Girona FC – S4,1: Tactics, signings and a good start.

FM22 Analytics, tactics and soccernomics

After finishing 9th and then 8th in La Liga we’re desperate to make the next step and qualify for European football. In fact, if we don’t do it this time I’ll see it as nothing but adject failure.

The only issue is I have no transfer budget and we have the lowest wage budget in the division.

Here we go.

Recruitment

Firstly, it’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Nahuel Bustos. His time as a Girona player has come to an end as we were unable to agree another deal with his parent club Man City. They were only willing to loan him again IF we accepted a £17m mandatory fee at the end of the season. We’ll never have that money so we had to decline.

As a Gironista he scored 32 goals in 101 games and ended up joining Lyon for £12.5m.

Right, straight to the real business. If you’ve been following our journey you’ll know that whilst our defence has generally been solid, thanks to Machin-ball, our time in La Liga has been plagued with not scoring enough goals.

So, where does a team who had the 6th best defence last season focus all their recruitment efforts?? You guessed it. Defence.

Ok, hear me out.

I’m a defence first manager and want to make sure our defence is as solid as possible, especially given my new tactical plans which I’ll discuss shortly. Bernardo has been a warrior on the left hand side of our back 3, however he’s now mid-30’s and his pace is declining. Therefore, I wanted to bring in an upgrade in that position and have had my eyes on ex-River Plate ball playing defender, David Martinez.

To be able to bring him in though, I’d need to make a sale and luckily, Celta Vigo came in with a £4.8m bid for midfielder Aleix Garcia. Sold.

The first domino had fallen, meaning Martinez was able to join us from Sassoulo for £2.7m, which I’m convinced is going to be a bargain. Plus, he’s left footed!!

£2.7m from Sassoulo

The next position I wanted to upgrade is the left wingback. Junca has been solid over the three seasons so far, but I wanted to see if I could improve on him. And I could. JUST!

I couldn’t afford anyone who was a big improvement, so had to settle for a loan but we’ve bought in Guilherme Montola from Benfica.

Ok, now onto the signings of strikers…

Nope. Sorry.

I was then made aware by my scouts that “Manchester UFC’s” Eric Bailly was now a free agent. I’m aware he has injury issues but surely he’s worth a chance? I bought him in on a trial and got a couple of decent friendlies out of him before La Liga rivals Granada offered him a contract. My hand was forced into a decision so I offered him a contract and he accepted. Not a bad signing on a free transfer:

Ok, now we can talk about attacking players. Finally!

Well, Samu Saiz, who spent the first half of last season recovering from a broken leg and the second half regain fitness, decided to complain that I hadn’t been playing him in his favourite position and role. We had a chat. He wasn’t happy with what I had to say and he demanded to be sold.

Anyway, needless to say the little magician was soon clearing out his locker, on the way to Alaves for £900k.

So rather than adding to our stable of attacking players, we’ve actually lost one. The bad luck then continued when our main striker and scorer of 12 La Liga goals last season, Ignatius Ganago, came to me demanding a weekly wage increase from £25k to £55k. Naturally I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – meet those demands so he wanted to leave.

Immediately several teams were interested so I set his value as high as possible (£10m) and rejected a few low bids.

Luckily, as Bustos was a no-go, I was able to renew the loan deal of Kalimuendo from PSG. He scored 8 goals last season so didn’t do too badly and I know what I’m going to get from him. Plus he’s only on £14k per week, which kind of makes it a no-brainer.

As it seems losing Ganago is inevitable I moved to pick up another striker I’ve had my eyes on since last season, Fer Nino from Villareal. Another loan, and another optional fee I can’t afford, but he should be either a competent starter or excellent off the bench.

As you can see, he should be able to play as a main striker, or as a target man, so he should be no problems fitting in our system.

We also picked up ex-Man City striker Slobodan Tedic as a free agent to add some depth. Like Ganago and Nino, he’s quite well balanced as a striker so should be able to step into the first team squad when needed.

That’s it when it comes to players coming into the squad. Now let’s look at the outgoings.

Juanpe left on a free transfer to Malaga and unsurprisingly, no one would take 37-year-old Stuani, and his £35k per week wages – our highest by the way and he’s hardly played for 2 seasons!

That’s it transfer-wise. We did manage to send quite a few players out on loan though, for some valuable experience. In my last post I outlined the youth we have breaking through and I wanted to keep some of them in and around the first team squad, but decided to let all but Taboada go out and earn their stripes. I’ll do an update on them in the next update to see how they’re getting on.

