FM22 Analytics, tactics and soccernomics
When we left off we had a 12 point lead at the top of La Liga 2, with just 6 games remaining.
Only a disaster could possibly stop us being crowned a champions…
Surely we wouldn’t enter our worst run of form of the year at the business end of the season… Right??
Needing only 1 point to secure automatic promotion I used the opportunity to work on back up formations ahead of next season, so we went into the game against Leganes lined up in a 3-4-1-2. It didn’t work out well but luckily, despite our opponents having two of the best strikers in the league, a 0-0 was enough to secure at least 2nd place.
Next up came Real Valladolid, who occupied 2nd place and hadn’t lost in 12 games. If we beat them we’d be crowned champions. Sticking with a slightly tinkered version of the 3-4-1-2, we created much more but despite a well worked goal from Stuani, we were unable to get the win as Valladolid absolutely ripped us apart with a beautiful team goal, and we drew 1-1. Luckily, they hadn’t gained any points on us.
The even more tinkered with 3-4-1-2 then worked very well against Alcorcon but the game was marred by our starting left wingback, Junca, being stretchered of in the first minute and then his replacement, Jairo, being stretchered off after 32 minutes. Both would miss the rest of the season.
Luckily our 3-1 win was enough for us to claim the 1st spot and ensure we’d go up as champions.
We finished off the season with a 0-0 against Burgos, a 2-0 loss to Real Sporting – the only team to do the double over us, annoyingly, and a 1-1 draw with Pablo Machin’s Huesca. (I was fully prepared to let them win if it would get them 2nd spot but Valladolid took an early lead against lowly Lugo so it was never going to happen). We both played a 3-4-1-2 but we had the better of the chances and really, should’ve won.
So there we have it, a season ahead of schedule and certainly a much better performance than I could’ve hoped for, as I thought we’d get into the playoffs and then its the luck of the draw really.
Casting our mins back to the team who were favourites to challenge for promotion you have to think that Eibar will be bitterly disappointed with their final position of 12th. It’s a surprise too, as they dominated us in our last encounter.
Favourites Almeria had a strong finish to the season and will go into the playoffs in really good form. Although I want Huesca to win the playoffs, my money is on Real Sporting.
Season review: Tactics
Now the season is over, we should be able to find out if the tactic and game plan is working or not. If you need a reminder, here’s how the tactic is set up to work:
It’s designed to be very compact centrally, making it hard for teams to play through the middle. Meaning, if they want to score they need to do so by either going wide and relying on crosses against our three centre backs who are good in the air, or centrally by precise through balls, where, hopefully, we have three agile centre backs who are positionally aware and good at marking.
Going forward we use wingbacks to provide width and passing options through the phases and an attacking midfielder and target man both getting in between the opponents midfield and defence to feed our advanced forward.
With it being quite a “bottom heavy” formation we play with a positive mentality to ensure we can get people forward. This is my preferred 3 at the back system as it allows us to attack with 6 players (2 x strikers, 2 x wingbacks, 2 x central midfielders) whilst having the security of 3 CBs and a DLP.
So, are we centrally compact and making if very difficult for teams to play through?
Yes, I think its safe to say we are. We regain 66% of possession between the half way line and our own 18 yard box. Isn’t that chart beautiful!!! Not if you’re wanting to control possession in the opponents half though, obviously, but for our purposes it’s a lovely sight.
As you can see from the above, we’re not an aggressive counter-pressing team, we play with standard lines and don’t really put pressure on opponents until they get inside our half.
Here’s our pressing stats for the main starting 11:
As we’ve said in the two previous discussions about pressing, the two strikers aren’t doing anywhere near enough. I’d expect them to have nearer to 5 defensive actions per game as they should be pressing the oppositions central defenders. Whilst everyone is on “balanced” individual instructions for pressing, Saiz and Terrats both have instructions to press more. Terrats is relatively low compared to his backup, Kebe, who is at a respectful 5.5 per game.
Season review: Team stats
The first thing I like to do at the end of a season is look at how we, as a team, performed. The Competition > Team detailed screen gives us a great overview where we can obtain our strengths and weaknesses and plan for the season ahead.
If we pull out some attacking stats there’s lots to be positive about:
It’s clear that, despite having quite a defensive formation, we are doing the business when it comes to both creating chances and scoring.
Of the 74 goals we’ve scored, 25 came from corners, 4 from penalties and 2 from indirect freekicks, which means 58% of our goals came from open play – which I’d like to get a little higher next season.
