2.4. Best Offence is a Good Defence
🎵 Suggested tune: “Another Brick in the Wall! – Pink Floyd (Spanish Acoustic Version)
Contents include: getting the runs, from zero to hero, European ambition, defensive training & analysis, the two Phils, a FIFA 03 legend, ⭐⭐⭐⭐ youth intake, Season 2 finale and a glitch in the matrix 🕶️.
Business as Usual
Suffice to say that it took a while to recover from our dramatic comeback against Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey Semi Final where we were literally one goal away from our first ever Cup Final after a two-legged ten-goal thriller. After a few ill wishes and broken Irish/Spanish swear words against Luis Suarez , it’s time to get straight back on the horse as we move in to February 2020 and the business end of our first season in La Liga.
With our cracking cup run out of the way, it’s time to focus on the league where after 19 games we sit in 13th place at the end of January. Real Madrid are runaway leaders already 12 points clear at the top, ahead of Atletico in 2nd place and Valencia and a disappointing Barcelona who are level on points in 3rd and 4th respectively.
From Zero to Hero
After scoring his first goal in over 15 hours of football by bagging a brace against Marbella in the Copa Del Rey 5th Round, on loan Brazilian Striker Brenner bagged 6 goals in total during January and thankfully continued this run of good form through to February where we not only managed to go unbeaten in 5 league games, we also only conceded 1 goal and kept 4 clean sheets to win 4/5 games in the month.
Brenner suddenly finds himself as our top scorer with 11 goals in all competitions, which he has managed to score in the last 15 games thus restoring my faith in humanity, Brazilian footballers and my own ability to evaluate player attributes in Football Manager 😆.
February also saw the return of not one but two of our long term injury casualties – Ruben Semedo and Mauro Dos Santos who both would normally be vying for a first team spot in the heart of our defence. This is a welcome return however provides an exceptional selection headache in that one of our first ever signings Yann-Aurel Bisseck has been outstanding in CB and still only 19 years old; this guy is a cert to make his debut for Germany before long and is touted as the next Jurgen Kohler which we discussed earlier in this blog adventure.
With Bisseck regularly averaging 7+ ratings, I decided to pair him up with Semedo as I feel they will compliment each other well with Bisseck in his natural CB position and Semedo in the Ball Playing Defender role. On paper Bisseck is slightly slower and less experienced in terms of positioning and mentality compared to Semedo, but his strength and physicality makes up for it and based on our current defensive form they look a steal for a combined fee of €4.7m.
In terms of defensive form – well, we have really exceeded our own expectations and while some of this is attributed to Rossbach who has one of the highest clean sheet records in the division (see below for more info), our defensive line has been solid as a rock (“sólido como una roca” as Inigo would say) and our first choice back four of Passlack (RB), Semedo (BPD), Bisseck (CB) and Friedl (LB) have unexpectedly made us one of the top performing defensive units in the league. Between February 1st and April 30th, we only concede 6 goals in 16 games of which we won 10, drew 4 and lost just 2 over the 3 month period.
Born to run
Naturally I will take credit for all of the above and February’s Manager of the Month award fits in nicely in my beach-side villa on the South of the island. We went on a 7 game unbeaten run and found ourselves climbing steadily up the league – by the end of April we climbed 6 places to 7th position and suddenly we are contending for a Europa League spot!!
All joking aside – one of our key focus areas and save objectives was to focus on building a really strong and solid team of backroom staff at Los Chicharreros. For some reason I really enjoy scouting for staff and building my own army of coaches, scouts and physios etc – I would have thought I am one of the minority to spend so long on this however I recently read a great post from @TheMezzalaFM where he goes in to fantastic detail about his staff recruitment process; it is almost uncanny how similar our approaches are! (definitely recommend reading it here when you have a few mins to spare – it’s obviously awesome as we are both Irish ☘️☘️).
Two of my first recruits at the beginning of the save were Phil Cannon and Phil Neville who were both brought in to focus on defensive training and coaching. Generally our training calendar is structured depending on our opposition and whether we are at home/away, and we dedicate a full day within each weekly schedule to focus on defending as follows:
- Home/Expect a Win: Defensive Shape, Defending Engaged, Ground Defence
- Counter Attack/Tough Opposition: Defending Engaged, Aerial Defence, Defending Corners
Football Gaming Royalty 👑
While we’re on the topic of staff – at the beginning of this season, we brought in a former Tenerife legend and the inspiration of this blog Senior Roy Makaay as a first team coach / superhero at Los Chicharreros. After a few words with our beloved Chairman Miguel Concepcion, we managed to squeeze an extra coaching position out of him and the search was on to find an all-rounder who could complement the rest of our coaching team.
I started my usual deep-dive through the absolutely immense database of staff and coaching options that FM has to offer, when suddenly a familiar name popped up:
It’s been a long time since I played FIFA and I am almost certain that the last time I was actually any good at it was FIFA 2003 – I literally stopped playing once I had my first laptop which came in 2004 when I started college; it was all about FM from that point onwards.
