"The Fibra Battleground" - Orange Is The New Black #FM19

FC Lorient Header.jpg

Second season syndrome is the now-common phrase that is used to describe a downturn in fortunes for a football club in its second season after its promotion to the Premier League of English football – particularly if the first season after promotion had brought a strong finish (M.Cheetham 2007. Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_season_syndrome).

Season 2020/21

There was a certain amount of trepidation going into my third season with FC Lorient and my second season in France’s top tier.  The old cliché of the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ nestled in the back of my head, but this is France and not England, right?


Despite solid results from our friendlies, we had some awful pre-season luck.  The big news story was ‘The Curious Case of Alphonso Davies’.  Arguably the Ligue 1 Summer transfer coup, as FC Lorient attracted one of Bayern’s wonderkids to North Western France on a two-year loan.  His explosiveness would have given me a different option to the left sided Inside Forward Jimmy Cabot or central Deep Lying Forward Gaëtan Courtet.

But the joy of signing Alphonso quickly turned to tears as he snapped his leg on his pre-season debut:

As the image above shows, I was able to cancel the deal due to de-selecting the defaulted ‘Loan cannot be terminated’ clause when negotiating with Bayern.  Based on my interactions at the time I appreciate this move would not have been made by everyone, fellow FMers like TheFmNewby, James and Dan would have done things differently.  But I simply did not want to pay for Alphonso to sit around injured as my top earner for 5 months.  In just the statutory 28 days, Alphonso Davies had been and gone.  Disaster.

To further the misery in the final week of Pre-Season, Club Chairman Loïc Féry accepted a €13.25m bid from FC Köln for Fonsinho - a player who I signed 18 months previously for €230k.  It’s great profit, from a player who flourished with me in his short spell.  8 goals and 10 assists in his debut Ligue 1 season meant he would be sorely missed in 2020/21.

Fonsinho’s sale and injuries to both Gaëtan Courtet’s (last season’s top scorer) and Jimmy Cabot resulted in us going into the first two games of the season with a completely different three-man attack from last season.  It’s no surprise then that we failed to score in back-to-back 0-1 defeats.  The second season syndrome was now coming to the forefront of my mind as we headed for an inevitable relegation dogfight.

Or were we?

We unequivocally rose up the table, six wins on the bounce after those two defeats. Eleven league wins and six draws, the only blip an away defeat Vs Paris Saint Germain. Take that Ole Gunnar Solskjær!

The Fibra Battleground

Achilles Goss’ Lorient have improved, but how and why?  My immediate thought was to turn to ‘fibra’ as an explanation for the upwardly mobile performances of my team.  As mentioned in my introductory post:

“I don't want to restrict myself in terms of recruitment…like the previous two years.  I will not feel guilty if I want that luxury flair player or tricky winger.  However, I want to get ample fibra in the positions and roles that matter.

[A brief description on the concept of fibra and how I use it as a recruitment strategy was introduced a couple of years ago: here).

So what roles am I trying to fill with adequate fibra?  Answer: the central spine of the team aka the fibra battleground; Central Defence, Central Midfield and the Central Striker role.  These players typically situate themselves in areas on the pitch where you’d want players to show a bit more fight.  It’s no coincidence that, in reality softer, less aggressive players get pushed out wide.  So, for those central roles I am placing great emphasis on the below attributes (that I interpret to encapsulate fibra):

  • Aggression - the willingness to immerse themselves in the physical battle, I always imagine a high rating here is like having the ‘Get Stuck In’ team instruction permanently on.  Highly aggressive players just love to get involved.

  • Bravery - the willingness to put his body on the line for his team.  In the match engine, this is often demonstrated as a goal saving block or that ridiculous defensive recovery.  But it can also be the desire to get on the end of an offensive chance (see example GIF further on in this post).

  • Determination - The desire to dig deep, even in the face of initial setbacks.  A high determined set of players will increase the chances of turning a losing position into a draw or a win.

  • Teamwork - to work within a tactical system and style of play.  Any style, anywhere, is benefited by having players that follow suit.

