Some might say you get what you’ve been given, if you don’t get yours I won’t get mine as well..
Suggestion: Blogs aren’t made to be read in Twitter WordPress reader – click here to read in it’s original format if viewing on a mobile device.
Second Season Syndrome
A team, who after defying expectations and punching well above their weight in their first season, suffers from an anti-climactic second season, enduring a severe collapse in form, slumping down the table and possibly ending in relegation.
🎙️ “Some might say your campaign hasn’t quite gone to plan with a series of disappointing results. How do you see things going in the second half of the season?” 🎙️
Welcome back, or if you are new – welcome. Here lies the 6th instalment of our French Homegrown adventure at Angers SCO – if you would like to catch up on the first 5 episodes, 15 minutes will probably do it – click here to find the full episode list. When we last spoke (writer’s note: we don’t speak to eachother), Les Scoistes were experiencing what can only be described as a gruelling start to our second season after finishing 7th last year, losing our opening 3 league games and finding ourselves in 19th place after 9 games played despite some high profile signings including Michael Olise and Evan N’Dicka as well as the returning Rayan Ait Nouri from his loan spell at Wolves. Safe to say the second-season-syndrome theory holds water, with FM21 recognising some of the weaknesses in our squad in the absence of any overseas quality.
But we will prevail. We will continue to pursue the homegrown dream in which only players of French nationality (first or second) will be signed. For every Talles Magno, there is a Mathieu Cafaro; you say Erling Haaland, we say Rachid Alioui. Regardless of what happens and if this is to be our last blog post should we get the sack in the West of France, let it be known that we stuck to our principles at any cost. Stubbornness is a required attribute in Football Manager, right?
What Dan should have said is that the Homegrown challenge holds back none but the challengee (writer’s note: not a real word). So far we have been playing a 4-1-4-1 Asymmetric Gegenpress tactic which focuses on pressuring our opponents high up the field and always closing down space to try and neutralise our opponents’ ability to play their own game. Something just isn’t working, and even though we don’t have an abundance of quality, we shouldn’t be this bad. Time for a change.
Now, I’m not the most analytical FM creator out there (probably more gifs on my site than analysis or statistical info) however when it comes to breaking down FM I try to keep it simple and work with what I can see and touch. In terms of a Gegenpress, in my view it requires high levels of Stamina, Natural Fitness and Work Rate particularly from our Midfield and Forwards in order to be successful as they are the ones most likely to press higher up the pitch, so let’s look at our First Choice Midfield/Attack in these terms to see how we fare up:
Wow. That Work Rate 🤦♂️. We have gone 1.5 seasons playing a system that fundamentally requires high Work Rate, Stamina and Natural Fitness and we are distinctly below average on all three accounts! By contrast to the above attributes, where we do score well is in the Pace/Acceleration, Passing and Vision departments (averaging 14 for all three) therefore the decision is to switch to a Fluid Counter Attacking philosophy, wherein as the frequently weaker side we will look to absorb pressure and break on the counter at speed. Man this better work 🙄.
You may also notice a previously unmentioned name on the teamsheet in the form of Mohamed-Ali Cho, and this is where things get quite interesting. After Sofiane Boufal picked up that broken leg injury back in September, we were wondering how to go about replacing him however it dawned on me that we might just have one already available who would be as good as anything we can attract in our current state. Having lit up the U19 leagues last season, the 18 year old half-French / half-English winger is promoted to train with the first team and immediately impresses with his speed and technical ability which earns him a run in the first team as we try to get out of the current rut in which we find ourselves.
The tactic and personnel changes led to an instant improvement which saw us win two games in October, however the honeymoon period quickly wore off as another barren spell ensued which was capped with a 1-0 Home defeat to lowly Stade Brest, and at this point the board’s patience began to wear thin…whose fault is it that the Club Vision didn’t give me an option to actually tell them about the Homegrown rule?
Despite that somewhat amicable meeting – it’s clear that we are on thin ice approaching the Winter Break, the French media clearly calling for Irish blood and not the Newgen kind. Will we live to tell the tale or has this blog come to a swift end after only a month of full-fat FM21?!
Thankfully our tactical familiarity starts to improve with this new strategy as we pick up a 3-1 win in which Michael Olise finally decides to score his first goal for the club, a somewhat underwhelming debut season for him so far considering he was our marquee signing last summer. We follow that with a win at home to Dijon, before the game of the season where we manage to leave Nantes with a point following an 8 goal thriller in which the aforementioned Mo-Ali Cho scored his first goal for the club – it will be interesting to see if this kid turns out good enough to spark a battle between France and England for his allegiance 👀. Additionally, switching Rachid Alioui from Advanced Forward to Complete Forward also seems to have a positive impact whereby he seems to get on the ball a lot more and finds himself in space far more often (5 goals in December alone). At the turn of mid-season we find ourselves with a little bit of breathing space – only a little bit mind, and that second-season-syndrome continues to linger and threaten to spread at pandemic alarming proportions.
In Need of Education
I’ve referenced the line “If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know” previously which comes from one of my favourite books as a kid/young adult (Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer). Just when things are going relatively rosy, wouldn’t you know it – disaster strikes. While the upside of doing a Homegrown challenge in France means that there are a lot of quality African players to choose from whom were born in France or have French nationality, the downside is of course the fact that most of them bugger off every two years to play in the African Cup of Nations which without warning (i.e. I didn’t pay attention) takes away 4 of our main first team players for up to 5 weeks in January.
