FM22 Analytics, tactics and soccernomics
When we left off we’d just been beaten 5-0 by Atletico Madrid and were reaching for the Ibuprofen to ease some tactical-based headaches.
After looking at the stats from the three variations we’d tried, the decision was made to stick with the 3-4-1-2 and try to develop this further.
Was the new formation a roaring success? Did we add a new 20 goal-a-season striker in the January transfer window?
Let’s find out.
With the World Cup break upon us, the first aim I had was to have a rethink and solve our (very) leaky defence. Despite our 11th place in the table, we’d conceded 21 goals, the 6th worst in the division.
Our new goalkeeper, Mamardashvili, was struggling and was probably the cause of us conceding 6 more goals than the xGA predicts. He was getting beaten at his near post way too often and lots of goals were conceded straight through his arms, which he definitely should’ve saved.
The first point of order was that he’s still young and in need of confidence. So, during the December friendlies I ensured he was praised as much as possible. Secondly I re-simplified the defence. Ball playing defenders and wide centre backs were changed back to standard centre backs, and we tightened things back up in midfield.
Given that one of our Board Requirements is to play solid defence, it’s vital I get this right.
January – the Patch!
We started January with a fortunately timed game against high-flying Valencia, as Unai Emery had just left to become the Spain Manager, leaving them managerless. In what was a frantic, end to end, game we managed to pull off a 2-1 win thanks to an early volley by Aleix Garcia, and an 89th minute winner when both subs combined as Calavera set up Gallar with a lovely cross which he smashed home.
Wedged in between that game and the next was the January Transfer Deadline – which was quite busy!
But only when it came to players leaving the club.
After spending the first 6 months being mentored, our youngsters from last seasons youth intake were wanting to go out on loan for some first team football. As long as they continued to develop, who am I to stop them.
Confession – I’m usually quite lazy and clueless when it comes to youth progression, so if I’ve done the wrong thing please let me know.
We did get a couple of signings for the first team done, though. The first of which was a loan deal for a promising, young striker from PSG.
As you can see, he has excellent pace and technique, which when matched with his composure and finishing, should make for a decent goal threat and cause problems for opposition defenders.
As always, we’ve got an option to buy which is set at £3.4m.
His first game was against Celta Vigo in which we were terrible and fell to a deserved 2-0 defeat.
We didn’t stay terrible for long though and put in an excellent performance in the Copa Del Rey against fellow La Liga team, Rayo Vallecano. Unfortunately, despite our dominance, they scored a couple of goals against the run of play and beat us 2-1.
A very solid defensive game against Real Sociedad saw the start of a very annoying trend, as they grabbed a winner in the 88th minute: The late goal!!
After a must-win game against Real Valladolid ended in a 0-0 bore draw, we were cheered up by the news of a new arrival.
Filipe Cruz joined us from Benfica. After initially being told he was not available by the Portuguese giants, they soon succumbed when I sent DoF Quique Carcel off to get the business done. And once again, he came back with the goods.
For a fee of £1.7m (despite only being told to offer up to £1.5m *eyeroll emoji*) we secured the signing of the all round wingback who fits our game plan perfectly.
Anyway, back to our disappointing league form… to finish off January we came up against Catalan rivals Espanyol, and were deserved 2-0 losers.
Taking at a look at the summary of the league games played in January, it’s clear to see we were still really struggling in the attacking phase:
What I hadn’t mentioned earlier, is that after the disappointing result against Celta Vigo, I gave up on the 3-4-1-2 and reverted back to the 3-5-2. Rather stubbornly, I was determined to make it work. As you can see I didn’t make it work so decided to give the 3-4-1-2 another chance.
I was struggling to score BEFORE the patch but this just seemed to make things even worse. The last game before the patch was installed was the Valencia game, and although under the cosh, we created some nice chances…. the arrival of the patch massively effected things for us, going forward.
Previously, we’d gotten lots of scoring chances from through-balls into the channels and nice movement from the forwards, and inter-play with the wingbacks, however these no longer seem to occur. As my esteemed friend Matty Aqua added, the attacking phase seems to have lost fluidity post-patch. And I concur.
