Girona FC – S4,3: End of season 4. Cracked it!

FM22 Analytics, tactics and soccernomics

We left the last update occupying 7th place, 5 points ahead of Athletic Bilbao with 3 months to go.

Our defence was solid but we were struggling up front since the departure of Ganago. As a result our form was a bit up and down.

We needed to find some goalscoring form if we were going to hang on to 7th place.

March

After beating top of the league Granada in our previous match, we went into our game against 6th placed Villareal full of optimism. We haven’t beaten El Submarino Amarillo in the previous 4 games and this was to be no different. We weren’t at the races at all and whimpered to a 0-2 defeat.

The tough games kept coming as we then faced 3rd placed Atletico Madrid. It was a game which further highlighted our lack of finishing prowess. The game finished 0-0 but look at the stats:

90% of the time I’d take a draw to Atletico, but we hammered them for 90 minutes so this one goes down as a huge disappointment.

Things improved, however, over the next 2 games as the fixture difficulty eased a little and we pulled off 2-1 victories over relegation-threatened Mallorca and 10th placed Real Betis.

April (part 1)

April started with a big game against 4th placed Valencia (who we’d had the storming 4-3 game against earlier this season). After a bright start we took the lead through a Cruz missile, when the wingback smashed it in from outside the area, but two tap-ins from Vallejo gave them a 2-1 win.

We had squandered our 5 point cushion and were now only 2 points ahead of 8th place, and not playing well.

After another 0-0 draw, this time against Athletic Bilbao, the alarm bells were ringing! I was starting to panic.

Against lower teams we’re scraping wins, but against good team we are more or less toothless in attack…

The next game is a real 6-pointer as we’re up against Espanyol who are just behind us and I don’t fancy our chances if changes aren’t made.

Call me the tinkerman

During the last couple of games, I tinkered with changing Calvin Stengs from a Mezalla to an advanced playmaker, but that didn’t seem to help us create better chances. The answer seemingly didn’t like with him.

I was also reconsidering the Target Man role which I’d put in place to give the team a bit of a focal point as we don’t use a playmaker. However, my vision of him holding up the ball and playing others in didn’t really work out – no matter if it was Pitta or Nino, or on a support or attack duty.

I know from the very start of the season that an attacking Mezzala and an Advanced Playmaker wasn’t a good combination in this system so there was only one position left to look at. My beloved Anchorman!

Before I go on, I want to explain why I love it so much. Not only are they ALWAYS available for a pass from the defence and more advanced midfielders, and not only does it provide an excellent shield in front of the back 3, but it also provides cover IN the back 3 when needed:

Above you can see that wide centre back in this game, Fuentes, has moved up to overload the right flank, and our Anchor, Gonzalez, has dropped in to cover that RCB position.

This instance showed Gonzalez as the Anchor, who at 5’6″ isn’t a great example, but when we consider that our starter in the role, Arnau Martinez, is naturally a central defender, you then see just how well it works.

On to Martinez himself, taking a look at his attributes below you’ll very probably have one particular role screaming out at you.

Clearly he’s cut out for the Deep Lying Playmaker role… but the reason I didn’t use him as that before is we needed to steady the ship and become tighter in defence, so the Anchorman was the right choice. It served it’s purpose and we went from conceding an average of 1.1 goals a game before, to 0.6 goals per game after.

Now the defensive leaks have stopped, I thought it was time to give Arnau a few games as a DLP and see if it made any difference to our attacking output.

As the Target Man wasn’t really working with either a Poacher or an Advanced Forward I switched it back to a role I’ve used a lot in previous seasons: Deep Lying Forward. It’s a role which fits Kalimuendo well with his 14 vision attribute.

Nothing else changed within the tactic, so we’d now go out like this:

Strangely, I’ve used all the combinations of this formation before, but not all together…

Let’s see how we did:

April (part 2)

So, as mentioned earlier, we have a MASSIVE game against Espanyol. Our Catalan rivals. Historically, our games against them are quite close affairs. If they win, they knock us into 8th and they leapfrog us into 7th, the last European place, and I don’t see how we would recover, based on recent form.

If we win, we go 5 points ahead and get some breathing room.

We took the lead after 30 minutes when Gnagnon rose like a salmon and headed in a Felipe Cruz corner. It had been coming. We were well on top. Just 90 seconds later, Ben Romdhane got on the ball and sent a lovely through ball for Kalimuendo who powered the ball into the bottom corner to make it 2-0. It wasn’t long until Wu Lei was sent through and slotted past Mamardashvili to take us into the break at 2-1.

