Join@fm_throwing for a wild, data-driven ride as he begins his journey with Girona in FM22
Setting the scene:
Since their formation in 1930, Catalonia-based Girona FC have only spent TWO seasons (2017 & 2018) in La Liga.
Currently playing in La Liga 2, out of the 11,200 capacity Montilivi stadium, the Gironistes are part owned by the City Football Group (which includes Manchester City) with another 44.3% of the club owned by Pep Guardiola’s brother, Pere.
This acquisition of the club (in 2017) by the two parties has the clear aim of consolidating the club before growing Girona FC into an established La Liga team, with the additional benefit of having access to the City Group’s “well documented know‐how and extensive networks in infrastructure, coaching, scouting and recruitment, youth development and executive leadership in addition to its global media, marketing and commercial capabilities”. Obviously, I don’t yet know how any of this translates into Football Manager, although I do know we get loan players from Manchester City as part of the affiliation.
Unfortunately, the links with The City Group & Manchester City don’t appear to have many financial benefits. When in La Liga the team had the lowest operating budgets in the league and as we can see from their transfer activity since being relegated back down to La Liga 2, there’s no money tree in the north-eastern part of Catalonia, with the squad size clearly being reduced and players mostly arriving on free transfers.
Therefore, we’ll need to be smart with our signings so will be using data and relying heavily on our recruitment & performance analysts to highlight the best value players to give us the edge over our opponents.
Living in the shadow of Pablo Machin
The mastermind behind Girona’s ascent to La Liga – their first in their 87 year existence – was manager, Pablo Machin.
Taking over the struggling club in 2014 he saved them from relegation before catapulting them up the division and making it to the playoffs the following two season, where they unfortunately lost out to Real Zaragoza and Osasuna. It was at the third attempt when Machin’s men managed promotion to La Liga thanks to a 2nd place finish.
As a result of the way the no-nonsense Machin organised and inspired his team, their first trip into La Liga saw them finish in 10th position – the highest ever by a team in their debut season – where, despite the lowest budget in the league, they pulled off some excellent results including a draw against Barcelona, going unbeaten against Atletico Madrid and a win over Real Madrid, who at the time were champions of Europe.
It’s unsurprising to learn that Machin’s stock rose quickly and he was soon approached to take over the reins at Sevilla.
After Machin left Girona finished 18th and were relegated back to La Liga 2, where they remain today.
Throughout Machin’s time at Girona, they used a 3 man defence, mainly set up in variations of a 3-4-2-1 which would defend as a 5-3-2. This system, which he called his “badge of identity” was designed to be compact, difficult to play through, and would launch lightning quick counter attacks whenever the opportunity arose, using wingbacks as width and support for the attackers. In their La Liga season, he used a defensive double pivot to protect the back three which meant his side were very rarely exposed. He used the same system home and away, only relaxing the positioning of his defence and the intensity of the pressing versus the top teams.
When he moved to Sevilla, with a more talented set of players he used a more expansive game plan but still kept the side nice and compact.
I’m not going to lie, Pablo Machin sounds like my kind of manager, so in my attempt to replicate – and ultimately exceed – what he did for Girona I’m going to pay homage by adopting his 3 at the back, compact, lightning counter attacking ethos.
I’ve never been able to get to grips with a 3-man defence before, I was always too eager to fall back on my beloved 4-2-3-1 instead of sticking it out and adapting. But just as Machin himself demanded hard work and dedication from his players, I’ll demand the same from myself.
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