensive fullback. Don't expect too many supportive runs forward. He also is helpful for throw ins from the left side.

Fabian Holland, 24

Strengths: Marking 14, Tackling 14, Teamwork 14, Stamina 15, Positioning 14

Weaknesses: Crossing 8, Dribbling 7

Preferred Moves: Marks Tightly

Holland was one of only two (!!) players Darmstadt paid money for as a transfer this summer. He is, in fact, the second most expensive player for all times at the club – at a price of € 350,000. Nobody wanted him anymore in Berlin, and the fans were wondering why the Berlin manager was even haggling for the price. Holland was the first team choice for Leftback last year (when he was on loan), but has gotten fierce competition by Diaz. He is a technical better player than the Costa Rican Diaz, and also better in positioning, but Diaz is stronger and more physical.

György Garics, 31

Strengths: Crossing 13, Decisions 15, Positioning 14, Work Rate 14

Weaknesses: First Touch 8

Preferred Moves: Tries to Play way out of Trouble, Does not dive into tackles

Another typical Darmstadt story: Garics, Austrian national player, once played for Rapid Wien and SSC Napoli, but found himself not wanted anymore at his last job at FC Bologna. He was just what Darmstadt needed on the right Fullback position when they joined the Bundesliga: Experience, Routine, and still hard working enough despite his "over 30" status. His technical attributes on FM16 are a bit low for my personal taste, making him not necessarily the first choice over Florian Jungwirth (as he is in reality). But he certainly convinces with very useful mental attributes. And he even can venture forward and center the ball.

Sandro Sirigu, 26

Strengths: Teamwork 14, Stamina 15, Acceleration 14

Weaknesses: Marking 9, Balance 9

A vital member of the team in the last two years, Sirigu is, at your current set up, not much more than a decent backup. His attributes are rather mediocre, and his low marking is something to worry about. At the beginning of the save, he's not available due to a pulled hamstring.

Michael Stegmayer, 30

Strengths: Determination 14, Stamina 16, Natural Fitness 14

Weaknesses: Decisions 10, Passing 10, Strength 10, Jumping Reach 9

Stegmayer is a rather long term member of the squad, having joined Darmstadt 2012 (when they were threatened by relegation). Obviously, there have been quite a few changes during the last years, and Stegmayer can not really keep up with the new competition. If you want to keep another backup on the left side, he's there for you. For long term planning, it might be a smart idea to replace him with a youngster.

Summary: You have a decent squad depth with two left backs (Diaz and Holland) and two right backs (Jungwirth and Garics) at a very similar level. The decision on who to field is mainly a matter of taste and tactics. Main problem: None of them is useful at crossing (Garics is best at 13). Sirigu and Stegmayer are somewhat useful backups but not really needed.

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Central Midfielders

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Mario Vrancic, 26

Strengths: Long Shots 15, Passing 15, Composure 16, Decisions 15, Teamwork 16, Vision 14

Weaknesses: Bravery 8, Acceleration 9, Balance 10, Off the Ball 8

Preferred Moves: Dictates Tempo

Vrancic is a bit of a special case. In fact, he might be the only player in the current squad who did not came to Darmstadt on the back of a "failed career" or as a low class or underrated player. Quite the contrary, he was the cornerstone of SC Paderborn, a team who, in some regards similar to Darmstadt, made it into the Bundesliga, was seen as a minnow team who certainly would be relegated – and fought bravely to the last matchday. When they went back down, Vrancic decided that he wanted to stay in the Bundesliga and got on board with Darmstadt. They paid € 500,000 for him, the biggest transfer fee in history. As time of writing (beginning of November 2015), Vrancic did not make it into the starting eleven once, and came in as a substitute four times (!). Certainly not what he did expect. Maybe what he lacks is exactly this hunger to prove himself and salvage his career. But none of this really matters for you as a player, because in FM, Vrancic is certainly one of your strongest players in the squad, and therefore has almost guaranteed a place as Deep Lying Playmaker or Regista. With relatively high stats in Vision, Decisions and Passing, he provides the creative element, which otherwise is a bit short in the Darmstadt team. He's also your most valuable player, and you could also cash in on his € 6 million value if you want.

Peter Niemeyer, 31

Strengths: Heading 15, Marking 15, Tackling 16, Bravery 17, Concentration 16, Determination 16, Teamwork 18, Work Rate 16, Natural Fitness 17, Stamina 16

Weaknesses: Acceleration 9, Technique 8, First Touch 8

Quite the opposite to Vrancic, Niemeyer is classic "Darmstadt Material". His status at Hertha Berlin was set to "player not needed", so to speak. The Berlin coach told Niemeyer graciously that he is "allowed to join the training session with the squad, if he does not bother us". Needless to say, Niemeyer felt deeply insulted that he, who had been Berlin captain of a rather successful squad in 2012/13 was ousted that way, and looked for other options. Darmstadt took the opportunity to get him for free. Niemeyer is what the Germans call a "Kampfschwein", a "battle boar", or rather: A soldier who throws himself into every fight on the pitch without hesitation: His tackling, bravery, teamwork and strength make him an ideal Ball Winning Midfielder, Defensive Midfielder or Anchor Man. He will be your first line of defense and is also very versatile. In times of injury problems, you can field im as DC or DR.

Jérôme Gondorf

Strengths: Aggression 15, Bravery 16, Determination 18, Teamwork 19, Work Rate 19

Weaknesses: Tackling 11, Jumping Reach 8, Technique 10

Gondorf is another "typical" Darmstadt player. His impressive mental attributes make up for poorer capacities in the technical department. His FM attributes suggest that you use him as a BMW, in reality he's more a Box to Box midfielder for Darmstadt, operating a bit higher on the pitch, and bridging the gap between defense and attack. His finishing abilities are poor though, in 2500 minutes in the 2. Bundesliga, he scored only three times. He's also rather small with only 1,75m height and not exactly one to win Aerial duels in midfield. It depends a bit on your tactics: If you only field two central midfielders, he's your rotational backup. In a more defensive oriented midfield, you could also let him start in your first team. In any case, he's a guy for big matches, when things get hot and fierce. His character includes "very consistent performer" as well as "relishes big matches".

