Düsseldorf Diary – Season 2 – Winter Break

Dusseldorg Diary

Season 2 – the return to the top flight

So after the promotion party had finished we all sat down to discuss how the club will more forward and looking towards the season ahead. It also gave us chance to launch the new kits ahead of the season.

Dusseldorg Diary - season 2 - kits


We were all in agreement that in order for us to survive we need to strengthen the squad. Unfortunately the club weren’t as understanding with this and gave us a massive transfer budget of €2.5m. I pleaded with them for a smidge more as the squad will be really stretched otherwise, but they declined and promptly told me to concentrate on results rather than finances. So a €2.5m war chest to sign better players, however our wage budget has been increased from €300k to €460k, so we have a bit of play. Hoffenheim offered €3m for Avevor, our super speedy centre half. I plain right laughed at that bid and negotiated €10m for him. He has 17 pace, 23 years old and has a bright future ahead of him, I really didn’t feel it was unreasonable. They came back but my money grabbing board accepted the revised offer of €6.5m, typically he accepted their contract offer in the same day and before I could even think about a replacement he was gone. 6 bloody million €’s for him. What made that deal even sweeter is that the bloody board once again have screwed me. Out of that €6m, I get a massive €1m extra to spend on a replacement, so all in all I have €3.5m to spend on my squad to try and attempt to avoid dropping straight back down again.

Transfers In

Dusseldorg Diary - season 2 - transfers

So as you can see we have brought in a 13 players and 7 of them are on loan, this is purely down to not having enough funds to bolster the squad. In terms of outgoings it has mainly been a handful of 2 nd team players who wanted stupid money that have left. Apart from that 3 main squad players left, Avevor as I mentioned earlier, as well as Bodzek and Koch. This provided me with just a little extra to spend. Not much though by any stretch. I won’t go into detail all my signings as it will get very dull and be the death by screenshots, but I will just mention the ones that I thought were a good deal and how they have got on.

Hendrik Helmke

Dusseldorg Diary - season 2 - Helmke

Helmke has been a pivotal part of the team since arriving, he has bags of experience and at €400k, the 29 year old has been a bit of a bargain. He hasn’t completely dominated but his return has been very pleasing, a very decent average rating of 7.32,  with 6 goals and 2 assists to his name.


Matthias Bader

Dusseldorg Diary - season 2 - Bader

Now Bader has probably been the signing that I have been most pleased with, as the €2.3m transfer fee shows. The 18 year old really caught my eye last season whilst playing against him at Karlsruhe. His attributes look great and at such a young age he is bound to improve. My scouts and coaching staff all believe he has the potential to be a 4.5 star defender. He was initially brought in as back up the Schauerte but has kept the experienced right back out of the side. Every few weeks I keep getting messages from my coaching staff that he is excelling in training and his attributes are on the up. Very happy with Bader, will have to try and tie him down to long tern deal.

My other signings have all played their part so far and are continuing to cause problems with selection which is always a good position to be in. Younes and Horn are youngsters who look pretty decent and have mostly played as back up. Holtmann and Marin were brought in to strengthen the side in wide areas, disappointingly Marin hasn’t been as effective as I would have like him to be. Rani Khedira, the younger brother of Sami, brought in on loan, looks like he could become a similar player to his brother, once again adding strength and steel in the midfield. Yannick Stark similar to Khedira and only costing €100k. Felix Schroter has been my main goal scoring threat, playing in the pivotal shadow striker role, picking up 8 goals so far. Uphoff and Schafer are both young centre backs that I like the look of. Avevor was transfer listed by Hoffenheim due to lack of first team football so my diamond in the rough has returned for the second half of the season to add that bit of pace back to the back line. I will be keeping a close eye on him and hope to snap him back for a fraction of the €6m my board let him go for.

So how have we got on?

The expectations of the board are to attempt to avoid the automatic relegation places, as highlighted just after promotion and when the board announced our transfer budget, this was going to be a very hard task. Safe to say things have gone exactly how it was predicted. We have struggled, and when I say struggle, oh how I mean it. The most encouraging thing is that 9 out of 10 games we are putting up a fight and competing against the much more superior sides in the Bundesliga. Even more pleasing is that we are scoring goals, not specifically from one player, but as a team. 

