The Everton Project – Part 2

PHILOSOPHIES & STAFF CHANGES

As previously mentioned, we had arranged a meeting with the owner to discuss philosophies and it was my vision to put forward that we not only sign younger players for the first team but also that we develop players through the youth setup.

Choosing these philosophies was my initial reaction to the financial status of the club, but having since looked at the projection, it seems that not only is the club more financially viable than I first thought, but also projected to make a profit moving forward.

I also pulled the trigger on a couple of staff changes too; Martin Haar came in as my new Assistant Manager:

Brian Eastwick became the new Head of Youth Development:

And to improve the Coaching team, we hired Thomas Helveg:

PRESEASON

The first game out of the box for the team was the obligatory match against the U23’s and despite one or two players not having returned yet from holiday, we still were able to field a half decent side and the first team won 2 – 0, both goals scored by Richarlison the new signing from Brazil. It’s fair to say that he looked very sharp!

As you can see, the rest of the results were fairly decent (including testimonials for both Baines and Jagielka) with a couple of exceptions; but it was my feeling that perhaps the preseason wasn’t sufficiently challenging enough and I vowed to change that in the future, the reason being that I had played with the tactics a little (tweaks and adjustments to suit the team) but due to having all of our games against weak opponents, I did not feel it was a good representation of how we would perform against Premiership opponents.

AUGUST….

….Is Misery!

So; we have now played 3 Premiership games and one Carabao Cup tie and our results look like this:

Worse than that; the current table looks like this!

Now I would argue that things aren’t as bad as with Fulham or Newcastle who both have managed to concede 10 goals each but with that being said, they are both above us in the league! Also being knocked out of the Carabao in the first tie isn’t ideal either and even though it is the very early stages, it is very important to improve our fortunes soon or my job could be under pressure.

Tactically speaking, I have been playing with the tactics mentioned in part one of the blog, both of which served me well in preseason, with the 4-1-4-1 DM best fitting our pool of players. I had kept the standard roles and instructions for each of the tactics, only tweaking them during the match depending on how we were doing which when it came to the Premiership games; none of the tinkering had the desired effect, hence the results. Consequently, the next stage before we go into September is to have a long look at the tactics and see what I need to modify in order to get the best out of the players.

I am also mindful of the fact that there are a few new signings for the team and as such there is a slight lack of cohesion / understanding on the pitch, the result being that I am seeing a metric ton of misplaced passes during the matches which make it look like I am back in the Vanarama again!

TACTICAL CHANGES

As mentioned, 4-1-4-1 DM fits our squad best this season and I have taken the basic formation and created a tactic / tactical instructions from scratch, rather than using the presets. I will stick with one version for now, which I will tweak and get right in terms of player roles etc. The initial version looks like this:

The Midfield roles will likely change but I am starting out simple with CM’s and a DM on support and as I have a veritable plethora of AML’s who want to be IF’s, it seemed silly not to play with one and due to a lack of IF’s for the right, I chose the W role instead.

The lone forward has historically been an issue for me, especially when playing LLM as there are no roles outside of TM, AF, PF and P though sometimes you can find a decent DLF if you are lucky! So getting the right supply to the role you end up playing there can sometimes be a challenge and I found the CM’s and DM combination, historically, to be quite effective in helping with that, especially if wide players were struggling to be effective. In this first version I will go with a PF on attack, though I do have more options available to me, for the simple reason this is more closely following something I have had success with.

Defensively, I started with FB’s but decided to go for CWB’s purely based on Digne and his preferred roll. In the centre, we have a CB on defend and a BPD as a stopper. I don’t tend to play a stopper if I use and Anchor Man or HB, but with a DM on support, a stopper can close the gap if the DM is caught further up on a counter attack.

For the In Possession instructions:

In Transition:

Out of Possession

Once more, I have favoured a more pressing game and ever since I started playing FM19; the ‘Play for Set Pieces’ button has always been highlighted so in this instance, it has taken great mental effort not to do it! Whilst part of me says I should because I now have some proper set piece takers; the other part of me knows that it could impact the flow and creativity negatively. Consequently, no set pieces play and the addition of be more expressive!.

The First Test!