Yannick Stark, 24

Strengths: Marking 14, Positioning 14, Teamwork 15, Work Rate 15, Stamina 15

Weaknesses: Flair 6, Agility 9, Dribbling 9

Preferred Moves: Dictates Tempo

Stark is the "lost son" of Darmstadt. He was actually born in Darmstadt and played for a small Darmstadt 8th Division club in his youth. You could call him your "hot prospect", and he is, in fact, your second youngest player after Goalkeeper Mathenia. In any case, that's exactly why he is here: After a rather unsuccessful spell with 1860 München, Stark returned to Darmstadt and is seen as "a cornerstone of the future". Unfortunately, he has not really shown yet if he is really worthy of that hope put into him. (He was also handicapped by injuries, though). Im FM16, Stark is one of very, very few players in the squad who still has a bit of potential (the others being Mathenia, Caldirola and Holland – and that's basically it). He will start the game injured for 6-8 weeks, and he also lacks something to set him apart from his teammates.

Summary: Vrancic and Niemeyer are an ideal central partnership. Vrancic provides the creativity, Niemeyer the muscle. Gondorf is a mental beast and a great backup. Don't forget that there's also Jungwirth, who is a natural DM, and Gorka. You can shape and form Yannick Stark a bit, but it's not really worth it in my opinion, sadly. All in all, your central midfield is rather solid on the defensive side. There's no creativity and technique in abundance, but, hey, remember: This is Darmstadt.

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Wide Midfielders

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Konstantin Rausch, 25

Strengths: Determination 15, Off the Ball 14, Work Rate 17, Acceleration 14, Natural Fitness 17, Pace 16, Stamina 16

Weaknesses: First Touch 9, Passing 10, Decisions 9

Preferred Moves: Knocks Ball Past Opponent, Shoots with Power

When Rausch signed for VfB Stuttgart in 2013, the Stuttgart officials congratulated themselves on the great coup. The 23 year old defender was one of the rising talents of the Bundesliga, and he supposedly had "many other options" and chose Stuttgart. A quite different tale was told in 2015: Darmstadt was probably the only option Rausch had, and he took it gladly. In Stuttgart he had been playing and training with the Reserve squad for months. It is rumored that Stuttgart even paid several hundred thousands of Euro to terminate Rauschs contract. Classis "Darmstadt" material: A player who once was seen as a great talent, Rausch comes with pace, a certain physicality and decent crossing skills. He is an accomplished left back, but now uses his strengths as a left winger. I am a bit unhappy with the FM16 version of Rausch, because his attributes for Free Kicks (11) and corners (11) are rather poor, even his crossing (13) is not outstanding. In "real life" Darmstadt, Rausch has become the Number One for set pieces, and his curled free kicks and crosses have been a piercing weapon. You will have to do without that threat for the moment, but Rausch is still a very capable winger, and he provides pace in your somewhat slowish team.

Marcel Heller, 29

Strengths: Dribbling 14, Determination 16, Flair 14, Acceleration 18, Pace 18, Agility 17

Weaknesses: Passing 10, Finishing 11, Long Shots 8, Decisions 9

Preferred Moves: Knocks Ball Past Opponent

Speaking of pace… Marcel Heller is your space rocket on the left or right side (basically depending if you want to field Rausch on the left or Kempe on the right, Heller is natural on both). Statistically, he is the fourth fastest player of the Bundesliga, even to players like Aubameyang and Douglas Costa. Names you probably have heard of. Heller, you most probably haven't (if you are not following the Bundesliga closely). Not only has he the pace, but also the explosive acceleration to make it really deadly, he got clocked with 34 km/h at his sprint. Why is he even playing for Darmstadt? Because his career stagnated after a fulminant moment of glory in 2010, when Heller, playing for Frankfurt, helped his team to win against Bayern München and made a certain David Alaba look like a helpless schoolboy. He never really repeated that in the Frankfurt jersey, to injured, and played for Third Division teams. When he joined Darmstadt, at the age of 27, in 2013, you would have expected him to end his career in the Third Division. (I don't need to tell you that everything worked out a bit differently). During the last years with the Lilies, Heller, although known and feared for his pace, he was not known for goal scoring abilities. He was fast, but not precise. In the Bundesliga season 2015/16, he just scored 6 goals in 14 matches. Not bad at all. Maybe we see a slight raise of FM attributes in 2016, if this form continues. In any case, Marcel Heller is your guy to set up a fast paced counter attacking football. A Darmstadt based Speed Punk band even

Tobias Kempe, 25

Strengths: Free Kicks 16, Corners 16, Bravery 15, Flair 14, Vision 14, Balance 15, Stamina 14

Weaknesses: Composure 9, Finishing 10

Kempe was Darmstadt's main goal scoring threat from set pieces, and although he is, in real life, only #2 behind Rausch, he will be your set piece asset for FM16. In fact, with his quite nice round up abilities, he probably is the better option to team up with Heller, sending Rausch into Rotation status. Kempe was a key player for Darmstadt in their 2. Bundesliga season 2014/15. He also is not one of the typical "failed career" players at Darmstadt, although he probably had higher hopes for his career when he won the U19 league with Werder Bremen in 2007. He is also your best guy at crossing at the moment (together with Vrancic, but Vrancic is best played central) and fairly good a long shots. All in all, a very versatile winger, advanced playmaker or even central midfielder. In my first save, he was immediately wanted by three Bundesliga clubs, but if you actually think of selling him, you should most certainly get a first team replacement with high set piece attributes in, because after Kempes 16/16 for free kicks and corners, there's almost nothing at all in your team. Ivana comes next at 13/14, but Ivana will not be your first team choice, as we'll see now…

Milan Ivana, 31

Strengths: Dribbling 14, Free Kicks 14, Penalty 16, Flair 15, Acceleration 14, Natural Fitness 15

Weaknesses: Heading 3, Tackling 5, Bravery 5, Marking 4

Preferred Moves: Gets Forward Whenever possible, Plays one-twos, runs with ball often

It's not that Ivana is bad, quite the contrary, he's a rather well rounded, versatile winger who even has some use up front as a striker, and his PPMs add a nice little touch – it's just that there's nothing really that gives him an edge against his teammates, and he is certainly not young anymore. He comes with decent pace, nice flair and good technical abilities, though. Ivana is also your best dribbler (14). He's just not very skilled in defensive movements though, and that could cost you as Darmstadt. To sum it up, he's a great backup, and you could certainly start the season with him and at least don't have to fear that you have to field a U19 player if Kempe and Heller miss a match due to injury. Then again, maybe fielding a promising 18-year-old is exactly what you want, given the future prospect of development with this team. In that case, Ivana is not needed.