We started off the campaign with the 1 st round DFB-Pokal tie away to Eltersdorf from the 4 th tier. As expected we came away 3-0 winners which was a great moral boost going into what would be a tough season. Our opening game in the Bundesliga was in the Rhein derby away to Gladbach, we played pretty well and overall I was happy with the performance, but to be denied a point from a late goal was a blow and we lost the game 2-1. I told the lads not to be to downhearted, on another day we could have won with that kind of performance. Another similar story in our next fixture at home to Stuttgart, this time it wasn’t a late goal that denied us just a few breaks as we tried to push on. We lost the game 3-1, the positive here is we have scored in both games. A nice international break gives our players a rest and a chance to concentrate on training, focusing on defensive positions and set pieces. We return from the break with a home tie against Hamburg, the rest and training has paid off here and a run out 2-0 winners. Thank god, our first win in our return to the Bundesliga. Honestly I didn’t know when it was going to come, I’m just glad it only took 3 games to get it as opposed to say 10 or more. A massive weight off of our shoulders and a clean sheet too, something to build upon.

How I was so very, very mistaken. Our next 4 games saw us take on Bayern, Schalke, Koln and Wolfsburg, which we lost all 4 games, cementing ourselves at the foot of the table. We lost 1-0 to Koln which is the first time we have been unable to find the net. All the rest we lost 3-1, which isn’t great although we scored against 3 big clubs, so still a small positive. If we hadn’t scored in any of them, then there would be some cause for real concern. We ended our losing run with a point away to Hannover and to be honest we should have won. We were the better side for the majority of the game but they pegged us back on a swift counter and the match finished 1-1. Now I thought we could perhaps change our fortunes with a nice run of games against some opponents where I could envision us getting some more points on the board. By this point we were sitting rock bottom on 4 points and Freiburg were our closest rival miles ahead on 10. So we had a lot of catching up to do and this is where I hoped we could do that. Once again I was very wrong, we lost all 3 games, scoring 3 goals but conceding 7. Our run without a win now stretched to 8 games. Sandwhiched in between these fixtures we played a 2nd round DFB-Pokal tie again RB Leipzig, who are still in the league bellow. We scraped through on penalties after a poor 1-1 draw, but I can’t grumble too much, we are through to the next round.

Our next Bundesliga match was at home to Hoffenheim and a return to the ESPRIT arena for my beloved Avevor. I held a meeting with the lads and told them that things haven’t quite gone our way recently but we have been playing well enough that our fortunes are bound to change. The lads put in a performance that was so pleasing and ended our dreadful run of defeats with a 2-0 win, 2 goals and a clean sheet, something we only dreamt of. We have got another 3 points on the board but so did the rest of the pack, 17 th placed Freiburg were now on 12, a 5 point gap ahead of us. 5 games to go before the winter break and we needed to get some points on the board before then to have any hope of staying up. We lost the next 2 games to Mainz and Dortmund,2-1 and 1-0, to be honest it we were defiantly the underdogs in these games and didn’t expect too much. The next game was away to Leverkusen and I thought that rather than trying to encourage the players putting pressure on them to try and win, I would tell them to relax and play with no pressure at all. This has worked many times for me in the past on other sides and we had come away with a point or a win, but on that day it went horribly wrong. We were battered 7-1, an utter embarrassment, 6-0 down at half time. Second half we matched them but they clearly took their foot off the gas so I can’t really say we were better, just better in the sense that we didn’t concede another 6. What made this more painful is that prior to the game we beat Stuttgart again, 1-0 but this time in the DFB-Pokal, a clean sheet and through to the quarter finals.

