Welcome back our journey with RCD Espanyol where we endeavor into a new season after a quite stunning finish to the 2016/17 campaign. Finishing 4th was an incredible achievement for us and something that I never expected would happen so soon. My ambitions for the new season is as followed:
- Get through the qualifying round and enter the Champions League group stages.
- Transition from the ‘Four horsemen’ tactic to a 41320 .
- Promote a young player from the ‘B’ team and bleed them into the first team to help with development.
- Finish the 2017/18 season in the top half of the table.
- Reach a minimum of the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey.
The reason I have set the minimum expectation of a top half finish is purely because we overachieved last season, it is going to be a big ask from the side to replicate this success again. Realistically we are a mid table side and although we finished 4th we should expect that we have a given right to be there again. For me a more realistic finish would be in the top 10. It gives the players time to adapt to the new tactical system, just in case it isn’t as effective as the ‘Four horsemen’.
The vultures have landed
Due to the successes of last season, many of our players were wanted by multiple clubs, this was something that I started to anticipate during the final run towards the champions League place. I knew that player ingoings and outgoings would be high during this window, so even though we have taken a step forward with CL, I will be using this as a transition period.
As you can see we have many new faces arriving at Espanyol and many players that have left the club, just as I predicted. many of our performers like Gerard Moreno, Hernan Perez, and Caicedo left the club for reasonable fees, they were all unhappy when I initials dismissed pitiful transfer offers but just under £20m for the 3 of them is decent money for us. Our top performer was Leo Baptistao and he was rumored with a move to Napoli all window but it never materialized, that was until deadline day, where Napoli finally came in and met his minimum fee release. £21.5m, thank you very much indeed. But after so many departures, we need some new recruits.
A few bargain have come our way, who doesnt love a bargain. Rodri and Munoz both transfer listed by their respected clubs, both not world beaters by any stretch but both are under 22 and look like they could do a job and improve with game time and decent training. Jota and Schone come in on a free, both add vital experience and the ability to pick a pass under pressure (something that is key with strikerless football). My key and record breaking signing is the young talented Kasper Dolberg. Someone who is starting to make a real name for himself in the real world and looks pretty tasty in game. I’m seeing him as an ideal fit for the shadow striker role.
Additional signings such as Pezzella from Atletico B has come in and bolster the backline along with ex Real Madrid winger Pedro Leon joining us from Eibar to add vital experience and flair to our dilapidated midfield.
As mentioned before i wanted to continue with the strikerless theme throughout this save after the enjoyments in my Arsenal BETA save. So this season we will be transitioning from the ‘Four horsemen’ to this prototype shape below: There were a number of issues with the shape once we started to go through its testing period in pre season. The idea was that the 2 wide men in the ‘Four horsemen’ would drop into the BBM roles and would get forward supporting to 2 advanced AMC’s. Just behind them would be our DLP backed up with an Anchor Man protecting the backline. Our Wingbacks would provide the width with a supportive mentality. This was the vision in my head, what actually panned out was something completely different. Below is what actually happened and what caused me a few problems:
Our BBMs got forward far to often and the majority of the time would be ahead of our SS and AP, if caught out of position we were left very vulnerable. Our DLP would drop too deep an virtually sit himself on top of our Anchor Man, 2 men occupying the exact same space, pointless. Lastly the wingbacks wasn’t so much as supporting but more like driving us forward, they were also high up the pitch and often being exposed.
So in order to rectify these issues I went back to the drawing board. Both BBMs were changed to CM(s) and the difference was instantaneous. They support the attacks just how I envisioned they would, supporting the AMCs and overlapping them in situations when a through ball can be played, not at every opportunity like the BBM. The DLP was switched from Defend to Support, this made his positioning a little higher up the pitch, so the gap between him and the other CMs was too big, he also wasn’t sitting on top of the covering midfielder behind him. The Anchor Man was switched to a bulk standard DM, once again positioning was key here and I liked the way he sat nicely between the CBs and the DLP. Lastly the WBs, just like in the ‘Four horsemen’ I stuck with 1 WB to get forward and 1 to cover. Looking at our WBs the left hand side was much more athletic and clinical going forward, so it only made sense to set the left to (s) and the right hand side to (d). In order to keep width on the right, the CM on that side has a PI to move into the channels, this idea is so play can be spread out wide if necessary as this is very much a narrow system.
Our first big challenge is to qualify for the CL, where we have drawn European giants AC Milan. Wish us luck!
So that it for this post, thank you all for reading. Next post will return for a mid season review.
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