Summary: Heller and Kempe will probably be your first choice options. Heller is an intriguing, incredibly fast paced winger, Kempe adds flair, vision and set pieces. Rausch is an option if you want some speed to match Heller. In theory, this is a quite nice group of wingers. The task will be to let them shine within a probably rather defensive tactic. You should also look for some talents on the transfer market, because your rocket weapon Heller will, unfortunately, reach his 30s soon…

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Forwards

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Jan Rosenthal, 29

Strengths: Aggression 17, Anticipation 15, Determination 17, Teamwork 16, Work Rate 15, Pace 14

Weaknesses: Composure 10, Strength 8

Preferred Moves: Places shots, Comes Deep to get Ball

Rosenthal left relegation struggling SC Freiburg in 2013 to join a bigger club, in the hope to boost his career. The opposite happened: Rosenthal played just 18 games in two years for Frankfurt. He joined Darmstadt on loan last season but has only established himself as an important first team player since summer. He is a relentless worker, more comfortable in the central attacking midfield than upfront. He does possess a certain tactical intelligence, which makes him able to fulfill quite a bunch of different roles as striker or attacking midfielder, while at the same time being easily paired up with a second striker to harass the defense. In fact, most noteworthy might be that his aggression, determination and teamwork make him very a very effective player to close down his opponents, snatching the ball from defenders or central midfielders and bringing it quickly back into play while the opposing team is still on the counter, the famous German "Gegenpressing", which he performed in his three years at SC Freiburg. Rosenthal is, in fact, almost the only player in your squad suitable for an AMC role (Kempe, Vrancic and Sailer can play there as well, but all have certain limitations).

Dominik Stroh-Engel, 29

Strengths: Finishing 14, Heading 15, Penalty 14, Concentration 14, Composure 14, Off the Ball 15, Balance 15, Jumping Reach 17, Stamina 16, Strength 16

Weaknesses: First Touch 9, Aggression 10, Acceleration 8, Agility 8

Stroh-Engel is one of the fan favorites in Darmstadt, nicknamed "Dodo", because of his first name Dominik, but maybe also because he somehow reminds people of the extinct giant bird from primordial times. He certainly is tall (1,97m), and his presence in the Bundesliga feels … wrong. Somehow. Stroh-Engel was top goal scorer with Darmstadt in the Third Division (27 goals), and the general idea was that the 3. Liga is exactly the league adequate to his abilities. That he would be struggling in the 2. Bundesliga. (Nobody was even remotely thinking of 1. Bundesliga at that time). His style of play does indeed seem rather simple, although people often overlook that Stroh-Engel is not only goal scorer but also of eminent value as a Defensive Forward, putting pressure on the defenders and creating holes for other team members to exploit. His FM stats unfortunately do not reflect that enough, mainly his aggression and positioning are a bit on the low side for this role. In real life, his spot as number One target man is seriously threatened by Sandro Wagner, who is similar in style, but technically better equipped. In FM16, both are pretty equal. Anybody fancies a tactic with two big birds upfront?

Sandro Wagner, 27

Strengths: Anticipation 14, Bravery 14, Work Rate 15, Jumping Reach 15, Stamina 16, Strength 15

Weaknesses: Marking 5, Passing 9, Positioning 7, Decisions 10, Determination 9, Agility 10

Preferred Moves: Argues with Officials

Wagner is, once again, one of those players who were bid farewell by the fans of his former club with the bewilderment how any other club would be even remotely interested in this guy? In the eyes of the Berlin fans, who had witnessed Wagner for three years, their attacker was an incredible bad finisher, while at the same time way too vain, cocky and, all in all, pretty useless. Moving to Darmstadt, where the core philosophy is maybe best described as "work", "sweat" and "team" seemed like an almost unbelievable move for a player like Wagner, who did not appear as a great team worker. His FM16 attributes and his PPM still do reflect all that (although his Work Rate is 15). In reality though, Wagner has adapted quite nicely to the Darmstadt play, and seems to be, as so many Darmstadt players, in full bloom of a "second spring" of his career (or maybe, given his age, rather something like a "second autumn"), and suddenly starts to bang in goals as if that's what he always did. All in all, in FM16, his stats are, as mentioned above, fairly similar to Stroh-Engel. Only his anticipation (14) and aggression (14) set him really apart. If you find a well suited replacement, maybe a younger striker with potential, you could think of selling one of the two.

Marco Sailer, 29

Strengths: Bravery 19, Determination 17, Teamwork 19, Work Rate 19, Aggression 15, Balance 16, Natural Fitness 18, Stamina 16

Weaknesses: Finishing 9, Long Shots 9, Technique 10, Composure 9, Jumping Reach 8

Did you notice the beard? Marco "Toni" Sailer might be, at the moment, one of the most extravagant players of the Bundesliga – at least in appearance. In fact, Sailer is a rather quiet and very down to earth player and another fan favorite; very jovial, always laughing, like a big teddy bear. Well, at least off the pitch. On the pitch, he is a fierce warrior. In the big FM database, there are not be that many players found who reach three attributes with "19". If you take a look at what exactly those attributes are (Bravery, Teamwork, Work Rate), you get Sailer pretty much in a nutshell. The guy will never let you down. Unfortunately, that's where his talents end, mostly. At the moment, his FM16 stats are mixed in a way that Sailer does not reach full suitability for any role, his best FM roles being "Shadow striker" and "Defensive Forward" with around 75% suitability ("competent"). I still call him a great backup, and, if you have any shred of sense for a role playing approach while playing Darmstadt, you cannot sell Toni Sailer, the current mascot of the club. (If you are not bothered by sentiments like these, then replacing him obviously might be an option, you can still cash in on a million Euro. If though you set up a tactic with pressing and closing down the opposition early on, he is actually a great backup for Rosenthal).