Our remaining 2 games before the break were Freiburg and Hertha, both sitting above me on 12 and 13 points respectively. I knew that we had to get at least 3 points from 6 here to stand a chance, otherwise moral will seriously be tarnished. Both games are massive 6 pointers, even at this stage of the season; results here could be vital come the end. Boom 6 more points on the board, a 4-2 against Freiburg and a 2-0 win and clean sheet against Hertha. We move off the foot of the table sitting in 16 th place on 13 points, but it is still ever so tight down here, at least we can look down at rivals now as opposed to straining our necks constantly looking up at them in the distance. We have now got hope, especially come off the back of that drumming from Leverkusen. But we are on a great run now and the winter break couldn’t have come at a worse time, we have won 3 out 4 in all competitions, our best run since promotion last season. Let’s hope we can continue this kind of form after the break, our first match back is at home to Stuttgart, let hope we can replicate out cup match and come away with another win.

Dusseldorg Diary - season 2 - 1st half fixtures

That concludes the current update, I am encouraged by many of the performances, especially the last few fixtures. I hope this will push us on for the second half and ensure survival. Stay tuned for the next instalment. 

Thank you again for reading and the continuous support for this blog. I hope you enjoy. Please like, subscribe and share. If you think of any improvements to the blog or any feedback please send your comments.

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Düsseldorf Diary – Season 1

Dusseldorg Diary

Season 1 – review

So time has gone extremely quickly, the season has flown past within a blink of an eye. Going into the season the one thing that I wanted to do was build a foundation for Düsseldorf, somewhere to start and have a slow burn into success. Well that was the plan anyway. What happened instead was completely different and honestly unexpected. 

Setting the scene

Saturday 14th May 2016 and it is a gusty grey afternoon. The final game of the 2. Bundesliga awaits. The Championship is due to be decided as well as the promotion and relegation play off places. Düsseldorf welcome Heidenheim to the ESPRIT Arena. What should have been a end of season mid table, nothing to play for fixture has actually turned out to be a massive fixture. Düsseldorf are currently sitting at the dizzy heights of 1st place with Freiburg snapping at their heels. Both sides have already been granted the achievement of promotion to the top tier, but are only separated by 2 points, so the Championship will be decided on the final fixture. Düsseldorf host Heidenheim, whilst Freiburg travel to 3rd place Nürnburg, who themselves are looking to guarantee a promotion play off place. Freiburg must win and hope that Düsseldorf doesn’t in order to clinch the title away from  them. The fans show their continuous amazing support for the side, willing them on to win.


What happens next?

Düsseldorf are set up for the win, Bowen knows that only a win will do as Freiburg are more than capable of going to Nürnburg and snatching a win. However Heidenheim put up a fight and Düsseldorf simply cannot find a way through. Anxiety is spreading through the fans and collecting momentum, it reaches down to the players and the staff. Supporters frantically checking their phones to find out the score in Nürnburg. The final whistle goes at ESPRIT and it finishes 0-0. But it hasnt finish in Nürnburg yet, what will be the outcome. The players are all waiting on the pitch desperate to find out the result. Then the crowd erupts, Freiburg drew with Nürnburg 2-2, meaning Düsseldorf are Championsh of the 2. Bundesliga. The players and staff are overjoyed, the fans go crazy, this is the first title since 1989.


We were predicted to finish 7th, the board were happy with mid table, I was happy with mid table. Never did I believe we would gain promotion, let alone win the league in  the first season. An amazing achievement and one that I am extremely proud of, especially as I was using my strikerless tactic for the first time. It started well so with a few tweaks along the way, it helped us along the way to achieve my first piece of silverware. Of course the first of many trophies (I hope).

Dusseldorg Diary predictions

2. Bundesliga Table

Dusseldorg Diary - season 1 table.png


Dusseldorg Diary - season 1 fixtures.png

Overall I am delighted with my first season in charge. The next challenge will be survival in the top flight. The Bundesliga will be tough, reinforcements will need to be made if we are to stand any hope. We had no money what so ever so we made no transfers apart from a few U20’s on a free transfer. But they are so so and not even worth showing. I am hoping for a bit of money, but I am going to have to be very smart during this transfer window. We have 3-4 players who are returning to their clubs after a loan spell and no doubt bigger clubs will be looking at some of my other players too. I need to try and keep hold of most of the squad so I can keep some spine and cohesion within the side. Other wise we could have a swift return back to 2nd tier and continue the yo-yo pattern that Düsseldorf have been so fond of over the years.