  • Work Rate - Like the above, any team is benefited from having players who give their absolute everything.  It’s no good having a Ferrari-Maserati engine…to only drive it in 2nd gear.

But after looking at my team’s progression in fibra over the last three years, the gains are minimal:

From a First Team perspective, our collective fibra has been more-or-less steady at a player average of 64-65 fibra over the three years.  We have seen a slight rise though in the ‘fibra battleground’ roles, where we now average 70 fibra per position (out of a possible 100).

However, now that I have money (from the Fonsinho deal and ‘Guerreiro’s Gift’), I can go out and sign some fibra intensive players at long last.  Much of my strong start can be attributed to the late-in-the-day transfers of Enzo Crivelli (81 fibra) & Assane Dioussé (63 fibra) for a combined total of €5.5m.  Both are strong mentally, with the addition of being very good elsewhere (Physically & Technically).  They are also stereotypical Lorient signings too, as both players were picked up from Ligue 2, due to Caen & Saint-Étienne’s relegation in my simulated FM seasons.  I like to think, in save narrative terms, that they have a point to prove in France…and boy are they doing it!  Between themselves, Enzo and Assane have been match winners multiple times this season already…

Enzo Crivelli (81 fibra).

Assane Dioussé (63 fibra).

Enzo Crivelli has slotted straight into our setup as a Deep Lying Forward, he’s making the support role work a bit better due to his traits of dropping deeper and playing with his back to goal. He’s up for the fight, as his debut goal Vs Stade Rennais demonstrates. Fibra, yeh boy…

Enzo Crivelli, 9 goals from 16 starts (all comps). Here is his first…

Assane Dioussé introduction has been similarly impressive, an average rating of 7.26 with four goals and six assists from sixteen starts (all comps). All from a variety of roles: Box To Box midfield, Ball Winning Midfielder & Central Midfield Attack…he can do it all!

There’s been some wonderful passes and exquisite finishes, but Assane Dioussé also does the rough side well.

What’s Next?

As I sit on an overall balance of €1.5m, the club continues to haemorrhage money like it’s going out of fashion.  But we head into the second half of the season with a real chance at securing European football for 2021/22.  This would certainly see us consolidate a secure financial position, perhaps allowing me to fill the team with even more fibra too.  Furthermore, qualification would also be enough to convince me commit to a new contract with FC Lorient (my current deal expires in the Summer).  Can Goss’ Lorient do it?

As always, to find out what happens next on OITNB follow me on Twitter (@FM_Grasshopper), on FM Slack (#fmgrasshopper)…or on here for the next post.

Thanks for reading/sharing/caring.

FM Grasshopper

"Guerreiro’s Gift" - Orange Is The New Black #FM19

Previously on Orange Is The New Black, Achilles Goss kept faith with his players.


Better than Ole Gunnar Solskjær?

"No" - the answer to the above question.

In the last two editions of Football Manager I have posed similar questions to myself, comparing my exploits to the managerial feats of José Mourinho at Inter Milan & Osvaldo Zubeldía’s Estudiantes. I’m unsure if it’s a sign of regression, or the state of things here at FC Lorient…but my in-game persona, Achilles Goss, failed to beat Ole Gunnar Solskjær to the 2019/20 Ligue 1 Manager of The Year award. Despite a successful season, with Lorient retaining their place in France’s top tier and exceeding board & fan expectations: Solskjær won. A manager who improved Lille from 15th place to 6th and won nothing, hardly justifying the award is it?

Never mind, my second season in Football Manager 2019 has been a blast. We stayed up and played some good football in the process…perhaps a little too brazen at times (going six months without an away win) but I’ve enjoyed it all the same. It’s even led me to reject the summer advances of En Avant Guingamp, Stuttgart & OL. I’ve decided to honour my Lorient contract…which means at least one more year here in the North West of France.

