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SATURDAY March 2nd, 2019
Ricardo Moniz has complained in his press conference that I have too many foreign players at N.E.C. I’m sorry Ricardo, is my job to prop up Dutch football? Maybe you should take your obvious talents to the national youth setup and produce some players good enough to play for us. Or maybe Dutch players should stop asking to be paid so much money by financially challenged clubs like us. Or maybe you should pay attention to how you can beat us tomorrow.
SUNDAY March 3rd, 2019
Game day. PEC Zwolle v N.E.C.
It turns out that Moniz does, indeed, need to spend more time thinking about his tactics. A darting goal by Vela and a well-struck strike from a hobbled Zorba pretty much sealed the game in the first half. Golla gave us the clincher late in the second half and it was too late by the time they got one back in the 80th minute.
Ajax just aren’t losing any games. A new tactical approach is needed. Ajax have a fifty year head start. We need fewer draws. The way to do that is to score goals. To score more goals, you just add more strikers, right? So I’ve started training with two guys up front. That means those two inside forwards/wingers have to move back. Now I have three banks of players. Four across the back, four across the middle, and two up front. I’m going to call it 4-4-2. I think it might revolutionise soccer.
SATURDAY March 10th, 2019
Game day. Roda JC v N.E.C.
I started with the 4-4-2 for the first time today. It certainly created more goals… Crivelli and Uth started up front. It was enough to make the heart soar. In the span of seven seconds in the 7th minute, Enzo Crivelli had three shots. One of them was a goal. Nice start, I thought. Ten minutes later I had to take him off due to an injury. That meant the young Trujillo came on. He scored his first goal for the club (and game) in the 23rd. Nice start, I continued to think.
Kagasawa set up Vela for a third a few minutes later and the party started. Then their horrible Australian, Tomi Juric, spoiled that party setting up one goal and scoring a second in the dying minutes of the first half. 3-2.
The game started back up in a fairly cagey manner after that two-goal comeback. We were still ahead by a goal, but the anxiety was clear. I’d had enough and brought Christian on at the 70th minute. Van der Heijden scored two minutes later. Not a coincidence. Then Trujillo scored his second. 5-2 and we were happy again. Then that interminable Aussie scored again to create a few wobbles. Christian Santos provided the wobble remedy right from the ensuing kickoff and we made it to six. The ref blew his whistle not long after that and everyone was a bit shellshocked. Nine goals in a game!
So, I guess this 4-4-2 is the revolution everyone (me) was expecting.
SUNDAY March 10th, 2019
Ajax have drawn their last two games. We are thirteen points behind them with seven games to go. If they draw the rest of their games, we are in with a shot! One can dream. More reachable is second place, where Feyenoord are eight points ahead of us. Still a stretch, but I have to hope for something.
TUESDAY March 12th, 2019
Roda JC just fired their manager. How many people have I had fired after embarrassing them in a game? Must be up to four or five now. This is clearly a story that the media are missing out on. What’s the protocol for sending press releases about how great you are? Maybe I’ll have a word with our media lady tomorrow.
WEDNESDAY March 13th, 2019
I’ve done some soul searching. There’s no point in playing for the league now. Second or third place will be fine for getting us into Europe again next season. However, we need to win a trophy this season or I’m going to have nothing to impress my grandmother with. All of our focus will now be on winning the Europa League or the Dutch Cup. I know which one I’d prefer, but beggars can’t be choosers.
This revolutionary 4-4-2 system I’ve developed will be used for the league games in preparation for a very different league campaign next season. We need to start the season better and the best way to do that is to score five goals every game. I think once the boys have become more accustomed to this way of playing, we can really start scoring big every game. Having a full transfer window will help me sculpt the team to better fit as well. Another Uth, Fetfatzidis, and Diarra would be very nice.
THURSDAY March 14th, 2019
Game day. N.E.C. v Fiorentina. Europa League 2nd Knockout Round 1st Leg.
The Italians brought their much-vaunted Korean keeper, Kim Seung-Gyu, to the Goffert. We provided our Uruguayan, Goicoechea. Well, not really ours, but close enough. Our secret weapon, obviously, was the 4-4-2. Fiorentina were clearly confused in the first half. In the battle of the keepers, it was the Uruguayan who provided the first highlight with a flat-out rejection in the 17th minute. It was glorious. However, he was called into action way more than was comfortable for me in the first 25 minutes.
As luck would have it, Vela, the jolly one, scored a goal in the 25th. That put us in a nice position that was a little bit (maybe more) against the run of play. We got to the half with the lead intact. I told the boys to concentrate a bit more at the back so Mauro didn’t have to do some much work.
Yeah, that didn’t work. Goicoechea had to handle a two on one in the 74th but somehow he shut it down. Where were my defenders? No idea. In the 82nd minute the inevitable happened. Fortunately for my players, it wasn’t bad defending this time, just a wonder strike. We ended up with a draw at home and a man of the match for Mauro. Not ideal. We fly to Italy next week needing a win to progress.
THURSDAY March 21st, 2019
We cruised past sc Heerenveen with a single goal from Trujillo. Cruised might be the wrong term. We picked up seven yellow cards and they earned five. It was a bit of a battle of attrition with my youngsters playing in order to relieve the stresses on the senior team ahead of this all-important Europa League match.
Game day. Fiorentina v N.E.C. Europa League 2nd Knockout Round 2nd Leg.
I explained to the boys that it was quite important for us to score a goal. Three would be nice, but at least one. We started with the 4-4-2 again with little Trujillo and big Uth up front. Ayoub was at full fitness. Hopes were high.
In the fifth minute, the Italians drove into the box, but it only resulted in a weak shot that Goicoechea wrapped up. Buttocks unclenched. Vela had a clear chance in the 24th and a few more came and went, but no goal. Goicoechea made a killer save towards the end of the half and a second from the ensuing corner.
In the second half, our Uruguayan continued his one-man effort to keep us in the game. To add to his showcase, Goicoechea started a counter attack in the 73rd minute. His long kick went to Santos, who whipped a ball into Fetfatzidis. The Greek did a little dance around two players and sent the ball wide to Breno. Breno then sent it right back to a running Zorba, who struck the ball into the net. It was a team goal to be proud of.
The home fans were distraught. A silence swept across the ground that was music to my ears. We dropped back to finish out the game and finish it out we did. We were through to the quarter finals again. Tomorrow we find out who we play.
FRIDAY March 22nd, 2019
We’ve drawn Tottenham. The dreaded Tottenham. Our European spoilers from the first campaign. Ohio’s favourite team and thus, a Michigander’s enemy. When we dispatch Spurs we will face either OM or Roma. It would have been nice to get Wolfsburg as we know we can beat them. Spurs are like another race of man.
SUNDAY March 24th, 2019
Game day. FC Utrecht v N.E.C.
We necessarily started a slightly weakened team (wouldn’t admit that to the press, of course) after the European high drama. Of course, I was punished for it. Midway through the second half, a man named Marvelous undid us with a lobbed header over the head of Jimmy Smits. We tried, but couldn’t get the goal to level the score.
Dutch teams are really starting to press us, sometimes sending three men to the ball carrier. Obviously there have been some clandestine meetings in which the other managers discuss options to overcome my tactical … is genius too strong a word? I find this more than a little unfair.