This is the fifth installment from guest author Grant Sales.
We started in July, looking at the holes in the team. First up, we needed a striker behind Andy Delort. So I managed to pick up promising 18-year-old forward Mosquito.
He would be perfect in the False 9 role, looking at his attribute graphic. Also coming in early on was left back Yassin Mohammed.
A great find for me, and he was going to be the main left back, when I sold Bouhours ASAP.
Next signing was after we’d sold our two players. We were in a bidding war with lower Ligue 1 and Serie B sides over Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya’s Humam Tariq, the Iraqi playmaker.
He was willing to come for £2.5k p/w, but I upped this wage by £300 and bumped his bonuses up, including an international cap bonus and a 20% yearly bonus. Also I had to keep his agent sweet with a massive bonus. He leapt at the chance and signed up. That was £195k out of the budget.
We made three loan signings; Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek to cover the defensive middle of the park role, Stade Malherbe Caen’s Yrondu Musavu-King as a covering centre-back and Man City’s Jose Angel Pozo as cover for the right side & striker roles.
Later in the transfer window, we managed to pick up a prospect goalkeeper, prospect full-back and Mahamadou Diarra, as yet more cover for the defensive midfield role. Diarra’s signing was only able, because the on-loan Andy Delort got injured for 2 months in the game against Ajaccio. I chose to cancel his hard-coded loan and get back the £5k p/w that he was being paid. Finally, Sami Pineau was signed by my DoF as a hot youth prospect.
First in the door was a new Ass Man. Philippe Anzani was gonna be my guy.
A good WWYD (16) was coupled with good Technical (15) training and a good Level of Discipline (14). All I needed for this current period. I did try to swap the previous Ass Man for a monkey in a suit with a cigar, but he kept eating fleas off the mascot…
Next guy in the door was scout Rachid Maatar.
He’s got great JPP (16), which is all I want really for a scout. Signed in the early days of November, he was sent to find any decent French youth in Italy!
On finding Gilbey’s HOYD contract was up at the end of the year, I looked for a new HOYD and a newgen guy ticked ALL the right boxes. Enter Raymond Leparte.
He was an absolute gem and should be good for me for a good few years.
I was given a new contract by Tours FC, a one-year extension, which is good! At that meeting, I reiterated the fact that I wanted to develop the youth and I got a Junior Coaching upgrade. We suffered a lot with injuries this year, Beefy was out for 4 months with a torn groin and a lot of other players were injured for a game or two, which made it hard to keep a settled squad.
Season So Far
We kicked off the season with trepidation. Not gonna lie, I was worried about how this formation would work. Here’s how it panned out in the league. All matches were watched on Key highlights.
U.S Creteil-Lusitanos – 0-0 (H) A dull 0-0 draw kicked off our campaign. But we managed 19 shots to their 3. So that’s a decent marker to how we were doing, in my opinion.\
ESTAC Troyes – 3-1 (A) Woo! Our first win! A problem from a corner saw us go down in the 38th minute, but a rocket up the backside at HT (Aggressive Team Talk) saw Kevin Diaz score the equaliser on 49 minutes. Next up, Andy Delort bundled home on 69 minutes to put us in the lead. Deport was struggling badly in the F9 role, so I was looking to replace him. Finally, Kevin Diaz sealed the points with his second goal on 72 minutes. A good win, needs work on covering people at corners.
Valenciennes FC – 1-1 (H) This was a very even game, even if we had just a little of the upper hand. Stats were equal for most ways, what we were up, we were also down. A good pass completion rate and tackle rate (both above 75%) helped. We conceded from another set piece again. This means that I should really look at devising a separate set pieces defence, I guess. However, a 90th minute thunderous free-kick was parried into the path of Human Tariq who buried it.
AC Ajaccio – 1-1 (A) Another dominating performance by us. Sadly it only resulted in a draw as Ajaccio scored their only shot on target, a penalty on the stroke of half time. This tied it up as Rodolphe Pinhiero finished a nice move across the box on 38 minutes.
Angers SCO – 0-0 (H) We played well in this game as well. Edging possession and pulling off 22 shots to Angers’ 8. Both passing and tacking stats over 75% for the game too.