But ending the season €6.5m in debt reminds me of the task at hand, Goss’ Lorient aren’t out of the woods just yet. However, a gift awaits…

Season 2019/20

It was an unspectacular 2nd half of the season, where we struggled for consistency.  We won the last four remaining home games, whilst ending the season on a 6-match losing streak away from home.  It painfully highlights that my tactic needs perfecting, which will be a central focus as I head into pre-season.

But let's face it: a 7th placed finished has surpassed my initial expectations for the season, we were never in a relegation scrap as we pushed for Europe in the final weeks. The theme of 'Trust' from my previous blog post was undeniably rewarded as nine players from the previous Ligue 2 season started in our XI on the final day of the season (a 3-1 home win to relegate Nice).

The climax to season 2.

N°1 en Bretagne!

I am also happy with the output I am getting from my trio of attackers: IF-DLF-W.  Central Striker Gaëtan Courtet equalling his league goal scoring tally for last season with 18 goals.  Also, big outputs from Fonsinho 8 goals/10 assists and Cabot with a league topping 60 key passes for the season.  I am also happy with Victorien Angban who made the central midfield slot his own as a Ball Winning Midfielder on support duty.

Areas to strengthen are clearly at Right Back, as temporary solution Christophe Jallet retires after a year back at Lorient.  Also, my loan players: Younousse Sankharé, Alexis Blin and Facundo Colidio depart meaning that vacancies need to be filled centrally in midfield and upfront.

Guerreiro’s Gift

Now on to the subject matter of today’s title.  As mentioned in the intro, our debt had progressively grown over the last 12 months.  Despite 19 of our 20 home attendances of 2019/20 being full capacity crowds of 17,076 fans, it's still not enough revenue coming into the club when combined with the meagre TV money that French clubs receive.  Achilles Goss' FC Lorient are in a Catch-22 right now: we need to invest in improvements to the team in order to stay competitive (thus becoming more commercially attractive for future investment), but also manage the debt sensibly.

The task at hand was laid before me as I finished my inaugural season back in France’s top flight:

I'm accepting of the fact that I will need to sell in order to buy, it's actually proving a good challenge within the save.  However, there was still one card up my sleeve yet to be played.  Something I have been aware of since Day 1 of the save: the 20% of Dortmund's Raphaël Guerreiro's next transfer, who played for FC Lorient for 3 years during 2013-2016.

To view Transfer Clauses, visit the 'Transfers' screen and head to 'Clauses'.  You will notice the currency symbol where clauses can be 'bought out' or ‘cashed out’.  This means your Board have negotiated with other clubs to end the arrangement and this works for both incoming and outgoing clauses. 

E.g. You may have signed a guy and agreed to pay the selling club X amount after 20 league goals.  You can buy yourself out of this agreement for a lump sum, which will be cheaper than if you let the clause run its course.

In the case of Raphaël Guerreiro, I will only get 20% of the next transfer once he is signed by another club…so the fee and timing of that money coming in are outside of my control.  Something which has been frustrating me over the last 2 years, as I patiently waited for bids to arrive…whilst casually spiralling into further debt!  However, my Board has been negotiating a ‘cash-out’ during this time, and after viewing this screen over the course of 18 months I can see that there are good moments to exercise these deals.  With the below factors influencing the cash-out value:

  1. Age.  Guerreiro is moving into his prime years.  My observations lead me to believe that the clause's cash-out is dictated by how close a player is to his ability cap (CA/PA).

  2. Similarly, the value changing could be based around more factors than just age/ability, perhaps additional factors that influence transfer value…such as: remaining contract length & wage.

  3. Time in the season.  The value increased over the two years in the approach to every transfer window.  In fact, sometimes the clause was not even available to sell.  Leading me to think that the Board negotiated different deals each time on the lead up to windows.

  4. Interested clubs.  Another factor that seemed to boost the cash-out value was the number of clubs interested in a permanent transfer.  At the end of January 2019 (when still in Ligue 2), Guerreiro's cash-out value was around €7.8m due to the European Heavyweights of Barcelona, Man City, & PSG all being interested in him.  At the time, I let this run the full course of the January Transfer Window (it rose from €5.65m to €7.8m in this month alone) and missed out on the highest cash-out option offered to me over the 2 years of observation.

