US Triestina: Squad evaluation #2

Introduction

Following my initial post which outlined the rebuilding work at US Triestina in Serie C, this follow-up article will describe the systems I used in my first season. Suffice to say, performances were excellent and after an inauspicious start, I was delighted with the results.

My target for the season as determined by the Board was to achieve a play-off spot in Serie C, which required a top ten finish. I was very confident that I could deliver this, and more.

In this post I will evaluate the existing squad members and explain how I put it all together into three different systems.

Squad evaluation

In my previous post, I wrote about the loan signings that I brought in to substantially beef up my squad, both in terms of technical and mental ability. One upside of being in such a lowly league is that clubs will loan good players for no fee and with no intention of recalling them.

But what of the existing squad? As expected for a middling Serie C squad, it was certainly a mixed bag. Nevertheless a few rough diamonds existed to allow me to play the system I wanted to (more to come on that in the next section).

The attributes that I always look for are:

Goalkeeping skills: Handling, Positioning, Reflexes, Bravery, Aerial Reach, Command Of Area

Defensive skills: Tackling, Marking, Positioning, Speed (Pace and Acceleration), Heading

Midfield skills: Passing, Vision, Off The Ball, Tackling, Stamina, Technique

Attacking skills: Finishing, Composure, Off The Ball, Anticipation

Mental skills (all squad members): Bravery, Determination, Teamwork, Work Rate

These should never change depending on the level you manage at. Obviously higher budgets means that you can more infinitely more selective about your recruitment, but these are the core attributes that I build my squad around.

Dom from Dictate The Game wrote an excellent piece, in which he investigates hidden attributes and ways to learn more about a player and his characteristics. Scouting and coach reports help significantly with player evaluation, and taking note of specific observations helps to paint a more detailed picture of a player’s mental constitution. For example, Professionalism, Temperament and Ambition are all very desirable characteristics in a player’s overall psychological profile. When spending significant amounts, it is very important to take all of these factors into consideration.

My current squad

With all of the above in mind, the next step was to look at the existing squad members who I believed could play a part in a promotion push. I always ensure that the radar is displayed because that helps to evaluate a player’s skill set with a cursory glance.

Valentini: GK

image (18)

Valentini has solid skills; handling is incredibly important whilst in the non-goalkeeping domain, he has passable distribution skills. I never like keepers to drop kick if possible and Valentini would have no problem with that.

Formiconi: RB

image (7)

The right back Formiconi had a good set of overall skills, with satisfactory marking, tackling and crossing, decent passing, satisfactory teamwork and determination, with good physical skills for this level. He is not a world beater by any standards, but above average for Serie C. He would therefore make my starting eleven.

Sabatino: LB

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Sabatino had a little more about him than Formiconi, with slightly better mental skills and more overall speed. His work rate is something I particularly like, backed up by superb determination. A very good option and he would become a key player for me throughout the season.

Lambrughi: CB

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Forming a fantastic centre back pairing with Accardi (our new loan signing from Palermo) is Allesandro Lambrughi. Although slightly shorter than I’d like for a central defender, but has excellent jumping reach and some pace. Ideally I would much prefer higher marking, tackling and positioning, but again the playing standard has to be taken into account.

I made a host of loan signings in my previous post in midfield and wide areas. These players had excellent technical and mental skills which were badly lacking in the squad. Of the remaining squad members, this player would prove to be very important:

Granoche: Forward

image (20)

I think the Pressing Forward (Attack) is a fabulous new role and duty in this version of FM. Although aged 35, he has superb mental and technical skills which are very rarely seen at this level. I counted my blessings with Granoche in the squad, because with such Determination, Work Rate, Teamwork, Finishing and Heading skills I was able to build my attacking structure around him. I tend to prefer playing with one up front and I couldn’t have wished for a better player.

There were a few other squad members who would play bit-part roles in the team, but as I was fairly happy with the squad, it was time to put the formations and systems into place.

Formations

Now to the main part of a football manager’s job, putting the squad into a cohesive system that complements their collective attributes.

The style of play I wanted in broad terms was:

Defending: Counter-press in transition, standard defensive line (as my defenders weren’t sufficiently blessed with pace to justify a high or very high line), high team pressing, aggressive tacking, prevent GK distribution.

Attacking: GK distributing to fullbacks, (mixed passing depending on the style and match situation), work the ball into the box, good movement, be expressive and to play with width.

image (22)

The graphic shows that I started with the 4-1-4-1 DM wide for the majority of the season.

4-1-4-1 DM wide

This would be the tactic that I would use the most throughout the season as it provides a nice compact shape, plays to our strengths of having multiple options in central midfield, allows our fast wide players to attack from advanced positions, and provides a solid platform defensively.

Another advantage of this system is that it can be adjusted accordingly to the match situation and opposition, by tinkering with duties and roles. The middle three can be very compact or attacking depending on what is required, whilst the attacking midfielders can be instructed to play more defensively.

Given that the defenders at this level are not especially blessed with high technical skills, I decided to give my central defenders a “central defender” role and a defend duty.  The full-backs were also given a corresponding “full back” role with a support duty so that they would give some support to the midfield and attacking midfielders, but they wouldn’t be a major part of my attacking set-up.

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Team instructions:

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As mentioned above, the intention of this system is as follows:

  • Allow the technical players to take control of the ball, especially Rabbas as Advanced Playmaker, supported by Di Paola. The Carrilero role really gives Rabbas the freedom to dominate the ball.
  • The goalkeeper should distribute to full backs to avoid the lottery of drop kicks and retain possession
  • Passing length can vary but I usually start with shorter passing
  • Wingers run with the ball, attacking opposition full-backs with pace
  • Granoche works as a Pressing Forward (A) to work as the first line of defence, not giving their goalkeeper time to distribute short to full-backs. This is a key part of the system. So a higher line of engagement is vital.
  • High pressing, again to reduce the quality of passing amongst the opposition.
  • Work the ball in the box, mainly to reduce long-range shooting as most of the squad are not proficient at long shots.
  • Aggressive tackling, as winning the ball back both as early and as high as possible can facilitate potent counter attacks.

In my follow up post I will concentrate on this tactic and show how the system worked in practise.

4-4-2

I used this system mainly at home against significantly weaker teams, or when chasing games.

Team instructions were similar as for the 4-1-4-1, with the guiding principle being high pressing, winning the ball back early, giving the creative central midfielders the licence to dictate play, supported by a solid if unspectacular back four.

I am a firm believer in keeping a combination of attack and support duties in midfield. The duties highlighted below have Jaadi and Rabbas on support and attack, with Di Paola and Maracchi given the same instruction, to ensure that there is variety from both wings and central midfield.

My main issue with using this system more extensively was that I didn’t have an outstanding candidate for a second striker. Davis Mensah is a limited Inside Forward whilst there were no other ideal partners for Granoche in the squad. So due to his pace, Mensah started as DLF alongside Granoche who performed the same role and duty as in the 4-1-4-1.

image (1)

4-4-1-1

Again I used a consistent set of team instructions as with the previous two systems, the central midfielders demanding the ball and dictating play.

The obvious difference here is using Cortinovis in the AM slot, providing another variant to our attacking play. The idea here is that he would occupy the space between opposition central defenders and midfield, giving them a headache as to how to deal with his movement. Cortinovis has 13 attribute rating for Off The Ball, 14 for Technique and 15 for Decisions, meaning that he would be able to make potent runs.

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Summary

So this post outlines the three systems that I used in my first season at US Triestina. In my next article I will look at some matches in depth and how each of the systems worked in practice.


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