So, we’re back…. again. My training year to become a fully fledged History teacher has finished, and so I’ve finally got more time available to play Football Manager again. See, my priorities are totally in order. I’m back with a new save, and one that I think is going to be a very interesting project of saves moving forward through several editions of Football Manager. I also think it’s going to solve my inconsistency with saves and my inability to truly immerse myself with the club I’m playing. I’m going to be doing something called ‘One Man’s Journey Through….‘. The idea of this is that it’s the story of a manager and his career in a single country. In that sense, it’s a journeyman save, but focused on one country (at least for now). As a result, the immersion is focused on the manager himself, rather than the club. The theory is that we start at the bottom of club football in a given country, and work our way up, changing clubs when the correct opportunities present themselves. As the title quite strongly suggests, this version of the story is going to be set in France. To do this, I’ve downloaded a database that gives me 5 levels of French football, going down to the Championnat de France Amateur 2. This can be found here.
So, meet Julien Girard, our manager for this save.
I’ve gone fairly in depth with Julien and created more of a ‘profile’ for a manager than I usually would have for my own. Julien is a 26 year old (DOB: 16/09/89) Frenchman, who was born in Grenoble, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, a city that has a strong winter sports tradition – being situated just need the mountains – and has been called the ‘Capital of the Alps’. Julien is also a childhood fan of Saint-Etienne, formerly the most dominant club in French club football, and therefore counts them in his favourite clubs. His preferred formations are a diamond and a 3-5-2 with wing backs and a sitting midfielder. I’ve tried to remain realistic with his profile and therefore I have attributes that are suitable for the level of football I’ve chosen to start at. Here are Julien’s attributes. Also, 10 points to anyone that can spot which well known former French footballer was used for Julien’s face model.
Julien started the game as an unemployed manager, and therefore had to join the rat race of prospective managers looking for a first gig. I scoured the options in the Championnat de France Amateur 2 (CFA2 from now on), and decide to apply for two jobs – and turned down interviews for some others – SC Schiltigheim and AS Marck. I went through both interviews and told them exactly what they wanted to hear, and was offered both jobs. In the end I decided to take the job at SC Schiltigheim, on the basis of they wear teal which is a rarity in football, and they have an interesting history, being situated in a district of Strasbourg, Alsace, a region that has been fought for repeatedly between Germany and France, hence the German district name but French team association name of ‘Sporting Club de’. The club was predicted to finish 6th in the CFA2-D, with 7-1 odds on lifting the title. However, things wouldn’t be so easy.
Good start Julien….
Let’s just say… things didn’t start well. The first 7 league matches of Julien’s managerial career saw 3 defeats, 3 bore draws, and 1 single solitary fluke win with a deflected free kick against Pierrots Vauban. The team played some quite frankly horrendous football, and struggled to simply put the ball in the back of the net, something that’s fairly important in football. For a club predicted to be 7th favourite to win the league, there were some gaping holes in the side, particularly a lack of depth in central midfield, and poor strikers, with the best option upfront having a clinical 7 for finishing. This gives you an example of the relative quality of the squad with the star ratings. To get some quality upfront, I signed Maxime Boughrara on a free transfer from FC Sierentz from the Ligues régionales. He repaid me with a staggering return of zero goals and some appalling performances. Suffice to say, he’s no longer at the club, but I’ll explain why later.
I also had problems tactically. I’d gone in and quickly decided to play a 4-1-4-1, having only one ‘good’ striker – or so I thought – in Boughrara. However, early performances – and defensive frailty – quickly convinced me that this was not a good idea. Then began a tactical merry-go-round (that usually means your season is going badly) from 4-1-4-1 to 4-3-3, to a 3-5-2, to a 4-4-1-1, to a 4-4-2 diamond. This undoubtedly contributed to the poor performances, but each change was based on poor performances and a desperate desire to find something that worked. By the end of the run above, we were 10th in the league out of 14 (and had been for several weeks), two points above the relegation zone. I needed to find something, or Julien’s managerial career wasn’t going to last very long.
A bit different…
However, since then we’ve gone on a fantastic run of 5 wins and 1 draw in 6 league games that has complete turned round our season. A large reason for this is that in sheer anger at my strikers, I released Boughrara and switched to a 4-1-2-3-0 strikerless system that quickly morphed into this. It retains the solid diamond midfield shape – that Julien likes – but converts the useless, pathetic strikers that we had into attacking wingers threatening from wide, that are actually capable of scoring goals. It’s a fairly defensive form of strikerless (played on counter mentality), but as you can see above it has been effective so far. We’re narrow and compact, and press cautiously as a unit. It’s produced some excellent football, and has reminded me why I liked strikerless in the first place.
Loris Ieraci fires home against Lunéville to give us a comfortable 2-0 win.
We have suffered injuries to key players such as Alexandre Maisonneuve and Benjamin Genghini, and as a result I’ve made my first proper steps into the transfer marked – Boughrara does not count – signing Marco Rosenfelder and Julien Fuchs to bolster the midfield ranks. Rosenfelder has been signed to upgrade on Genghini in the AMC role, and stats wise at least, is like Riquelme at this level. I also feel he could become a CM down the line if needed.
At the moment though, this is my first choice lineup of people you’ve never heard of:
Schneider; Moog, Kerssane, Decker, Bouziane; Ieraci, Jarret, Fuchs; Imbs, Rosenfelder, Mathlouthi.
It’s that lineup that has seen us absolutely rocket up the table from 10th after 7 league games to 3rd after 13 at the halfway point in November. We’re still hardly prolific in front of goal, but we’re second in the league for goals conceded, and it’s this, along with our developing clinical nature – if Mourinho did strikerless – that has massively improved our play and our results.
I’m not 100% confident that we’re good enough to finish 2nd – and qualify for the promotion playoffs – but I’ll give it a good go this season, and see how we can build for next season, whilst hopefully improving my reputation around France in this in game world. Which reminds me, I did ask the board to allow me to go on a coaching course, but they told me they needed me to lead training. Selfish gits. In terms of the squad, our main weakness right now is probably full back, and we could improve our wingers to really unleash this system. At the very least, I’m now confident that relegation – and therefore the sack – is no longer a worry, and we will comfortably reach Julien’s assigned target of top half.
I’ll update again at the end of this first season of the save, very likely still managing Schiltigheim and hopefully having qualified for the promotion playoffs. Until then, thank you very much for reading, and should you have any questions about this save, the idea behind it, or just Football Manager in general, please feel free to ask either in the comments section of this blog, or on Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you again.