For those of you that don’t remember – despite the likes of Edgar Davids, Ryan Giggs and Roberto Carlos appearing on the cover and the game being released when players such as Ronaldinho and Zidane were in their prime, it was Matteo Brighi who for some reason had the highest rating in the game (97) and was undoubtedly the best player in that version (probably the closest FIFA ever came to creating a legend similar to how FM iconised the likes of Cherno Samba and Tonton Zola Moukoko). Brighi never quite lived up to his FIFA 03 ability even though he won the Serie A Young Player of the Year in 2002 (great article about the lad here), however he forged a solid career in the Italian league during which he had spells at Juventus, Parma, Torino and Sassuolo as well as earning 4 caps for Italy. He wasn’t bad in FM that year either 😎
Outside Interest 👀
As if my ego can’t get any bigger – this run of form and consistency that brought us surging up the league also started to be noticed overseas as well as here in Spain. While I would never leave my beloved Los Chicharerros, we had both Southampton and Everton knocking on the door both of whom are still in the Premier League. Everton went so far as to offer us a job interview, however in the end I decided to decline it for fear of impacting morale etc and also, f*ck that we have work to do here. Senior Concepcion was delighted.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ youth intake
While all of the above was happening – we had our second ever youth intake. We haven’t been able to improve our youth facilities or allocate much resources towards youth recruitment as yet, however we can already see an improvement on last year and while I wouldn’t call it a Golden Generation, we have one newgen in the form of Pedro Luis Acosta who looks like he could be the real deal; the kid has 4 star potential and at just 16 years old possesses unbelievable finishing, technique and first touch as well has having really good mentals and physicals (18 determination and 15 stamina). With a preferred position of Shadow Striker, it will be really interesting to watch his progress and see if we can develop him either in a #10 role or potentially in to a Roy De Los Rovers shithouse Striker as per our objectives ⚽⚽.
Quest for Europe
Here we are. Three games to prove everyone wrong, exceed all expectations and through some form of miracle (or maybe I am actually half decent at this game) – qualify for Europe for the first time since 1996, therefore ending a 23 year continental hiatus for Los Chicharreros. Standing in our way – well, see for yourself:
First up it’s league champions Real Madrid away, followed by a visit to high flying Malaga who are currently level on points with us and equally hungry to grab that final European spot, and finally we welcome Barcelona to Estadio Heliodoro Rodríguez López. No pressure lads…..
We ALMOST did it … well, we tried our level best anyway. An extremely tight game at the Bernebeu ended in a 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid, Rodrygo joining Diego Costa and Luis Suarez on our list of enemies. The game at Malaga was an absolute belter aside from the fact that it was probably our worst defensive performance of the season – it was 3-3 after just 36 mins and somehow that is how it finished. Finally, we reached our last game of the season at Home to Barcelona, knowing that a win would guarantee us that 7th place finish, anything else would rely on Malaga drawing or losing against already relegated Huesca.
It just wasnt meant to be. Huesca were 2-0 after 6 minutes and we were already dreaming of Europa League football next season, however by half time the roles were reversed and it was us losing and Malaga looking like they would overtake us in to 7th position. Tammy Abraham’s 40th minute straight red card didn’t help, and in the end we were our own worst enemy as we lost the game 2-0 and Malaga picked up a draw to finish one point ahead of us.
LOOK CLOSELY 👀. It’s times like these that hindsight and karma come in to play…I was so focused on grabbing that 7th position in order to qualify for Europe that I never realised there was a chance no-one would qualify via that position; After getting knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Barcelona I had naturally assumed they would go on to win it – however, I suddenly realised that their opponents in the final would not be finishing in the Top 7 places in the league (very much on the contrary), and it means that if Barcelona were to be defeated, the Cup Winners would take that final Europa League spot ahead of the team that finished 7th…..
Through some kind of divine inspirational miracle – already relegated Real Sociedad managed to come from behind and not only score a last minute equaliser, but to go on and win the game in extra-time and subsequently break Malaga fans hearts by stealing their Europa League qualifying spot by winning the Copa Del Rey. Complete shock at the Bernabeu and all I can think is – THANK F*CK WE DIDN’T FINISH 7th!!!!!
END OF SEASON SUMMARY
(lets out a sigh of relief).. and that’s Season 2 completed!! Overall – an absolutely kick ass season not just because we managed to finish in 8th position, but also because I really enjoyed the challenges posed all year from injury crises to goal droughts and everything in between. I am really enjoying this save and plan to keep blogging for as long as the save takes me – it’s almost sad to think that FM20 will be out in just over 6 months! I will include a quick summary below followed by one of the craziest FM bugs I have seen over the years which I reported on the Sports Interactive bugs forum, and then it’s over and out from me and vacation time for Los Chicharerros. Adios amigos!!!
A Glitch in the matrix?! #VAR
Thankfully this could never happen in real life (well I would hope not anyway) – a slight glitch in the game whereby we see our player Lookman foul their player in our own half, the ref goes to VAR and decides to award us a Free Kick on the edge of their box….which Xadas then smashes home!! I have since reported it on the Sports Interactive bugs forum but it’s worth a watch below for the laugh -at least we were 3-1 up at the time and it didn’t change the result…
Thanks for reading!!! If you have made it this far please drop a follow below and give us a retweet on Twitter – loving blogging at the moment and hoping to produce some more general FM interest articles after the success of my DMC and Football DNA pieces which I wrote for WeStreamFM.com. Feedback and thoughts are always welcome – roll on Season 3 and long live FM19!! Thanks again, MaddFM.