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FM 2017: SV Darmstadt 98 - The miracle continues!

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SV Darmstadt 98

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Why should you play Darmstadt?

Because they are the team who nobody expected to be in the Bundesliga. No money, no infrastructure, no talent - just a lot of old tradition and the willpower to fight.
Everybody predicts them to finish last. Can you beat the expectations and turn the club into a success story?

Quick note for readers:

A lot of the basic information is based on the FM16 thread I wrote last year and which you can find here, if you are interested. Obviously some things don't change.
But some do. To help everbody who did read last year's thread, I coloured all the relevant new additions in blue. Enjoy!

 

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The story

Darmstadt is the club nobody expected in the Bundesliga. In fact, nobody expected them to be in the 2. Bundesliga (Second Division) two years ago. When the former 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 four 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 license 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.

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

Goal. 4:2. The incredible thing 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."

This was last year's story when I opened this thread and dared FM16 managers to keep Darmstadt in the Bundesliga. Very probably, it seemed, in spite of reality, which would see the SVD finally give in. Quite a few users took the challenge and struggled. The Darmstadt team was, of course, weak. As mentioned before, a lot players were actually Third Division material. Darmstadt hired a few experienced new ones, who all shared one story: Having failed at other clubs. Being labelled as "untalented" and "talents who wasted their career" or "difficult players".

So how did the story continue?

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Bundesliga 2015/16 – The miracle goes on and on…

003 - General.PNGWell, to make it short: Darmstadt stayed up. They did the impossible – once again. FM17 managers can, once more, try their hands at the most impossible task: Keep the SV Darmstadt 98 where it does not belong (at least according to almost all pundits): German 1. Bundesliga.

Darmstadt proved to be a very inconvenient and bothersome opponent: In most matches, they were fighting nail and tooth. In a way, the SVD refused to play the game everybody else was playing. The typical quick, high pressing game of Bundesliga teams. Darmstadt was immune to pressing, because they did not keep the ball. Once acquired, they just gave it away, with wide and long kicks, aiming at the oppositions's third. Sometimes successful – mostly not. But they were quick and decisive on the counters, deadly on set pieces, and highly structured in defense. They gained their points mostly on their opponent's soil, when the home team felt under the pressure of delivering: "If we don't win against this outsider – against whom shall we win?" Big teams ran into Darmstadt's traps, into their iron hard defense, and became quickly frustrated and desperate when they failed to dominate the minnows. The Lilies achieved a draw at Schalke, a win at Leverkusen, a draw at Dortmund. Let's be frank: Darmstadt was marveled at as a story – they were much less liked by most fans as opponents. Fans of other clubs blamed the SVD of playing rough and nasty, wasting time, and so on. Not all of these complaints were justified, they often stemmed from the deep frustration of not having beaten the Lilies. But yes, Darmstadt's play was not attractive (unless you are a fan of very defensive formations).

Yet, they got enough points. More than enough, in fact. They ended up in 14th place, five points away from direct relegation and secured their survival in the 1. Bundesliga one week before the final match day with a 2:1 win away (of course!) at Berlin, who had been one of the success stories, but equally failed to dominate Darmstadt.

So, dear reader: The task is up to you. Ensure a third year of Darmstadt Bundesliga football! You know about your chances and predictions of course, right? "The second year is always the hardest." And: "Yes, yes, they got lucky once. Especially because two big clubs like Stuttgart and Hannover fell apart and didn't know how to cope with relegation battle. It won't happen again."

Oh, and of course: Almost all the "losers turned winners" players have moved on. They grabbed the opportunity of being showcased and found themselves better paid jobs. The best striker has left the SVD, as almost the complete defensive line. And "wonder coach" Dirk Schuster, manager of the year.

Darmstadt is doomed. They are almost uniquely predicted to finish last.

Can you prove the pundits wrong – once again?

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The history

Given the001 - History.PNG 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.

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 you might stumble across in your FM17 save as a manager, he just go fired from his last station at 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

The nickname of Darmstadt is "Lilies", because of the fleur-de-lys 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.

The 2016/17 home kit is, well, let's say... something that needs getting used to. They remind one more of a swimming suit than a football kit. It's a rather weird combination of very strangely angled stripes. The designer explained that those stripes in fact are bent at 18° degrees and 98° degrees – which, put together, is the founding year of the club, 1898. I guess you need a designer's brain to put something like that on a football shirt.

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Nickname: The Lilies

Year Founded: 1898

President: Rüdiger Fritsch

(FM17: "feels he will never leave the club of his own volition")

Current Manager (IRL): Norbert Meier

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

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The stadium

"Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion am Böllenfalltor"

Capacity: 17,000 (only 4000 seated)

Built: 1921

001 - Boelle.jpgWhen SV Darmstadt got promoted to the 2. Bundesliga, nobody knew if the stadion would actually get the proper license - 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 license 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 distmantled 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 enough 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.

002 - Facilities.PNGSo why, do you ask, did I label the stadium "Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion"? Well, that's another of those incredible Darmstadt stories: Merck decided, in the Summer 2016, to waive their name rights and name the stadium for at least one year after a most special Darmstadt supporter, Jonathan Heimes, who died, at the age of 26, of cancer. His story is, in fact, closely connected to the recent rise of the club. You remember that "miracle of Bielefeld" I told you about in the first chapter? The evening before the match, manager Dirk Schuster introduced his players to the Story of Jonathan "Johnny" Heimes, who, being a very successful tennis talent, was diagnosed cancer at a very early age, and decided to see the fight against the disease like any sport's match: Fight until the end! Nothing is lost until the final whistle blows or the final point is lost. Johnny fought. Bravely. He defeated the cancer now once, but twice – it always came back a few months later. Johnny started a foundation collecting money for children with cancer. And he became some kind of mascot for the team, who chanted, at the Bundesliga promotion party: "Without Johnny, we'd not be here!" Jonathan Heimes fight against cancer became a symbol for Darmstadt: Never give up fighting. Nothing is lost – yet.