Summary: Not your strongest area. Rosenthal is a nice "second striker", and both Stroh-Engel and Wagner are the prototype of the "big target man up front", but both are lacking a bit in terms of real goal threat. Sailer is a beast when it comes to mentality and work load, but not a finisher. The question is, of course, how many strikers do you actually want? You do have very capable wingers (Heller, Kempe), so maybe a lonely guy in front of the goal is just the right thing. The way the squad is set up, the attack will not win you the points to stay in the league. Your defense will.

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Tactics



"Dreams are for other teams. We just want to bug and irritate the others week after week - and collect points."

Dirk Schuster, Darmstadt manager

Since SV Darmstadt 98 is part of the Bundesliga, other teams have complained that Darmstadt "does not really want to play football". The Lilies were also accused of time wasting, hard tackles and snatching points, although they "did not really deserve them". Often by striking early with a freekick or a corner, and subsequently stopping to play, concentrating on defense instead. In the country of "Pressing & Gegenpressing", where a lot of teams base their tactics on winning the ball from an attacking opponent with a not yet organised defense, it is indeed highly irritating for a lot of managers and players that Darmstadt does not seem to want the ball. They don't even seem to want to play with the ball. Darmstadt is just content to close in, snatch the ball and kick it aimlessly somewhere. Which, basically, destroys a lot of matchplans and can be highly frustrating. One of Darmstadt's strongest features is to pull opposing teams down to their level - and then beat them with sheer willpower, teamwork and tackles.

Obviously it might be difficult to translate this style of play into FM16.

On the other hand, we did establish already that the team is slow, technically weak and not really accurate in passing. That does leave one bewildered on what card to play. The Lilies are strong in (see above): Heading, Leadership, Teamwork, Work Rate and Jumping Reach. Does that somehow make a tactic? I will leave this question partly to you. And of course, there's always the option of strengthening your squad with new players, which would completely change any tactical approach anyway. At the same time, I am personally curious if you can let the Darmstadt players shine in FM16. This is what this section wants to be about. It's mostly musing, testing, suggesting. Maybe I even add some ideas if people manage successful saves. After all, part of the fun of FM in general is to always try different tactics and styles.

whoscoredstyle.jpg

This is real life Darmstadt's style according to whoscored.com.

We can take some interesting hints for FM16:

  • Direct passing
  • Hit early crosses
  • Exploit the middle and the left
  • Play with width
  • Use set pieces

I am not sure if all of these actually translate as well into FM style, but more about that later. Here's the most used formation:

whoscoredteam.jpg

This, of course, we can rather easily translate into FM. With some simple adjustments due to the FM database: Vrancic is our main central playmaker. Jungwirth is, as of now, a better full back than Garics.

The result would look like this:

The 4-4-1-1 (Defensive style)



tactic-4411.jpg

This formation does not have Kempe, which is a problem, because Kempe is the main set piece threat. If you want to put Kempe in, he should start on the MR position, moving Heller to the left.

The roles are kind of flexible and also depend a lot on who is playing and who the opposition is. I have found so far, in FM16, that changing roles and duties on a match to match basis is even more important than it has been in the past. If you want your FB on Support or Defense depends a lot on the opponent. Sulu is a great CD(St) "Stopper", but that might not be always the best move against an organised attack.

The more important question for me are the Team and Personal Instructions anyway.

Defensive Line

As the Darmstadt defenders are rather slow and not technically gifted, playing a high defensive line seems a certain risk. The "real" Darmstadt play would be a deep defensive line anyway. "Keep it safe." Real Life Darmstadt is incredible effective with this. I struggled in my very first attempts to copy that to FM, because even if you park the bus, the opponent's forwards often find a way through and let your CD tackle two steps too late.

Watching the Lilies being besieged by wave after wave of attack, watching the technically and financially far superior team getting frustrated is highly entertaining in real life (well ... from a Darmstadt point of view), but not as entertaining in FM. Nevertheless, I still vote for a rather deep defensive line. To make that line tighter, your defense should get the PI "Mark tighter" and "Close Down More". This is especially important for the full backs, because they will only start closing down attacks from the flanks with these two instructions. "Mark tighter" seems also a helpful instruction for Sulu, Rajkovic and Caldirola. They are all three quite capable of doing that.

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Full back Holland closing down an opponent on the left side during a match against Werder Bremen.

Rajkovic, Sulu, Niemeyer and Kempe are all marking players. There is no Bremen player available for a crossing or a pass.

Tempo

The original Darmstadt squad is not very good at playing fast. Their passing, first touch, anticipation, Off the ball and vision attributes don't really allow to successfully play with a high tempo. I am somewhat reluctant to make it even slower, because you obviously want some tempo on the break. But I am still experimenting with this part.

Passing Directness

Long passes, obviously. You want to avoid short passing, especially in your own half, because you basically don't want to lose the ball if you are not set up tight in your defense formation. Also: Darmstadt is quite strong in Heading and Jumping Reach. Long balls which are misdirected can be won in Aerial duels or afterwards. The 4-4-1-1 formation also gives you the numbers in midfield to conquer those balls.

Build-Up

Same reason as above: "Clear Ball to Flanks". The flanks have your capable and/or quick players Heller, Kempe and Rausch. If those get the ball and can start running, that's one of your best options to get the ball in the opponent's Third and the chance of a shot or a foul followed by a free kick. Depending on how much space the other team grants you, exploiting the right and the left flank is a useful addition.