AC Arles-Avignon – 2-2 (A) Avignon scored on their first shot, a through ball in which my keeper came out for, then turned back when it was almost at his feet. Sigh. They then went further into the lead on 32 minutes when a chipped cross from the byline took out my entire defence and goalie to gift them a second goal. However, an aggressive team talk of ‘Demand More’ saw us score twice in a minute’s span. First, our CM (S) Xavier Chavalain fired home from the edge of the area to reduce the deficit, then barely a minute later, Jose Angel Pozo collected a Tariq through ball and fired home into the net. Alassane Touré was sent straight off for a professional foul on 60 minutes which meant that we had to go on the defensive. Luckily, we never conceded after that.
U.S Orléans – 2-0 (H) An astonishing 31 shots for us, with only 8 on target. 2 shots off the woodwork and 6 blocked shots. We only made two count. Humam Tariq advanced past the striker to fire home from the edge of the area on 25 minutes, which was what I wanted from my formation. Our second goal was a header from a corner by Yrondu Musavu-King on 63 minutes. Since I haven’t touched the corner instructions, it’s a good one to see.
AS Nancy-Lorraine – 1-5 (A) This was that game that makes you question everything. We were torn apart by mistake on mistake. An own-goal in the first minute set them on their way and a goal from Jose Angel Pozo, forcing home his own rebound on 40 minutes merely added a veneer of respectability, the game didn’t deserve, We were constantly caught on the break in the first half. I moved the defensive line back for the 22 mins left in the first half (we were already 0-3 down) and we scored form that. But I then put us attacking in the second half and paid for it.
FC Sochaux-Montbé – 3-1 (H) Two goals in the first twenty minutes from corners saw us right. Both came in different ways, which leads me to believe that it’s the opposition that was poor, not the standard of my set pieces. (I haven’t even bothered setting my deadfall takers). Both Bogdan Milosevic & Alassane Touré benefitted. We conceded just after HT, but a late goal by Christian Kouakou, a cross shot that was fumbled into the net, sealed the deal.
Stade Brestois 29 – 1-1 (A) Another even game, where we took the lead through a Kevin Díaz penalty on 22 minutes, but were pegged back on 28 minutes by, again, a finish from a through ball where the centre backs went too narrow.
Nîmes Olympique – 2-1 (H) Billy Ketkeo’s 20 yard strike into the top corner on 23 minutes gave us the lead and then his thunderous free-kick from the edge of the area on 70 minutes doubled our lead. A long ball over the top on 81 minutes saw my 5’ 11 DC, playing because of injuries and suspensions, turn and follow the flight of the ball, bundling over their striker in the area. He, of course, saw red and they dispatched the resulting penalty. Anyone else wonder why I hate 5’ 11” DC’s????
La Berrichone de Chateauroux – 2-3 (A) We scored first on 24 minutes though a whipped cross and head home by our 5’ 7” striker Mosquito. An entirely comfortable 65 minutes suddenly saw us fall apart. DR Diawara played the central striker onside as a long ball over the top caught us out again to concede the equaliser. Then on 73 minutes, again, a clipped ball past static centre-backs saw their striker finish with aplomb. Finally, on 80 minutes, a low cross from the left as picked up at the near post and fired home. We were shell-shocked. Billy Ketkeo fired home from the edge of the area after good passing from a throw high up the pitch on 87 minutes, but it was no good.
Stade Lavallois MFC – 3-2 (A) 2 goals down by 11 minutes, tied up at 2-2 by 22 minutes… The first goal was conceded by, you’ve guessed it, a ball in passed the centre back. The second was a suicidal back pass that was gobbled up and scored. The first goal by us on 13 minutes was exactly how I envisioned my formation to work. Mosquito (F9) picked up the ball deep, was fouled. Human Tariq (SS) picked the ball up, ran on and slipped in Kevin Diaz (W), who cut inside and fired home. The equaliser saw Kevin Diaz tripped in the area and he netted the resulting penalty. Laval lost a man to a second yellow card on 78 minutes and on 81 minutes, an intercepted ball in our own box was hoofed out to Pozo on the wing. He picked it up, took two steps and bent a pass with the outside of his boot to the completely clear Humam Tariq, who steadied himself and smashed it home for the winning goal.
