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#WeAreHSV – Hamburger SV in Football Manager (pt 5)

Settling back in to Bundesliga life

I entered pre-season still in two, or even three minds about which formation to start with. Should I stick with the 5-2-1-2 which served us well last season and won us promotion? Should I stick with my head and adopt a 5-3-2 with an anchor in the DM slot to give us extra protection? Or should I go for it with a 4-2-3-1.

I decided to give them all a chance in friendlies but against the better teams we faced the 5-2-1-2 didn’t work. We were swiftly thrashed by Real Madrid, following a 1-1 draw with Nurnberg. My mind was then made up after a bore-draw with Hannover. Our midfielders aren’t talented or “dynamic” enough to make it work effectively. Yet.

I’d decided the 5-3-2 would be the way to go. As I wanted to play counter-attacking, I removed the “Play our of defence” instruction and rather than have a Deep Lying Playmaker in the DMC slot, opted for the aforementioned Anchorman. If I used a DLP in the DMC slot it might slow down any transitions.

August 2022

The fixture-gods were clearly smiling down on us and made our first Bundesliga game of the new era against Daniel Farke’s Arminia Bielefeld.

With seven games in the first month I chose to start a slightly rotated team. The impressive Nils Petersen carried on his fine form from last season and scored 2 goals in a routine 3-0 victory. An injury to midfielder Ludovit Reis put a black cloud over the win. He’d be out of three weeks.

Petersen got his third of the season against Freiberg, heading in a Kittel cross, to give us a 1-0 lead. The joy was short-lived though, as new left wingback, Federico Ricca, picked up his second yellow card and was sent off after just 30 minutes. Freiburg equalised but we managed to hold on for an hour for a good draw. I was hoping our steely determination here is a good sign.

We failed to score in against both Stuttgart and Mainz, but got back to winning ways against Koln.

Naturally, after we stole the title from Schalke last season, they were eager for revenge. We didn’t turn up at all and lost the game 1-2, with Schallenberg being sent off in the final moments.

We ended month one with a 1-0 win over Augsburg with new signing Joe Aribo getting his first Hamburg goal.

Three wins from seven games for a newly promoted team is a good sign. However, I’m well aware that we’ve had an easy start. We never really played well, or showed any real penetration. Defensively we were good, conceding only five goals, so that’s a big plus.

I’m hoping the disjointed football on display was due to having to chop and change the team. Maybe a less congested schedule in September will help us out.

September 2022

The Transfer Deadline Day arrive and closed with no movement in or out. I was in no rush to make any additions because I wanted to see what these guys can do. They deserve a chance after their last-gasp heroics last season.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten I’d promised star striker, Nils Petersen and new signing Joe Aribo that I’d strengthen the midfield. They’re both now furious and have handed in transfer requests.

A rotated team was enough to claim a DFB-Pokal cup victory against Mainz, before a 0-4 drubbing from Bayern Munich a few days later. It clearly didn’t help when Federico Ricca picked up his second red card of the very young season on 30 minutes. Again! It was made even worse when my other wingback, Josha Vagnoman also got a red card on 62 minutes. Even with 11 men we looked awful, notching up only 1 shot on goal all game.

We’d now notched up an impressive FOUR red cards in 9 games. I immediately went into the tactics screen and clicked “stay on feet”.

Next up were manager-less RB Leipzig. With both Ricca and Vagnoman were suspended, back-up wingbacks were deployed. The young Xavier Amaechi, naturally a winger, started at left wingback and had a very good game, causing Leipzig plenty of issues. He was the only bright spark though, as Silva and Lookman ran us ragged on the way to a 1-3 defeat. Interestingly, Leipzig played a 4-4-2 which I thought I’d be able to exploit. Not the case.

We’d now slipped down to 11th place and things weren’t looking good. In an attempt to freshen things up – and also in a not so mild panic – I switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Although it’s my favoured formation I haven’t yet used it in FM22, so it might take some tinkering. It was good enough to give us a 1-0 victory over Greuther Furth thanks to a 92nd minute penalty from Petersen. It was a game we absolutely dominated and I would’ve been gutted had we not picked up the win.