The first test of the tactics was against Brighton:

It’s fair to say, that the result did not match what I believe to be the performance of the team and to qualify that, I watched the entire game and was very pleased with how the team played, especially with improvements to how the Midfield worked. They ‘looked’ that bit more cohesive but also, compared to our preseason efforts, they also looked more threatening in the final third (managing 2 goals in a game which we hadn’t done since the draw against West Ham AND we were without Richarlson due to injury). At this point, it crossed my mind that morale might be an issue; so I decided to call a team meeting:

The results of the meeting showed a decent improvement in morale across the board which we will take with us into the next game away at Huddersfield, where I am hoping to record my first Premiership win!

We will come back in January for the next post, with a review on the first half of our season, assuming I have not been sacked in the meantime!

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The Everton Project

By Avoiding Relegation @ARelegation

Where we begin!

So this blog has to start with a confession and not one about how long it is since I last posted!

Since I moved to Canada some 6 years ago, I completely lost touch with English Football (well, actually all European Football) to the point that when the world cup came around in 2018, I honestly did not recognise a single player in the England team! Granted, I had lost touch prior to leaving the country a bit, including not keeping up with my beloved Oldham Athletic, but I was still quite surprised by how little I knew.

I decided it would be a great time for me to get back into FM as this was historically, the greatest source of ‘any’ Football knowledge I might have; I grabbed FM 2018 on the cheap and nearly had a nervous breakdown figuring it out (until I started watching YouTube videos and reading blogs which is what ultimately inspired me) and upgraded to FM 2019 at Christmas.

So here comes the confession part; I have not, since returning to FM (I last played regularly in 2009), managed a team in the Premier League either with an established team or even through being promoted (yet) and of course, have won no major competitions; European or otherwise. Not only that, but with one or two minor exceptions; I have little idea as to who the big names are or indeed who is who in the Premier League! So I figured that it was high time to take a dip and given that I have yet to spot anyone doing anything with them; I decided to take on Everton!

Welcome to Goodison Park!

After meeting with the Chairman and Assistant Manager; I went to work. First stop; Finances:

Glad we are under budget!

It’s pretty clear that there is not a receptacle suitable to urinate in, in terms of transfer budget or indeed wage budget, though we are spending underneath the budget limits. Given the following transfers already made, it’s not all that surprising:

So that’s where my budget went….

The Players!

The three major signings appear to be these guys:

Very handy young Inside Forward!
Decent young BPD!
Superb CWB!

In conclusion: I think I will be playing with, at least until January, with what we have. In the meantime, I have asked to arrange a meeting to discuss philosophies to be judged on, which will be signing young players for the first team and also developing youth players as I feel this is going to be the best way to take Everton to the next level!

The next stop is the backroom staff and it is fair to say that I would like to make some changes but despite the desire to be making ‘knee jerk’ reactions in terms of sackings, I am going to approach the potential replacements first and see how that goes.

I decided then to go look at the Under 18’s to see what I would be starting out with. The following were the prospects I decided to keep and the rest I have offered out for transfer.

Not a bad way to begin!

Nicolas Hansen appears to be the strongest prospect:

A trip to the U23’s revealed a few more decent prospects even than the U18’s. These are the ones I have kept, the rest have been offered out for transfer.

There is some promise here!

And finally, the first team squad. As previously stated, I am going to play with the current squad and get to know them properly. So despite, at first glance, noticing what I would consider to be ‘obvious choices’ for the transfer list, I still need to decide on the tactics, formation and understand what role (if any) these weaker players might perform for the first team. If I work this right, my intention will be to use younger ‘development’ players as deeper backup with a view to a more fluid rotation including younger talent as the save progresses.

And this is the team report.

The Good!
The not quite as good!

A lack of depth appears to be an issue, especially when it comes to Goalkeeper and left back positions; but as you move down the list, we are also don’t have particularly good vision, we aren’t the best dribblers, we lack flair, pace and jumping reach (even though we are good headers of the ball) and apparently our overall goalkeeping skills appear to be limited, despite Jordan Pickford representing ‘very good quality in goal’!

It’s lonely being a Left-Back

I have yet to go through and identify who is best for which positions, hence why this shows all players in their potential positions. One thing that does concern me however, is the number of first team quality players out on loan; I can understand it from a development point of view or even from a money saving one, but some of these guys would be better off being available for me to pick!

Tactics

Given the relative depth of squad (excluding the aforementioned weaknesses) I have decided to train two formations with two sets of ‘out of the box’ tactics initially; The first being a 4-2-3-1 Wide with a control possession set up and the other is a 4-1-2-3 DM Wide and assuming that I rotate the tactics along with the players, it will allow me to take advantage of said depth. I should consider a ‘three up top’ option as well, as we appear to have strikers rolling 12 deep!

