FM22 Analytics, tactics & soccernomics
In the last update we covered our impressive start to the season, where after 12 games we sat top of La Liga 2 with 10 wins and 2 draws.
That good start was potentially down to a favourable run of fixtures. November, however, would be different: we’d get to test our mettle against recently relegated Eibar and Real Valladolid as well as face the league’s best defence: 3rd placed Tenerife.
But before that, we have a signing!
A new Gironista!
The problem with disabling the first transfer window is that when there’s a nice free agent you need, you can’t sign him!
When carrying out my squad review I mentioned we play with 3 central defenders and only have 3 realistic options. Of the two backups, Williams is nowhere near ready and the other, Martinez, I see more as our left wingback of the future. Naturally then, when I saw Joris Gnagnon was without a club I kept everything crossed that he’d still be available when the summer transfer window closed.
Luckily he was, so I immediately tried to tempt him to Catalonia, but obviously, he wasn’t interested. Why would he be? Anyone who knows him is aware he’s clearly a La Liga standard player.
Persistence is key. Every week I tried and every week he said no. Every week the list of clubs way bigger than us interested in him grew and my hopes of signing him shrunk.
Finally, near the end of October he agreed to enter into contract negotiations. A few days later, the ex-Sevilla man was in front of the press in the red and white stripes of Girona FC.
Naturally, things didn’t go that smoothly – we had no registration slots free and had to wait until the end of December, when a free slot came available, before he could play his first game.
Back to the season…
How did we get on in November, our first real test of the season, where we’d face 2nd and 3rd favourites to win the division, Eibar and Real Valladolid, and current 3rd placed Tenerife?
Following a much tougher than expected game against Xabi Alonso’s Real Sociedad B, we failed to pick up any wins in what was a very frustrating 3 games.
Eibar played very defensively and we just couldn’t break them down, fair play to them.
It’s never a good idea to concede an early goal against the best defensive team in the division, and that’s what happened against Tenerife – luckily, we managed to pull one back just before half time but despite easily winning the xG battle, we were unable to get the win.
What annoyed me the most is that we let a team come to Estadi Montilivi and dominate possession to an extent that they completed more passes than we even attempted!
The trip to Valladolid started badly, with deep lying playmaker Aleix Garcia getting stretchered off after just 2 minutes. We hammered them all game and their ‘keeper made some amazing saves, but we had to settle for another draw.
December, January, Injuries.
After getting back to winning ways we finally tasted defeat against 3rd placed Real Sporting. It is what it is. Despite injuries forcing us into a change of formation, we were dominating until Samu Saiz was sent off after 56 minutes and shortly after, Stuani pulled a calf muscle and had to be replaced. We held on until the 92nd minute but ended up losing 1-0.
The Huesca result was annoying though. We were dreadful. Again, we went into the game with a different formation and we looked sloppy and lethargic. They took the lead when our goalkeeper, Juan Carlos, kicked a clearance against their attacker, who said “mucho gracias” and tapped into an open goal, and their second goal went in off the post. We pulled one back in injury time but it was just a mere consolation.
My post-game “rocket up the backside” clearly worked as we hammered divisional rivals Las Palmas in the 2nd round of the Cope del Rey and 8th placed Burgos.
We’re now exactly halfway through the season. Injured players are coming back and we have boosted our defence with Gnagnon. I’ve tried to free up some wage budget by sending out some players on loan, in an attempt to try and add depth with a free transfer signing in January, but it’s not looking hopeful.
Reviewing the role values
If you haven’t read my post on Role Values, I would recommend having a quick look, otherwise this next part might be confusing.
In this instalment I’m going to look at the roles I assigned as the most important ones to make our tactic and game plan work as effectively as possible; the Key Roles, and decide if they are indeed the roles we should be spending the most money on.
Are the positions of Ball Playing Defender, Deep Lying Playmaker, Attacking Midfielder and Advanced Forward still Key Roles?
Ball Playing Defender – I’m going to start with a cop out… I don’t feel I can properly evaluate the Ball Playing Defender position yet because we’re not able to play in the way I intended when both setting up this tactic and evaluating the roles. Instead of being “under the cosh” for a lot of games (like we would be in La Liga), and able to use a BPD to launch defence splitting passes against more aggressive teams, we’ve found ourselves as the aggressor with teams happy to sit back and defend deep against us. Therefore, I’m leave this one as “to be confirmed”.
Deep Lying Playmaker – Although I intended this role to be similar to that of the BPD, we still have a lot we can judge this role on. Instead of being the key to an aggressive counter attacking game plan, he’s having to carefully probe against deep defences, using precision passes, rather than more direct long balls.
So far, we’ve been using the talented Aleix Garcia as a DLP on defend. In the league so far, he’s played 15 games and notched up 1 goal and 7 assists. Of these 7 assists, 5 have come from open play. He has an 88% pass completion rate, which I’m happy with as we aren’t set up to be a possession-based team and his instruction is to try riskier passes.
