We finished the previous update sat in a healthy 8th place after 12 games. We’d made some tweaks to our midfield roles and were hoping to be in the European places when the January transfer window closed.
Let’s find out if we succeeded in our aims or if we laid a big fat egg.
November & December
Our first game under the tweaked tactic was against newly promoted Tenerife, who were languishing at the bottom of the table. After dominating the opening 30 minutes we went behind to a Toornstra back post header but soon equalised from the penalty spot as we laboured to a 1-1 draw.
Next up came the first of two games against team from Madrid. Oh joy.
We travelled to 6th placed Atletico where we’d identified Saul as the main hub of their possession based system so ensured he’d be closed down and tackled hard whenever he was on the ball. We had a terrible start when we went behind to a long range screamer from left wingback Lemar. Once I amended the tactic to focus down the middle against the 2-man midfield of their newly adopted 3-4-3 we were the better team for most of the second half and fully deserved our equaliser when substitute Essahel was played through by another sub, Stuani, and calmly slotted it home.
Against Real Madrid I’d established – thanks to our performance analysts – that they have a lot of possession in the opponents half on the left hand side. To combat this I swapped our midfield roles over so the ball winning midfielder was on our right, making him well placed to break up play. We also man-marked Alaba and Kroos who get on the ball a lot!
We got off to a dream start when Stengs drifted to the left wing and picked up the ball before dribbling down the left wing and delivering a pin-point cross to Ganago to volley home.
We did well and limited them to some half chances but eventually they hit us on the counter and Rodrygo got on the end of a long ball and expertly rounded Mamardashvili to equalise.
It seems I wasn’t the only one happy with the two draws against Atletico and Real Madrid. In the following week I was offered interviews for the Real Betis job as well as our next opponents, Real Sociedad.
Both invitations were declined: We’re building something here.
After our FOURTH 1-1 draw in a row vs Sociedad, we had an infuriating 4-2 loss against Levante in which they scored FOUR GOALS from set pieces.
Another job interview was declined, this time from Sevilla.
Our hopes of European qualification were sliding away as we’d dropped from 8th to 10th. After picking up a win in the Copa Del Rey thanks to our reserves, we finally broke a streak of 5 games without a win thanks to a 1-0 victory over Sevilla, with Ganago scoring after great work again from Stengs.
The transfer window opened and immediately Marseille were sniffing around Joris Gnagnon. Although I have young players ready to step up, I don’t want to lose my best defender just yet.
Our first game of the month was a 0-0 draw with Barcelona. Aside from the set piece disaster against Levante, we’re proving very difficult to beat for the big teams. Which is a good thing.
We fumbled to 3 more consecutive league draws, sandwiching a 2-1 Cope Del Rey win over Rayo Vallecano. At least we aren’t losing…. right?
We also had the first of a glut of injuries as we lost the aforementioned Gnagnon for 4 month with a torn calf muscle. At least that should keep Marseille away. Silver linings. We also lost fellow defender Arnau Martinez for 2 months with a lower back stress fracture.
The Rayo win meant we’d face Barcelona for the second time this month, and after our 0-0 draw a few weeks ago I was optimistic of our chances so put out a full strength team – or as close as I could with 2 starting defenders injured.
A nice result which sets up a quarter final game against Sevilla, who we turned down for the managers role and then beat 1-0 the following week.
The transfer window shut, thankfully with very little activity. With no transfer budget available we’d have to sell to bring anyone new in and with Gnagnon injured we received no bids. I managed to sign a pre-contract agreement with youngster Orri Steinn Oskarsson from FC Kobenhavn who is a promising youngster with La Liga potential.
Thank the lord that February is the shortest month of the year. It wasn’t an enjoyable one for Girona FC.
After a 0-0 bore draw against 19th placed Getafe (albeit with a rotated team after the Barca game) we continued to falter with back to back 2-1 defeats to Sevilla in the Cup Quarter Final and then against Athletic Bilbao. We managed to get a win over Rayo Vallecano thanks to a Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane goal, but fell again at the next hurdle to Valencia. Yes, it was 2-1. How did you guess?