October 2022

October started with the news that Ronald Koeman had been sacked by 16th placed Bayer Leverkusen, who we played next. Our last game against a team with no manager was the Leipzig game and we got hammered. Luckily, our 4-2-31 came up trumps and we smashed them 3-0 with a goal by Bakery Jatta and a Nils Petersen double. Leverkusen were dreadful and I have no idea what’s gone so wrong for them to be down near the bottom.

Riding high after back-to-back wins with our new formation, we were bought back to earth in a 2-4 loss to Dortmund. The game itself, however, was much closer than the score suggests. As we approached the 88th minute it was 2-3 and we then hit the bar twice in 2 minutes through Opoku and Schallenberg. Unfortunately, Hummels headed in a corner in the 95th minute. Kittel and Vagnoman both picked up injuries in the game and would miss the next 2 weeks.

Our lord and saviour, Nils Petersen, rescued a point in the 94th minute with his 10th goal in 15 games against Hoffenheim. His 11th came in a 2-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach, with Schallenberg adding the other. We looked great in every game of the month, despite a loss and a draw. The football we were playing was much more pleasing on the eye, but we’d only achieved 39% possession in both the last two games. The board did want counter-attacking football, I guess. The defence was a little bit leaky though but maybe that’s the flip-side of trying to generate more attacking impetus. That’s an issue for me to work on as I try to settle on my best central midfield combination. Both in terms of players and roles.

Nils Petersen’s injury time equaliser against Hoffenheim.

Once again, just when I thought things we looking up, something happened to ground us. Goal-scoring god, Nils Petersen, picked up an injury in training and will miss a month.

Luckily, we only have one game left before the World Cup 2022 break. Any over-confidence we had was slapped away by Eintracht Frankfurt – a team I’ve always fancied a save with but never gotten round to it. Lindstrom carved us apart twice in the first 15 minutes. Firstly with a spectacular solo goal after 3 minutes and a lovely assist for Sesko ten minutes later. No matter how hard we tried we couldn’t generate any real threat.

What’s the plan?

We’ve reached the long break for the 2022 World Cup in a good position. A slight downwards spiral was curtailed by the switch to the 4-2-3-1 and we’re sat in 10th place with two games in hand over some teams around us. We’re still quite a away behind the top teams in terms of performance and our thrashing at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt was a real eye opener.

I strongly anticipate Bayer Leverkusen to recover and potentially overtake us, and teams like Wolfsburg, Freiburg, Augsburg and Hoffenheim to have a strong second half of the season. However, with a few tweaks still to make to the 4-2-3-1 and our 5-3-2, I’m very confident we can avoid getting drawn into a relegation battle.

5-3-2 vs 4-2-3-1

The 5-3-2 lasted nine games before being put on the back burner. It’s a formation I like, however I couldn’t get it working the way I wanted and I panicked. Whilst defensively solid, it lacked movement and penetration going forward, however, I’m sure I can get it working eventually. Despite really struggling against the stronger teams, we looked much better than the weaker sides. Therefore, I felt a switch to the 4-2-3-1 wasn’t too much of a gamble.

Whilst the 4-2-3-1 was used for 3 games less, you can see that it offers more in attack, and actually performed better defensively in terms of expected goals against. These are still relatively small sample sizes though, and I have to remember that one of the games with the 5-3-2 was the 0-4 loss to Bayern where we played with 9 men.

What stands out is that we averaged 1.33 goals against with both formations, which is more than our average goals for. I think if we carry on like this the highest finish we could get is 10th/11th.


Goals conceded

Digging into the Data Hub, I first wanted to see how we were conceding goals.