So the need for more attacking focus is what put me back into the 3-4-1-2.
It would be a back to basics, block by block, game by game process, but we’ll get there.
We didn’t have the easiest of starts to February and our relaunched formation.
After battling bravely against 4th placed Real Betis we fell to a 89th minute wonder goal by Rodri. The late goal blues continued when we thought we’d secured a great 1-1 draw with league leaders Real Madrid, only for a late Modric header to ruin the party.
From a 68,000 crowd at the Bernabeu to 11,000 at the Montilivi, we ended our 6 game winless streak with a victory over 7th placed Levante, thanks to a wonder goal from Bustos.
We thoroughly deserved the goal and defended like absolute warriors.
Bustos put us in the leader again, this time against Getafe, and we created enough chances to win comfortably. However another late goal from Emes Unai earned the visitors a 1-1 draw.
In an attempt to put a halt to the late goals I put some more “rest” schedules into the weekly training session, as well as making some upgrades to the tactic.
Defensively we were looking good (for most of the game anyway!) so it was time to release the breaks and go a little more attacking through some adjustments and additions:
- I noticed the wingback on attack meant they were getting too high too early and taking themselves out of the equation when it came to being a passing option. I dropped them both to a Support duty which should make them more available in progression through the phases.
- To encourage more attacking movement, which seems to have vanished, I added “underlaps” on both sides. This should make the CMs and/or AMC to make nice runs to become an option for the WBs instead of just a cross.. which seem to be hitting the first man a lot.. again, post patch!
- To make us more compact again, centrally, I dropped the line of engagement from Standard to Lower.
- The next change was to the midfield trio. I normally don’t like my playmaker to be in the AMC role, however, I made that change to make the double pivot more defensively sound and simple. Now we’re looking much more solid I made the change back to a DLP, and changed the PI’s of the AMC to be a cross between a AP and a SS.
We finished February with a 2-1 victory over Huesca, who has recently sacked Pablo Machin and were on their 3rd manager in 18 months. Their goal was a 92nd minute consolation goal. Yep, another late one.
Things were looking up though when it came to both creating and scoring goals, as for the first time since our promotion to La Liga, our xG was better than our xGA.
4 of the 5 goals conceded came after the 85th minute…. and they cost us 4 points over the month.
As I said earlier: block by block, game by game.
Our 3 game unbeaten run came to an end due to a 1-0 loss to Granada, thanks to a lovely goal from Machis, and we somehow failed to revenge our cup defeat to Rayo Vallecano as we drew 0-0 but really should’ve won 3-0.
These 2 results saw us drop down to 14th, our lowest spot of the season, despite our recent run being quite good.
Next up was a definite must-win game, against lowly Osasuna, who were sat in the relegation places. Luckily, we started brightly and Bustos gave us the only goal of the game after 3 minutes thanks to a beautiful run and cross by Junca.
We managed to pick up another 3 points to close off the month of March, this time 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao after another early Bustos goal and then the first Girona goal for loanee Kalimuendo, which was a nice dribble from the half way line, followed by a cheeky chip over the keeper.
I’ll take 7 points from a possible 12 any month, especially with how things have been going. As you’ll see from the stats table below, it wasn’t the toughest month, but still pleasing to only concede 1 goal. Mamardashvili is on fire!
With 2 months to go, we’re sat in 11th place – to be honest I’m DELIGHTED! Especially when you realise we’ve scored only 21 goals in 28 games – the lowest in the division!
I’m expecting to be a good few placed lower than this at the end of April, as our schedule is:
- Barcelona (4th)
- Sevilla (8th)
- Valencia (2nd)
- Atletico Madrid (3rd)
- Elche (13th)
5 points from that month of hell would be a dream!
We are getting better though, and if Bustos stays in his current goal scoring streak, and the defence continues to hold steady, who knows what could happen.
Although sometimes I forget we’re the smallest team in La Liga, with the smallest budget….