I don't need to tell you that his death in 2016 deeply touched the players, the fans, the club. The fact that Merck decided to name the stadium "Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion" was broadly covered by media worldwide. This, indeed, is a very unique story. And you can be proud as a manager to manage in a stadium named after such an admirable person. (I am sorry if I sound a bit lofty here, but I am really impressed by all this, I admit.)

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.

 

 

Edited by Jean-Luc

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Fans, supporters, rivalries - and music

To be fair - it would be highly exaggerated 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.

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

Your fiercest rivals

Your historical fiercest rivals, Kickers Offenbach, are trying to get promoted from the "Regionalliga Südwest", which is the 4th German Division. So don't expect a lot of derbies with that club. The strange thing for Darmstadt is that they have recently somewhat outgrown all of the historical rivals, like Hessen Kassel or Waldhof Mannheim. There are two clubs in the Bundesliga, which are relatively close and could be considered as derbies, but there is not a lot of history between those. FSV Mainz 05 is a rather smallish club as well, who gained promotion to the 1. Bundesliga in 2008/09, and has stayed in the highest German league ever since. In contrast to Darmstadt, they had a long strategic plan as well as the infrastructure to stay up.

The other local rival is Eintracht Frankfurt. Frankfurt is, of course, the largest city of the region, and the Eintracht Frankfurt football club was a founding member of the 1. Bundesliga in 1963/64. They basically see Darmstadt as the poor cousin and the parvenu who suddenly wants to sit at the big table. It did not go down well with them that they finished behind Darmstadt in the 2015/16 season. The derby in Frankfurt turned quite nasty when Frankfurt supporters burned Darmstadt flags, prompting the German Football League to ban Frankfurt fans to access the away game in Darmstadt. So, yes, there is a bit of fire and smoke (quite literally), and a win over Eintracht Frankfurt would lift up a smile on a SV98-supporter. So please put that on your To Do list! But we are far away from those historical rivalries, where a win over the neighbouring club is, in the eyes of the supporters, more important than anything else in the world.

Still, a good match against Eintracht Frankfurt would look like this:

14 - Derby.PNG

 

 

The city

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-Derby" and "Hessen-Derby" are Mainz and Frankfurt.

001 - City.jpg

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 staff001 - Staff.PNG

Welcome to Darmstadt. Did I mention the "only a dozen professionall staff members"? FM17 captures this quite brilliantly. You start with 4 coaches, 2 scouts and 4 physios. That's not much to get around in the Bundesliga. 

In fact, your fitness coach is rather decent (4 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.

Your physio department is, compared to that, quite decent. In the 2015/16 season, Darmstadt managed to get through the year without having any of their players injured for a longer period. Quite remarkable, if you take into account that the playing style of the Lilies is rather rough. The already successful physio staff has been further strengthened by the new addition Kompodietas, who is an expert in kinesiology and has some quite innovative ideass.

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

001 - Staff stars.PNGPS: You might notice that the your head scout's last name might ring a bell... because the real life manager you replaced was "Meier". Yepp, that's right, the guy is manager Norber Meier's own son. The club follows a bit of a tradition here: The two scouts last year were the fathers of former manager Dirk Schuster and his assistant manager.

Edited by Jean-Luc

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The Squad - A Broad Overview

Darmstadt in 2015/16 was by far the weakest squad on paper of all Bundesliga clubs, and a lot of FM16 managers, myself included, have struggled to keep them up. Well, I regret to inform you that nothing has changed this year. Maybe I start with telling you who has left from last year's team:

  • Sandro Wagner, striker, key player, to TSG Hoffenheim
  • Christian Mathenia, goalkeeper, key player, to Hamburger SV
  • Tobias Kempe, winger, first team player, to 1. FC Nürnberg
  • Slobodan Rajkovic, central defender, first team player, to US Palermo
  • Konstantin Rausch, winger, first team player, to 1. FC Köln
  • Luca Caldirola, full back, first team player, end of loan (Bremen)
  • Marco Sailer, striker, rotation squad, to Nordhausen
  • Junior Diaz, full back, rotation squad, to Würzburger Kickers
  • György Garics, full back, first team player, free agent
  • Milan Ivana, attacking midfielder, not needed, to Elversberg
  • Patrick Platins, goalkeeper, rotation squad, end of career
  • Michael Stegmayer, full back, rotation squad, end of career

Yep.

That's quite a loss. To be fair, the likes of Wagner, Mathenia, Caldirola and Kempe hurt most, but effectively, Darmstadt was, in summer 2016, without a goalkeeper, without a striker and without almost the complete defense.

Good news was that the Bundesliga year provided them at least with a bit of money.

Still, players were not exactly lining up. Most probably doubted if it was really such a good idea to engage with a club who is destined to go down again. Oh, and there's the small issue about wages as well. Darmstadt still can't pay high wages. The wage structure in the club is very equal - equally low.

So, it probably will not surprise you when the sheet of "Strengths and Weaknesses" offers us the following picture:

001 - Strengths and Weaknesses.PNG

To summarize:

  • Squad is physically strong
  • Squad is good in the air
  • Squad is full of leaders and strong characters
  • And yes, there is a bit of money left this year (hooray!)... well, at least € 2M and some money for wages.

On the other hand:

  • Squad lacks decision making
  • Squad lacks sufficient quality in first touch
  • Quality of passing is disappointing
  • Low levels of commitment and aggression

The last point is particularily worrying, because teamwork and work rate were the big strengths of Darmstadt last year. The scouting team tried to find players who excel at similar levels, but might not have been as successful. We'll see. Let's look at the details:

001 - Lilie klein.png

 

Mental Stats

The only sheet that looks at least halfway decent. The SV98 is lowest of the league in Anticipation, Composure, Off the Ball and Vision. And also very, very low in Decisions and Flair. That's not new to anybody who played last year's edition: Darmstadt is not the squad meant for an expressive, creative game.

At least, we rank quite high in Bravery, Determination, Leadership and Work Rate.

002 - Mental Comparison.PNG

 

Physical Stats

Lowest rating in Agility and Pace. The Pace is especially inconvenient, as Darmstadt might be a good side for a counter attacking style, but of course without pace, that's rather doomed. But there is hope, because contrary to last year, we have a few more pacey choices in the attacking department. We'll get to that in a minute.