Looking at the stats from the last 20 games, two things immediately jump to my attention. Firstly, we’re conceding most of our goals against in the opening stages of the game. I need to ensure the team are fired up and ready before they take to the field. I may also drop the mentality to “cautious” for the first 15-20 minutes to see if that helps.

Secondly, we’ve conceded 15 goals to “placed shots”. To me, this means we’re giving opposition players way too much time and space around our penalty spot. Either the central defenders, or the central midfielders aren’t being aggressive enough in getting to the ball in our own box which worries me.

Examples of poor defending

I’ve pulled out two examples of this happening. Firstly, the game against RB Leipzig you can see that Lookman has driven the ball down the left flank and pulled back a low cross to the feet of Andre Silva. Six Hamburg players were in the vicinity but none got close enough to pick him up and this disappoints me.

The second comes from the game against Borussia Dortmund. In the image below, Haaland received a throw in on the corner of the area and ran, unopposed, to the edge of the “D”. I would expect Reis (yellow) or Vuskovic (blue) to be more assertive and make a challenge. I have no idea why three defenders are marking Marco Reus on the penalty spot.

Assist locations

Conceding goals is always annoying, however, the assist stats below are grating on me. The 7 assists from crosses I can live with. Our game plan is to force teams wide and make them score from crosses. Only one of my three CBs is really Bundesliga standard as I’m trying to develop Jonas David and Mario Vuskovic whenever possible. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

What is really grinding my gears is the 8 assists conceded from through balls and the five from the central location. We’re supposed to be a centrally compact team. I think the issue is that when switching to the 4-2-3-1, I left one of the midfielders as an Anchorman to keep the defensive solidity. However, it’s probably not an aggressive enough role in actively stopping the opponent. A defensive midfielder might be a better option, or even a defensive ball winning midfielder.

Overall defensive stats

I think the team defending chart back up my above theory. We’re below the league average for tackle attempts by 1.89 per game. Using a more aggressive role should allow for more tackles in the centre of the pitch and hopefully increase the 34% and 28% in between our 18 yard box and the half way line.

I’m happy with the interception stats, but obviously I’d prefer us to not have to be making so many blocks and clearances.

A brief look at the attack

The story of our attack is simple. We’re not very good going forward and if not for Nils Petersen and his 11 goals in 13 games I have no idea where we’d be. He’s the perfect poacher. We’ve looked much better since the switch to the 4-2-3-1 though, so I would expect the below chart to look much better at the end of the season if we carry on as we’ve been doing recently.


In an attempt to not make this post too long (and completely bore you) I’ll miss out the Goalkeeper and Wingbacks. Fernandes is who’s doing well (apart from a couple of powerful goals slipping through his hands) and both Ricca and Vagnoman are performing steadily.

Central defenders

In both the goals I showed earlier, there were central defenders who could’ve (or should’ve) done better. Here, I’ve compared my centrebacks to those in the Bundesliga who’ve played over 1,000 minutes. This way it gives me a good barometer of performance. I’ve also included the average wage so I can see who’s performing well above their pay grade.

*Not including wages of outliers Hummels (£115k p/w) and Upamecano (£130k p/w)

Lukas Mai certainly stands out and is performing above average in a lot of the metrics I’ve selected. I’m going to try my hardest to to sign him to a pre-contact at the end of December. Other than that, it’s a mixed bag. Schonlau wins tackles and looks good on the ball, whilst David is better in the air and also admirable in possession.


Looking at midfielders in the same way, Opoku leaps out as performing very well as a creative midfielder. The now-24-year-old has mainly been used as a substitute. However, he has started some games due to rotation and injury cover. In the 4-2-3-1 he’ll be pushed forward into one of the attacking midfielder roles where I think he’s more suited.

*Not including wages of outliers Goretzka (£195k p/w), Can (£140k p/w) and (Demme £115k p/w)

Reis has scored the most goals, despite playing the least amount of minutes due to injury as also looks promising. I hope he stays fit for the rest of the season to give him some much needed development.