Guerreiro's cash-out value (January 2019-June 2020)

So, I've decided to finally cash-out at €6.7m in June 2020, a million euros less than 18 months ago.  Why?  Because I simply need the money right now.  I couldn't work on €106k with a key player retiring and 3 players loans expiring, Season 3 would have been more challenging than Season 2!  It was simply time to exercise Guerreiro's gift.  I’m not frustrated by the outcome either, this particular clause on FM has been enjoyable to see play out and perhaps somebody, somewhere, can take note and use it to cash-out at the optimum moment.

New Signings

With the Guerreiro money and €3.5m sponsorship arriving to see us out of the red, I’ve been able to invest in a permanent Right Back. Darko Todorovic arriving with a deal rising to €2.5m. Darko moved from RB Salzburg to RB Leipzig in-game last season for €6.5m, so signing him for circa 60% less a year later is good value.

I have my new 2020 scouting team to thank, as I wanted to move quick in the transfer market by using the short-term focus option in the scouting screen. The team is now led by Gérard Bonneau, who is a great target for any scouting team (see below). Underneath him I have recruited Pierre Aubame as an African scout, together I hope they can prompt me to look at some fine talent.

In advanced of the move to bring in Darko Todorovic, I had arranged pre-contract deals with two young midfielders, who I hope can fill the void in central midfield: Agustín Palavecino & Luca Valzania.

Agustín Palavecino - €0m

Luca Valzania - €0m

I see Palavecino as a Deep Lying Playmaker and Valzania as a more Box-to-Box type of player in my 4141, but both free signings are still a bit risky. Palavecino has never played in a top-flight match (as he hails from the Primera B Nacional in Argentina) and Luca Valzania has only made a few cameo appearances for Atalanta in Serie A.

There’s around €200k left in the transfer budget for the back-up Striker. I could also explore the loan market and see if I can find value there or sell to buy. But the gift of Raphaël Guerreiro has certainly helped me out in this save, merci mon ami.

As always, to find out what happens next on OITNB follow me on Twitter (@FM_Grasshopper), on FM Slack (#fmgrasshopper)…or on here for the next post.

Thanks for reading/sharing/caring.

FM Grasshopper

"Trust" - Orange Is The New Black #FM19

The Achilles Goss promotion parade!

The Achilles Goss promotion parade!


Survival plans after gaining promotion.

I have seen a lot of people write about them.  Create a matrix of fixtures they expect points from in order to prioritise those games, overhaul the playing staff, change up tactically to be more defensive; all effective in the pursuit of beating the drop.  But Achilles Goss really didn't do much at all…yet his Lorient side somehow finds itself 8th in Ligue 1 going into the 2019/20 Winter Break.  But what he did do was trust the team, and the system, that saw Lorient promoted.  Perhaps trusting an evolution, rather than revolution, which is what I will be writing about today.


Trust [noun]: firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.

Regular followers/readers will know that last season was a struggle to get out of Ligue 2, and we took the hardest route possible.  But despite the ups and downs, the team achieved it…culminating in the Ligue 1 Promotion Play Off against higher opposition Dijon FCO.  Despite only winning 2-1 on aggregate, these two matches showed that we were up to the standard of Ligue 1 and I shouldn't panic going into the season.  Instead, I should polish around the edges of my 1st team and then review what I need for 2020 and beyond.