F * C K. As if losing our top scorer wasn’t bad enough – Boufal has literally just returned from that infamous broken leg only to hop on the first flight out of here, while RB and DMC are the two positions where we have arguably the least amount of depth and quality…this is serious, proper save ending stuff and the impact of this on our January results is already clearly evident.
What the hell can we do? Drastic action is needed but we are flat broke (€3m in the red to be precise). Initially we consider selling Rayan Ait Nouri who is attracting interest from Chelsea and Newcastle, however the challenge we faced last summer remains the same: there aren’t many quality players interested in a permanent move who are better than what we have already. Based on this, we do two things:
1. €6.5m raised through the sales of Prince-Desir Guano (€4m – 100% profit) and Alex Claude Maurice (€2.5m – €500K loss), both of whom were brought in by yours truly and have been largely disappointing during their time in an Angers shirt
2. Because we now only get 20% of all Transfer Revenue, there’s only one place to go as we look to bring in some quality cover on loan to help navigate what is far too prematurely the most important few games in this save so far.
Now I’m feeling better – let’s see if 2022 can bring about as much change in Football Manager as I hope it does in real life.
Now we are talking! A combination of the new tactic, our new recruits and overall a much healthier squad once our African colleagues returned (none of them won the bloody thing, thank you Mali) meant that we went on a cracking run of form, almost achieving our goal of beating PSG in the league but for a 78th minute equaliser from that man Neymar. Benrahma gives us an extra spark of quality in the final third and chips in a few goals along the way, while a new love affair with Tanguy Nianzou ensues:
Football is a funny old game. After 24 games, we sat in 14th place as we prepared to face Rennes away from home. 24 hours and a win against Amiens later, we found ourselves up in 8th position. 8th!!!
A lot can happen in a day
We enter April in 8th place, 8 points off 6th placed OCG Nice with 8 games to go. Considering our atrocious start to the season combined with Sofiane Boufal’s broken leg and that pesky African Cup of Nations (sets reminder for January 2023), might we now even go so far as to say we may equal or even better last season’s 7th place finish and put the “Second-Season-Syndrome” label back to whatever hellish place it came from? As a great man once said – Here We Go.
Think of the Children
At this point we will take the briefest of detours – you might remember that one of our save goals is to build a successful U19 team, and by successful we mean trophies. Last season the lads reached the U19 Championnat National final after winning Division C of the 4 league competition, narrowly losing 2-1 to Monaco. With 6 games remaining this season, the lads sit in 3rd place so it’s time for a dash of shithousery as we send Mo-Ali Cho back to help them in their remaining games.
The impact was immediate as the boys picked up two wins to put them joint top of the league with 4 games remaining, however a defeat to rivals Nantes ultimately burst their bubble and two draws from their remaining 3 matches meant that in the end they had to settle for 3rd place just 2 points off the top. We will try to give them a bit more support and attention this summer 🙌.
Quest for Europe
4 points behind Lille with 4 games to play. It would really help us if Lille were to implode somewhat, and they proceed to do exactly that with back-to-back defeats by Strasbourg and Lyon before drawing away to our nemesis Stade Brest. In the meantime we pick up wins against Lorient and Nantes while drawing away to Dijon. Despite us dropping points, the mathematics of those three games mean that we overlap Lille (revenge for that 3-0 hammering earlier in the season) and go into our final game of the season 2 points clear in 6th place. Talk about a turnaround!
A point won’t guarantee it – we need a win against 13th placed Nimes to ensure we hold on to 6th place and qualify for Europe (granted the somewhat Mickey Mouse Europa Conference League but we’ll take it), while Lille know that nothing but a win over Lorient will do if they are to regain the European spot. Ladies and gentlemen we have a season finale on our hands 🔥.
We won’t waste any more time (you’ve done well to get this far) – short and sweet, as Lille were 2-1 up against Lorient we were level with Nimes courtesy of two goals from Rachid Alioui (taking his toll to 20 for the season – never mind he missed 4 games due to the African Nations) but down to 10 men after Antonin Bobichon’s 79th minute red card. Just as we had accepted defeat and with 93 minutes and 51 seconds on the clock, Alioui decided enough was enough and smashes home an injury time winner to seal it.
UNBELIEVABLE. I mean, seriously – I’d love to say that I had any real influence over it, but in reality a series of clicks, drags, tweaks and scrolls somehow managed to trigger whatever glorious code was needed in the background to give us the most epic of league finishes after a whirlwind season in which we both nearly lost our job as well as qualified for Europe, all while maintaining the homegrown rule and clawing our way back from the depths of relegation to a Top 6 finish. If there is a phrase for SCENES in French then I’m all ears, that goal means we pick up €9.65m in prize money and of course embark on a new European adventure next season.
We won’t go through the end of season summary, in fact we won’t talk about anything else for now I think that’s more than enough! All that’s left is one unread message in our inbox before we head off for what I can only hope is a lockdown-free vacation in Summer 2022.
Thanks for reading, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.
As always feel free to leave any comments or questions below, hit that Follow button and if you want to chat further you can always catch me on Twitter, Slack or Discord. You can also get more involved in the FM community by checking out @WeStreamFM on Twitter and Discord as well as some excellent FM content on WeStreamFM.com.