A few frustrating months. On one had we picked up draws against the teams at the top of the table, on the other we’re not scoring enough and of late, our defence hasn’t been great either. We’re not getting dominated which is good, but neither are we exerting ourselves on our opponents.
I shouldn’t really complain, for 2 reasons:
- Our defence has been makeshift with both Gnangon and Martinez having long-term injuries and team captain Juanpe also missing a few games.
- Our finances are the 2nd worst in the division. Even newly promoted Tenerife and Real Sporting have bigger budgets.
We go into final 3 month sat in 9th, but 6 points off the European places. We clearly need to find a way to turn draws into wins.
As you can see from the below stats its been a very mixed bag (just like the results):
In the first 11 games of this period we weren’t too bad defensively, averaging just 1.17 xGA per game, however the last 3 games weren’t as good with Bilbao putting up 2.22 xG and Valencia getting 2.28 xG, with us being slightly better against Rayo Vallecano (1.07).
The Stengs Situation
We’d been tinkering with the AMC role and in the last post looked at how the Stengs performed as an Attacking Midfielder on Support and then an Advanced Playmaker on Support.
As the AP-S role meant he received the all too deep to be effective, we switched to an attacking AP in the hope this would mean he’d get the ball further up the pitch where he could make things happen. Aside from statistical improvements we also wanted to see him carrying out the following functions within the tactic:
- Moves into channels to help create overloads on the wings
- Acts as a 3rd attacker when the opportunity arises
- Plays through balls to wingback and the strikers
Stats-wise, here’s how Stengs performed in the AP-A role:
Naturally, he’s not getting on the ball quite as much as when in the supporting role, however his key passes per games has nearly doubled. He’s also averaging 1 clear cut chance created per game which, considering the strength of opposition we’ve faced in this period is a positive sign.
He’s also racked up 2 goals and 3 assists, which considering how we aren’t scoring many isn’t too bad.
Let’s see if he fulfils the requirements listed above.
Moves into channels to help create overloads on the wings
As you can see from these two randomly selected games, one a draw and one a defeat, whilst he IS getting out wide he’s doing so more to the right. Due to the roles of the midfielders behind him I would expect him to drift over to the left more as the left-sided CM is a BWM on a defend duty so you’d think there’d be more space for him than on the right, where a Box to Box midfielder is operating.
Acts as a 3rd attacker when the opportunity arises
Here’s something we’ve really been able to do well and hopefully it’ll be illustrated from the below images I obtained by watching highlights from a few games.
Here we see him circled in red against Levante, moving into a central striker role when Kalimuendo moved out wide – he also got on the end of the following cross and forced a save – and then against Real Sporting where we can see him move up to lead the line when Ganago drops deep.
Again, in these two images against Sevilla, we see him available to receive a pass from Aleix Garcia, in place of Kalimuendo who has dropped deeper, and the second image shows him pressing the backline with his two strikers following a long ball from the ‘keeper.
Plays through balls to wingback and the strikers
This is one where we’re half way there but still have work to do and it’s down to my tactical decisions and not Stengs himself.
Whilst we see plenty of him playing through balls to strikers, we don’t really see it with wingbacks, and I think that’s for 2 reasons:
- Both wingbacks are on a support duty so it’s hard for them to get ahead of Stengs in his AMC role due to…
- We play on a standard tempo. If we played on lower I’d definitely expect those passing options to open up for Stengs.
Here we see him threading two lovely balls to Ganago. The first of which resulted in a goal, and the second was fired just wide.
As shown above, and proven by his stats, he’s definitely a key player for us and its up to me to find out how to get him to the next level.
How can you not love a guy who does this:
I’m happy with him in this AMC role as an advanced playmaker…. but I have another plan up my sleeve… watch this space…