With this in mind, I learnt to 'trust':

  1. The same reliable 4141 DM wide system that got us promoted (possession based: positive/short passing/play out of defence)

  2. The key performers from 2018/19: Cabot, Courtet, Fonsinho, Lemoine & Le Goff.

  3. In minimal recruitment, only in the areas that I felt were weakest (Right Back & Central Midfield)


Despite last season's exploits in Ligue 2, I didn't really know how we were going to hold up against Ligue 1 opposition longer term.  We bested Dijon FCO over the two legs with possession and chances, but that's all I had to go on.  On top of this, the FM19 match engine had a bit of an overhaul with a significant update, so I thought I would put in a few testing games over pre-season against Anderlecht, Bayer & Standard to see how we fared:

On reflection it was a decent pre-season and I made some subtle tweaks to my 4141 (see below).  I'm enjoying the interchanging of my central midfield, Younousse Sankharé particularly excelling as the Box-to-Box mid.  He arrived on an 18-month loan deal in January 2019 from Bordeaux and took 6 months before he finally started to look like a good player.  Alongside him are new arrivals, again both at no immediate transfer cost to Lorient: utility midfielder Alexis Blin (a season long loan from Toulouse) and aggressive ball winner Victorien Angban (a Free Transfer from Chelsea).  All three complement Fabien Lemoine well, who is our primary playmaker (DLP-D) and club captain.

The Dutch South American Football Expert that posted this will remain nameless, in order to protect his identity.

The final signing was a controversial one (if my Slack channel is led to believe), Christophe Jallet joined from Nice for €97k. It divided opinion, perhaps people always like the younger players…but there is something about the experienced head that I trust.  Christophe is 35 years of age and has played out his career entirely in France.  Furthermore, he knows Lorient well (having played there between 2006-2009).  He'd be my 1st choice at Right Back, as I missed out on top targets Milan Gajic and Valentin Rosier who rejected my contracts. Current Right Backs Jonathan Martins Pereira & Houboulang Mendes are continued weak links and will compete for the reserve slot.

Our 4141 and first choice XI going into 2019/20 looked like this:

Changes to this season’s 4141:

  • The playmaking role has been shifted to DM due to Lemoine’s advancing years (and his declining quickness). I have changed him from DLP on Support to Defend, to get him to move less forward and let the younger guys in front of him do most of the running.

  • Central midfield varies between CM-A + BWM and B2B + BWM, dependant on personnel and game situation. Whatever the combo, I am in love with a BWM-S this year…Victorien Angban is joyous to watch. He glides over the pitch like a rabid animal, hunting for his prey in a one-man wolfpack.

  • The Wing Back role in the team has been moved to the left, due to Jallet’s advancing years at right back. Le Goff is usually WB-S or WB-A, and one of our key performers. There’s also a good output to him too in terms of assists, as he bombs forward well. Jallet has been made a standard FB on Support, he is the elder statesman of the team: reliable and steady.

  • Additionally, I’ll resort to the classic [panic station] 442 with two upfront (AF + DLF) when I am chasing a game in the 2nd half, but I have genuinely used this less in FM19.

Season 2019/20

A great opening month saw us shock everybody, including myself!  A 2-0 win against Paris Saint-Germain was the standout result.  Although there have been ups and down, we haven’t really looked out of place at all.  We’re able to compete well and 31 points at this stage of the season leaves me with hope that survival is a sure thing.  I predict that 40 points will see us safe, and until I achieve this tally it will remain my ultimate aim.

…and the league table as it stands in January 2020:

One delight has been our home form, in front of nine maximum capacity crowds of 17,076 fans: 6 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss. Average attendance by capacity is the league statistic we currently top, and justification for a larger capacity once I have some money in the bank. Fingers crossed I can work some magic in the Transfer Market over the coming years and make my dreams a reality!

100% average attendance by capacity. If only there was a trophy for this at the end of the year!

Achilles’ Africa

In the opening post to this series I mentioned why my player recruitment would be targeting Africa in FM19. I made a good start in my 1st season, bringing in Left Back Elderson Echiejile (Nigeria) & Winger Fonsinho (Côte d’Ivoire).

I have added to this over the last 12 months in-game. In came aforementioned Younousse Sankharé (Senegal) on an 18-month loan deal from Bordeaux and my 2nd Ivorian signing, Victorien Angban (Côte d’Ivoire) from Chelsea - who spent most of his early career being trafficked by that rotten English club. Central midfield now has an African presence in it with these two players: a Box to Box and Ball Winner respectively.

Countries recruited from so far: Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal & South Africa.

