Welcome to the next instalment of the Rise of a Sleeping Giant tale. Below are links to the previous parts of this series. In this episode I update you with our adventure in season 2019/20, by talking about our progress through a tough EPL campaign, touch on our domestic cup battles and mention a little bit about our first folley in the Champions League. I also waffle on about how I have looked to start a process of change in formation and tactial structure to improve aspects of our game.
As we progress through the 2019/20 season. We have continued to build the club’s foundations in the EPL and we have ventured against Europe’s elite in the Champions League.
Our celebrations of winning the EPL in 2018/19 ran throughout the summer ending with jubilant fans enjoying the carnival at the City Ground.
Our first priority was to tie Tammy Abraham down permanently after the season of his life. (Thankfully – we had slipping in a disclaimer that we could buy him for £8,000,000 if we played 35 games for us). This incentive paid dividends as I made sure he played practically every game.
We then set about cutting down some of the deadwood in order to plant new saplings. New additions like Fiete Arp and Elias Abouchabaka from the Bundesliga in Germany have given youthful energy and potential to our improving squad. We also added Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and Danny Drinkwater to add some EPL experience to our ranks.
The highs and lows of the 2019/20 Season
The Community Shield or the nice looking trophy given to the winners of the curtain raiser for the season.
West Ham Utd won both the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup during Season 2018/19 and looked a decent side with some interesting arrivals during the summer.
We played our 523 formation which saw Tammy Abraham and Ben Brereton continue where they had left off the previous season. New signing Fiete Arp also joined the guys on the scoresheet.
We were far more clinical than West Ham but we also showed their attacking line how strong we have become defensively, by barely conceding a shot at goal.
Our adventures in the domestic cups were less so successful.
As shown below. Bogey team Chelsea thrashed us in the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup.
We then get as far as the board expected from us in The FA Cup by getting to the Quarter Finals. Mourinho’s Man Utd were too strong for us thrashing us 4-2. One beauty of the season was the 5-0 home win against Chelsea in the 5th round replay. The team played with spirit and guile. We also played with our Half Back Pivot tactic*. *I talk of the tactics I have been using later in the article
Uefa Champions League
We also ventured into Europe’s elite competition UEFA Champions League. In group C we were charged with Dynamo Kyiv, Napoli and Celtic. Our opening game was at the City Ground against Dynamo Kyiv a 6-0 win with Tammy Abraham scoring a Hattrick and Patrick Bamford gaining a brace, Alfred Duncan also bags a goal. A difficult and close away loss at the San Paolo against Napoli follows, this loss brings the team closer as they want to give the Forest fans a european tale to remember for a lifetime.
The home and away games against Celtic follow the defeat against Napoli, we win both games and score 11 goals to Celtic’s 0 across the two games. The spoils are ours in Kyiv a 4 -1 away win practically seals our passage into the knockout stages.
The 3-0 win against Napoli at the City Ground draws the group to a close and we finish top of the group. The draw pulls us together with Dortmund.
The 1st knockout round against Dortmund see us take our game to the home team in the first leg. And you know what they say fortune favours the brave. We get the away goals and win 3-2. The return leg sees the full (30,576) City Ground bouncing in anticipation and the boys do not fail to live up to the expectations. Elias Abouchabaka nets two, Calum Chambers bags one and Kai Harvertz completes the rout.
The quarter finals pair us against our domestic foe Chelsea. They dominate in both legs and win 6-3 on aggregate. We bow out of Europe with our tails between our legs and have the feeling of what if and how the F*** do we beat Chelsea.
The Premier League.
We open the 2019/20 campaign with seven straight victories until Southampton hit us at St Mary’s 1-0. An odd affair which we use to motivate momentum into winning the next three matches.
We then get stuffed at Old Trafford a 3-0 loss at the hands of an inform Eden Hazard. This bugger bags a hattrick and leaves me thinking what on earth happened. This dip inform continues into the next match against Bournemouth. The guys finally shake of their disappointment by engineering another seven game winning streak. After a roasting following the Bournemouth match, this time we go seven games without conceding a goal. An amazing feat considering where out heads were after the Man Utd match.
Our run in from January starts with the fall of the winning streak. Everton at Goodison Park prove to be too strong for us. An early goal from Sandro leave us playing football against a blue brick wall. The loss of confidence rolls in to the next game. A home match against Man City sees us draw 1-1 at home. We call the boys in for a chat to boost morale. The chat draws the boys together and we feel mentally stronger for clearing the air.
Our next sixteen matches produces 12 victories 3 draws and 1 loss. The loss is a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool. Our defence were not at the races and Origi, Coutinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain take advantage. We bounce back to form in the very next match against Man Utd. The City Ground faithfull create a wonderful atmosphere. Which sees our team spirit shine through after a Lukaku goal puts us behind, Arp bags a goal just before half time to sing the game back into our grasp. Drinkwater and Holgate score on 74 and 78 minutes to bring the crowd jumping in the stands dreaming of a famous victory. Carrasco hits us immediately with a rocket. We then hold our nerve and keep the three points.