Keep posted for my next update which should hopefully be mid season. Thank you again for reading and the continuous support for this blog. I hope you enjoy. Please like, subscribe and share. If you think of any improvements to the blog or any feedback please send your comments.

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Düsseldorf Diary

Dusseldorg Diary

German Football

Germany has often been described as the most efficient nation on the planet with their football being described in the same way.  Their teams have always been well organized, hard working, resourceful and tough. Playing an attractive, quick tempo possession based football is not something that comes to mind. The Bundesliga was always thought as slow, boring, uncompetitive league with very little to offer in Europe (aside from Bayern Munich). But the rise of German football over the last 10 years has made the Nationalmannschaft and the Bundesliga much more entertaining and dominant in world football.

This all came to light over 10 years ago when German won the Euro 96 with not necessarily good football, but hard working efficient football. The following two tournaments – World Cup 98 and Euro 2000 – Germany were abysmal and the DFB made the decision that something needed to change. Why wasn’t Germany producing the talents like they used too? The likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller where not around anymore. And why were smaller nations like Croatia and a Portugal B team easily playing them off the park? With the Bosman rule in place, German sides were looking and signing players from all over the globe and simply put, the young German youth players were never given a chance, thus affecting the ever ageing national side.

The DFB knew that they needed to take action otherwise the legacy that had been built in the past could be tarnished. The DFB acted by spending around €600m on building 350 regional youth centres around Germany in an attempt to create the best players and the best league. The effects of this have been apparent with more and more young players coming through into the national side and with those young players Germany have reached the minimum of the semi-finals in the last 4 major tournaments. Winning the World cup in 2014 was a sign that the DFB’s projective planning had paid off, with 8 of the starting 11 in the 2014 final coming through the youth development system. The DFB had made a blueprint that will continue to develop youth players and bleed them through the academies and into the national and club sides. Other nations have to play catch up whilst Germany and the Bundesliga continues to thrive.


Fortuna Düsseldorf

Founded in 1895, the Flingeraner have not experienced a massive amount of success during their 121 year existence. Pre WW2 Fortuna won the German championship – this was before the existence of the Bundesliga – and was made up of different regions. After the war, Fortuna was very much a yo-yo side, moving up and down divisions, winning titles gaining promotions. Arguably their most successful period was during the late 70’s into the early 80’s, reaching the German Cup final 3 years in a row and winning the competition twice. This entered them into Europe and excelled in the 79 UEFA Cup Winners Cup reaching the final, only to be defeated by the mighty Barcelona 4-3 after extra time. Barcelona having the talent of Rexach and Neeskens in their line up, they were simply too much for the North Rhine side. Even arguably Fortuna’s best ever play and top goal scorer Klaus Allofs couldn’t do enough to beat the Catalan giants on that day.

10 years later they bounced up a down the divisions, but never managed to retain some consistency. In the turn of the century they dropped down to the 4th tier and have struggled with financial issues around this period. Since then the financial issues are well behind them and have found their way back up the leagues and made it back to the Bundesliga in 2012, the following season they finished 17th and was relegated back to 2. Bundesliga where they currently still play. Fortuna are the only side to ever be relegated from the Bundesliga down to the 4th tier within 5 years, then make the massive recovery back to top flight 10 years later. This is a record that only Fortuna hold within German football.

The Fortuna fans have also a reputation of being very passionate about their club, showing incredible support. They hold the all-time attendance record in the 3rd tier with over 50,000 showing support. There have also been incidents where some fans have let off fireworks and flares onto the pitch before games have finished out of pure excitement.


The Bowen Era

Now we enter 2015, and I, Marc Bowen, have just been appointed the position as manager at Fortuna Düsseldorf. I have been lining up a potential German save for a while now, after the loss of inspiration and competition with Steaua. I was recommended by @DerFM to read Das Reboot: How German football reinvented itself and conquered the world by Raphael Honigstein. If I wasn’t set on having a German save before, I was now completely sold. I set off into the save with a few personal objectives that I will attempt to complete.