Countries recruited from so far: Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Senegal & South Africa.

Rivaldo Coetzee in orange. He’ll join us in February after playing in the African Championship of Nations 2020.

But the standout January 2020 arrival is Rivaldo Coetzee (South Africa), who many Football Managers will know as a highly gifted Ball Playing Defender with bags of potential. Not only is he rated the best defender by our coaches, he could also fetch me some profit if he proves himself in Europe.

Rivaldo has been highly rated in the last few editions of the game, but in real life he’s really struggled with a foot injury which has seen him miss a lot of football and has resulted in operations to correct. The ‘African Rolls Royce defender’ has been on Achilles Goss’ shortlist since Day 1 of this save, but a formal offer was not made until he proved he could stay fit:

There have been a few niggling injuries (I can’t lie, it still worries me), but in terms of injury severity & duration they are relatively minor and what you’d expect from a player coming back from such a big injury.  We’ve therefore continued today’s theme of trust and have gone big, Director of Football Christophe Le Roux negotiating a €925k fee with Mamelodi Sundowns.  This has however pushed us further into the red, with an overall balance of -€3.5m.  Sooner or later I will have to make up some of this money with a player sale or two.

Thus begins the 2nd half of 2019/20, a season which has been really enjoyable to play so far.  As always, to find out what happens next in Brittany follow me on Twitter (@FM_Grasshopper), on FM Slack (#fmgrasshopper)…or on here for the next post.

Thanks for reading/sharing/caring.

FM Grasshopper

"Iacta alea est" - Orange Is The New Black #FM19

Previously on Orange Is The New Back, Achilles Goss took a pause in Brittany.



'Iacta alea est' is a Latin phrase meaning that 'the die is cast', supposedly uttered by Julius Caesar as he crossed the Rubicon River with his army…beginning the chain of events that led to the formation of Imperial Rome. The point of no return had been reached and going back was not an option for Caesar and his men.

Navigating the Promotion Play Offs was Achilles Goss' Rubicon. A 4th place league finish meant FC Lorient had it all to do: two games against Ligue 2 rivals Sochaux (home) and Lens (away), before facing off against higher opposition in Dijon home and away. Iacta alesa est for Achilles was positive football, playing out from the back and being patient no matter what the odds - this was how FC Lorient were going to do this, it was too late for wholesale changes.

Game-by-game synopses are not usually my thing, but back last year I wrote a similar style post on Bastardo's FM18 Copa Liberatores exploits. A promotion challenge to Ligue 1 perhaps isn't as prestigious as continental honours…but I still think it merited special attention in today's post. What transpired was unrelenting drama, Football Manager's forte, allez Lez Merlus…

The Play Offs

The results since “Interlude”.

A 2018/19 Play Off finish.

A move to the FM19 public beta meant my interlude was over, and with a more stable Match Engine (with less corner goals and my attackers actually moving)…we were able to secure a 4th place league finish. This meant we took the hard route towards promotion: the Ligue 2 Play Offs. Now if you’re unfamiliar with the way it works in France, here is how it plays out:

  1. 4th plays 5th at home

  2. The winner plays 3rd away

  3. The winner meets 18th place in Ligue 1, home and away (the first leg being at home for whichever Ligue 2 side makes it through step 2).

It’s a real examination for the Ligue 2 sides in 4th and 5th, especially when you face the higher opposition club over two legs. Personally, I quite like it. It’s an effective filter for ensuring that clubs are competitive enough to go up. But it’s a real ball ache when it’s actually your side going through it!

Going into the Play Off period, I used ‘Big Match Preparation’ for the first time in FM19 as a training programme. It looks to boost happiness a little bit and obviously work on penalties which may become a decider if I was to draw over 120 minutes.

Big Match Preparation.

Training calendar view pre-Sochaux.

FC Lorient 1-1 Sochaux (Lorient win 4-3 on penalties)

Stade du Moustoir, Lorient

28 May 2019

Towards the end of the season, Spaniard José Manuel Aira had got Sochaux playing some really nice football. When they arrived at Lorient 3 weeks prior to the season finishing, we played out a tight 0-0 draw. Sochaux were clearly going to be difficult to break down.