The Tactics

So, I mentioned earlier there was a reason I wanted to strengthen the defence further, and that’s because I want to go more attacking by playing two #10’s ahead of the DMC. I figured the best way to score more goals is to get more technically gifted players forward.

Therefore we’ll be starting the season in this line up:

The plan is to have Stengs as the advanced playmaker, but having him on support so he can pick the ball up a little deeper which should give him an opportunity to run at defences and also use his passing to either link up with the Deep Lying Forward, attacking Mezalla or the poacher.

Romdhane, the Mezalla, will get into the box and cause issues.

My reason for going with a poacher is that all three of Ganago, Kalimuendo and Nino have great attributes for being poachers, and they should have plenty of creative players around them to create chances.

Moping up for the two #10’s we’d have a Ball Winning Midfielder, the newly converted Arnau Martinez, who is a skilled tackler and he’s an amazing passer, so should basically be a DLP on steroids.

The Season

There’s the squad going into the first game of the season, after a mediocre pre-season. Not loads of veteran depth, especially in midfield where we have youngsters as backups for both Stengs and Romdhane. The leadership and experience of Saiz would’ve been great, but he made his bed and he can lie in it. In La Liga 2!

Despite only spending £2.7m we’ve been able to bring in 3 new starters and we’re a stronger team than last season. We have two BIG upgrades in our back 3, and the right wingback is an improvement.

The only danger is what we have teams sniffing around and making serious offers for Cruz, Ganago and Romdhane. Hopefully the wolves keep away and we can make it past the January transfer window unscathed.

We started the first game against the team we’d played in the final game of last season: Sevilla. That game ended in a 0-0 draw, but they were heavy favourites going into this one.

We started well and took a 1-0 lead thanks to a 22-yard rocket by Ben Romdhane but they equalised with a back-post header just before half time. We managed to hold out for a 1-1 draw as they dominated the second half.

The first game of the new season at the (currently being renovated) Felix Faro Arena was Levante. We took an early lead when Ganago robbed a defender and played in Kalimuendo who slotted into the bottom corner. They equalised from long range on 34 mins. We had a goal ruled out for off-side just after the start of the second half but again, we spend the whole 45 mins being dominated after an even first half. They scored a winner on 83 minutes and we didn’t have an answer.

Next up, Barcelona.

On transfer deadline day.

When I was getting bids for 3 different players. Marvellous.

Despite being absolutely dominated we managed to hang on until the 71st minute until they finally scored through Fabio Vieira. Considering how badly we played, I can’t believe it was only 0-1.

OK. Things aren’t going well.

I know it’s only 3 games, and two of them were against good teams, but I couldn’t let things continue like this. We simply aren’t creating good enough chances and seem to have no spark.

Looking at the data hub shows how bad things were:

The General Performance tab paints a bleak picture, with tackling being the only thing we were good at. As for the Shooting chart… ouch!

Let’s move onto the stats for those 3 games:

We didn’t create even 1 goal’s worth of chances in those 3 games, whilst averaging 1.53 xGA. It’s no wonder we only came out with 1 point.

The New Tactic

Here’s the new system I changed to:

I decided to take advantage of having 3 players who can play as a Target Man and use that to partner the Poacher.

Because I’ll be using a TM, I removed the Advanced Playmaker role as I feel having both would make each role less effective – players might bypass Stengs altogether in favour of going long to Ganago. With Stengs now being a Mezalla on attack, he should be around Ganago and in the half-space when he receives the ball and fingers crossed will be in a position to cause some damage.

Rather than have two #10s in the central midfield area I went back to a #10 and a #8. Romdhane does have the instruction to move into the channels when we have possession so in effect I should have a midfielder support in both half-spaces.

The September Results

Before showing how the new system worked out, we had the issue of the transfer deadline. The Spanish window closed without a hitch…. but as it remained open in other countries I continued getting bids for Ganago. Even though both Galatasaray and FC Koln met my asking price I declined their offers as I wouldn’t be able to bring in a replacement. Naturally Ganago was annoyed as he wants his £55k per week.

The first game of the new setup was up was another tough one as we welcomed Real Sociedad to the Felix Faro, who we haven’t beaten in 4 games.