Speaking of set pieces, we’ve scored no goals from direct free kicks so that definitely needs addressing next season.
From looking at that shots on target ranking though you’d be forgiven for thinking I had “shoot on sight” selected, but I don’t. Digging deeper, it’s not the strikers (as they both have 50% or above), it’s the Bernardo (36% on 2.69 shots per 90), Juanpe (49% on 1.97 shots/90) and Bueno (28% on 0.98 shots/90) who appear to be main contributors to the low shots on target ratio because they’re the main targets at corners, free kicks and long throws. So I’m not concerned by that low ranking.
Of course, other players need to improve their shooting, like Samu Saiz, our attacking midfielder who has just 38% on 1.72 shots/90 which would go someway to explaining his low goal output.
Speaking of goal outputs, here’s a page out of the Matty Lewis guidebook and a view of goal contributions for our starting line up:
As you can see, we have nice balance on both sides, which is a welcome site. Looking at the midfield though, there’s a lack of goals scored, with only 4 goals from our three starters. With Saiz being the 3rd most attacking player in our system and having traits like “gets into opposition box” and averaging just under 2 shots a game I’d be expecting more than 1 goal from him. Yes, he has 12 assists but he’s also on corners, which is where 6 of those came from. Baena performed much better with 5 goals and 7 assists, with only 1 assist coming from a set piece. As he’s on loan, however I didn’t start him much as I needed to try to develop Terrats and Kebe in the supporting midfield role as well as see what Saiz can do over a season as the attacking option.
The scoring and assist charts above show we’re getting lots of assists from wide areas which is what we want to see. Despite 24 of our wide assists coming from corners, we still have 19 from the flanks, compared to a total of 16 from central areas.
In terms of scoring, and considering where our assists come from , it’ll be no surprise to see a VAST proportion of our goals come from right in the centre, where we have our top scorer Bustos as well as target man Stuani to aim at, with his 15 heading attribute.
The defensive stats are similarly positive, and give us the best indication of how our tactic is working:
It’s easy to see from here we are very solid defensively. Being 15th in total tackles but first in percentage of tackles won shows me the team is playing how I want, remaining compact and not being pulled out of position, but when opponents get into our half we’re really good a winning the ball back.
Our shots against being 7th and shots on target against being 1st shows me that we make if very difficult for teams to break through into our final third. These stats are even more impressive for me given we aren’t a possession team. I can count on one hand the amount of games where we had more than 50% possession, so to allow opponents to have the most possession, but to also concede the least amount of shots on target is a great sign.
In fact, we’re ranked 14th for possession, with an average of 48%.
Given that our flanks are mostly wide open due to marauding wingbacks, it’s no surprise to see most of our opponent’s assists are coming from wide areas. Also, considering our opposition average 52% possession, it’s nice to see that only 7 goals have been assisted in central areas, once again verifying that the aim of being centrally compact is being accomplished.
Another point of interest is that more assists come from the wing of our least attacking wingback (5), whereas our attacking wingback area has only given up 4 assists.
Players review (aka-Succession planning)
At the end of a season, ESPECIALLY when getting promoted, you have to look at your players and see if they performed well enough for you to be comfortable that they can do a job in the higher division.
Juan Carlos has seemingly been a great ‘keeper this season, breaking the La Liga 2 record for the number of clean sheets. He was at fault for two goals but on the whole he’s been steady.
The above shows how easy he’s had it. By far the least amount of saves to make per game, and 80% save ratio which, whilst not spectacular, is 7th best in the division. Let’s see how he compares against the other top keepers:
This confirms what we already know – he’s not doing a bad job but it’s now looking like we can certainly make slight improvement, even from within our own division.
One new chart I love in the data hub is the expected goals prevented, versus save percentage:
Now we have a completely different picture painted. We can’t do slightly better from within our own division, we can probably do a lot better. According to the above, Juan Carlos prevented around 3 expected goals through his “actions” with a 80% save ratio. Marino, Villar and Abedzadeh did much better, preventing over 6 goals and with higher save ratios. With Villar only being 24 years old, and on loan to Leganes from Celta Vigo, he could be a very good option and yes, my scouts are on it!
We already know that our left wingback, Junca, is an elite talent at this level. Calavera, on the right, is slightly different. He’s a nice player, but lacks some of the attributes we’re looking for, making him not an ideal fit for our system.