On 25 minutes however, we found a breakthrough…Franklin Wadja going long for Fonsinho with a great ball. The Ivorian’s first touch and close control saw him close in on goal, before finishing well. It was no less than we deserved and seeing a 14 pass move that stretched across the pitch was pleasing to see. Goss-ball? Well, it’s too early to say…but I am loving the way we’ve controlled games in recent weeks.

Fonsinho Magic.

If Sochaux were going to threaten me, I always suspected that it would involve my Right Back: Jonathan Martins Pereira. Pereira was having a really bad game and he failed to pick up Mohamed Larbi on the back post for an easy header. It was 1-1 on 75 minutes.

The game fizzled out into a drab affair, the only dramatic turn of events was seeing Jonathan Martins Pereira sent off for a second yellow card offence in Extra Time. Suddenly Lorient were desperate for penalties, and that’s exactly what we got!

The five.

The ‘Old Guard’ of Yann Jouffre and Sylvain Marveaux were now on, and I felt happier to have their maturity going into the penalties as 1st and 2nd choice takers. Complementing them were Wissa, Courtet and Le Goff who are also relatively composed. We’d end up winning 4-3, Yann Jouffre to miss our opening kick but the turnaround was made with the next 4 penalties being lethal.

We were through to face RC Lens away!

FM Grasshopper adjectives: laboured, uncomfortable and uneasy.

Training tweaks

We only had two days between fixtures, which was pretty hard going. So, I tweaked our training setup to recovery before going again with the penalty training hack…just in case we needed it again:

Training calendar view pre-Lens.

RC Lens 3-3 FC Lorient (Lorient win 4-3 on penalties)

Stade Félix Bollaert-Delelis, Lens

31 May 2019

It was 2-0 Lens after just 8 minutes, two shots from Arthur Gomis was all it took. Even after a few days break from this game, it still feels surreal writing that. Achilles Goss and Lorient were staring at another Ligue 2 season after just 8 minutes! But this game made no sense whatsoever. For the quit/reloaders, you may want to read on…because miracles do happen in this game. Sometimes it’s worth playing through the shame (and high levels of humiliation I was receiving in my Slack channel).

We made a few adjustments to roles at Half Time, one of the moves was getting Vincent Le Goff further forward as a Wing Back on Attack. We needed to go for this! However, sometimes FM has other ideas and Lens went 3-0 on 52 minutes. Our Ball Playing Defender (lol), Matthieu Saunier, doing this in his own penalty area:

RC Lens 3-0 FC Lorient facepalm.

Anybody who read my stuff last year will know about the ‘Panic Station 442’, and I am pleased to report that it made a comeback on 56 minutes (when 3-0 down). It’s an effective change to make in a 4141, and I once again went for the classic move: DM off for a ST…

This blog’s purpose isn’t to argue the existence of God (I’ll leave that for another post), but my prayers were certainly answered. The game was like no other, we were dead and buried…completely out of this one, but slowly and surely we came good. Three goals in the last 25 minutes for your perusal below:

3-1 (Courtet, 66 minutes).

3-2 (Fonsinho, 72 minutes).

3-3!!! (Courtet, 90+5 minutes).

Courtet’s 2nd on the night, and our 3rd, was a cracker. It came via the final attack of the game on 90+5 minutes; Grasshopper HQ erupted into fanfare. The game had been brought back from the dead. Note - I must also thank the Public Beta for that sweet assist too, a great cross from rookie Right Back Houboulang Mendes #WeDrawAgain.

So, we headed for penalties. Again. Our second 120-minute game and shootout in 3 days, the Lorient warriors were knackered (and so was I). But I strangely felt confident: (1) I never expected to be here at minute 65 of this game, (2) we had yet again practised penalties and (3) I went with the same five guys. Jouffre, Marveaux, Wissa, Courtet & Le Goff had another chance to make themselves heroes.

