Football Manager 2019 is hands down the best edition I have ever played from the series. You would think therefore (after playing each of the previous versions) that everything would be plain sailing from here on out. Think again. Due to the wide sweeping changes that Sports Interactive have brought in for FM19, I've had to unlearn a few things and think on my feet.
Training and tactical familiarity posed the most immediate of issues, and after a difficult first month Achilles Goss’ Lorient side are now firing in Ligue 2. The future’s bright, the future’s orange…I just have to show you how I got there, which is the purpose of today’s post.
The most influential section of screens on the onset of any Football Manager save for me is the one I use at the start of the save…and then hardly ever use it again: the Team Report. Essentially, this area of FM shapes how I setup tactically and which areas I recruit towards in the transfer market:
The Overview screen will provide a snapshot of your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Straightaway I could see that I had a team with high levels of creativity, decision making and passing. This was an initial pointer to the tactical style that I ought to replicate. But it is the Squad Depth screen that complements this further by showing immediate areas of depth and shortcomings in the squad. From here I know who my best players are, where they are suited, and which positions have a lack of depth in them.
Note - I set the opinion to my Assistant, as he has the highest attribute in Judging Player Ability within my coaching setup. I also left this unfiltered in terms of current ability…but you can select to show a cap on the minimum star rating.
From the above, we can see that my Lorient side are strong centrally, from defence through to attack, and have good wingers in the AML/AMR slots. On closer inspection, my four standout players are: Left Back Vincent Le Goff, Deep Lying Playmaker Fabien Lemoine, Winger Jimmy Cabot and Striker Gaëtan Courtet.
I am a big believer in playing your best players in their best positions/roles. So this meant I would need a system that would occupy all four strata: DL, MC, AMR and ST. So, we naturally lean towards a 4141/442. Something I am familiar with from my time with Estudiantes de La Plata in FM18.
Crucially however, I wanted something different to the Estudiantes 4141 & 442 of last year. I wanted better football, more patient/technical and easy on the eye. Fundamentally, I want to see a difference in the match highlights this year…less Estudiantes ‘Kick n Rush: Bastardo-Ball’ and more patient ‘Goss-Ball’. Combined with the knowledge that my team possess high levels of creativity, decision making and passing, I’ve opted for ‘Control Possession’ as my pre-set tactical style as it ‘aims to dictate play’ and ‘patiently waits for openings’. It’s mainly Positive in mentality because we’re often favourites for the games we play in; however I will tone it down to Cautious depending on game situations.
There are a few amendments to make it custom though. I took out the Team Instruction of ‘Work Ball Into Box’ when in possession, in order to speed up our attacks somewhat. I also found a better balance of player roles than what the base tactical style provided me. I am continuing to tweak on a game-by-game basis from the personnel I am using, but also on the personnel I am facing. For instance, when coming up against a standout No.10 in the AMC slot…I’ll often change the BWM-D to Anchor Man on Man Marking duties.
There’s always a legitimate worry when using a lone forward upfront, but this tactic often looks like a front 3 when in possession - sometimes even a four or five! I’ve shown two examples of interplay outside the opposition’s penalty area below, the movement of certain players and the spaces available. I am seeing a lot of variation in our attacking play, which is a good thing as we’re not predictable Vs the AI, but it’s also not so boring when watching the highlights either :-)
Now for the bit of FM I needed to ‘unlearn’. As hinted in my introduction, things did not go according to plan right away. We’ll come on to it a bit later, but it took me 5 competitive games before I won a match. On reflection, I attribute my dismal start to poor tactical familiarity brought about by two things: (1) A not-so-excessive pre-season than what I originally thought I had and (2) switching between three ‘primary’ tactics (the 4141 DM Wide above, a Counter 4141 & a Wing Play 442). I believe both mistakes impacted negatively on my tactical familiarity. I had always been an FM player that liked having the option of 3 concurrent tactics, and it’s still possible in FM19…but my advice would be to stick to one primary from the onset of your save, seeing how intrinsically linked tactics are training now are.
