21 December 2023
We're back in Milano during the midst of Winter, the Battle of Old Trafford still etched into Bastardo's recent memory. But it hasn't stopped the Inter machine from being upwardly mobile: a record of 12 wins, 3 draws and just the 1 loss in the league sees us sit level with Juventus at the summit of Serie A...only their superior goal count sees them top on Christmas Day. In the Champions League, we bested Real Madrid to 1st place in the Group Stage...only to be drawn a repeat of last year's Battle of Old Trafford: holders Paris Saint Germain, in the 1st Knockout Round...*sigh*...Bastardo never does it the easy way...
Fibra of The Future: Reunion
6 months [in real world time] have passed since I introduced you to Jorge Rodríguez, an Estudiantes prospect from my 1st Youth Intake in La Plata. Part of my FM17 plan was to remain in La Plata and nurture him into a fibra Demi God. But plans don't always come to fruition, and after giving him a debut in 2018/19...Ángel Bastardo left Argentina for the Chile NT, before going into exile.
Those of you who read the blog know I love a reunion (ref: Gary Medel & Santi Ascacíbar) and by meeting Jorge Rodríguez's €19.5m release clause at Villarreal, we celebrate another one. Jorge bettered himself in the four years away from Bastardo, earning International recognition after a solid La Liga debut season:
The Engine Room
Engine room <noun> - "a midfield player or group of midfield players that have a lot of energy and strongly influence the level of activity within the team" (Cambridge Dictionary)
Jorge obviously fits the Argentine profile I am looking to recruit (read more about that here), but he is also versatile within the 4321 system I am using. Ah yes, the 4321, for the second year running in Football Manager I have reverted back to using the tried and tested 4321 wide formation. My midfield trio consists of three general roles: The Playmaker- The Holder- The Box-to-Box. It's this basic principal which now sees me rotate five central midfield players frequently. All of whom can specialise in one of the roles mentioned previously (in bold) but they can also fulfill a secondary role. We have:
- Adrián Cubas - The Playmaker / The Holder
- Santiago Ascacíbar - The Holder / The Box-to-Box
- Fabio Faccin - The Box-to-Box / The Playmaker
- Jorge Rodríguez - The Playmaker / The Box-to-Box
- N'Golo Kanté - The Box-to-Box / The Holder
They are my engine room, offering interchangeable partnerships and are a result of careful recruitment over a 3 year period. Furthermore, it allows my Inter bastards to dominate possession in the central areas against teams playing with just two central midfielders. This possession encourages my full backs to move forward...who are safe in the knowledge that my technically proficient central midfield will keep hold of the ball long enough for them to join in the attack.
The devastating damage of the engine room was demonstrated in Inter's 5-0 win against Besiktas (Champions League Group Stage 2023). Against Besiktas' two central midfielders, my midfield three of Rodríguez (The Playmaker), Ascacíbar (The Holder) and Faccin (The Box-to-Box) were able to dominate possession. As we can see the Pass Combinations map, an illustration of Completed Passess throughout the match (see below). The lines are at their most thick in and around the engine room area, which is what we'd expect from Inter's technically gifted trio...
The engine room represents over 50% of the team's passing game...as shown in the below table:
In my view, it's worth consulting the Pass Combinations post-match analysis and checking on your engine room...in order to see if certain triangles or link up play needs looking in to. It's certainly fundamental in my 4321 system and is the basis from which we've built success. Forza Inter!
January Transfer Window
It's worth noting how hard it is to find immediate Champions League quality as an Italian club during the January window. I've already filled the non-EU quota for this season (x2 per season) and those big EU players left are likely to have already played in this year's competition (thus being cup tied). But this won't stop me searching for that 'diamond in the rough', either within Italy or elsewhere in Europe.
In terms of outgoings, Kasper Dolberg, the fleet footed Inside Forward, has never really taken to life in Milan. His contract is up this Summer, so I may look to bring in a replacement in advance. Likewise, 1/5 of the engine room also has an expiring contract in 6 months time: N'Golo Kanté. The fibra legend has been a huge presence since signing on a Free Transfer way back in 2019. I remain undecided as to what I should do with N'Golo, he is now 32 and the powers that made him truly unique are waning. Hmm.
The engine room may change once more, but it will continue to battle & work tirelessly to power the Inter juggernaut. Further battles are ahead, we need to be ready for Inter is coming...
Thanks for reading,