AJ Auxerre – 2-1 (H) Auxerre were bottom of the table at this point, but it took 72 minutes to get anywhere against them. I dominated the game, 8 SOT to their 3 SOT. The breakthrough came from Mosquito, dropping deep to give the ball back to Diarra. He passed to a cut-inside Díaz, who slipped in Humam Tariq. His turn left the defender for dead and dinked his shot over the keeper. However, on 82 minutes, a young Auxerre player that I had been tracking for months picked up the ball deep and launched a howitzer from the edge of the ‘D’ into the top corner for the equaliser. That wasn’t it, as a free kick was taken from the left and Léo Schwechlen rose highest to head home the winner on 88 minutes.
Chamois Niortais FC – 3-1 (A) Another goal early on as we conceded a near post header from a corner after 5 mins. We couldn’t seem to get into any gear at all and were second best to anything. It took till 54 minutes to generate anything really and it came from an unlikely source, a thunderbolt from 30 yards by Ruben Loftus-Cheek that hit the underside of the bar as it sailed in. On an all-too-rare attack in this game five minutes later, we scored again, Mosquito firing home from an angle after being put through by Pinhiero. Finally, on 73 minutes, Human Tariq sent the ball out wide from the edge of the area, then darted in to be on the end of the low cross to finish beautifully. This was the first real game that we had been out-classed, yet had come away with a win. Was a satisfying game.
GFC Ajaccio – 2-2 (H) Another game, another early conceded goal. From a set piece. At the near post. Our equaliser on 11 minutes was possibly my favourite goal so far this season. A short corner was played to Pozo, who chipped the ball out to the edge of the area, where it was met by a thunderous half-volley by Kevín Díaz in acres of space. Kevín Díaz was the provider and scorer of the next goal, just two minutes later, winning the penalty and also scoring it. However, we were pegged back on 33 minutes by the old chestnut, a through ball that beat my centre backs and a first time shot that sailed past the keeper.
Clermont Foot Auvergne 63 – 1-0 (A) I can’t begin to say how even this game was. Stats, eye test, everything. We battled to an almost standstill until 61 minutes when Kevín Díaz cut inside and, on receiving the ball, fired a low shot wide of the keeper for the game’s only goal. Again, the first real game where we were matched against the other team.
Havre Athletic Club – 2-2 (H) We battered them. 33 shots on goal. However, we were undone by the long ball over the top on 2 minutes, with the defence looking bemused. Mosquito hauled us level on 19 minutes, pouncing on Bergougnoux’s blocked shot to fire wide past the committed keeper. We then went into the lead on 54 minutes with the tried and tested combo. Mosquito picked the ball up deep, fed the ball to Humam Tariq ahead of him, who’s fierce shot was fumbled into the net by their keeper. However, Havre equalised on 75 minutes with a goal reminsicent of Hull’s first goal in the 2014 FA Cup Final IRL. A cross-cum-shot found it’s way to the far post when the player stabbed in.
i wanted to give myself the first half of the season to really bed in the new tactic and to see where I could improve. In my mind, there were two main issues.
The centre backs kept getting dragged out of position and beaten on a long ball or through ball – This could be to do with a number of issues. First off, it could be the high defensive line. That’s easily solvable. I’ve removed the ‘Push Higher Up’ instruction, which should alleviate some of the problems. Also, I have designated one of the DC’s as having a Cover duty. This, again, should help. My other sneaking thought is that my DC’s don’t have good enough anticipation to play high up. However, a quick check of their stats show that they range between 11 and 14, so that thought is out. Maybe I might designate the non-covering defender to man-mark the opposition striker. Tight marking might help on that.
See here, the defender is completely out-of-position when it comes to the long ball, allowing the striker to easily beat him and score. What we could do with is that defender just a few steps back, in order to either head the ball away or challenge the striker before he gets to the goal.
2. Getting constantly beaten at the near post from set pieces – This one just requires a bit more work on the set pieces side of things. I’m not too bothered.
Other than that, I am really happy with how we’ve played so far this season. Despite the propensity to concede early goals, we’ve only really had two matches where we’ve been outplayed. the 1-5 loss against AS Nancy Lorraine & the 3-1 win over Chamois Niortais FC. Currently top of Ligue 2, we could go far this season.