With Junca being heavily scouted by Mallorca and Espanyol towards the end of the season I’ll definitely need to have a replacement at hand.
As we’re using our wingbacks more as offensive players than defensive, I wanted to judge them purely on their requirements within the tactic – helping us score goals. As Junca, Calavera and our back up right wingback, Martinez, are all above average in terms of cross completion % and cross attempts per game, I’ve chosen to look at assists per game:
You can see just how effective Junca is, and how well Calavera is doing too. His 6 assists don’t sound like much but he’s split a lot of time with Martinez (who has 15 starts) and isn’t on any set pieces. I’ll mark Calavera down as safe going into La Liga but if any good offers come in he can go. Jairo, who is just next to Martinez, has an expiring contract and won’t be here next season.
Our centre backs have been superb all season, especially Bernardo and Juanpe who have been huge threats from set pieces.
We want our CDs to be good in the air and keep the well. Simple.
Bernardo, Gnagnon and Juanpe are all performing really well aerially, with Bueno being right on the average line, however he’s still young and developing.
When it comes to passing, Bernardo (98%) and Gnagnon (98%) are just ahead of Bueno (97%) with Juanpe bringing up the rear with 95% pass completion, however, he is a ball playing defender so will take more risks.
All are safe, and hopefully I can keep them all for next season.
The issue with a 3-man midfield is often they have 3 distinct roles – I like to go for the classic trio of a creator, an attacker and a destroyer. Whether we are there yet with the players at our disposal in season 1, we’re about to find out.
We already know the midfield 3 have only scored 4 goals between them, so there’s no point looking at goal scoring stats, so let’s look at creativity and tackling instead:
From the outset, it seems Saiz is doing an amazing job of creating, but we have to take into account 6 of his assists came from corners. Garcia, who is our actual creator, in a DLP role, has done a good job in terms of creating chances and has above average key passes per 90. He’s not, however, doing great from a defensive point of view, considering he’s the last line of defence, before the ACTUAL defence…. he’s on the average line for tackles won ratio, but well below for tackles attempted. It’s not even as if he’s using his good positioning attribute to win the ball as he’s only getting 1.01 interceptions per 90.
In the supporting central mid position we’ve mainly used Terrats and Kebe. Both are good ball winners, but Terrats is better on the ball and more comfortable at progressing play. I can’t see either having a starting role next season, and at the moment my plan is to move Garcia into a the CM(S) role and recruit a new DLP.
We also used Baena and Lozano as backups but they’re both on loan and I’m not sure if I’ll try to extend their stay with us.
We’ve covered the exploits of loanee Nahuel Bustos and his attacking partner Cristian Stuani already so I won’t go to deep into this. They are sent out as Advanced Forwards and a Target Man on support and both have done a great job, with Bustos scoring 20 and Stuani grabbing 16 goals.
We have an issue though.
Bustos is on loan from Man City, on a massive £25k per week, and Stuani, now aged 35, is on £27,500k per week, his physicals are declining and he now has pace of 8.
My initial plan is to try to get Bustos back, if I can get him on lower wages (depending on our new wage budgets) and we’ll see if Stuani will be kind enough to restructure his contract…. what could go wrong?
We might have a hefty striker recruitment post coming soon!
Having covered player the main members of our squad we can get a picture of where we’ll need to improve for our season in La Liga:
Whilst we’re happy to face the big boys with our current defence, we’ll look to upgrade our goalkeeper if we get the chance. This won’t be a priority however, as I think Juan Carlos could do a half decent job.
We’ll be looking for a new DLP so Garcia can be freed and moved into a more attacking role… we’ll definitely be searching for a new attacking midfielder who can contribute with some goals and potentially TWO new strikers.
Fingers crossed we get a decent transfer budget…. but I’m not holding my breath.
One added bonus is our City Group ties to Man City who should supply us with a loan player, or two. Fingers crossed they arrive early to not interrupt my recruitment plans and also are good players who can contribute, otherwise they’ll be going straight back!
Finally… the accolades:
Our rock in central defence, Bernardo scooped the Player of the Year award – no surprise given his 12 goals and 98% passing completion. Juanpe also achieved 8 player of the match awards which is a fantastic effort.
Gnagnon is the signing of the season (and my only signing) and Sarmiento got the goal of the season award in one of his few starts. From memory it was a screaming volley from around 20 yards.
The manager didn’t do too badly either…
Next up: Budgets, staff upgrades and recruitment…..