SV98 is good though in Jumping, Strength and Stamina.

002 - Physical Comparison.PNG

 

Technical Stats

Okay, so this is like watching a Tarantino movie for the first time: You know that it's gonna be dark, you don't know exactly how it will end, but you know that there will be a lot of pain.

So this is the Darmstadt squad on a technical level: They are somewhat decent in Long Balls and Marking. They are the best team of the Bundesliga in Heading...

... and they are the worst in literally everything else.

002 - Technical Comparison.PNG

 

 

Soooo... to summarize, it will probably not surprise you a lot that the odds are quite against us.

Darmstadt winning the league? You'll get 1-1000.

Then again, that's better than what you got for Leicester last season, right?

01 - Wetten.PNG

Edited by Jean-Luc

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Goalkeepers

Quick summary: Despite the fact that your number One goalkeeper Mathenia has left the club, you are quite well equipped with those three. There is also not a big gap between your 1st and 2nd goalkeeper.

Goalkeeper.jpg

Goalkeeper.PNG

Michael Esser, 28

Strengths: Aerial Reach 17, One on Ones 15, Balance 16, Jumping Reach 17, Strength 18
Weaknesses: Kicking 9, Decisions 8, Throwing 10

Michael Esser has become a fan favourite in less than a dozen games for Darmstadt. He is strong in the air, and has the posture and the dominance of a goalkeeper you can trust. Esser started his career unusually late, which, he claims today, helped him ultimately to become who he is, but maybe prevented him to become one of the really greats. He is a very solid choice and has great attributes - but lacks a bit in build-up.

Daniel Heuer Fernandes, 23

Strengths: One on Ones 14, Reflexes 14, Determination 14, Jumping Reach 14
Weaknesses: Decisions 10

Heuer Fernandes was the first goalkeeper who was announced to join Darmstadt, and, before the arrival of Michael Esser, looked like the designated Number One. He made himself a name during his time at 2. Bundesliga with Paderborn. A talented, well rounded goalkeeper, he is the perfect #2, and will still develop if you give him playing time.

Igor Berezovskyi, 26

Strengths: Kicking 15, Jumping Reach 16, Natural Fitness 16
Weaknesses: First Touch 7, Anticipation 10

Berezovkyi is part of the new "Ukrainian circle" of Darmstadt (together with Fedetskyi and Oliynyk). He has quite the career despite being relatively young. He witnessed the internal troubles at Obolon Kiev, was part of the U21 squad of Ukraine and has played in Warsaw and several Belgian clubs before joining Darmstadt. His Jumping and Kicking attributes are quite nice, and he is, indeed, a fine #3 or #2.

 

Central Defenders

Quick summary: Aytac Sulu might be one of the best central defenders of the 1. Bundesliga, but you lack similar decent quality. None of the others come close.

Central Defenders.jpg

Central Defenders.PNG

Aytac Sulu, 30

Strengths: Heading 18, Bravery 18, Determination 18, Leadership 16, Teamwork 18, Finishing 13, Positioning 15, Concentration 16, Balance 17
Weaknesses: Pace 11, 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: 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 three 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. And what a year it was! Sulu added incredible 8 header goals and became the most prolific central defender in that department. Despite his relentless and rough play, he only picked up 6 Yellow cards in 33 matches.

Benjamin Gorka, 31

Strengths : Heading 17, Jumping Reach 17, Stamina 16, Strength 16, 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 useful backup, especially if you want to counter any threat of an opposing team with dangerous heading abilities.

Immanuel Höhn, 24

Strengths: Concentration 15, Teamwork 16, Marking 14, Anticipation 14, Marking 14
Weaknesses: Strength 10, Determination 10, Aggression 10
PPM: Tries to play way out of trouble

Höhn is an unusual choice for Darmstadt, as he did not have the reputation of being extremely tough and resilient at his former club. After 8 years at SC Freiburg, Höhn had been told that he should probably better look for a new club as the other Central Defenders at Freiburg will get more playing time than him. He went to Darmstadt. To put this into perspective: SC Freiburg, at that time, was a 2nd Divison club who had just gained promotion. Darmstadt will compete in the 1. Bundesliga against Freiburg with a defender the promoted club did not see strong enough. Says it all, no? Yet, nevertheless, Höhn is a solid defender with quite decent mental and technical stats. He just lacks a bit of strength and physique. He is also quite versatile and can help out as a right full back.

Alexander Milosevic, 24 (loan)

Strengths: Jumping Reach 16, Heading 14, Positioning 14
Weaknesses: Bravery 10

Milosevic was wanted on loan by Hannover 96, a club with doubtlessly more money, and decided to go to Darmstadt instead. That's something quite unusual for the Lilies. The reason: Darmstadt is 1st Division, Hannover was relegated to 2. Bundesliga. Which makes Milosevic one of the few players of the squad who were actually persued by other clubs. He is stronger and more strong-willed than Höhn, while Höhn is a bit better in technique.

My advice: Choose the second Central Defender between Höhn and Milosevic to your liking. While both are not the most outstanding players, they are decent enough. I would spend my transfer budget elsewhere, but if you come across a talented Central Defender, maybe consider upgrading that position.

 

Full Backs

Full Backs.jpg

Full Backs.PNG

Quick summary: Your full backs are alright in the defensive department, and offer almost nothing going forward. This was quite troublesome in FM16 and has still not changed, although half of the players are new additions.

Artem Fedetskyi,  31

Strengths: Natural Fitness 18, Bravery 17, Concentration 16, Teamwork 16, Balance 16, Stamina 16
Weaknesses: Passing 10, Dribbling 8

Lots of experience. That's what Darmstadt expected of Fedetskyi, and that's what they got. He played for Donetsk, Dnipro and Karpaty Lwiw, and also for his national team. He knows what it means to be up against the big names of the Bundesliga. The full backs were quite a problem for Darmstadt in FM16, with Fedetskyi, you'll get a strong, determined, solid defensive full back on the right side. But don't expect a lot of pace and crossing abilities.