Attack

I have, so far, not very successfully experimented with "Hit Early Crosses", mainly because of the following reason: Your wide midfielders are much, much faster than your central attack. If your wingers hit crosses early, the attack is often not even in place. If Heller gets to the goal line, however, he often has a target man he can cross the ball at. With Stroh-Engel and Wagner both being the tall guys, "Float Crosses" seems a reasonable idea.

Closing Down

Real life Darmstadt does not use "Pressing" and "Gegenpressing" as organised as many other German teams. Defensive shape is more important for them than closing down at the risk of losing that shape. They want to stand in the right position, block shots, intercept them, and form a tight, solid wall. I tried to copy that in FM and failed miserably. In fact, closing down more is what got my tactic going in the end and has, in my first save attempt, turned our fortune. "Closing Down More" has worked extremely well for me, adding to the defensive shape rather than destroying it. The reason is mainly that harrassed opponents don't find the time to get into the right position to shoot, which results in a lot of long shots and Off Target shots. My theory at the moment is that due to the very high Team Work, Determination and Work Load attributes in the team, Closing Down does not disrupt the shape as much, because other people are stepping in. You can even follow these movements quite nicely in the match engine.

The result then looks like this:

15-koeln.jpg07-spielwolfsburg.jpg

Only 13 shots total for Köln, only 4 on target. Many more shots (23) for the far more talented Wolfsburg, but nevertheless only 9 shots on target and 12 long shots. Wolfsburg has all the possession, but does not get any real chances. This is not a "freak result", because it's exactly what the tactic wanted it to be.

All in all, the team instructions could look like this:

ti-counter.jpg

Again, this is meant as a suggestion and food for thought and certainly open to discussion. I am still experimenting myself, and I am sure a lot of these things can still be tweaked. Personally, I find it a very interesting mixture of real life Darmstadt playing style and FM compatible playing style.

The 4-1-1-4 DM Wide

FM16 actually calls this the "4-1-1-4 DM Wide Asymectric AM (CR)", which is a pretty impressive title.

This is my more attacking, forward oriented system. The 4-4-1-1 works, in a way, but I honestly admit: It's quite hard to score. I needed to combine defensive shape and solidity with some attacking moves who actually would have a chance to succeed. The result was a system with two Wingers, two strikers and an Advanced Playmaker. This very attacking setup is held in check by a deep defensive line, and the usual strict shouts for closing down, marking and generally throwing yourself at everything that enters your last Third. It works astonishingly well for me, especially in home games.

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The missing piece of the jigsaw for me so far was to put Hellers duty on Attack. I wanted to use his speed on Support first, but found out that he orientates himself a bit more central, does some sprints and puts the ball into much better positions for the strikes to pick up when set on Attack. And with his speed, he sometimes is not the worst option to score himself.

Depending on the score, you can also set the two full backs on Defend or pull Vrancic back a little and play him as DLP. There are actually quite a few options to tweak this setup to react during the game without losing your Familiarity.

Team Instructions focus on exploiting the flanks (Heller!), direct passing, tight marking, closing down, playing a bit wider (Heller!) and get stuck in the tackles. The last one is a risky one and you should be prepared to collect a lot of cards this way. I am personally not used to play that way, but I find it surprisingly effective so far. You don't have to fear free kicks that much, because your team is extremely powerful in heading and jumping.

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And that's the team:

As you can see ("Apps"), in 12 matches, people like Mathenia, Jungwirth, Sulu, Kempe and Heller were always part of the team. Vrancic certainly would have been as well, but he got injured (that should be part of my story and not be part of the tactical discussion). Caldirola is switched quite often with Rajkovic.

Almost everybody plays to their full suitability of roles. Holland is an exception because he prefers to be put on Defend, and Heller prefers to be on Support, but as mentioned he is actually more effective on Attack.

tactic-atts.png

Other ideas?

Plenty. And I am sure you have them as well. In the end, FM is about experimenting, making tactics work, etc.

My assistant manager actually once suggested me this one here, and I am highly intrigued to try it.

tactic-5220.jpg

No striker and a five men defense? Fascinating.

I'd love to hear about your ideas and if they work. :)

Transfer targets

I will not bore you with names here. There are plenty of threads out there with names, and personally, I find it always a bit boring if all teams look similar because everybody goes for the same players. (I admit, I couldn't really resist myself one or two names floating around here, though.)

I do want to give you some quick thoughs on what type of player you might want to look for though:

Goalkeeper: Your two back-ups are a bit disappointing. There are 30+ free agent goalkeepers out there who are just or almost as good as Mathenia and which you can afford. If you find one who is happy with a "backup" status, I suggest dropping Platins and Zaluska and switching them against one really useful backup. In the worst case, use 17 year old Aumann from your U19 squad. He even has some potential.

Defense: No need to look for D©. Unless you think that owning a good, young player is better than loaning; then you could exchange Caldirola against a younger, better version. I do recommend searching for full backs who can mark, tackle, run and cross, although, to be honest, full backs who are capable of this full package probably come with a price tag that you cannot afford.

Midfield: We need to get our squad younger in the long run, otherwise we might survive the first season but go down in the second. Heller is fairly old, I suggest to look out for a Youngster who can replace him in 1-2 years. Either buy a hot prospect for cheap or loan one with a future fee (let's hope our finances are looking a bit better in the future). Same is true for central midfield: You need creativity, somebody who can distribute the ball, which is especially important because most players are quite slow. Find a young replacement for Vrancic and mold him into that player.

Attack: Your weakest area. But also normally the most expensive one for transfers. If you find either a good youngster or a cheap veteran, you could sell either Wagner or Stroh-Engel. The veteran should have excellent mental and technical abilities, because you won't get a lot of clear cut chances and you should definitly have somebody who has the nerve to just bang them in when they come.

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Great back story. Have loved some rags to riches saves in the past in Germany; with Leipzig and Hoffenheim and this seems the next one to give a go for me. Germany is always a good, fun save for me as well, so will be following. Nice one Jean-Luc.