Romdhane turned from provider to scorer when he scored from outside the area on 70 minutes to make it 3-1, but Espanyol kept battling and less than a minute later, the man known to you and I as Raul De Tomas, but called simply “RDT” in the FM22 match engine, scored a long range effort.

Straight after the kick off we marched down field and won another corner, which Gnagnon headed in for his 2nd of the game to give us a vital 3 points.

What a 3 minutes that was!

From creating 0.88 xG in both the previous 2 games, we knocked up 2.52 xG in 90 minutes. A good sign, but would it continue?

Yes. It would.

We dominated Rayo Vallecano in a 2-1 win, where we produced 2.89 xG – our highest of the season.

Real Valladolid were then beaten 3-0.

Cadiz were smashed 4-0.

Celta Vigo were whooped 3-1 in a game where 18-year-old Vincente Taboada scored this beauty:

We’d gone from being fearful of hanging onto the 7th spot, to a chance of finishing 4th if we could get a good result in the final game of the season and other results go our way.

Our last game, however, was against Real Madrid. The La Liga champions. And the Copa del Rey champions.

In fact they’d now won the league 3 years in a row.

The Santiago Bernabéu Stadium was sold out as the fans were eager to watch their team get presented with the league trophy after the game. They soon quietened down when our left wingback Montola sent a raking ball over the top of the defence for Nino to slam past Courtois to put us 1-0 up.

And that’s how it stayed. We had the 5th position with our name on it.

Until the 91st minute, that is, when Robert blooming Lewandowski popped up CLEARLY OFFSIDE to tap in a cross at the near post…..

Still, I’m delighted with a 1-1 draw.

We started the season with me saying that despite having the smallest budgets in La Liga, I’d consider it a catastrophic failure if we didn’t qualify for Europe.

Well, despite MANY moment where I thought we’d fall out of contention, we managed it thanks to an amazing run of results to finish of the season:

In the final 6 games, since changing 2 roles in our 3-5-2 system, we averaged 2.82 goals per game and conceded only 5 goals.

You can see below how well we performed after we made the change to a DLP and a DLF:

Kalimuendo went from me not wanting to sign him at the end of his loan deal because he couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo, to scoring 4 in the last 6 games and excelling back in his DLF role with a 7.22 average rating over the last 5 games and me now definitely making him a permanent member of the team.

Looking at the final table you have to feel sorry for Granada – they sat at the top of the table for the entire season until the last couple of weeks.

Looking at the xG table, we scored 7 more goals than expected and conceded 4 less than the stats suggest… which would’ve placed us in 7th.

Granada finished with a massive 19 points more than they should’ve and Atletico Madrid aren’t far behind with 12 more than expected. At the other end, Mallorca have had a torrid time – they finished bottom BUT the stats suggest they should’ve escaped relegation with a 16th place finish.

Our 6th place finish means we go into the Europa League group stages, which is a relief.

Initial budgets

The last few seasons I’d been only given a few million transfer budget so I was a little anxious whilst waiting for the initial budgets message to drop into my inbox.

Luckily, the board have been a little more generous this time.

We’re currently spending around £460k per week on wages so we have a lot of room, and might even be able to make some adjustments to get the £9m up to around £12-£13m.

The nest message to arrive left me feeling a little bitter sweet:

It’s great they are being ambitious and expanding the stadium again, but I would’ve much preferred an extra £11.4m to spend on new players.

Next time…

We’ll have a look at how the team have performed and where we need to improve upon for next season.

We have £9m+ to spend upgrading the squad, ready for the group stages of the Europa League, and a push for the Champions League places.

There’s also some talented youngsters who’ll be staking a claim for a place in the first team squad and with six first team players who are wanted by multiple teams, there’s a chance it could be very busy pre-season.

3 thoughts on “Girona FC – S4,3: End of season 4. Cracked it!”

  1. Get the passports ready, Europe here we come! Congrats on getting this team into europe. Going to need a bigger squad next season to cope with the demands of extra mid-week games, but you’ll will be able to attract bigger names to the club, even if its loan deals to bulk up the squad.. looking forward to the new season 👏🏾👏🏾

    Like

    1. Europe at last! I need to see if Man City will send anyone decent over and yeah, a couple of 1st team upgrades if possible.

      Like

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