My objectives:

  1. Gain promotion to the Bundesliga – the board only want to achieve a mid-table finish so I do not expect to be in the mix for promotion this season, but this will be a slow burn to get into the top flight.
  2. Concentrate on youth development and try to bring as many young players into the team. Take advantage of the fantastic German youth talent the DFB has heavily invested in.
  3. Invest in youth facilities.
  4. Establish us as an efficient top flight club, with the idea to progress and eventually challenge for the title.
  5. Become German and European champions, a super club.
  6. Eventually be given the chance to take over the nationalmannschaft. Could the DFB give the opportunity to a young British Manager?   


So taking over the club the first thing I wanted to do is assess the squad. We have plenty of CB’s and decent fullbacks, so defensively I believe we are pretty sound for our division, Avevor being the stand out CB with 17 pace (jaw dropped when seeing that), 17 pace, shut the front door! Moving onto our midfield I can see we have a number of decent CM’s along with some pacey wingers. Now the wingers can’t really do much else except run but that is beside the point. Striker wise we don’t really have an out an out striker, more like attacking midfielders who could perhaps play up front at a push, but I’m not really happy about that. With a massive £0 to spend on new players I knew that bringing a decent striker in would be tough.


So tactics wise I have decided to go with what strength we have, a fluid 4-5-1. Now with only have 1 out and out striker I could not rely on him being fit throughout the whole season and able to play every game. So I ventured into the dark side and have decided to go strikerless. That’s right you heard me correctly strikerless. I have been reading the jedi masters work for quite a while and he is constantly bringing success with his strikerless tactics. I wanted to play a counter press, similar to Steaua as I really enjoy watching that on the 2D pitch, the German’s call it gegen pressing. So far it seems to be working reasonably well, but it is still early days. I will for sure keep you updated with the tactical progress. 

Dusseldorg Diary - 451 instructions

Dusseldorg Diary - 451

I am hoping that this save will bring a lot of fun and I am looking forward to updating you throughout the season.

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Me & Marcelino

Me & Marcelinho.png

April 27th and I stumble across an amazing article based on Marcelino’s work at Villarreal. It simply grabbed me by the horns and I was hooked. I was itching to get home and dive straight into a save to see if I could emulate his work. Before we dive into the save I want to spend a bit of time talking about the fantastic piece of analysis by The Tactics Room. If you wish to check them out (and I suggest you do) you can find them on Twitter @TheTacticsRoom or thetacticsroom.com. The article is a great read and also suggest you read it before you continue with this post. https://t.co/Mw6anZnuHR 

The article studies Marcelino’s 4-4-2 approach. It is a highly structured machine with a rock solid defence and patient attacking style which is a balance to be admired. We can all see the rise of Villarreal over the last few years since their promotion back to the top flight. Finishing in 6th place in the last 2 seasons and currently sitting in 4th place hoping for a champions League spot. Everyone involved with the El Submarino Amarillo should be very proud of their successful rise under Marcelino.

So here I am taking over at Villarreal hoping to emulate the success that Marcelino has achieved in real life this season. I wanted to keep the squad the same as much as I could and create a tactical system that mirrors Marcelino’s side. Now when I say keep the same side, I was filled with the intentions that I would do just that. But when Chelsea wave the cheque book in front of you and basically say “how much do you want?” Then sometimes you just can’t say no. I brought in a massive £38m on selling 2 players to the blues, £16m for Manu Trigueros and £22m for Mateo Musacchio. Now I could have spent the same amount of money bringing in some massive stars, but like I said earlier I wanted to keep the original squad. I did replace those 2 players with like for like replacements. Håvard Nordtveit for £1.8m to add a bit of steel in the midfield and Emanuel Mammana for £6.5m. We all know that Mammana turns into a quality CB but during the first season he is nowhere near his full potential.