Edit - Just wondering if you will keep your job if you are relegated in the first season?

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Cracking thread, I think they will be very popular when finished because of the style of it, and effort made. Good work so far.

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What a story! Looks like in order to progress you're going to need a balancing act of sturdy solid defending, and signing and breaking in cheap, young, players that can one day allow for a more exciting style of play. A real challenge... I'm just about to start a Darmstadt save now!

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Thank you all for these nice replies. :) I will continue tonight.

The thread is obviously far from finished.

Great back story. Have loved some rags to riches saves in the past in Germany; with Leipzig and Hoffenheim and this seems the next one to give a go for me. Germany is always a good, fun save for me as well, so will be following. Nice one Jean-Luc.

There is of course one very decisive difference between the rise of Hoffenheim & Leipzig on the one side, and Darmstadt on the other side: The "rags to riches" stories of Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig were thoroughly planned and orchestrated. Both clubs had rich patrons who wanted to seem them rise to glory. Dietmar Hopp from SAP for Hoffenheim, and the Red Bull franchise for RB Leipzig. There were millions of Euro invested in those two clubs.

Darmstadt did not plan to play Bundesliga. They certainly did not oppose the idea, but there was no long-term investment plan, no money, and no patron. And even among the supporters, very few expect them to stay. They all dream, of course... ;)

Edit - Just wondering if you will keep your job if you are relegated in the first season?

I haven't played a lot yet, so I can't answer you that. In real life, I'd say obviously no. But FM always had a bit of a weakness in the past to capture those special relations where a Board completely trusts their manager and knows that even if the club is going down, changing the manager won't change their fortune.

That being said, I found it relatively easy in FM in the past to avoid at least relegation. In fact, I played a Darmstadt save in FM15, where they were also predicted to finish 18th of the 2. Bundesliga, and I indeed took them to promotion. At that time, my thought was "Yeah, something like that can OBVIOUSLY only happen in a computer game and it shows that FM15 is a tad bit unrealistic in that regard..."

Well, little did I know ... ;)

Cracking thread, I think they will be very popular when finished because of the style of it, and effort made. Good work so far.

Thank you. :) It's always very nice and encouraging to get feedback.

What a story! Looks like in order to progress you're going to need a balancing act of sturdy solid defending, and signing and breaking in cheap, young, players that can one day allow for a more exciting style of play. A real challenge... I'm just about to start a Darmstadt save now!

I have planned an in-depth section where I talk more about the players, so that everybody gets a feeling on how the squad is built, and even about some of their backgrounds (if there is some interesting story to it). I also want to add some musings about how FM16 could try to copy the style Darmstadt plays at the moment. This will, of course, be somewhat of a guess, as I have not really played the game with Darmstadt yet.

In any case, I am certainly curious to read about any experience players will have with the team. So feel free, everybody, to note down here what you did with Darmstadt in your saves.

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Added the central defenders and the fullbacks.

Next task: Midfield.

I also need to add a few bits of information on the stadium (trust me, it's worth it - there's another story hidden here), the city (I guess people outside of Germany have not really ever heard of Darmstadt) and the fans & rivalries.

Stay tuned. ;)

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Nice thread and good luck everyone with Mission Impossible. Darmstadt is really interesting and I've written an article about their rise some time ago but unfortunately the English version is currently offline (cannot find the site anymore).

http://www.zweierkette.de/vereine/darmstadt-98-blaues-wunder/

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Really looking forward to starting up a save with these guys when the full game is released. It´s a tougher version of what I did last year with Sassoulo.... small boys in the big league! Except this time, less staff, less money and no Berrardi or Zaza! hahaha. Sounds great.

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I'd just like to say this such a brilliant team guide, so much so I'm torn between my original plan of who to start a save with and these now.

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I'd just like to say this such a brilliant team guide, so much so I'm torn between my original plan of who to start a save with and these now.

Thanks a lot. :) It's always nice to get encouraging feedback. If you are torn, you can also wait until the thread is finished and start the save then. ;) Might take me 1-2 more weeks to write everything I had in mind ... And then Beta time is finished, and the game is hopefully even more stable than now (although the Beta looks pretty good to me at this stage...).

:)

(PS: Funny that you are from Leeds. I just started a "We all play the same save"-Game (FM15) with a bunch of people from a German game forum, and the vote among 12 teams to pick was for Leeds United.).

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Thank you all for these nice replies. :) I will continue tonight.

The thread is obviously far from finished.

There is of course one very decisive difference between the rise of Hoffenheim & Leipzig on the one side, and Darmstadt on the other side: The "rags to riches" stories of Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig were thoroughly planned and orchestrated. Both clubs had rich patrons who wanted to seem them rise to glory. Dietmar Hopp from SAP for Hoffenheim, and the Red Bull franchise for RB Leipzig. There were millions of Euro invested in those two clubs.

Darmstadt did not plan to play Bundesliga. They certainly did not oppose the idea, but there was no long-term investment plan, no money, and no patron. And even among the supporters, very few expect them to stay. They all dream, of course... ;)

I haven't played a lot yet, so I can't answer you that. In real life, I'd say obviously no. But FM always had a bit of a weakness in the past to capture those special relations where a Board completely trusts their manager and knows that even if the club is going down, changing the manager won't change their fortune.

That being said, I found it relatively easy in FM in the past to avoid at least relegation. In fact, I played a Darmstadt save in FM15, where they were also predicted to finish 18th of the 2. Bundesliga, and I indeed took them to promotion. At that time, my thought was "Yeah, something like that can OBVIOUSLY only happen in a computer game and it shows that FM15 is a tad bit unrealistic in that regard..."

......

Ah right, thanks for more background. Have not yet got FM16, but will soon, so may well give this Darmstadt a bash. Look forward to following the thread either way.

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Great work Jean-Luc! Darmstadt will definitely be a real challenge due to the financial limitations. I'm curious to see just what can be achieved with them

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I added the sections about the stadium and started the section about the fans. It's in the first posting.

