Previously on Orange Is The New Black, FC Lorient waved goodbye to the Stade du Moustoir and Achilles Goss lost a European Cup Final.
My 7th and final season at FC Lorient offered the chance for me to change things up tactically. Heading into a new stadium, we moved away from the 4-3-3 that brought about three consecutive years of European football. In its place came the 4-3-1-2 DM Narrow: making use of our industrious midfield and allowing us some romantic Summer signings. Read on to see how the twilight of Orange Is The New Black progresses…
Improving on last season’s 4th placed finish means qualifying for the Champions League in 3rd is this year’s target. I fully expected the riches of Monaco and PSG to battle it for the title, which meant I’d likely battle for 3rd with Olympique Lyonnais & Olympique de Marseille…
I got the PSG bit right, but the historically big teams in France are all having poor seasons so far. Our consistency has seen us sit 3rd at the mid-point of Season 7, and it’s partly due to some newfound resilience that I’ll come to discuss a bit later in this post. Just look at our clean sheet wins:
We’ve topped a Europa League group for the third consecutive season! I’m really happy how we recovered from that opening San Siro loss to AC Milan, by winning the head-to-head in a 3-1 victory at the FC Lorient Stadium.
We draw Standard in the next round, a team Les Merlus beat 7-1 last season in our biggest win of the save. I can only hope for a similar mauling!
Boring, Boring Lorient?
Last time out on the blog I spoke about a potential tactic change for my last season in FM19, it was also the subject of Episode 35 of the GrassNGear podcast. I initially toyed with an Enganche + Double Segundo Volantes in a 4-3-1-2 DM Narrow, but eventually dropped the Enganche in favour for a Shadow Striker (to make use of Mo Diallo & Lovro Majer’s explosiveness at AMC).
The Complete Wing Back
A headline addition to our new 4-3-1-2 (apart from the Volantes of course) is the Complete Wing Back role. Our new €11.5m Summer signing ‘Nivaldo’ plays the part well, a Brazilian Left Winger who is being re-positioned to play at Left Back via training and gametime.
Despite being positioned at LB on the tactic screen, Nivaldo plays like a Winger…often hugging the line within the opposition’s half. I’ve shown below two examples of where he is receiving the ball, against AC Milan in the Europa League and Toulouse in Ligue 1. It highlights how the position on the tactics screen doesn’t necessarily relate to the spaces in which a player will mostly operate during a match:
Deep Lying Forward
I don’t feel the need to talk too much about the Deep Lying Forward here, as it’s a role I have discussed a fair bit in FM19 already. But the Summer recruitment ended with a dream signing of ex-Lorient front man Vincent Aboubakar on loan from Porto. As a DLF on a Balanced Mentality, he will drop deeper and provide a vital link between the Volantes and his fellow forwards…who are all on a Very Attacking Mentality. His output has been encouraging too: 7 goals and 5 assists in 17 games (all comps) whilst building up a great partnership with Advanced Forward Gustavo Ramírez (who currently has a respectable 10 goals and 6 assists in all comps too).
I’m pretty simplistic with the Team Instructions. Originally, I was asking the team to Play Through The Middle, but as FMPressure rightly mention in my Slack channel; the play would naturally gravitate towards the middle anyway due to this being a 4-3-1-2. Good point. So, we now only Pass Into Space when in possession, mainly to take advantage of the Acceleration and Off The Ball of my CWB, SS and AF.
In transition I build from the back, seeing as I have a naturally solid platform to construct team moves from. We also play on the Counter too, seeing I have 5 guys in the team willing to bomb forward. Lastly, Out of possession we are marking tighter because I want to be hard to break down and have quite a disciplined and tenacious set of CBs and Volantes in terms of Marking.
How it plays out
With this tactic, 50% of our domestic games have ended as a clean sheet. This is a massive improvement to last year…where at this stage of the season we only had a 35% clean sheet rate. Narrow wins have seen us adopt the ‘Boring, Boring Lorient’ label, a phrase made famous by George Graham’s Arsenal who made a habit out of 1-0 wins.
But, these 1-0s and clean sheets are anything but boring. We play some great stuff at times and I’ve enjoyed the mixture of highlights I am getting, particularly the link-up between DLF & AF and also the glorious CWB role:
In possession we are very high up in the pitch and resemble a 2-4-2-2, with a lot of activity happening centrally:
I believe that this tactic can be improved, especially as this is only 5 months into its lifespan. Looking at the goal locations (see below) against us, I decided to recruit a dedicated ‘water carrier’ in front of the two central defenders.
At first, I thought about re-training a Centre Back and playing them as an Anchor Man at DM, but ultimately, I don’t think I have enough time to see this one through to fruition. So that’s where Josuha Guilavogui comes in. At 34 years of age, he is by no means one for the future. But what Guilavogui does bring is maturity and leadership to the defensive crux right away. A bargain €375k signing from Leganés in Spain.
Shielding the Centre Backs better will help cover centrally, however the weakest point is my left-hand side which is a direct trade-off between having a marauding Complete Wing Back. The assist locations are perhaps even more insightful than the Goal Location image above…because cutting off the life supply to the opposition forwards will be even more effective:
Most of the goals we concede are crosses (10 goals coming from crossing in the last 25 games - which equates to 47% of all goals against). So, it’s something we need to keep an eye on and now that I’m aware of it I can look out for this weakness.
To counter it, I could defend wider and stop the crosses coming in…or reduce the attacking mentality of my CWB and hope he is in the positions to block the cross. It’s something to think about during the winter break, as we head into a couple of friendlies. One of them being the ‘Vincent Le Goff Testimonial’, who became the last surviving player of the 2018/19 Achilles Goss squad when Julien Ponceau moved to Al-Ittihad Club (KSA) in the Summer for €7m*.
*Au revoir mon fils.
The End Is Nigh
The 4-3-1-2 is by no means perfect, but it’s done enough in the first half of the season to see me continue with it into 2025; with qualification to the Champions League the overarching aim. A few people have asked me what happens if we realise the dream, would I stay beyond my contract and play out one more season in the Champions League? The answer is simple: ‘non’. These last few months in-game will be the last of Achilles Goss and FC Lorient, with one more blog post planned.
The reason is clear to me, I intend to have some downtime over September and October even if it’s just a few weeks, before we hit FM20 hard again with another save. As a writer it’s hard to do something consistently, and for so long, whilst still retaining the interest of the reader. So those few weeks are perfect for recharging the blogging batteries and getting the thirst back again for Football Manager.
But fear not, there are posts already scheduled over mid-late September and although I probably won’t be playing a ‘blogging save’…there should be some words appearing on the blog to tie us over until Football Manager 2020.
As always thanks for reading, sharing & caring,
Achilles Goss / FM Grasshopper