Me & Marcelinho - 442

So the team shape is pretty obvious, an attempt to mimic Marcelino’s 442. Pretty simple with a flat back 4, 2 standard CB’s and both FB’s on support. These would change to defend duty if facing a sides who create their most goals from out wide. The midfield 4 would sit nice and narrow, with the wide man cutting inside. The front 2 are made up of a defensive forward, he added as an extra midfielder without the ball but provided great link up play between the midfield and striker. The other striker is the advanced forward, his role is to play on the last line of the defence, running onto though balls, but also having a hand in the link up play itself. We played on a Structured shape with a standard mentality, this would change to counter depending on the opponents, but generally was on standard. I wont bore you with the team & individual team instructions but if anyone would like to try the tactic, I am happy to upload it to steam for anyone to try. Just drop me a DM and I can upload it.

So how did we get on

Me & Marcelinho - real table

So this is how the table stands for Villarreal at present they are pretty much set on achieving Champions League football and are leading Liverpool 1-0 ahead of the Europa semi final second leg. An all round great season for the yellow submarine, but did I manage to beat this. We finished in 7th place which sounds worse on the surface of things, but Valencia preformed much better with Gary Neville in this save then what he did in real life.

Me & Marcelinho - table

Deportivo & Granada clearly overachieved. We actually wasn’t  that far off how Villarreal are in real life. 14 wins 15 draws and 9 defeats. 7 points less off, scored more goals, but conceded 17 more. On another day we could have turned some of the excessive draws into wins then the season may have looked a little different. Me & Marcelinho - pre season

An incredible pre season, winning all our fixtures and without conceding. The League itself started pretty poorly but the second half of the season is really when the results start going our way.

Me & Marcelinho - fixtures

The silver lining to this season was the Europa League. We lifted the trophy claiming a Champions League spot. So in a round about way, we have matched the real Villarreal but in a bit of a scroungy way. I was most pleased with the act that we beat Real Madrid and Atletico twice and beating Barcelona at home. Quite a few of the draws came from conceding goals in the last 10 minutes. This is where I decided to change mentality to counter during the last 70 minutes if we were ahead. This helped some of the time but didn’t eradicate the draws. We also made it to the semi finals of the Copa Del Rey beaten by Real Madrid.

Me & Marcelinho - Europa

A quick review over some of our statistics. Our average possession was the 3rd highest in the league with 53.26%. Only Real Madrid and Barcelona were above us, as you would expect. Real averaged 54.71%. This was a shock to me as we were not playing possession based football. Our discipline was pretty good ranking 16th in the league with almost the lowest amount of fouls, 355, receiving 49 yellow and 1 red. From the 50 goals we scored we achieved 38 of them from direct play, 0 from free kicks or penalties, 4 from corners and 8 from indirect free kicks. We achieved 10 clean sheets and conceded from 4 corners and 3 indirect free kicks, the 41 was from open play. We completed a total of 16993 passes ranking the most in the division and a 80% success rate. Our biggest problem was scoring goals, we made the chances but could not finish teams off, this came back to haunts us many of times. from 189 shots we converted 36% of them, shocking, 17th in the division, but I did have Roberto Soldado, and spurs fans all know what he is like. Joking aside he actually finished 8th in the division with 56% of his shots on target. what on earth does that say for the rest of my side. Bakambu scored 14 league goals and 5 Man of the Match awards in 27 games with an average of 170.86 minutes per goal, not bad. He had 118 shot and only managed 48 on target and 70 off target, that is 41% and he only scored 15 of those 48, that is 32% conversion rate from the 41% target rate, ouch.

I think its fair to say that with a few more tweaks and maybe if I kept Trigueros and Musacchio perhaps things may have been better. But overall I am happy with the outcome. My first real attempt of studying a style of play and trying to emulate it with the same side in FM.

Thank you all for reading, please share, like and subscribe. I will be venturing back to Romania for the next blog. Once again if anyone would like to try this tactic out and give the challenge ago I am happy to share it with you.

Don’t forget to catch me on social media

Twitter: @marcbowen17

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