But the good news is that I came through it to tell the tale!
Firstly, the Transfer Market is a place of mercenaries & scoundrels. Evidenced by the disappearance of the Mattéo Guendouzi money (that €7m lost in the Ether somewhere), which meant the cash I could put into transfers and subsequent playing contracts was limited. I knew from the aforementioned Team Report that it was critical I signed a Left Back and a [preferably right sided] Winger, anything else was a bonus.
My Director of Football failed in bids for ASEC's tricky winger Fonsinho, whose brother (Gervinho) lit up Ligue 1 in Lille's title winning season of 2011. Failing on Fonsinho meant I went in for ex-Lorient winger Yann Jouffre on a Free, who will do a job for a season but probably not much more. I did get my top Left Back target though, Nigerian Elderson Echiejile, whose arrival on a Free Transfer was essential considering Vincent Le Goff was the only recognised [good] Left Back in the squad.
The Jouffre & Echiejile wages and sign on fees meant I had little else in the way of money, so I turned to the Loan Market. Specifically, the ‘Argentines based in Italy Loan Market’, with the arrivals of Facundo Colidio (from Inter Milan) and Gaspar Iñíguez (from Udinese). Both loans are for 2 years (until 2020) at minimal cost to Lorient, and Achilles Goss has a chance to play a key role in developing these Serie A talents.
Overall it was good business in the areas I needed to cover most. Thank you, Team Report screen!
If you have read this far, I assume you want to read about the results from the first 6 months in Lorient. Pre-season was a really mixed bag…we competed well in the difficult home games against Plzen and Cardiff. But struggled in the away matches against Pau FC and US Avranches. We did finish strongly though against RC Mechelen of Belgium…providing hope for the season ahead.
Ligue 2 - 2018/19
So, my start to life in Lorient was poor and it did not improve when welcoming competitive football to le Stade du Moustoir in the form of Le Havre AC. Despite the difficult start, the title of this blog post is “The Future’s Bright” - and it’s bright for a reason. An 18-match unbeaten run was formed in the league since that opening day defeat. I ditched the Counter 4141 and Wing Play 442…after comprehensively beating Valenciennes FC with the Controlling 4141. Sink or swim, this was the way Achilles Goss’ Lorient was going to play from now on. Confident and sure of itself, the team has settled and are now playing some of the best football in the league. A particular highlight was beating local rivals Brest 4-0 in their own back yard!
A home tie against Nancy came in our poor period, so no Coupe de la Ligue run for us in 2018/19. But we are still going strong in the Coupe de France, a club record breaking 7-1 win against Hiriburuko apparently. Another Breton Derby up next against US Concarneau in the 9th Round.
Remember last time out (read here) when I said that Africa was going to be a focus of mine? I wasn’t lying. Despite the failed attempts to lure Fonsinho from Côte d’Ivoire to Brittany in July, I never abandoned the pursuit. In December 2018, Director of Football & Chief Scout Christophe Le Roux sealed the deal for him. A fee that could rise to €230k over time.
However, it does take me a little over the wage budget, so I do need to move 1 or 2 on in the January transfer window. No surprises that my four star performers mentioned earlier (Le Goff, Lemoine, Cabot & Courtet) are all in demand from Ligue 1 clubs…but I am hoping it’s a fringe player that will free up the salary, even if it’s simply a loan to tie me over to the Summer.
I have no plans to recruit players from all 54 African countries, but Fonsinho is Achilles Goss’ 2nd African recruit after Elderson Echiejile (Nigeria) and represents a 2nd country to add to the list. So, I thought I’d capture my signings in a graphic as I progress with the save, purely to see how we do and how orange the continent can become:
Promotion, promotion, promotion. It’s all I can think about now in this save. I really hope we can keep our squad together and push Le Havre and Nancy for an automatic promotion slot. Failing that, I may have to face the trepidation of the Play Offs. Either way, I’m hopeful it’s going to be an exciting end to my first season with this fantastic club. The future’s bright...the future’s orange.
Thanks for reading/sharing & caring,