Have a look. :) I say it's worth reading to understand that club. ;) ... or maybe to get even more confused. :lol:

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I have to say that this is one of the best threads I've seen in a very long time. It's well written and laid great. It's also like you're telling a story as you're creating the thread which should only want to make more people take the challenge of keeping Darmstadt in the Bundesliga.

I'm possibly going to be playing an online game with some people from another part of the forums that I play Fifa clubs with and we're possibly going to be playing in the Bundesliga as it has the most votes so far. I'm not keen on playing football in foreign leagues but if we do decide to play in the Bundesliga then I have said I will be Darmstadt.

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;10552741']I noticed it just yet. Please switch the photos of Jungwirth and Holland. ;)

:lol: How did this even happen? And how did I not notice that?

*mumble* Well they do look a bit alike *mumble* *cough*

Will fix it, but probably not this weekend. I am off to the Böllenfalltor and probably too drunk afterwards. ;)

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This is the best thread so far by a country mile - looks neat, professional and it's informative yet interesting. :thup:

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I'm starting a Darmstadt save as soon as the rest of this thread is finished, looking forward to it! :thup:

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OK, I started the game..... Nearly finished pre-season (only 1 friendly left) and I have my squad assembled..... I´m pretty happy with it, though I have taken a gamble by selling Heller in order to fund a couple of new recruits. I hope it doesn´t backfire! I´ll do a proper update of my transfers and tactics when I´ve also got some proper results to report on too.

But in essence I am going with an aysemmtrical 3-5-2, that has worked pretty well throughout pre-season (and in a previous save on fm15). I am little concerned about the lack of pace in the side...

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How can you sell Heller? Sacrilege!

:D

I started a game myself, but I first want to finish the thread before I report on it, and/or at least get a few more proper results under my belt. So far, I am, in fact, struggling. I wanted to play as close as the real Darmstadt tactic as possible, but I fear that it's much more difficult in FM to set up a proper defending tactic. Needless to say, I left the squad untouched, at least the starting Eleven. I did bring a few Youngsters in though, to build for the future.

In general: Thank you very much again for the nice feedback. Keep it coming! ;)

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OK, I started the game..... Nearly finished pre-season (only 1 friendly left) and I have my squad assembled..... I´m pretty happy with it, though I have taken a gamble by selling Heller in order to fund a couple of new recruits. I hope it doesn´t backfire! I´ll do a proper update of my transfers and tactics when I´ve also got some proper results to report on too.

But in essence I am going with an aysemmtrical 3-5-2, that has worked pretty well throughout pre-season (and in a previous save on fm15). I am little concerned about the lack of pace in the side...

Haha, selling Heller and complaining afterwards about lacking pace in your side. That's really funny. :D

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Back from a visit to the Böllenfalltor on Saturday evening. Nice game. Rausch made a few nice moves, Heller scored another goal. The team stood very well organised and didn't let Hamburg create a lot of chances. If not for a stupid penalty, SV Darmstadt could have won.

Speaking of Rauch and Heller:

Wide midfielders are added now.

Now it' just the attack/forwards missing, and we can wrap it up with some words about tactics and such.

Going to start a save with Darmstadt, what tactics do you think I should use, who did you sign and sell Jean-Luc ?

As mentioned, I am not very far in my game, and I am still experimenting with tactics. I plan to give you an overview on how real life Darmstadt plays, and that should come within the next days, but I don't think at this point I can give any useful advice on how to play Darmstadt with the FM16 match engine. I would need at least one season to get an idea, I guess. But maybe we can all work on this together. ;)

I did talk about who to sell in my squad presentation. That all, of course, always depends highly on your save, in any case. If you get a great offer for one of the key players AND can replace him with a decent new signing - why not? I admit, me personally, I don't like to change the team too drastically in the first season. For me, part of the fun of FM is also to play with the "real team".

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Originally posted by Jean-Luc

How can you sell Heller? Sacrilege!

I started a game myself, but I first want to finish the thread before I report on it, and/or at least get a few more proper results under my belt. So far, I am, in fact, struggling. I wanted to play as close as the real Darmstadt tactic as possible, but I fear that it's much more difficult in FM to set up a proper defending tactic. Needless to say, I left the squad untouched, at least the starting Eleven. I did bring a few Youngsters in though, to build for the future.

In general: Thank you very much again for the nice feedback. Keep it coming!

Originally posted by Octavianus

Haha, selling Heller and complaining afterwards about lacking pace in your side. That's really funny.

Haha, I know selling the fastest player in the team and then complaining about a lack of pace is rather humorous, haha. But I felt I could improve the team with the money I got from him overall. So with the money I sold him for I managed to bring in two creative players, which the squad was also really lacking. And one of those creative players is pretty fast too! So all-in-all hopefully it was good business :/

Just finished a pretty decent pre-season, and will start in the German Cup tonight. Will upload some photos of my starting 11, transfers and tactics later tonight. :)

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Played a few games including a 2-1 win over Dortmund and 1-0 win over Mainz, 2 wins and 2 losses so far in the league, through to the 2nd round of the German cup as well.

Key players for me are Tobias Kempe, Luca Caldirola ( loan signing from Bremen ), Aytac Sulu and Marko Vrancic.

Currently play a 4-5-1 formation

Here is some photos of my formation, games played so far and transfers in and out.

http://images.akamai.steamusercontent.com/ugc/403430811341035069/D52C4896CB5A8389ABBA2CCF06EE427DB9988880/

http://images.akamai.steamusercontent.com/ugc/403430811341034047/E228C622268FB8662E639CD89ADAE5391CE4D383/

http://images.akamai.steamusercontent.com/ugc/403430811341034548/D76A36E2539EB25E50C763D6147782DA81CA2367/

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Played a few games including a 2-1 win over Dortmund and 1-0 win over Mainz, 2 wins and 2 losses so far in the league, through to the 2nd round of the German cup as well.

Key players for me are Tobias Kempe, Luca Caldirola ( loan signing from Bremen ), Aytac Sulu and Marko Vrancic.