Florian Jungwirth, 27

Strengths: Determination 17, Stamina 16, Bravery 16, Tackling 15, Marking 15, Work Rate 15
Weaknesses: Crossing 10, Dribbling 9, Off the Ball 10

Jungwirth used to be a Defensive Midfielder (which you can still see in his attributes), but helped out as right full back last season rather effectively, and is now considered natural in this position. He brings everything needed defensively, but doesn't offer anything for a quick counter or a more attacking style. He's in Darmstadt since 2014 and experienced the year in the 2. Bundesliga.

Leon Guwara, 20 (loan)

Strengths: Pace 16, Natural Fitness 16, Determination 15, Dribbling 13, Acceleration 13
Weaknesses: Concentration 9, Positioning 9, Crossing 10

Guwara is everything the other full backs are not: Quick, pacey, can go into one-on-ones, and has an abundance of talent. He might very well be the most talented player of your squad. A pity that he's only on loan from Werder Bremen, who did not deem him fit enough for first team experience. His lack in concentration and positioning is worrying though, because being tight in the defensive line might be the most important thing for the SVD to survive. His loan was a virtual last-minute-loan on deadline day and raised some eyebrows among Darmstadt supporters, who couldn't really understand how a second team youngster was supposed to help.

Fabian Holland, 25

Strenghts: Stamina 16, Teamwork 16, Tackling 14, Pace 14
Weaknesses: Crossing 8, Dribbling 7

Holland was more or less alright, but overall a bit disappointing last year. Fans had hoped to see him challenged on his left side by a strong contender - and the one who came, was youngster Guwara. Holland can still do the job as defensive full back, but his crossing is a real let down - he will have nothing to offer on a counter or going forward.

My advice: This would be my first choice to get someone else on board, most urgently on the left, but you could also consider a quick, pacey full back for the right. Of course, full backs who can offer defensive stability as well as smart and fast build up are expensive. You can also try to develop Guwara, I must admit he did surprise me in my first half season.

Edited by Jean-Luc

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Central Midfielders

Defensive-Midfielders.jpg

Defensive Midfielders.PNG

Quick summary: Probably your strongest position. Niemeyer and Gondorf form, together with Central Defender Aytac Sulu, not only the core of your team, but are all still there from last year's Bundesliga success.

Peter Niemeyer, 31

Strengths: Aggression 18, Bravery 17, Determination 17, Natural Fitness 17, Stamina 16, Tackling 16, Concentration 16
Weaknesses: Technique 8, First Touch 8

Niemeyer is classic "Darmstadt Material". Two years ago, 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. 28

Strengths: Aggression 18, Determination 18, Teamwork 18, Work Rate 19, Stamina 17, Passing 13
Weaknesses: Jumping Reach 8

Gondorf might be one of the most underestimated Darmstadt players. His role last year was vital, but he was not the type to stand in the spotlight very often. 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 technical attributes are a bit above the poor average of the rest of the team. 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. 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". Together with Niemeyer, he forms a hell of a central midfield.

Mario Vrancic, 26

Strengths: Long Shots 15, Passing 15, Composure 16, Decisions 14, Teamwork 16, Vision 14
Weaknesses: Bravery 8, Acceleration 9
Preferred Moves: Dictates Tempo

Vrancic is a bit of a special case. Last year, he was 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 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 at that point. Strangely, he did not find a place in the starting eleven of Darmstadt and found himself on the bench more often than on the pitch. Maybe what he lacks is exactly this hunger to prove himself and salvage his career. It depends a bit on your line-up if he will find the same fate under your FM career: He could play a great role in central midfield with three players - or might find himself a rotation squad player if you prefer Gondorf. With relatively high stats in Vision, Decisions and Passing, he provides the creative element, which otherwise is a bit short in the Darmstadt team.

My advice: No need for any transfer action here. All three players are incredibly useful, Gondorf and Vrancic can also be used in different central midfield roles.

 

Attacking Midfielders & Wingers

Midfielder.jpg

Attacking Midfielders.PNG

Quick summary: Last year, Darmstadt was a bit limited in this department. Apart from the lightning fast Marcel Heller, there was not much convincing quality. This year, you have actually too many attacking players at your disposal.

Wingers

Marcel Heller, 30

Strengths: Acceleration 18, Pace 17, Determination 16, Work Rate 15, Dribbling 14
Weaknesses: Passing 10, Finishing 11, Long Shots 9, Decisions 9
PPM: Knocks Ball Past Opponent

Marcel Heller was one of the key players in the past 1. Bundesliga season. His quick counters on the flank secured vital points for SV Darmstadt 98. He is your space rocket on the left or right side. Despite not getting younger, he's still one of the fastest player of the Bundesliga. 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 moment aftewards, got 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. (As it turned out, everything worked out a bit differently). In the past, he was not known for his finishing ability, but last year, he scored 6 goals in 14 matches. Not bad at all. Heller is your guy to set up a fast paced counter attacking football. A Darmstadt based Speed Punk band even wrote a song about him, titled "Heller ist schneller" (Heller is faster). He is a fan favourite and still one of your most important players.

Änis Ben-Hatira, 27

Strengths: Flair 17, Technique 15, Dribbling 15, Pace 15, First Touch 14, Balance 16
Weaknesses: Off the Ball 10, Heading 6
PPM: Curls Balls

Having read through the whole thread so far, it might have caught your eye that Ben-Hatira has filed some attributes under "strength" that turn with no other player in the squad. Flair? First Touch? Ben-Hatira might well be the missing piece which Darmstadt needed so badly last season to complement Heller on the other side of the field. The Tunisian international brings some much needed individual class and technique to the team. He is also known, though, as a "trouble maker", making headlines in the past for punching team mates or posting too much and too carelessly on social media. Luckily, this part of a footballer's life is a very minor issue in FM17 (his media handling is "outspoken", but apart from that, you'll be fine). Due to his "curls balls" PPM, he can also act as your guy for free kicks - a quality badly, badly missed in this year's team edition.