Schallenberg is steady across the board and proving to be a good all-rounder. I really feel the need to find his best role though, rather than “just a guy who can do everything”. Aribo has notched up 5 assists without really getting into top gear. As you can see from his 6.86 average rating, I’ve struggled to get consistency out of him. Although, he doesn’t like big games and has hated me for a couple of months… He’ll now have the AMC slot, so hopefully he can take his game to the next level in his natural position.


I say strikers, but there’s only one striker, really. Petersen is a bargain. £12,500 per week for 11 goals so far. He’s still way behind Lewandowski and Haaland who both have well over 20 goals each. For this reason I’ve omitted them from the below.

Not including wages & stats of outliers Lewandowski and Haaland

Kittel started the “3-5-2 games” as a striker in either a False 9 or Deep Lying Forward role. He’s clearly not a goal scoring threat as only 20% of his shots have been on target.

Glatzel and I still aren’t on good terms. He’s still demanding a new contract but wants ridiculous money so I’m freezing him out the side until he sees sense or leaves. Jatta continues to defy his attributes and has 4 goal contributions in 9 starts and again, teams are sniffing around. His pressing causes defences a lot of issues and despite being frustrating, he’s good to have.

Managing the debt

The good news is that in just over a year we’ve managed to get the debt down from £46 million to £24 million. I believe I can clear the debt within two years if I continue to operate withing the financial limits of the club.

The wage structure will remain in place and I’ll still aim to buy players with the intention of increasing their value and selling them on for a big profit until we’re in a position to not need to.

There’s also some promising prospects coming through who will hopefully force their way into the team in the next couple of years.


If I’m going to stick with the 4-2-3-1 for the rest of the season I need a goal scoring threat to take the load off Petersen. Naturally, this will need to come from one of the attacking midfield positions.

Sonny Kittle scored five goals from the AMC slot last season, but has failed to register a goal in 9 games as a striker. It’s clear his role is that of a creator. Joe Aribo has been the main starter in the AMC slot but he’s only got 1 goal so far this season.

This leaves only the RW position, currently occupied by Bakery Jatta, with Xavier Amaechi as his back up. The Gambian attacker is naturally a right winger but has made 13 appearances so far this season and scored three goals, off an xG of 1.78. He was the subject of a few Transfer Deadline Day bids in the last window and has numerous teams interested again, so I think he’ll probably he gone in this upcoming window.

Alidou, or Ali-don’t?

Taking a look at players already at my disposal the main candidate for a goal scoring attacking midfielder is Faride Alidou. Currently out on loan at Werder Bremen in 2.Bundesliga, Faride has scored 6 goals in 12 games. He’s developing really well there and, after he amassed a whopping average rating of 6.62 in his four Bundesliga appearances, I’m reluctant to recall him. Throwing him into the starting line-up if Jatta leaves could be too much for him.

If needed, I’ll see what’s available in the transfer window, but Alidou remains an option. If it looks like we can avoid a relegation battle I’d rather develop my own players than buy someone in.

Jatta and Alidou

As Lucas Mai has performed well and is out of contract at the end of this season I’m planning on offering him a contract at the end of December. He’s enjoying his football here and I don’t think Bayern Munich will try to retain him.

Up next

Just as the season started with a favourable fixture list, so does the second half of the season. Fingers crossed we can pick up some more wins and get to 40 points quickly.

I’m expecting Aribo to leave and won’t stand in his way unless his form shows an upturn very soon. Petersen still wants to leave which would leave a huge hole in the team. I’ve made a shortlist of strikers to replace the 34-year-old. The transfer-listed Luca Waldschmidt from Wolfsburg and Martin Satriano from Inter are top of the list. Both would probably be loan signings where I’ll try to agree an option to buy.

Will the 4-2-3-1 go from strength to strength? Will our star striker leave?

We’ll find out next time.

Written by ThrowingCopperFM

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Football Manager: Teams to Manage in North America

#WeAreHSV – Hamburger SV in Football Manager (pt 6)