Currently play a 4-5-1 formation

Here is some photos of my formation, games played so far and transfers in and out.

That's some great results you got there. Dortmund and Mainz are definitely some strong teams.

Who are all these free transfer people you brought in? Youngsters? You did not blow up your squad to 30 people, did you? There's one quite interesting transfer, which is Patrick Ochs, because he was actually on Darmstadt's radar in the summer. At least it became official that his agent offered him to Darmstadt. There was no real follow up, so I must assume that SVD was not that interestd. But he certainly fits the profile.

Your 4-5-1 looks interesting, and I am suprised to see that you found a place for Yannick Stark. "Push higher up", "higher tempo" and "shorter passing" also looks pretty attacking. I am really curious how this will turn out for you in the long run.

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It turns out not well as I am on the verge of being sacked, needed to get 6 points in the next 5 games to keep my job and lost the following 3 lol, got Schalke away and Hannover at home, got to win both to keep my job lol, wish me luck.

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Lost both games and got sacked, going to start again tomorrow.

Oh no! How many games in the league had you played before you got sacked? I just finished pre-season and played one game in the cup. Won 2-1 (87th min winner). Next up Hamburg. I have literally no idea how my team is going to do this season.... Could be ok, could be disastrous. In pre-season we didn´t have many problems with scoring goals, but we didn´t seem to have too many problems from letting opposition sides score goals too, haha.

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Literally had 3 games left but was 17th so not good as I said I would avoid relegation, started again today, bringing in staff etc, also selling Heller as he didn't really do well for me and also could do with the money to strengthen other areas, brought in Heinz Muller and Timo Hildebrand to given me solid options for keepers.

Also signed Zat Knight and Del Piero, hopefully their experience will help my squad when they are down on their luck.

My formation I am trying is a 5-2-1-2 with the full backs playing as wing backs, will keep you posted how I get on.

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I don't see the full backs being exceptionally suited to be wing backs. Interested to hear how that works out. :)

Also interesting that all of you are selling Heller. ;)

I hope to add the Forwards/Attackers tonight, and then I can start some musings about tactics. I am in my 5th league game at the moment, and after 3 rather dire results, the last ones rolled out more how I had planned. They did not win the first one, but for the first time, the defence looked solid, and the opponent could not muster any real shots on target. For the second one, I took to a slight more attacking mentality (it does get boring looking at the other team piling up on you). I do believe that the key how to bring the squad into play is closing down. I refrained from that first because I did not want to disrupt my structure, but since I let them close down much more aggressively, they actually look more solid and structured.

My theory at the moment is that it's the very high "teamwork" attribute, which makes this possible. People leave their position but are immediatly replaced by somebody else. I was initially wondering how to turn the fact that Darmstadt has the highest "teamwork" attribute average in the league to our advantage, and maybe this is one of the answers.

PS: I don't think setting the goal to "Avoid relegation" is the best way to go. I certainly do think it's possible, but it obviously puts you under a lot of presser when you have to go through rough patches. I opted for "Avoid immediate relegation", which basically means 16th place is alright. Also quite interested how this will work out.

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Still love your thread. Sailer was a very hard decision as he is like Stroh-Engel one of those players who have a lot of limitations and can't cope with Bundesliga players from a technical viewpoint. Especially Sailer looks really odd but I really don't know where to put him. Research has some limitations and that's when we talk about tailoring players to fit into FM roles/duties. It is really hard to avoid that and Darmstadt has definitely some players that don't fit into FM roles but do fit from the viewpoint of real life. One of our aims in German research is to give players sharp profiles with distinct strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately Pressing and Gegenpressing are methods that can't be replicated as well in FM as in Germany at the moment. Also the extreme efficiency in set pieces from Darmstadt cannot be reproduced as much as I would love to see it. But at least in the latter point I would honestly blame Dirk Schuster for using some "cheat tactics" in real life. :D

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Literally had 3 games left but was 17th so not good as I said I would avoid relegation, started again today, bringing in staff etc, also selling Heller as he didn't really do well for me and also could do with the money to strengthen other areas, brought in Heinz Muller and Timo Hildebrand to given me solid options for keepers.

Also signed Zat Knight and Del Piero, hopefully their experience will help my squad when they are down on their luck.

My formation I am trying is a 5-2-1-2 with the full backs playing as wing backs, will keep you posted how I get on.

I´m also going with wingbacks.... In pre-season they were a useful attacking outlet, but they did get rather rinsed a few times by opposition players. They were like statues when it came to defending. Still only played the German Cup game, though I hope to play another match tonight!

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So I started again, 3rd time lucky, here is a few screenshots of my game, please let me know if they don't work and please give me your opinion.

http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198057428469/screenshots/ - fixtures so far,

http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198057428469/screenshots/ - transfers in and out

http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198057428469/screenshots/ - Tactics

http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198057428469/screenshots/ - My squad

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So I started again, 3rd time lucky, here is a few screenshots of my game, please let me know if they don't work and please give me your opinion.

So... basically, there's almost nobody left in your first team squad of the original group; only Caldirola, Sulu and Garics. That's ... quite an upheaval, I'd say. :D

I can't even say much about your tactics, as I don't know half of your players. There's certainly some nice Youth potential in your team with Ferati, Pflücke, Grimaldo and Sandro. But all of them are on loan, right? If I look at your star rating, then the squad even seems to be weaker than it was before. Niemeyer and Diaz have 4 stars ability in your screenshot, and they certainly did not have that in the original squad when Vrancic and Heller were still there.

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Ok, so here is my first proper post for the thread:

2015/2016 Early Season

Transfers

Early on I decided that I wanted to play a formation with wingbacks, therefore negating the requirements for wingers, therefore negating the requirement for star player Heller.

p><p>Although the lose of Heller is not

p><p><img src=[/img]

Tactics

Tactics are an aysemmtric 3-4-3.... I have experience with in the past and works well in both defence and attack so thought I would give it a shot again :p

p><p>I

:) Currently sitting 3rd in the league... can't see it lasting though.

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