Denys Oliynyk, 29

Strengths: Flair 16, Agility 16, Corners 16, Acceleration 15, Crossing 14
Weaknesses: Long Shots 10, Composure 11
PPM: Curls Balls, Plays one-twos, Cuts inside from left wing

Oliynyk is part of the new "Ukrainian circle" in Darmstadt (together with Berezovkyi and Fedetskyi). He has similar attributes to Ben-Hatira, although is maybe a bit weaker in the technical and physical department. He plays best as an Inside Forward, which adds some variety to your game style. In real life, he was not used at all, and I must admit that I was a bit surprised how good he actually is in term of stats, when I worte this guide. He is not a very patient rotation player, though, so you'll have the manage the three wingers in the right manner to avoid trouble in the team. On the plus side, he's your best option for corners.

Victor Obinna, 29

Strengths: Balance 16, Pace 15, Acceleration 15, Determination 15, Flair 15, Work Rate 15
Weaknesses: Passing 10, First Touch 10
PPM: Shoots with power, Argues with Officials, Cuts inside from both wings

Obinna is, what German fans call a "bird of passage" - he never stayed long with one team and has a number of quite big club names under his belt (Inter, Malaga, Verona, West Ham) - but also mostly not more than a dozen games played for each. His last station before Darmstadt was 2nd Division club Duisburg - with which he got relegated into 3rd Division. Typical Darmstadt transfer: A player whose career is stagnating. He is again quite similar to what Ben-Hatira and Oliynyk bring to the table (flair, pace), so that's your fourth winger. Maybe one too many. Obinna is also quite useful as a forward, though, despite his rather mediocre finishing. He starts with a four match ban for league games, so you won't be able to field him in the first matches.

Sandro Sirigu, 27

Strengths: Teamwork 14, Stamina 15, Acceleration 14
Weaknesses: Marking 9, Balance 9, First Touch 10

A vital member of the team in the lower division (and on board since 2013), Sirigu did not get a lot of playing time in the 2015/16 season. You can also play him as a right full back or a wing back, but he's not exactly more convincing there. His attributes are rather mediocre. Recently, at the start of 2016/17 season, he made himself a name as a very convincing player to come off the bench and score late goals. Maybe his stats need a slight lift up? We'll see how the real life Sirigu develops. In FM17, he's not really useful to you.


Attacking Midfielders

Jan Rosenthal, 30

Strengths: Aggression 17, Anticipation 15, Determination 17, Teamwork 16, Work Rate 16, Pace 14
Weaknesses: Composure 9, 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 and moved to Darmstadt. He is a relentless worker and 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. He is also quite useful as a Shadow Striker.

László Kleinheisler, 22 (loan)

Strengths: Aggression 17, Work Rate 17, Determination 17, Balance 16, Bravery 16, Dribbling 14
Weaknesses: Composure 8, Decisions 8, Strength 10
PPM: Places shots, Cuts inside from both wings

If you followed the EURO2016, Kleinsheisler might have caught your eye as one of the revelations of the surprisingly successful Hungarian squad. You will also have quickly noticed by now that he is unusually young for the Darmstadt team - and the reason for that is that he's another player on loan. As a young, talented player, he has very convincing mental attributes, is determined and promising - but still lacks some qualities like decision making and physical strength on the field. You can also play him in the flanks (but you have more than enough people there). It is said that Werder Bremen fans were not happy the club loaned him out to another Bundesliga club who might, at the end of the season, compete for the same goals as Bremen: avoiding relegation.

My advice: You have great depth at your disposal in this area, something Darmstadt was missing the year before. In fact, apart form letting Sirigu go, you could probably also decide to get rid of one of the other four wingers. Personally, I don't see a reason to invest in any transfer, unless you want to look to the future and take a young talent on board - apart from Kleinheisler, all those players are 27-30 years. And quite a few of them have only one year left on their contract.

 

Strikers (work in progress)

Strikers.PNG

Quick summary: You have too many strikers for just one or two slots to fill - and all are way too similar. Most of them shine because of their mental strengths and are good support strikers. You lack the one decisive guy upfront.

Sven Schipplock, 27 (loan)

Strengths: Work Rate 18, Aggression 18, Pace 17, Stamina 16, Determination 16, Balance 16
Weaknesses: Decisions 8, Passing 9, Dribbling 10
PPM: Shoots with power
Best role: Defensive Forward

On paper, Schipplock looks just like the striker you might need: Quick, aggressive, with a high work rate. He was longtime seen as a player with the prospect of a great career, playing for Hoffenheim and then Hamburg, but somehow couldn't live up to the expectations. Darmstadt would be the ideal place for him to prove all his critics wrong. Yet somehow, he seems to phlegmatic and too disinterested to grasp this chance. Sometimes, players behave completely different in FM than in real life. Personally, I couldn't turn Schipplock into a success in my first save. Maybe you can?

Roman Bezjak, 27

Strengths: Work Rate 18, Aggression 18, Balance 16, Stamina 16, Off the Ball 16
Weaknesses: Decisions 8, Composure 10, Dribblig 9
PPM: Tries first time shots
Best role: Defensive Forward

Bezjak is the top transfer of the current 2016/17 season, Darmstadt payed the former unimaginable amount of € 2 million to get him (remember, one year before, Vrancic was top transfer for € 500,000). He played for Ludogerets in Bulgaria and Rijeka in Croatia before and is a goal poacher, who can drop deeper or to the wings, if needed. Dribbling and passing are not his strong sides though. He is, to a certain extent, quite similar to Schipplock, with less pace but better orientation in space. None of those two are the kind of striker who save your hide with tons of goals.

Antonio Colak, 22 (loan)

Strengths: Work Rate 16, Aggression 16, Heading 15, Stamina 15, Strength 14
Weaknesses: Decisions 10, Passing 9
PPM: Plays with back to goal, Tries first time shots
Best role: Defensive Forward & Target Man

Colak most probably wouldn't be on board if Felix Platte hadn't injured himself (see below). He as on trial with the club in summer, then dismissed, and then, in a spectacular turn-around, signed his contract literally at the airport gate where Darmstadt gathered to fly off into training camp. (You can google the picture, it looks rather... strange). Colak has talent, and he also has the hunger to prove himself and use Darmstadt as a stepping stone, which has earned him the appreciation of the fans (contrast to Schipplock's behaviour). In your FM 17 world, he is the third strike with high work rate but bad decision making.

