Girona FC – S2,5: Season 2 review

FM22 Analytics, tactics and soccernomics

After a 9th placed finish in our first season back in La Liga, we’re naturally optimistic about the future and looking to see how we can build on that and hopefully secure European football next season.

I like to first look at how the team performed to see where we can make immediate improvements, and then at each player to see who we need to stick with and who can be moved on.

Team review

The xG table gives us the simplest indication of how we performed over the season:

According to this, we’re lucky to have finished 9th. We scored 8 goals less than we should’ve and conceded 3 more than predicted. Without context, however, it’s not really useful information so that’s why I go into the Competition > Team stats > Detailed view and see how we’re stacking up to the rest of the division.

Attacking Team Stats

We know we didn’t score enough goal, so our ranking of 16th comes as no surprise. Interestingly, if we scored at our post-Data Hub rate of 1.54 per game, we’d have hit the back of the net 58 times, instead of 37, which would’ve ranked 6th.

Our goals from corners dropped dramatically, from 25 in La Liga 2, to just 8 this season. I imagine this will be due to the patch reducing the number of corner goals scored, but I’m sure there’s still work we can do.

Focus 1: How can we improve the number of goals we score from corners?

Just like last season, we scored ZERO goals from direct free kicks. Two seasons and no goals. Not good enough.

Focus 2: Improve our direct free kicks

When it comes to shooting, we’re 13th for amount of shots we take, but 17th for the amount we get on target and 20th (LAST) for percentage of shots on target. This has been something we’ve been working on and has improved recently but there’s still work we can do, however, I think this is down to personnel… so we’ll investigate this more in the player review later on.

Defensive Team Stats

These stats are mainly pleasing, considering I’m mainly a defence-first manager. The show we’re a tough team to break down.

There are obviously improvements to make. We’re 19th in interceptions, which comes as no surprise as we’re well below La Liga average in terms of Anticipation and Positioning – again, I think this is just a personnel thing, but I’m sure there are little tweaks we can make.

Scoring & assisting

One of my favourite areas of post-season analysis. I like to look at goal contributions, thanks to Matty Lewis, so in his honour, we’ve ripped off his graphics.

What a bleak picture these stats paint. Junca wracked up 15 assists last season, but only 4 this year. Bustos recovered well after a terrible first half of the season and ended up with 10 goals, and mid-season pick up Kalimuendo notched up 6 goals and 5 assists from his Pressing Forward role.

Stuani, who played the first half of the season, but was an impact sub for the rest of it did well with 7 assists and 2 goals and Gallar has surprised me as I can only remember his scoring 2 goals, but apparently he got 4!

We really need to increase the goals and assists coming from midfield and the wingbacks next season!

Looking at where our goals come from, there’s not much interesting or insightful to report. 20 goals have come from dead-centre and 7 from outside the box, which is an improvement on last seasons 5.

The amount of headed goals has dropped from 21 last season to just 8 this year, which will be down to Stuani no longer being a focus for crosses and the corners being effected by the patch.

We score our most goals in the first 15 minutes, which may be thanks to me ensuring the players are all motivated from the pre-game chat going into games.

Our percentage of goals scored from central areas has improved since last year (48% vs 23%) which could be due to our addition of the AMC rather than a DM.

Conceding

Now, here’s the most important information. Where are we conceding from and where are the assists from?

Bearing in mind we set up our team to send the opposition wide and then select our defenders based on their ability to cut out any balls into the area either aerially or on the ground, the amount of goals conceded centrally is VERY disappointing. We’ve only conceded 3 from outside the area, compared to 5 last season, which I think is testament to the new double pivot we installed, and the performances of Mamardashvili in goal.

As I highlighted in the last few updates, we conceded way too many late goals, and the above proves it. I’m putting this down to player fatigue and I think the cause is the pre-season, where I go for a bootcamp style first week and then back off with the conditioning in favour of gaining match fitness from friendlies. I think if it was due to players being tired due to be overworked, and not rotated enough, we’d have had a lot more injures. But, as you can see we’ve done really well with injury prevention this season.

So my guess is they weren’t fit enough to start off with.

Focus 3: Adapt the pre-season to include more conditioning work.

Again, the fact that most assists are coming from through balls – something we’re set up to prevent – makes me die slightly inside.

I put this down to 3 factors:

1 – The quality and technical ability of La Liga players
2 – Being too passive in midfield
3 – My central defenders being too slow or not good enough positioning.

