SeasonOne.EpisodeTwo | Matchs aller
It has been a good start to life at Stade Rennais. Oh no, wait. That’s how I started my previous post. It was a good start. Then that bad run. Well, rather than give the system time to bed in, I made a snap decision to change things up.
September 2019 – December 2019
So it’s fair to say that the 4-3-3 system just didn’t work. We lost 3 and drew 1 match in our opening 4 competitive games. September didn’t start much better, either. So I decided to change things up.
The ME got an update just as the season started, and it had some less than desirable effects. Some things I had observed.
I know I said this was a potential downside, however, it was quite extreme. He was often outnumbered 3-to-1 and rarely got involved in the play.
My two central midfielders just didn’t support my striker enough. He was outnumbered, and rather than join attacks and try to take the attention of some of the central defenders, they just sat too deep (despite their instructions to get forward and attack).
Poor pressing when losing the ball
When we lost the ball, we would look to press, but because of the positions of the players, e.g., quite far apart, it meant our press was ineffective. It was bypassed too easily which left us out of shape and susceptible to the counter-attack.
Long balls, all day long
Finally, we were being caught out by too many long balls through the middle. We played a slightly higher line and looked to close down all over the pitch, which left us far too vulnerable to the counter and long balls.
So, how did I counteract this? I went to a 4-4-bloody-2, and it was marvellous.
So, how did we fix the problems above?
Stick another body up there. As you will see from the results, M’Baye Naing has made this position his own!
With 2 strikers, there’s less need for my central midfielders to push on so much, but when they do, we have 4 players through the middle, rather than 3 before. This gives the wingers more options.
Poor pressing when losing the ball
We are no longer counter-pressing. I know, shock! This might be the only system out there that doesn’t press immediately. We regroup and when we win, we then counter. A novel idea, I know, but it bloody works. We get back into our defensive shape and make ourselves hard to break down.
Long balls, all day long
Simple. Dropped the defensive line to standard and instructed the team to defend narrower. These two changes ensured the defenders reduced the space between them for the opposition striker to operate and gave the defenders more time to react to balls.
So with all this in mind, let’s see how things shaped up.
We managed to pull off an unlikely win against Saint-Étienne, but it wasn’t a great game by any stretch and our poor performances continued against Lyon. This is where I made my changes.
We got a good couple of solid wins against Club Brugge and Brest in the Europa League and Ligue 1 respectively, before a respectable draw against Bordeaux, but it was the hammering of Lille that made me think we had turned a corner.
Our excellent results continued as we beat Astana 3-1 in the Europa League to stay top of the group. Against Monaco, we were 2-0 ahead, then this happened.
Conceding two very late goals was a sucker punch, especially as we had dominated much of the game. A reminder that we have much work to do before we can realistically compete.
Angers were comfortably swept aside, as were Helsingin Jalkapallokluni in the Europa League. Toulouse gave us a fright, but we managed to hold on to push on up the league.
Almost a perfect month, and perhaps it should have been. I decided to move Naing up to play as an Advanced Forward. He just wasn’t getting involved out on the wing and we had other options. This decision was has paid dividends with 5 goals in as many games for the month of November.
We still look a little shaky defensively, but I think that will come as we make some more tweaks to the system over the season.
The final month of the calendar year was a very busy one for us. We played in 3 competitions and ended up sitting pretty comfortably in the European places in the league. We dismantled Nice 4-1 in the league and followed that up by beating Metz 3-1 with M’Baye Niang finding his shooting boots in his new Advanced Forward role.
In what I hope doesn’t become typical fashion, we then lost to Strasbourg who were sitting bottom of the league. Well done, lads!
Things didn’t pick up as we could only draw with Astana in the Europa League and all of a sudden the swagger to our play had gone. The draw with Astana confirmed our top spot in the Europa League, though. This earned us a first knockout round match against Trabzonspor.
We hadn’t kept a clean sheet for 5 matches and our leaky defence got worse against rivals Nantes as we narrowly beat them 4-3 to maintain our push for European places.
A cup match against Lille was a nice break for the first team, but we had to bring on M’baye Naing to win the game at the death. A 2-2 draw with Montpellier followed to finish up the end of the calendar year.
So after the small hiccup at the start of the season, which was entirely my own fault, things are actually looking pretty peachy for les rouge et noirs!
And to top the year off, Anders Aas, my Personal Assistant informed me that we have a fine prospect coming through the youth ranks who can play as a striker, as well as a terrific group of players who have the potential to be a real golden generation for the club. Exciting times.
So while I’ve managed to get Naing firing on all cylinders, I really need to find a place for Raphinha, otherwise, he might have to make way for someone who can do a job where I need him to.
As it goes, we can afford to carry him while he finds his place, but he’ll need to start having an impact soon! January transfer window is up, and I’d love to be able to add some reinforcements to the squad. However, I will give these players the rest of the season to show me what they can do, maybe.
My next post will be a short one covering the January window.
As always, you can get in touch with me in the comments below, via twitter @fmfutbolmanager, or my slack channel #fmFutbolManager — if you’re not a part of the Football Manager Slack community, then you can join here!
Until next time, à tout à l’heure.