It’s easy to see the impact that Garcia is having on the team; he’s amongst the best in the division in terms of key passes and assists, as well as completing 88% of his tackles.
Let’s look at him compared to players sound him on the above charts and who play in a similar role for their respective teams and also their attributes average for the DLP on defend role:
Conclusion: He’s performing well in the role but it’s too early to say just yet. I need to get more players to compare him against who play in a similar 3-man set up… (but man, my scouts are slooooooow!)
Attacking Midfielder – Playing in the centre of midfield, this player needs to defend with the team and then burst forward – either with or without the ball – when the opportunity arises and support the attack and with a key role, should certainly be chipping in with goals and assists.
We’ve been using 30-year-old Samu Saiz here, who has all the right players traits to carry out this role to a high level (gets into opposition area, moves into channels, gets forward whenever possible).
So far this season he’s played 15 league games and has notched up 1 goal and 6 assists. However, his xG is 3.56 so he’s either been unlucky or isn’t finishing as well as he should be. It’ll be interesting to see if he catches up with his xG over the rest of the season (and could determine his future in the team!). Of his 6 assists, only 2 have come from open play (although they were both lovely passes).
When looking at the data hub though you can see Saiz is in a league of his own when it comes to creating chances for his teammates – so it’s a surprise that he only has 2 open play assists. If we look at the “Shots on Target ratio” for our two strikers, Bustos has 52% and Stuani is at 48%, so whilst neither are great, I’d still expect Saiz to have more assists. The scoring chart shows how much he’s under performing in terms of his goal contributions, with teammate Alex Baena, who often shares the CM(A) role, showing him how it’s done. Baena is on loan from Villareal and has 3 goals and 1 assist in the league against an xG of 2.08.
Conclusion – Comparing Saiz and Baena to other people doing well on the data hub charts, we can see his goal scoring frailties, but also that he’s top on 3 of the 5 metrics selected. There’s also only one player scoring higher for the role average. Therefore we’re currently sticking with the theory that for this role we definitely need a top players and it’s worth allocating more money to. Whether that play is Saiz or not though… he’s got 21 games to convince me.
Advanced Striker – Here it’s clear what we want and I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say we need a very good player in this slot. As the most advanced of the two strikers their job is to score goals. If they can assist too that’s great – this should be pretty simple…
We’ve been using Nathuel Bustos in this role. On loan from Man City, he’s on a massive £25k per week wages but I’ve got no depth to let him go. He’s valued around £16m so I’ve got no chance of affording him, so we’ll likely be scouting for his replacement in this exercise.
Comparing goal scorers is always fun and interesting:
We can see both Bustos, and his Target Man partner Stuani, are doing pretty well in terms of Goals per 90 and Expected Goals per 90.
However, when comparing them with other players from that chart and the more prolific strikers from the division so far we can see it’s not quite as clear cut:
From this table we can see that everyone is out performing their xG… apart from Bustos (we’ll wait to see how this continues for a while longer). You’ll also notice he’s quite a way behind when it comes to goals per 90. Again, we’ll keep an eye on all these players.
I know, I know… strikers are never this cut and dry as there’s lots of variables. “I WANT MORE CONTEXT” I hear you screaming – or at least that’s what Matty Lewis said when I shared this with him.
“What’s their shots per goal ratio”?
“Are they lone strikers”?
Ok, let’s take those factors into consideration. And we’ll take away penalties whilst we’re at it:
Now we get an even more intriguing picture.
Only one player from the list has has more shots and his shots to goal ratio is 8.7 – which is quite a lot in comparison. BUT he’s the only one from the list who isn’t a lone striker, which obviously effects things as he’s got someone else taking away goal scoring opportunities from him.
So let’s take a look at how Bustos and Stuani stack up alongside eachother:
So now we can work out that Bustos could potentially have had 151 non-penalty shots which, at his current shots per goal ratio, would give him 17 goals. Although, Stuani is a Target Man and we aim crossed at him so let’s say half of his shots are headers, that would be 87 shots for Bustos, add 32 of Stuani’s, at 8.7 shots per goal would give the Manchester City loanee 14 goals this season.
Anyway, back to the point of this exercise, he’s got the lowest average attribute score for the role of Advanced Forward, and he’s under performing against his peers in the division.
Conclusion – for a more efficient goal scorer we definitely need someone on a much higher average role attribute score, which will cost us money. Bustos definitely isn’t worth his £25k per week so far. Jon Bautista, on loan to Leganes from Real Sociedad looks like a good option, and Franco Soldano, on loan at Fuenlabrada from Olympiacos will be worth keeping an eye on as he’s currently smashing his xG.
I’ll obviously review this again, along with other players in future blogs but I’m keen to see what everyone else thinks about this. I’m also pondering changing the CM-A role to a Mezzala on Attack duty to see how this effects the role and output.
We’ll also have the January transfer window to deal with.
In the meantime…