Girona FC – Part 6: The season so far, and a pressing matter.

FM22 Analytics, tactics & soccernomics

August to November: the season so far.

As you can see, we’ve had a very impressive start to the season, picking up 10 wins, 2 draws and being yet to taste defeat. On the way we’ve scored 27 goals and allowed only 7, with only Tenerife conceding less.

HOWEVER, I feel I need to state we’ve had a very favourable opening three months with most of our opponents occupying the bottom half of the table and having an average combined current standing of 16th! I expect things to be much tougher in the run up to the end of 2021, especially as we face Eibar, Tenerife and Real Valladolid consecutively next month.

League favourites, Almeria, are languishing in 12th whilst only Huesca of the relegated teams are within the playoff positions – it’s still early days though and the La Liga 2 season is a very long one.

Is our early success down to our new pre-season regime? Could be. Remember we went into the season with every squad member showing as fully match fit and the tactical familiarity very high, and since the start of the season we’ve had only four minor injuries to players in the first team squad, for an average of 4 days each, so we’ve had very little disruption to the starting line-up.

In terms of player stats we have both strikers, Bustos (9) and Stuani (6), leading the team in scoring, whilst Aleix Garcia (5) sits in between wingbacks Junca (6) and Calavera (4) for assists. As both Junca and Garcia are on corners I’m more impressed by Calavera’s number.

Junca is also leading the team in terms of average rating, with a massive 7.73, with veteran centreback Bernardo in second place with 7.30.

The tactics

The Machin-inspired gameplan is working exactly how I hoped it would.

We can recap the aims of the tactic and then look at each element, which I promise won’t turn into death by data hub!

  • Wingbacks marauding up and down the flanks, whipping in crosses and passes for the attacking players.
  • A compact middle, forcing opponents wide, where our aerially dominant centrebacks can deal with any crosses.
  • Hitting teams with lightning-fast counter attacks when the opportunity arises.

Wingbacks – David Junca is clearly a standout player and it’ll be no surprise to hear he’s been named in the team of the week on numerous occasions. His numbers are helped by being on corners from the right-hand side and having three centrebacks to aim at, but he’s been fantastic in his general role as a wingback. Calavera and Martinez share duties at right wingback and are both performing well, although neither are as dynamic as Junca. Their passing stats are all around 88% which is fine given that we don’t play a short passing game and they’re expected to take risks.

Compact middle & Centrebacks – Our possession gained chart looks great to me, and the commentary backs it up. Over two-thirds our possession is won between our 18-yard line and half way, which tells me our aims of a compact centre which is difficult to play through is working well and not many teams are making it into our box, and when they do breach our final third, our three CB’s (Juanpe, Bernardo and Buena) are negating a majority of the aerial threats.

Counter attacking – I can’t yet provide any real evidence, as we’ve not really been under the cosh enough to warrant needing to rely on a counter attack.

In terms of our general play, here’s a few images which show our compact midfield, how narrowly we defend when the opposition has the ball centrally, and then how much we expand the field of play when we have the ball.

A pressing matter

The idea of measuring how effective our players are at pressing the opponent was something I first explored back in FM20 with my Almeria save, which I posted on the SI Forums. The only issue was that we weren’t a pressing team as we were in La Liga at the time and didn’t have players the right kind of players at our disposal.

What attributes are the best for effective pressing? To counter-press well as a team it seems the general consensus is players need good ratings in the following attributes:

Aggression, anticipation, decisions, determination, teamwork, work rate, acceleration and stamina.

With the new pressing system being based more on pressing-triggers, I’d suggest that the mental attributes of anticipation and decision are even more important in FM22.

We aren’t an aggressive pressing team; we have standard lines and our pressing slider is set to “more often” than “much more often” because, as you’ve read, we’re more about being more compact…however, we still do try to press with six players when the opportunity arises: both strikers, both central midfielders and both wingbacks.

Let’s see how the Girona players, who’ve played meaningful minutes in these roles, match up to the above pressing attributes:

As you can see, we aren’t perfect for pressing but the players have enough about them to be able to do the job being asked of them in our system.

How do we measure pressing effectiveness? The simple answer is “not easily”. However, you’ll probably know that team pressing is measured in “passes per defensive actions” which counts the average amount of passes a team allows the opposition to make before they are pressed with a “defensive action”.

What are defensive actions? I class the following as defensive actions:
– interceptions
– tackles attempted
– fouls

I know a couple of these may raise eyebrows but I’ll explain my thought process: An attempted tackle would still be enough to disrupt an opponents build up play and potentially force them into an errant pass or mistake. A foul definitely counts as a defensive action in my eyes, as it clearly stop opponents from progressing the ball downfield, allowing our team to regroup and set up in our defensive shape.

As we don’t get the amount of tackles attempted in FM22, we have to do some reverse engineering using the tackles and tackles won ratio. Once we have all the above we can add them all together and work out a per 90 stats using the minutes played.

We then get the following:

I can see immediately that our two main strikers, Bustos and Stuani, aren’t pressing as much as I’d expect. This could be down to the low work rate of Bustos and the lack of pace from Stuani.

Of our central midfielders, Kebe is clearly a beast – he’s mainly bought in against possession hungry teams as a BWM which would certainly help achieve his 7.4 defensive actions per game. Saiz also has good stats (as the CM-A, he’s asked to press more) whereas Baena, who rotates in the same role, has much less with only 2.4.

The wingbacks will obviously benefit from the pressing work of their more advances colleagues, and I believe their excellent interception stats show this. This also backs up what I was saying about Junca, earlier on, as not only is he very good going forward but he’s also got the most defensive actions if we remove Jairo who hasn’t played too much, so could be an outlier.

A good sign that a team pressing is effective is poor passes by the opposition which are then easily mopped up by your defenders. We already know our wingbacks have a good amount of interceptions, and and looking at our three centrebacks the theme is the same: Bernardo has 43, Juanpe 33 and Bueno 29, so I’m happy that our counter-pressing is having a good effect.

I’d be delighted to hear other people’s opinions on this, and I’ll be interested to see how these figures change when I do the same again in January.

Team admin

Now the good stuff is out of the way there’s some team admin to cover off. After terminating the loan of Pablo Moreno from Man City it put us back under the wage budget and meant we were able to offer some new contracts to players who had less than 12 months left. As some key players were included in this group it was vital that we got business done at the first opportunity.

Here’s how it panned out:

As you can see, I’ve managed to secure the services of four starters and one youngster who is getting plenty of playing time for just an extra £2,700 a week.

During the negotiations I also managed to make their appearance fees as small as possible whilst upping their incentive clauses by the same amount, so if they want to earn extra then we need to be seeing goals, assists and clean sheets!

Some of these players have moved around the designated group within the wage structure but I’m not concerned at the moment as it’s still early and we’re under the cap. I’ll look at performances in January and make any changes deemed necessary.

Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed this you can get me on Twitter as @fm_throwing

4 thoughts on “Girona FC – Part 6: The season so far, and a pressing matter.”

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