Felix Platte, 20 (loan)

Strengths: Jumping Reach 16, Bravery 16, Work Rate 16, First Touch 14, Determination 15
Weaknesses: Passing 10, Finishing 10
PPM: Plays with back to goal
Best role: Target Man & Defensive Forward

Platte is a long-term loan for two seasons, and seemed the first step towards rejuvenating the squad a bit. Alas, he injured himself rather badly in summer, so that even his complete future football career seemed in jeopardy. He will miss almost the complete first half of the season. Given that he is certainly talented but not yet the striker that you need, you can probably terminate his loan (unless you plan to try to develop him and buy him afterwards).

Dominik Stroh-Engel, 30

Strengths: Jumping Reach 17, Strength 16, Heading 15, Off the Ball 15, Penalty 14
Weaknesses: First Touch 9, Acceleration 8, Dribbling 10

Best role: Target Man

Stroh-Engel is a relic of the past years. A fan favorite 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. 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). Contrary to those expectation, he had a good 2. Bundesliga season, but 1. Bundesliga seems to much for him now. "Dodo" is, to a certain extent, the target man you need for those nice crosses that could be delivered from Heller, Oliynyk and Ben-Hatira, but, frankly, he might be out of his league there. You can try to sell him or let him go. (But please thank him for his enormous contribution to Darmstadt's rise before you say good bye).

My advice: You can easily get rid of two or maybe even three of those players. They are too similar and none is too convincing. Plus, you also have Obinna and Rosenthal, who can be more or less useful forwards, depending on your system. Choose between Bezjak, Schipplock and Colak. Personally, I prefer Colak so far, but that might be influenced by his real life performance. This is definitely an area that needs attention. Of course, good forwards normally come with a hefty price tag.

Edited by Jean-Luc

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Tactical Musings

Frankly, I am intrigued by what people come up with themselves, and luckily Football Manager offers a lot of different styles, so don't see this as a tactical guide and more as the start of a discussion. I must admit, though, that I am, 17 match days into my current save, quite successful with those two formations I will present you.

In FM16, the Darmstadt squad was a jigsaw with missing pieces: The squad had no technique, no vision, and was only convincing in mental attributes like work rate and team work. It was clear that this was a team which needs to play defensively and on the counter, but was missing the pace apart from Heller, which made the counters often end in nowhere land.

This year, your tool box upfront is much better. You can equip both flanks with fast, technical wingers, and you have at least a choice of forwards, although they might be not the most convincing ones.

My first choice would be something along the line of this formation here:

A) The 4-2-3-1 DM Wide

4231DMwide.PNG

I was a bit reluctant to field two Ball Winning Midfielders, as they tend to get drawn out of position, but Niemeyer and Gondorf turn out to be very smart players in that regard. A hard working central midfield with Gondorf, Niemeyer and Rosenthal is very, very strong in recuperating second balls, and starting counter attacks. If you want to replace Gondorf with Vrancic, you can change the position to a Playmaker (Deep Lying or Advanced), and add a bit of creativity in the center.

I play Heller and Ben-Hatira, as real life Darmstadt does, but Obinna and Olyniyk are also options, both more useful as Inside Forwards (their PPMs make them cut inside anyway). That's of course also a nice tactical option to decide if you want a winger or an inside forward.

I use two different tactics, depending mostly on the kind of opposition.

Version 1: Fight and bite and scratch

Tactic - Pressing.PNG

This version uses Closing down "more", get stuck in and sit a bit deeper, waiting for the counter and clogging the midfield. It also asks to work the ball into the box, as the whole team isn't really good in long shots. The "get stuck in" leads to more Yellow cards, but I can manage that so far (also due to the depth of the squad).

Version 2: High, wide and far

Tactic - Hoch und Weit.PNG

This version tells the goalkeeper or the defense to kick the ball forward as far as possible. Due to the strong central midfield, we can often win the ball back and thus are already in the opponent's Third. It also makes more use of crosses, which again lead to rather long and high balls. The problem with this version is the missing target man with strong physique, great heading ability and strong finishing. But it works quite well if the opponent is technically so strong that you don't want to engage in any passing contest in midfield.

Here is one occasion where we use it against Dortmund. We have much less ball possession and less completed passes, but score a goal when Ben-Hatira makes it through to the line and crosses the ball to the center where Colak is waiting.

Dortmund.JPG

Obviously, I mix both versions, sometimes adding a bit of closing down or tight marking - or not.

B) The 3-4-1-2 DM Asymmetrical

This is a formation which leaves Darmstadt, at first glance, dangerously wide open on the back, playing only with a defense of three.

3412DMasy.PNG

However, it does have a few advantages. The first one is that quite a few Bundesliga teams with their very widespread 4-2-3-1 are struggling against three/five men defensive lines. They will get through on the flanks, but have only one striker alone against three central defenders.

Second, both Heller and Ben-Hatira are actually quick enough to cover the defense if needed. Well, not always, of course. Also, having two strikers upfront, Schipplock as a Defensive Forward to create space and keep defenders busy, and Colak as Target Man or Advanced Forward, adds some flexibility in the final third.

I can't use Fedetskiy in this formation, but he's not adding that much to build-up anyway, and, as we know, the left full back side is rather weak anyway. So I free up two places to support the attacking movements instead.

I use this formation more or less with the same instructions as the 4-2-3-1. And I admit, it's a fragile one. You have to look closely at the opponent's line up and how your players behave in the first minutes.