Snapshot

Player Review

For the second season in a row, Bernardo has won the player of the year award. It’s such a shame he’s now 33. Hopefully he’ll continue at this level for another season, or two.

Goalkeepers
After a slow start, new signing, Mamardashvili seemed to improve significantly. Our coaches say he’s a good La Liga player, but what do the stats say?

The stats show he’s a good goalkeeper at this level, and he’s fulfilling his sweeper keeper role well, with a 85% pass completion ratio. He’s still got room to improve so he’s definitely one to keep. I think that next season, when we’ve (hopefully) improved the overall quality of the team, his stats will really shine.

Wingbacks
We’ve used 5 players in the wingback roles this season, with the starters for the second half of the season being Junca on the left, and new signing Cruz on the right. They need to provide width, assist in getting the ball downfield through passes or dribbles and, as we force teams wide and they’re our only wide players, win the ball back

Looking out our WB-R options, Cruz completes less passes than his alternatives, however makes more key passes and dribbles per game. He also has the most interceptions. There’s not much between the three of them, really.

Over on the left side, Araujo, on loan from Benfica, provided good competition, stats-wise, for Junca. However, I’m not yet decided if I should active the option to buy, which is £3m.

As wingbacks are so important in our system I want to make sure they stack up well against others in La Liga. Here I’ve looked at Dribbles per game and Key Passes per game:

The results are very impressive. Cruz is clearly the pick of the division for these KPIs. Araujo and Junca are also right up there. Very promising signs.

On the defensive side of the game, we want them to win the ball when it’s forced out wide into their areas. So let’s have a look at how they stack up defensively with interceptions and tackles per 90:

Whilst they aren’t performing quite as well in the defensive stats, they can still hold their heads high. Araujo, Cruz and Martinez all score above average for tackles per game, but are below average for interceptions. This might not be their fault though, the blame for the wingbacks not getting as many interceptions could be because the strikers aren’t pressing enough to cause errant passes from defences…..

Only Cruz is in the dreaded bottom-left quadrant – but not by much. A slight improvement seems to be all that’s required to get him in the upper-right…and he’s still got potential to fulfil.

Overall, I’m happy with the performance of our wingbacks – I just need to decide if Araujo’s £3m option should be picked up.

Central Defender
Channelling my inner Brian Clough, the role of our centre backs, at it’s core, is a simple one. If a ball comes into the box either head it clear or kick it away.

Doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.

Our four main rotations at the position all win much more than average aerial duals per game, and all make an impressive amount of clearances. So they clearly aren’t the main reason for us conceding 31 goals in central areas in the last 40 league games.

It’s clearly more wide-spread issue, so because I have little else to do on a rainy Saturday than watch back all the league goals we conceded this season and see where the actual fault lies….

Goal conceded where blame can be assigned – 14
Fault of centre backs – 5
Too slow – 1
Beaten in air by smaller player – 1
Lost man they were marking – 3

Fault of wingbacks – 9
Lost man they were marking – 9

Houston, we (potentially) have a problem. It’s hard to be mad at the WBs as they have so much responsibility in this system, and some of these were late in games when they’ll be tired from burning up and down the wing all game. It’s something to keep an eye on next season.

Focus 4: Extra positioning training for all wingbacks.

Although, on paper, I’m happy with our central defenders I’m still aware that Juanpe (32) and Bernardo (33) aren’t getting any younger, so if an elite replacement becomes available I’ll have to think seriously about upgrading.

Midfielders
Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you all going through midfielder performance as I did that a couple of updates ago.

Need less to say, I’m satisfied with our central midfielders and will probably pick up the £3m option on Thuram. What we DO need though, especially after the broken leg suffered by Saiz, is a top class AMC. That’s definitely a role we need someone special in and I’m hoping the board give us enough money to pick one up.

Attackers
I’m going to go for the same approach with our strikers. In the last update we established that after we made the changes they both performed much better. We have a £3.4m option on Kalimuendo, from PSG, and I’ll probably pick it up. Obviously I’ll do my due diligence in case there’s anyone better, for less… but I’m not hopeful.

Areas of Focus

Focus 1: How can we improve the number of goals we score from corners?
Focus 2: Improve our direct free kicks
Focus 3: Adapt the pre-season to include more conditioning work
Focus 4: Extra positioning training for all wingbacks.

Coming up next…

In the next blog we’ll have a look at the pre-season, and player movements and maybe some tactical analysis.



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