4-2-3-1 Wide Control Possession

I strongly believe this is the strongest lineup I could field for this tactic though for the first friendly of the season we will be without a number of key players, still flying back (we have the obligatory preseason friendly against our U23’s) from their holidays but ultimately, I think this will prove to be our mainstay tactic.

4-1-2-3 DM Wide Gegenpress

Strongest lineup here, again showing unavailable players in the position they will eventually play.

I genuinely believe that a variation of the 4-2-3-1 Wide Control Possession, modified to be more about passing than running with the ball (due to our dribbler deficiency) will provide the best success but I am keen to use this first season not just to get used to the squad as it stands but also to play around with the tactics a bit to see what really clicks (whilst providing results and not getting sacked of course!) though I am confident that it will only be variations on the two formations.

In the next post, I will go over the preseason to examine how we performed and what that means moving forward!

Is Gegenpress the Football Manager 2019 Exploit?

So; we all know that FM 2009 had a bit of an exploit in regard to corners, which would allow your defenders to reach 20 – 30 goals in a season and of course, in FM 2018, three strikers appeared to be an exploit. Having now pumped a few hours into FM2019, I am starting to think that Gegenpress (specifically Gegenpress 4-2-3-1 as its the only version I have used) is the exploit for the latest iteration of the game.

For those that have been following my Two Manager Project on Youtube; you will note that early in the season, I changed Bicester Town’s tactics to 4-2-3-1 Gegenpress and as such, they overtook Royal Wootton Bassett and have held on to the top spot with an overall better form than Bassett. This is not only noticeable in terms of how their form has improved, but when you watch the games (as I mostly do) you get a better ‘sense’ of how Gegenpress makes the team look 100% more threatening than Tiki-Taka ever did.

I realise at this point I should be addressing the fact that I actually started using Tiki-Taka, which of course originates from Spanish football with the likes of Barcelona, with a club in the English Tier 9 (a far cry from La Liga). My intention was to make sure I had differentiation between the two managers (Manager One is currently preferring a 4-4-2 Wing Play) and not being overly familiar with all of the tactics options at the time; it seemed like a good idea. It also has to be said, that my option to change to Gegenpress (at the time) was completely about maintaining the 4-2-3-1 formation as I had been building the team around that and had absolutely nothing to do with choosing what might be the best tactics for that level of football. Since starting it’s use with Bicester and feeling the comparitive difference between styels, I decided to use it in a personal save, where I took on Oldham Athletic (the team that I support in real life).

This is where I need to talk about a problem I have. For whatever reason, I have a terrible habit of when I have a bad start to a new game, I have a bad habit of re-starting over and over and over again until I have the start to the game that I want. I cannot honestly explain why this happens other than it being a personality flaw but it is also an influence on why I have been making videos of the Two Manager Project as it commits me to continuing to play rather than going for another re-start. I should also mention that this is not solely a Football Manager problem; on the contrary, most games I play go through this cycle generally at least once. The point of mentioning this is because I have started a few Oldham saves before the current one and always had awful starts to the season which I just took to be an issue with the team having been recently relegated from League One, having lost it’s players and not having any money to invest in the club. This new start, however, has been a completely different experience.

After 20 games in League Two, Oldham have the top spot and are 3 points clear and went on an 18 game unbeaten run at the start of the season which, compared to other attempts I have made, is utterly phenomenal and the only signings I have made (same ones in some of my other failed saves) are a three central defenders, two of which are on loan. For so little difference (in terms of players) to achieve such an amazing start is nothing short of mind-blowing. But do you know what is more mind blowing? We made it to the quarter final of the Carabao cup as well, knocking out the likes of Aston Villa and Sunderland along the way. I grant you, we didn’t face any Prem teams along the way but we certainly faced teams that in any other save, would have utterly trounced us and to be perfectly honest, had we have not had the tiredness / injury issues, we may very well have beaten QPR instead of getting knocked out.

In conclusion; would suggest a real experiment would be to use said Gegenpress with a number of different teams, having first used a different tactic, so that I can see the difference (if any) when I change over (or start another save) but given my time constraints, I am just going to have to compare how Bicester and Oldham get along and perhaps use Bassett as the ‘control’ ie the team that doesn’t use Gegenpress (though you have no idea how tempted I am after how successful it has been for the other teams) but my current gut feel is that Gegenpress might be a bit OP in FM 2019!.