 

001 - Lilie klein.png

Transfer Advice

I don't see much use in naming players. FM has a huge database, and there will always be lots of different players who can fill the role. However, here is my advice for what you should look for on the transfer market:

  • A left full back - Unless you want to develop Guwara, maybe with the prospect of buying him from Bremen at the end of the season, you should look for a better and more solid option.
  • A striker - Although you have more than enough strikers in your squad, none of them is really convincing. Last year, Darmstadt was very successful with Sandro Wagner, a tall, physical strong target man, who would go searching for the ball in midfield or wait close to the goal for a cross. Wagner moved on to TSG Hoffenheim and is too expensive for you, but maybe you find a replacement. If not a big target man, maybe a really fast, pacey but determined striker for a counter attacking game.
  • Pace, Pace, Pace - Last year's edition with Darmstadt 98 has proven rather convincingly how important pace is, if you don't have the technical qualities. And not just for one player, but ideally for 2 or 4 players. You should look for that if you want to strengthen any area, just in general.
  • A player for your set pieces - With Konstantin Rausch moving on to 1. FC Köln, you lack a player who can nail your free kicks and corners. As a team that will not get a lot of chances in the box, and equipped with so many players good in the air, a few successful set pieces would be a very useful addition for you.
  • Youth & talent: If you want to turn Darmstadt into a long running success story, you need talent. And you don't have any (except for Guwara and maybe Kleinheisler, who are both on loan).
Edited by Jean-Luc

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Thanks, @nico_france :)

I actually started playing already half a season, and... well, let's say I am quite surprised about a few things. More to come soon!

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Started this save on FM16 and had one of the most intense saves I've ever had on Football Manager.... It ended up with a relegation, but still what a save! I continued the save and still having a lot of fun with other clubs, so much so I haven't bought FM17. 

But to anyone who has got FM!7 and is up for a real challenge I can recommend this save. 

Edited by tmason122

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What a cracking guide it was last season, and this one started in a similar fashion. Kudos for this, makes me feel like starting one with them.

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Central Defenders, Full Backs and Central Midfielders are added.

Next step: The attacking midfield & winger department. Half of them are new guys.

@TheJanitor Please be very welcome to start a save with SV98. Those threads are only fun if people participate and share their own stories. ;)

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@Jean-Luc I have to admit, this thread disappointed me. I'm not a small-club kind of manager (except a brief period in 2007 when I took Torquay United to the Premier League) and when I saw your thread, which I had been expecting for a while, I thought it would come in handy for sending me to sleep.

As I said, I was left very disappointed. What I read didn't send me to sleep at all! It was informative and very impressive; the story of Darmstadt is fantastic, and I'm rather shocked I hadn't heard about it until now!

I have decided on the spot to begin a Darmstadt save, which I will play during my Leverkusen save and continue to play when I get bored of it. This sounds like a fantastic challenge and I can't wait to get started! Great job!

Edited by BanOly

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Jesus, for a moment you could really see my face drop when I read your first sentence. Not what I wanted to read after working 2 hours on this thread. You really got me there, ha! :D

Great to hear that I got you infected. I hope I can wrap up the player introduction and tactical section soon, and then talk a bit about my current save, which I stopped after half the season to write this. :)

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Great thread again Jean-Luc, you deserve to have people join in. Best of luck to you all.

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Great guide mate . So much so I'm going to start as Darmstadt . Always need a good team guide to help me decide. Just selfishly hoping you get the rest done before I get home from work in a few hours :)

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Ahem... I fear that's not gonna happen. ;) I know it's not ideal to present something that has not been finished, but it's on the other hand also sometimes quite helpful (and encouraging) to get feedback on work in progress.

What I might be able to do is jumping straight ahead to some tactical musings, and skip the attacking midfielder/striker part for the moment. The problem with those offensive players is that you actually have too many of them.

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43 minutes ago, Jean-Luc said:

Ahem... I fear that's not gonna happen. ;) I know it's not ideal to present something that has not been finished, but it's on the other hand also sometimes quite helpful (and encouraging) to get feedback on work in progress.

What I might be able to do is jumping straight ahead to some tactical musings, and skip the attacking midfielder/striker part for the moment. The problem with those offensive players is that you actually have too many of them.

Well I'm glad you started as it helped me to pick what team to be! I've only loaded up my game but after a brief look at the squad I'll probably terminate the majority of the loans. The ones that can be cut short. Free up some wages for more important and suited signings ! 

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Yes, you can definitely terminate some loans. There are too many too similar players in your attacking department. Bejzak, Colak and Schipplock is at least one striker too many, and both Colak and Schipplock are on loan. Personally, I prefer Colak, but maybe you can get Bezjak to work for your team as well. Kleinheisler is an interesting player, but often starts from my bench as well. And I mentioned already, that I like what Guwara can bring to the table, but he is quite young and inexperienced.

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6 hours ago, Jean-Luc said:

Yes, you can definitely terminate some loans. There are too many too similar players in your attacking department. Bejzak, Colak and Schipplock is at least one striker too many, and both Colak and Schipplock are on loan. Personally, I prefer Colak, but maybe you can get Bezjak to work for your team as well. Kleinheisler is an interesting player, but often starts from my bench as well. And I mentioned already, that I like what Guwara can bring to the table, but he is quite young and inexperienced.

Ill be keeping Kleinheisler and Guwara but if possible ill be terminating the loans of the others. And Milosevic also if possible. Want to shape the squad myself, not happy with those loans!!

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Wingers and Attacking midfielders are added.

I had a moment of surprise realizing how decent Olyniyk is. He does not play any role in real life Darmstadt so far, so I didn't had him on my radar at all. I know understand much better why he came to me complaining about playing time. :D

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Tactics are in.

The striker section needs texts, and then we're good to go! :)

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I finished the "stiker" section, and the guide is now officially complete.

Good luck, everybody! I am always very happy if people comment and/or share their experiences. I will report on my own progress soon. :)

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My SV Darmstadt 98: Winter 2016/17 update

So, here's the surprise... After half of the season, we look more than good. In fact, we look great!

Sitting in 6th place.

17 - Hinrunde.PNG

The league table is mostly what you should expect, with Bayern at the top, and the likes of Wolfsburg, Mönchengladbach and Schalke behind - and promoted, but money loaded RB Leipzig also in the mix. Leverkusen and to a certain extent Dortmund have been disappointing so far.

As you can see, our most effective player is Änis Ben-Hatira (proving once more that you should not pay too much attention for the "star rating" in FM), scoring, assisting, and generally being brilliant.