We go on to win the league for a second season this time leading Man Utd by 8 points.
Our final home game of the season sees something extraordinary happen. Firstly we showcase our new Home kit. (I would like to thank @FMU_tv for supplying the new kit, they look awesome)
Secondly, we go on to perform a 11-1 win at home against Sunderland. The 523 used sees almost every outfield player score. ( I may have to analyse this game to see why we were so effective).
Our Formation and the evolution of our tactics due to a desire to want to play with more possession.
The tactic above is the one I have been primarily using throughout the save and not just this season. The instructions are about being on the front foot and intercepting the first mistake to utilise the numbers up front.
***Yes I know 3 strikers have found to be match engine breakers. When I was putting this together I was not aware of this fact but I posed myself a simple question when finding out, if this tactic brings me joy and success why should I care? I put this together looking to win matches. Not to see the team I manage get relegated and find myself unhappy with how my game is panning out.
The tactic below is the original tactic that I started with. The key influence in playing this was the desire to use Ben Brereton, Patrick Bamford and Jason Cummings. Our very own BBC strike force.
One of my aims in this save has been to develop the players that have either come through the academy (with the knowledge that Brexit will fuck everything up for everyone in the long run).
The other aim was to keep a tight ship at the back. However the two main tactics used throughout the save have been more about scoring goals than being strong defensively.
The below tactic has been one to change our philosophy somewhat. Whereby keeping the ball and passing to create space has been the aim in going forward. But keeping our discipline in shape and position have meant being far tighter at the back.
This tactic is an adaptation of the successful Libero tactic I used in FM17.
The use of three attacking players is still prominent, but in this formation we use a Complete forward and two shadow strikers. The use of the former to hold an attacking position but still have the ability to drop deeper when needed to create space. The latter to create havoc by being creative links from deep.
In this tactic we use short, retentive passing to draw the opposition out of position to then exploit the gaps created. We also hound the opposition into mistakes high up the pitch when they are in possession of the ball with the aim to keep the play in the oppositions half.
The two screenshots above show the team moving the ball from the right to the centre. From our RIWB (Lewie Coyle) to our MCR/RPM (Erik Majetschak) who then lays the ball further forward to Elias Abouchabaka (our AMCL/SS). The ball is sprayed back out wide on the right to Lewie Coyle (The below screenshots) who draws the defence across and produces a lovely cross into the six yard box for Ben Brereton to slot home.
One of the notable traits of this tactic is the high number of passes. The home match against Aston Villa (the first match we use the Half Back pivot tactic) shows the high number of passes made during the game. 1036 attempted 947 successful with a 91% success rate. Note we played with 70% of the possession (not surprised with how many passes we made). The stats below also show a willingness to shoot at goal as well as pass around the park, We have had 8 SONT and 8SOFT with 2 clear-cut chances.
The screenshot below is in the same game. We have lost possession to Bjarnason, who in turn has knocked the ball forward to Scott Hogan. The long yellow line shows the discipline the back four are following to keep position and shape. The middle yellow lines shows the position of our HB and two RPM. All three are closing the space around Scott Hogan to either tackle and retrieve the ball or intercept the ball by limiting the attackers passing options.
Danny Drinkwater makes a successful challenge and distribute the ball to Leonardo Milano (Regen). Who plays a first time ball to Kai Havertz. Below you can see Milano with the ball, he has multiple options for a pass. He opts for Havertz further forward.
The ball is passed out wide to Tierney the LIWB, and then the ball is passed centrally again. This time to Duncan our HB. He then picks a more direct pass to Tammy Abraham(shown below) who is in the hole between Aston Villa’s central defenders. He pushes the ball forward looking for Havertz, the ball is intercepted by Bjarnason. Due to the pressure from Havertz he is forced in to a mistake that causes him to attempt a pass back to the Aston Villa goalkeeper.
This mistake marked with the red cross and arrow is anticipated by Abouchabaka.
Abouchabaka scores the only goal of the game.
Now this is just a snapshot of how this tactic has faired and to honest I am impressed with the intensity of the tactic but would like to see more goals like in the Chelsea game than compared to the Aston Villa game. This will take time as the team evolves and understands the tactic. To be honest, as we enter the fourth season in the game I will probably look to employ all three tactics as mentioned above, on a game by game basis depending on the strength of the opposition and may even feel the need to switch between them in-game.
Thank you for reading if you have got this far. I will look to restrain my waffle and look to add structure in future posts as I have enjoyed sharing my experiences and thoughts. As I look at the article above I can see my next article may be based on the analysis I undertake and I may also look to update the results of matches in an alternative method.