One of the attractions of managing in a smaller European nation, such as Switzerland, is the Winter Break - a 60 day pause between competitive fixtures during the months of December, January and February. It's a chance to reflect on the previous few months and look ahead to the defining months of the season which are still to come. Each year I have used the Winter Break to reflect on the development of my youngsters and also look ahead and project their game time/experiences for the year ahead. Today's blog is me sharing this process with you as I enter the Winter Break in Season 7 (2021/22)...
The Homegrown XI
During my 5th Season at Grasshopper Club Zürich (GCZ) it was clear that I needed to form an 'end game' to my save. I had half a decade of domestic trophies already won and I knew that I needed to inject life into the save to keep my motivated. I therefore outlined a 5 Year Plan here. This GCZ save game is my only one for FM16 and I am currently taking one month per season. I therefore should reach the finale of Season 10 somewhere around mid-late October - finishing nicely with the planned release of FM17 (normally around November).
So the aim is to: develop a successful Homegrown* XI competing for Continental honours
*A quick catch up on what I define as Homegrown (and the meaning behind the abbreviations of HG and HGN further on):
Homegrown (HG): A homegrown player will be defined as one who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with Grasshopper Club Zürich (GCZ), continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the Season during which he turns 21)
Homegrown in Nation (HGN): also known as an 'association-trained’ player. This player fulfils the same criteria as above but with another club in the same association/nation.
Ever since Day 1 of my GCZ save, I have dedicated my time to youth recruitment and development. Outlined here back in Nov 2015, as I spoke about Professionalism being the most important influence on a player's development. Merry Guido over at Strikerless.com has pushed the discussion on even further by demonstrating this in various player projections. His conclusion: Professionalism is indeed the driving force behind development - as shown here.
Back at GCZ, we are now awash with a Professional staff structure (both playing and non-playing)...which has let to some potentially gifted Regens join us in the yearly Youth Intakes:
Some of which have already been introduced within the outlines of the 5 Year Plan. Now we'll move on to analysing my youth players to see how they've done in 1.5 seasons (30% of the Homegrown XI project)...
During Season 7 (2021/22), results have been mixed. As shown in last week's blog. One of the reasons for this was my move from a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 to trial a 5-3-2 (with Wingbacks). The reason for this was to accommodate Homegrown talents in the 1st team matches. To cut a long story short, the trial of the 5-3-2 was a failure. But in being a failure, it highlighted several paths that my future line ups need to go down and also what ones to avoid.
To illustrate the point, it's best we start discussing the development of the Central Defenders...
I currently have 5 HG Central Defenders on the books at GCZ, this includes Dayot Upamecano who trained for 36 months with GCZ before his 21st birthday (thus gaining the HG status). From youngest to oldest we have:
Sandro Bianco (19 years of age)
Gérard Zwicky (20 years of age)
Devin Manco (22 years of age)
Dayot Upamecano (23 years of age)
Noah Loosli (24 years of age)
Evaluation: you can see that I have not done much with these 5 defenders. First and foremost, I like my Central Defenders to defend. We can also see that they are very average with the ball at their feet. As a five, their average Passing stat is 8.8 and Vision is 5.6. This was the fundamental reason why the 5-3-2 discussed earlier did not work. Too much emphasis is placed on the CBs to move the ball and start moves with this formation...these lads were awful at it. Despite not being ball players, all five will make competent CBs in the Swiss League. Only time will tell if they can step up and cope on the Continental scene.
- Continue rotating these CBs but consider selling the weakest if we continue with a 2 Central Defender formation in the future.
- Tactically, focus on limiting time spent on the ball during games.
The limitations of the Central Defenders discussed above is negated with the fine ball playing trio of midfielders I have within my ranks. It gives me hope that I can use Deep Lying Playmakers and Registas in the future, to ensure I control ball possession - despite my weak footballers at the back. Let's take a look at the GCZ engine room of the future (again youngest to oldest):
Lukas Oswald (17 years of age)
Nuno Gouveia (19 years of age)
Nedim Bajrami (22 years of age)
Evaluation: We can see that the trio above are good passers with great vision. I have doubts that Nedim Bajrami will make further gains, but he is still a capable Central Midfielder who suits the mobile game. The younger two, Nuno and Lukas have amazing potential. I see Nuno's career trajectory as being a: Box to Box, before moving on to become a gifted playmaker (either advanced or deeper in midfield). Lukas on the other hand could be a sensible option as a Deep Lying Playmaker or Regista.
- Ensure all three are given sufficient game time in the First Team from now on.
- Aim to make Lukas more Professional and add some useful PPMs to his game (also work on his poor stamina).
- Find a combination where all three work together in pre-season of Season 8 (2022/23).
I have a number of GCZ youngsters in the U18 that I believe can make it, given the opportunities. However there are three notable talents that I have no doubt will make a big impact on the game. Here they are (youngest first):
Stephan Hotz (18 years of age)
Mario Orlowski (22 years of age)
Remo Mahrer (22 years of age)
Evaluation: What I quite like with my current 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 is the ease I can drop a Central Midfielder, in favour for another Central Attack. I have been doing this often with Remo Mahrer, who in the last year has been used as a Support Striker. He's now added goals to his performance and as we enter the Winter Break of Season 7...he has 9 goals in 17 appearances. Remo needs no introduction, as I have a whole blog series about him (and another fabulous Regen who can't be named at the moment as I still mourn for his loss).
There's potential in a Support Striker and Target Man relationship brewing at GCZ and the youngest of our three strikers, Stephan Hotz, has really matured in two years. He is raw but with the right training I think we can make a decent TM out of him (as long as I ignore his poor bravery/jumping attribute that really bugs me).
Lastly, Mario Orlowski is a £1m signing from Basel's youth system. He's had decent First Team experience on loan in the Swiss Super League (with Vaduz & Luzern) and also in the Bundesliga (with Freiberg). He already has a good Personality and also some lovely Mentals like Off The Ball & Composure...all combined with excellent Finishing (and a Reasonable Weaker Foot)! You need match winners in this position...and I think I have three.
- Working on Hotz's humping reach and consider tinkering tactics to adjust to his strenghts. Also look at the movement off the ball between Hotz and Mahrer as a TM and SS combo.
- Add some PPMs to Mario Orlowski's game, incl. a Finishing PPM
- Improve Mahrer's Passing to 15 or above
I have already introduced 10 HG talents who I think may make it BIG at GCZ (and the inclusion of Mario Orlowski who is a HGN: Homegrown in Nation). I also have an abundance of squad players who can hopefully make the grade here + a few elder statesmen who are either HG/HGN + already established in the First Team (e.g. £13.5m singing Roman Bürki). So accommodating as many HGs/HGNs as possible in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 we look like this:
If either of the above two line-ups are successful, then we'd be achieving 8 HGs and 9 HGs (with the option of filling the RB and LW slot with World Class ability). This trumps both the Champions League Winners of Ajax of 1995 and Barcelona of 2011 (as discussed here) Homegrown achievements.
Now let's finish Season 7 and see if we really can hit the dizzy heights of European fame...
Thanks for reading.