It was Wissa’s turn to miss, but it did not stop Goss’ men: 4-3 on penalties and FC Lorient were through to face Dijon FCO in the Ligue 1 Play Off. Phew.

The winning penalty kick taken by Vincent Le Goff.

FM Grasshopper adjectives: euphoric, gripping and sickening.

Training Tweaks Part II

Fortunately, we had a 12-day break between fixtures, so I went with a defensive training style for the full week of training without fixtures. I figured we may need to up our defensive game against higher opposition and not conceding an away goal was crucial.

Training Style - Defence.

For the week of the Play Off games, I moved our penalty training to the day before the 2nd leg (away) and also tweaked our match preparations. For our home match I went with Attacking Movement and for the away fixture I went with Defensive Shape. Would it have any influence on proceedings? Would I even know if it had? Who knows, but here is what happened…

FC Lorient 2-0 Dijon FCO

Stade du Moustoir, Lorient

12 June 2019

After the season I had, and the previous game in particular, I did not know what to expect when facing Dijon. We had bested a Ligue 1 team previously in the French Cup, beating Guingamp 1-0 at home, so there was a belief that we could take a lead back to Dijon for the 2nd leg. A minor headache presented itself though when Goalkepper Danijel Petković failed to make it back from International duty with Montenegro. A third career start was given to teenage goalkeeper Illan Meslier, which left me seriously worrying if the clean sheet was going to be a dream.

However, we were able to start with the attacking trio of Fonsinho, Jimmy Cabot & Gaëtan Courtet for the third Play Off match in a row; and it was the former who scored first on 30 minutes:

3 in 3 for Fonsinho!

It was a really dominant performance from Lorient, and the other two attackers (Cabot & Courtet) combined on minute 59 to seal a 2-0 win:

Courtet finishing Cabot’s silky pass.

This was the most comfortable match of the Play Offs so far, and I was delighted to head East to Dijon with a lead and a clean sheet. Something we had worked hard to do in training :-)

FM Grasshopper adjectives: dominant, pleasing and sanguine.

Dijon FCO 1-0 FC Lorient

Parc des Sports Gaston Gérard

15 June 2019

So, if you’ve read this far you would know by now that ‘our way, is the hard way’. Nothing we ever do is easy, as our 2nd leg proved. For Dijon, it was time to introduce their big guns: Hamit Altintop & Yoann Gourcuff who came into the side. Achilles Goss re-introduced Petković in goal, but otherwise left FC Lorient unchanged.

The game was my first introduction to VAR, which appeared twice at two key points.

VAR 1.

  1. On minute 65, where Matthieu Saunier was alleged to have used excessive force in the penalty area. I’ll let you decide if you think this merited a penalty. Nevertheless, Dijon converted it and I was 1-0 down on the night with 25 minutes to go. As you know, a lot can happen in 25 minutes of Football Manager time :-)

  2. On minute 82 it was a heart in the mouth moment. 18-year-old Falaye Soumaré scoring to ruin the dreams of Achilles Goss…but NO! VAR had come to save us this time round, the Dijon teenager stepping offside in the build-up.

VAR 2.

Cue another few minutes of tension, as we did our best to avoid Extra Time and penalties once more. The whistle at Full Time brought great jubilation at Grasshopper HQ: FC Lorient were promoted to Ligue 1.

FM Grasshopper adjectives: laboured, uncomfortable and uneasy.

Iacta alea est

This post was originally set out to bring you an introduction into Season 2, as I move forward through pre-season…but I on greater reflection I wanted to fully capture these Play Off matches. Our style of play brought drama and excitement for the Lorient fans, and I am not going to shy away from this approach now that we’re in Ligue 1. There’s going to be hard moments for sure, but I’ve got to strengthen the squad where I can and continue the approach that has brought success. This is Achilles’ version of "Iacta alea est".

Armed with a new contract and delivering on promotion within the 1st season, Goss' battle now shifts to Ligue 1 survival. For now, orange is still the new black.

Thanks for reading/sharing & caring.

FM Grasshopper