Following on from the last post where I (re)introduced Kenneth – a relatively simple tactical idea that is impossible in Football Manager – we’ve now reached the end of our second season at Rapid Wien.
This post is therefore going to be a fairly straightforward save update, a look at how badly Kenneth has failed, what he has become and what that then means for my squad revamp.
I tend to find posts like this incredibly helpful as the analytical process of trying to present conclusions to other people lets me work out problems that I’d otherwise just stumble on past. So forgive me if this is more useful for me than you…
The basic stuff first.
After finishing second to Ferencvaros last season, we went one better this year and sealed Rapid’s first Central European Superleague title (worth remembering I holidayed the first 3 seasons so we’re now in 2019/20).
5 points better off, scoring 13 more but also conceding 2 more we made some decent progress although it should be noted that we managed to win the league despite this horrific post-Christmas form.
Our pre-festivities defence had been awful which was the initial catalyst for the tactical rethink, the introduction of Kenneth and a consideration for a squad revamp. However the only thing it succeeded in doing was stopping us scoring as many which, you know, isn’t exactly ideal.
In the midst of that we had a decent run in the cup, reaching the semis before, as you can see, Sparta Praha knocked us out; and also had a very handy Europa League campaign after losing heavily to Monaco in the Champions League qualifiers.
In the end, Stoke gave us a proper going over which was the final nail in the coffin for poor old Kenneth. (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, see the previous post on the experimental tactic).
He’d shown some promising signs, most significantly in the 1st Knockout Round of the Europa League when our 2-0 defeat of Malmö could just as easily have been 10-0…
…Malmö, though, had played a narrow Brazilian box formation which really played into our hands and any team which used any kind of offensive widemen, particularly 4-2-3-1 type formations, absolutely destroyed us on the break. We could keep circa 70% possession as a defensive tactic but we’d always get killed by quick breaks down the flanks or sudden switches from one wing to the other.
The problem, as predicted, revolves exclusively around the anchormen and I just couldn’t get them to behave like fullbacks when defending. I really, really wish I could get it to work but until SI decide to actually make an inverse wingback do what they said an inverse wingback was going to do then it’s going to be impossible.
Despite the failure of the overall idea, there were some aspects of Kenneth which I really liked and which I wanted to keep – the 3DMs in particular was really strong and reminded me of the excellent deep 4-3-3 I had in my FM12 Toulouse game. So I thought that, rather than abandon Kenneth completely, I’d give him a bit of a makeover – modernise him, get him a decent haircut and a new pair of shoes.
So Kenneth became… Ken
With the defensive problems that I’d had throughout this season, my main focus is on tightening up at the back. I know we can score plenty of goals but I want to see a defensive record well below one goal a game. For the purposes of this save, I’d rather win 1-0 than 6-1. Part of this will be achieved through personnel, some of it through tactical changes.
So all I’ve really done is taken Kenneth, moved the MR/ML to wingbacks and pushed the central midfielders up into the AM slots. The former allows the match engine to provide proper defending out wide – although we’re obviously still vulnerable to the counter given their attacking nature – whilst the latter helps with pressing and varied attacking movement.
The downside compared to my original plan, and there’s always a downside, is that we are only defending the wide areas with one player and when the opposition uses overlapping fullbacks it can be dangerous. If we’re having particular trouble then I’ll ask the AMs to man-mark their corresponding fullback but success has been mixed thus far.
I wouldn’t say it’s perfect but there’s definite potential and I’m going to push forward with this as my main tactic and the 4-1-2-3-0 as back-up. I like the fact that it’s a bit different but it also reminds me of the last tactic I used in my FM09 FSV Frankfurt save (if anyone remembers that then they’re doing well).
Now that I’ve settled on a shape going forward, albeit subject to continuous tweaks and my inevitable procrastination, I can embark on a summer of squad rejuvenation which is well overdue.
The squad for next season starts from a position like this (I’ve highlighted a few standout stats):
It’s not a bad position but it clearly needs some work.
Starting from the back, a new ‘keeper is something of a priority. I alternated between Strebinger and Schlager this season with my patience finally wearing out with the latter who has been transfer listed. Süß is very promising youngster but nowhere near first team level and Strebinger is average and ill-suited to the sweeper-‘keeper role I want.
I’ve had a look at Austrian options but, this not being a C&C game, I’m quite happy to go foreign and will be looking for a top-class goalkeeper as a priority.
A first team centre back will also be required. Dibon is very good for this level and Wöber will end up being excellent but, as I have highlighted, he makes far too many mistakes and this has cost us 5 goals this season.
I’d like to keep giving Wöber plenty of games as he’s clearly going to be excellent so a third strong centreback option to rotate with Dibon will do me nicely. We also have an excellent youth player coming through in 16 year-old Martin Ablinger, whilst Piesinger, Kaufmann and Petsos (the DMs) can all cover at CB is necessary so one more should do it.
Speaking of the DMs, I’d like a back-up option in here. As we currently use three players in these positions, only having four in the squad to reasonably chose from (Piesinger, Kaufmann, Petsos and Siedl) is not going to see us through a full season. We have no youth prospects in this area so another for the shopping list.
At wingback, Quinones has been great on the left and I’d really like to bring in loanee Wachter on a permanent deal, if not a loan extension. On the right, American Ethan Finlay has done very, very well indeed, however he isn’t a natural wingback and, at 29, is going to need replaced soon so a young rotational right wingback is certainly another target.
With those defensive recruitments, it’s just as well that we don’t really need anything for the front three unless someone moves on. Lazaro, Kainz and Roman are the obvious choices for the AM slots whilst youth prospects Jokubowski and Brade, one from this year that I *really* like, will provide back-up.
One of the biggest disappointments of this season was Marko Marin’s injury. He would ordinarily be a star for us from the AM slot but, after scoring 10 and assisting 14 in 24 games, he broke his leg against Red Bull Salzburg. Given his age, I don’t expect him to return to anything like the same form.
Up top Luka Jovic, a £2.8m January signing, can also play at AM if needs be but is first choice (by a country mile) in the complete forward role. I’ll be looking to have newgen Achtert provide the back-up and we have a number of decent young strikers in the reserves and unders although this is one area where I’ll take a punt if there’s someone I like the look of.
So that’s four definites – a ‘keeper, centre back, right wingback and DM – to buy; and two maybes with a back up left wingback and a striker. The board have announced my budget for next season will be in the region of £6.75m which, for this level, should do me fine.
In fact, between starting to write this and posting it, I’ve made some serious progress towards completing this recruitment. However, I’ll save this and some details on Karen (Kenneth after some “significant changes”) for the next update as I’m making a conscious effort not to make every post several thousand words long.
Any thoughts on Ken, then let me know. Have you used a similar system? Do you have any alternative suggestions? One of my next experiments is to use two registas in the wide DM roles and one anchorman in the middle, rather than the other way round. Any preferences for that?
The poll for mentality – team shape for Kenneth came out with Control – Fluid. I’ve been using Control – Structured in both so it would be interesting to know why people opted for Fluid, or any of the other options.
Other than that, thanks for reading. Forza Rapid!