Well, here we go again. We have reached the climax of season 4 and what a ride it has been. Our aim was to simply push on from the fantastic finish last year in 6th position.
As mentioned at the end of Season 3, I wanted to invest in a shadow striker would would be a little more prolific in front of goal. Due to our wonderful final position and the prospect of playing in Europe next season, the board gifted me €30m to spend. After extensive scouting trips and analysing the market, this was our business:
Now simply put I could not turn down the money on the table for my wonderkid Lewis Cook, his replacement was transfer listed Lewis Holtby, almost a like for like replacement except Holtby is 5 years older but has a little more flair, even more pleasing, he only cost 1/5 of the income from Cook’s sale to Man City. The man who I trusted with the ability to fill the shadow striker role was transfer listed Adam Maher. With finishing, passing, technique and determination all between 16-17 I knew that he would be a great addition to my squad, with added European experience. The rest of the signings were all future prospects except for Leibold who came staight in at left fullback and Chamorro who was nipping at the heels of Clemens on the right wing. Lastly we strngthened our number 1 with the highly talented Loris Karius from Mainz. He proved to be a steal at €5.75m keeping a stunning 15 clean sheets in 33 Bundesliga games.
In January, Schalke met the release fee of Max Christiansen and he left for €15m, I knew I needed to find an instant replacement and decided to go for Niklas Stark, a young defender who had already moved to Dortmund but wasnt getting much game time. I snapped him up for the same price, but quite frankly, Stark is the better all round defender so a decent bit of business in my book.
So How did we get on?
Now a little piece of attacking and defending run through of my strikerless tactic.
A little reminder of the system we are using, a strikerless 4-5-1 with a high pressing philosophy. This tactic is by no means a perfect system by any stretch, but right now it is clicking and we are getting some important wins. There is always room for improvement and I am hoping to iron out any issues as we go forward.
The move starts with Wolfsburg in possession and Arnold plays a pass forward which Kirchoff anticipates and cuts out playing it forward to Helmke in a quick transition. In this moment we are set up really nicely with our 3 central midfielders all within close proximity of each other and all free in space. Helmke cushions the ball to our Deep Lying Playmaker Holzhauser. He does exactly what is asked of him and looks up to pick out a precision pass. He sends a delightful ball diagonally over the defence after sporting the run from our left winger Atanga. Atanga is onto the pass in a flash leaving his man behind him, at this point Atanga is racing towards goal but has great support from the opposing winger and our shadow striker. As Atanga progresses into the area he is surrounded by 3 defenders leaving our 2 supporting players in great positions. With both supporting men drawing the other defenders away from the ball, Atanga skillfully beats his markers and is now staring 1-on-1 with the GK, he picks his spot and dispatches it perfectly. Pressing on the ball, intercepting and opposing pass, quick transition forward, through ball, defence splitting runs off the ball and a classy finish. This was one of many pleasing attacking moves during the campaign. We won the game 3-1.
This analysis starts from our own goal kick, given short to Bader. In this position you can see our team shape is a very prominant 4-5-1. Bader inflicts pressure upon us by being caught out with a heavy touch. Meyer dispossesses Bader but cannot drive forward due to our defensive shape so he plays it backwards to Goretzka. At this point our overwelming midfield step back to pack our 1/3 of the pitch and reduce the options. Goretzka plays a wonderful ball over Bader who is caught on his heels and Meyer has timed his run well. The high pressing philosophy meant that Bader chasing back and Kirchoff coming across causes Meyer to hesitate and lose the ball. Bader drives forward and plays a swift ball to Holtby ready to transition a counter attack. Holtby dithers on the ball and plays a sloppy pass straight back to Goretzka who first time finds Kruse in space where Kirchoff has moved across. The quick pressing comes again and by the time Kruse turns our shape has made a makeshift 1-4-1-4. having two rigid walls to break through with a sweeper behin each wall. Kruse doesnt have many options and fortunatley chips the ball towards Berahino who heads the ball straight out for a goal kick. Threat over, a few enforced errors but high pressing and structured shaped cancelled out any attack Schalke tried to throw at us. We won the game 1-0 in the end.
We had an incredible season and really pushed on well from last year only losing 4 Bundesliga games all season. We still struggled scoring goals, collectively we scored a fair amount but my shadow striker still wasn’t as prolific as I had hoped, but showed signs of excellence. We ended up finishing 3rd and only 3 points off the top, we stayed in the title race all the way until the last game were we bottled it and lost to Frankfurt. I cant really complain as once again a huge improvement and the prospect of Champions League next season.
Our cup run was appalling, losing in the first round. My own fault as I fielded a young side hoping that would be enough. Well, egg on my face after that one. Our European run on the other hand was more exciting. We danced through the group stages winning 6 from 6. Then progressed nicely through the knockout stages, beating some tough opponents, all the way to the semi finals where we lost on penalties.
Next season will be fun, some of my youngsters will be given a chance and I am hoping to continue to build the squad so we can continue to grow as a club. 4th consecutive season in the Bundesliga and Champions League football. Dreams are becoming a reality.
Our run with Italy so far has been good, we have progressed through the strange European League system unbeaten and finishing top with 10 points. Hopefully DFB are keeping a close eye on me as I want the Germany job in the future.
I mentioned last post that I wanted to build a traditional Italian system with counter attacking skills. So far it seems to have worked, I am not completely happy with it as there aren’t enough games to really test and understand it. Only time will tell, but I am having fun whilst doing it anyway.
Sorry for death of screenshots this time around but I wanted to go into a little more detail with the story so far. It has taken a little longer to do so but that makes it a whole lot of fun.
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 at all please comment or send me a DM.