As already mentioned in the thread, I couldn't get any of the strikers becoming overly successful. Ben-Hatira and Rosenthal were the best forwards first. Lately, Colak has been pleasing. At least, he seemed to be in the right places and make the right decisions, when it mattered. 4 goals after half a season are not something to write home about, of course.

This is our set up from last game against Augsburg (of course, now everybody is on holiday, as the Bundesliga sleeps in winter break).

20 - Aufstellung.JPG

You'll notice Gondorf and Heller missing in midfield; both were injured. We were not that lucky with injuries this time, but due to the squad's depth, could cover injuries quite nicely (and none was too long).

These are our results:

21 - Results.JPG

Basically, Darmstad scored where it mattered: Against the mid-table and smaller teams. We had to concede clear defeats against Bayern, Schalke, Leverkusen and Wolfsburg - all "big guns". The defeat against RB Leipzig was closer, but still not worrying. I am especially happy about our last win, a convincing 4-0 against Augsburg (with former Darmstadt manager Dirk Schuster - who had to leave after loosing against us; oh the irony!).

22 - Augsburg.JPG

If anybody is interested in the Bundesliga in general, here are the manager movements so far:

Leverkusen (obviously) had to do something about sitting almost at the bottom of the table. Rudi Garcia, who in real life just took over Olympique Marseille, is quite a surprising name for Bundesliga standards, though. Köln was also not happy and brought with Colantuono a manager I haven't even heard of (in FM, Bundesliga clubs often hire too many foreign managers to my liking; it's not really reflecting reality). Dortmund just fired Thomas Tuchel, and I mentioned Augsburg already.

23 - Manager.JPG

In terms of transfers:

There were almost none. I normally swith off the transfer window with clubs that I like, just to keep the current squad. In this special case, being the researcher of Darmstadt, I wanted to know how the squad feels and behaves.

I did get two players on board on a free and on loan, though. Nothing too special:

Anderson Santana is a left full back with experience, who was meant to be a back up for young Guwara. Guwara actually surprised me, and he delivered a few very, very good games - until he got himself long term injured. Like... really long term. 4-5 months. My team advised me to terminate the loan, but I kept him, just for gratitude of being so surprisingly good.

Santana is solid defensively and decent going forward, but I don't remember any particular match from him.

24 - Santana.JPG

The other new addition to the team is another Brazilian, 18 years old. I could only get him as a loan, but I have a buying clause at the end of the season. He is my first try to rejuvenate the squad and add some potential. Rosenthal is not getting any younger.

He was actually rather pleasing so far. I can throw him in without having to fear that he destabilizes the set up. He also has no glaring weakness, and also an amazing array of PPMs.

25 - Evander.JPG

So.

That's it.

Happy to hear from you! :)

 

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Well @Jean-Luc, it seems that you're nicely over performing !

Who knows? May be champions league football by the end of the season :D

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Yeah... I don't think so. :D I would be quite amazed if we can hold this position. Of course, if that's where you are after half of the season, you at least try to make it happen. It would be way too awesome to play intercontinental matches with this squad (although I fear they would thrash us).

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Very nice thread and a nice challenge.

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Thank you tyro. :) I hope we get a few more people to play and join this thread. :)

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I would definitely join but I just started my Leverkusen save and slowly getting into it. Somehow I seem to get more attached to a save this year around (although I did start with several teams but to try out the beta and FMT and full version etc.).

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So? Anybody else started a save and has anything to share?

Real life Darmstadt conceded a very depressing and bleak home defeat today against Ingolstadt. They looked really dire, and if they continue to play like this, you might have to start with them in 2. Bundesliga in FM2018. ;)

I have started a second save with Sunderland (I seem to be drawn towards teams battling against relegation), so my Darmstadt save is, for the moment, on hold, but I will shift between the two teams and I am very eager to see how the second half of my season develops. In fact, sometimes it's very interesting to play another team; it helps you learn about the first one. For example: I was confused to notice that the Sunderland squad is not as thorough and clinical in closing down opponent, winning the ball back and initiating counter attacks after winning the second ball, as my SV Darmstadt guys were, although I started with a similar formation. I guess work rate, team work, bravery and aggression do go a long way here...

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Right, time to get this thread firing again. Had a save last year and and loads of fun, mainly because it was one hell of a challenge. This year the squad looks better, and has a bit more flair, but is still really quite a terrible team.

Have just started a save and disabled transfers in the first window. It's been a fair struggle early on, but results have started picking up of late. 

Will post picture and updates soon.

Edited by Rubentus_Juventus

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So I'm offcially half way through the season...and somehow I am 9th despite having the equal worst defensive record in the league. Things started out quite poorly, but I had had no worries finding the net. A few tactical tweaks have seen the team win 5 of the last 8. 

I've gone with a 4-2-3-1 so far. Aytac Sulu had started the first 6 games of the season...where he gave away 5 penalties. The worst performing defender I have ever used, no matter what tactic I used to make sure he didn't dive into tackles...he did. I just had to get rid of him, and sold him off to Al-Gharrafa for 1.2m on 16/12/16. Didn't feel right, but had to be done. Milosevic hasn't been great either, but better. Really need a left back, a center back in the winter window.

So far my star man has been Roman Bezjak who has somehow managed to score 14 in 17 (equal highest in league). Vrancic has been brilliant at AMC as advanced playmaker support - chipping in with 10 direct goal scoring contributions in 17 starts. Marcel Heller and Ben Hatira has been solid on the wings, although Obinna has been a disappointment. Really expected from him - hence  Heller and Ben Hatira had been starting. 

Only 3 points from European Qualification, that's the goal.

Table.png

Fixtures.png

Tactical Instructions.png

Tactics.png

Vrancic.png

Heller.png

Anis.png

Bezjak.png

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Great read, once again. I've actually been itching to give a Germany club a go on FM17 now that the transfer bug is fixed, and while I've been mostly looking at Ingolstdt or Koln, I may have to give Darmstadt a good look as well. Look forward to keeping up with this thread regardless.

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