Luckily we started well with Ganago heading home a Stengs free kick, and maintained the high standard through the first half. In fact, they didnt have their first shot until the 41st minute!

Unfortunately, that shot was a penalty.

Which they scored.

After a rousing half-time speech we scored almost immediately after the restart and sealed with victory when Stengs banged in a free kick in the closing stages to give us a 3-1 win.

It was an impressive performance and we looked much more solid.

Next we had 3 games in 7 days, which started with a 3-0 win over Elche, in which youngster Taboada got an assist in his first start, and was instrumental in the build up of our 2nd goal.

Osasuna were despatched with ease in a 3-1 win, before we came up against Granada, who were 3 points clear at the top of the table after 6 games.

I can see why! – they absolutely dominated for the first 30 mins, taking the lead thanks to a nice cross which was headed in at the back post by Machi. Thankfully, the “Direct Attack” training we’d working before the game proved useful and we pulled one back on the break thanks to a nice run and cross by Ganago which found Kalimuendo who slotted home.

The second half was much more even and I was happily thinking we’d got a point, until they scored a phantom goal in the 86th minute. And by phantom goal I mean it wasn’t shown as a highlight. One moment they headed a corner over the bar and the next minute the scoreboard said “2-1”. I have no idea why it didn’t show as a highlight either as it was an Andy Carrol-versus-Sweden-esque rocket header from Naloskoain.

So, 10 goals in 4 games with the new system and a much better level of performance.

We created a good amount of xG for each game other than the Elche one and our xGA was pretty good too. Ok, the Real Sociedad is 1.30, but considering they scored their goal from a penalty, which is 0.76… it’s not so bad as that accounted for over half their xG.

October

October would be a tough month, as we face Villareal, Mallorca, Atletico and Real Betis, so here’s the real test of our new system.

Villareal were in 3rd and heavy favourites as they hadn’t lost so far and won 3 in a row. Both teams created chances early on, we even had a nice goal ruled out after just 20 seconds, but they soon took over the game and were completely dominant. We looked good on the break though, and Ganago smashed one against the post on 25 minutes which he should’ve scored.

Our luck changed when they had Danjuma sent off for a horror challenge on Arnua Martinez near the end of the first half and we took advantage of the extra man almost immediately thanks to a nice goal from right wingback Felipe Cruz.

Despite only having 10 men though, they still looked great and created much better chances than we did. They finally scored with a cracking volley from Chukwueze – who ALWAYS seems to score against us – on 77 mins to get a 1-1 draw. I would expect them to be up near the top at the end of the season as they were simply magnificent.

We followed that up with a routine 2-0 victory over struggling Mallorca before heading into another spell of 3 games in 7 days which we started with a very tough and very well earned 0-0 draw against in-form Atletico Madrid.

To finish the month we pulled off an impressive 2-1 win over Real Betis, with the poacher role coming up trumps as both Nino, and then Kalimuendo who replaced him as a sub, scored in the game.

It’s always good to have an unbeaten month as I really thought we’d pick up a couple of defeats.

You can see just how good Villareal were, even with 10 men for over half the game.

Comparing the current General Performance and Scoring charts you’ll see a massive improvement over the horror show you will have seen further up the page, before we made the changes. We’re now conceding below the expected goals against per game, and are above average in goals per game.

We still need to be getting more shots on target, and admittedly we aren’t playing beautiful, creative football – possibly due to the lack of a DLP, but it’s working well and shows there’s still a couple of layers we can add to the tactic. I can’t remember a game where we’ve won the possession battle, however we’re looking dangerous on the break, which is the way I like it.

Key performers

Highest Average Rating: Calvin Stengs (7.19)

Most Goals: Arnaud Kalimuendo (5)

Most Assists: Calavera (2), Stengs (2), Ganago (2)

4 thoughts on “Girona FC – S4,1: Tactics, signings and a good start.”

  1. Great start to the season, good transfers in. Slowly building the club up, def be challenging for europe on a constant level at this rate, giving youth a chance aswell will give you a squad to use for seasons to come and hopefully some club legends

    Like

    1. Nice one for reading. 🙏. Hopefully we’ll get the double whammy and qualify for Europe AND get a couple more youngsters in the starting line up next season.

      Like

  2. Look at you go, righted the ship without any delay. Isn’t it nice when FM actually rewards you for the time you spend tinkering.

    Have to commend you on your squad building despite the constant struggle you face with the finances.

    Like

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