RCD Espanyol 4.2 & the unconventional Defensive Winger

espanyol-header2

Welcome back to my RCD Espanyol save, where we finish off season 4 here in Barcelona. As it’s been a while since the first half of the season, you might want to catch up with 4.1 before continuing this post.

After signing for us in the summer window of a free transfer, Matheus Pereira has put in some very good performances, scoring a very impressive 9 goals in his first 12 games. This kind of form from the 21 year old Brazilian, attracted the mighty Bayern Munchen, who came in towards the end of the window matching his 29mil release fee. Frantically, I offered him a new contract but his agent was being a typical agent and demanded 180k for his weeks wages. That’s a massive 167k pay rise! I don’t want to keep you that much Matheus, go on to Germany where you probably wont play.

So with David Lopez also leaving the club for 7.25mil, after wanting a new challenge, the club have broken their record income in one season. It has reached a massive 117mil.

rcd-espanyol_-transfer-history

So enough about how much money we have raised and onto our results in the 2nd half of the season. Considering we were sitting in 3rd place only 2 points behind 1st with our new back 3 tactic I was pretty chuffed at  the mid way point. The 2nd half of the season saw us have our first injury problem in FM. Dolberg, Angel Correa, Duate and Deulofeu all picked up injuries and were out between 3-5 months! This tested our the depleted squad and had to promote one of two youngsters just to fill spaces. To make matters worse during the last 5 weeks of the season, our star GK  gets injured so our young number 2 stepped in. This is what cost us the most as our end to the campaign was our poorest run so far.

But I’m not going to sit here and blame it all on injuries, who am I kidding, they cost us everything!

RCD Espanyol_  Senior Fixtures.png

As you can see apart from our slip up against Eibar, which are starting to become very frustrating to play against as they also beat me last year, we actually managed really well, winning 10, and drawing 5 before our poor ending run. Only having 2 defeats all season up to the last 6 games, then we get another 3. Barca, our arch rivals I can accept with a back up GK, but I believed we could out play Atletico at home and especially Levante! Furious was an understatement. We still picked up points during our blip so that was something. However, our title rivals were much more clinical at this important time of the season and ran away with the league.

la-liga-santander_-overview-stages-2

11 points behind Real at the end of it, those 3 games mathematically wouldn’t have made a difference in the final outcome but it may have put more pressure on Real to get results, which could have influenced a slip up on their part. It’s all IF’s and BUT’s though! We still scored a very decent amount of goals and our defensive record was again the best in the division. 20 goals all season is a cracking result, especially with 3 defenders and no natural cover from conventional wing backs. Only cover from our Defensive Wingers something we shall look at later.

Champions League

RCD Espanyol_  Senior Fixtures-3.png

Two very disappointing games against the Rossoneri saw us crash out at in the last 16. I was optimistic going into the 2nd leg with only 1 goal in it, but Milan were solid and we could not break them down. We done an Arsenal, but with capitulating in the first leg.

Copa del Rey

RCD Espanyol_  Senior Fixtures-2.png

For the third year in a row RCD Espanyol reach the final of the Copa del Rey, however this time, we couldn’t come home with the trophy.

The Defensive Winger

“The defensive winger”, not something that sounds all that thrilling does it. You wouldn’t describe your star winger, e.g Cristiano Ronaldo in that way would you? It sounds dull, boring, safe. So why is it an option in Football Manager? As a game, why would you want you pacey, flair wingers to be cautious and defensive?

As discussed on the Deep Lying Podcast, George and Guido confirmed that it was a role that they have never really used and wouldn’t be something that they would ever use. George also put out a calling cry for anyone who uses the Defensive Winger to get in touch if they had any idea of how to implement them.  Well “cometh the hour, cometh the man.”

So with my  3-5-2 strikerless system, known as Stuka,  I have 3 Central Defenders and rather than go with the conventional Wing Back approach, I tested out the Defensive Winger.

In game, this is how SI describe the Defensive Winger:

The Defensive Winger aims to press the opposing fullbacks, win the ball high up the pitch and either hold it up for the rest of the team, drive to the byline or get a quick cross or through ball for the forwards

Within the role, you have two mentalities to choose from, Defend or Support.

Defend – “With the defend duty, the Defensive Winger’s job is to primarily provide insurance for the defenders behind him, working diligently to reduce the threat posed by opponents in his area of the pitch and to break up attacks higher up the pitch

Support – “With the support duty, the Defensive Winger’s job is to try and win the ball, get past his man and get in a early cross for the forwards.

Within my system, the CB’s are covered with a hard working, disciplined DM sat in front of them. He not only provides as the first line of defence but he can also drift from flank to flank offering support out wide. With that in mind, I opted for a DW with a Support duty. Initially when testing out the system in pre season I went with Defend, but that swiftly changed as they were bring too cautious.

With any tactic there will be a flaw, a weakness an Achilles heel, in this tactic it is in those wide areas. I know that,  so rather than be too cautious, lets be more adventurous. Support mode on, lets see it in action.

My 4 wingers that I use in this system are, from right to left:

  • Gerard Deulofeu – W(s)
  • Lasse Schone – AP(s)
  • Victor Alvarez – WB(s)
  • Jaoquin Diaz – IF(s)

Aside from Alvarez, who is a natural defender, none of these players you would associate as hard working, tracking back or tackling, so how can it possibly work?

Sorry in advanced as we shall now spam the screen with images taken from our analysis throughout the season, so we can understand the positioning, tackling and how effective this role is.

rcd-espanyol-v-real-sociedad_-analysis-players

As you can see Deulofeu’s average position is deeper than you imagine him to be. In real life he isn’t the most defensive minded player and would would even really associate him with tracking back or even showing much interest in doing so, well here is where things tell a slightly different tale.

During this specific game, Deulofeu won 7 tackles (the highest amount from our team), made 6 successful dribbles, made 0 mistakes, made 5 interceptions and gained possession 13 occasions.

real-hispalis-v-rcd-espanyol_-analysis-players

Lasse Schone & Victor Alvarez Vs Betis

The thing that makes this role so effective in this system is the ability to transition for defence to attack. Not having fullbacks means the added pressure of the DW’s getting back covering the flanks. Due to their high pressing nature, this means that even someone like Deulofeu can do a decent defensive job if needed. Now we don’t play a high pressing game, as our team instructions are set to sometimes, but the DW likes to press aggressively, so whether it is high up in the final third or just outside our own penalty area, they are hassling the opposition.

During games where we are up against a tough opponent, our mentality changes. A notch back from ‘Standard’ to ‘Counter’, as well as increasing our pressing to ‘More Often’. This makes us a little deeper but increases our overall function to press. This increases the DW to press like a angry Rottweiler, increasing his desire to win the ball back at any opportunity. The chasing back that even Deulofeu puts in is very pleasing to watch.Our CB’s being split do cover the wider areas quite well, but the DW just wants to run and chase like cheetah hunting it’s prey.

So what makes a good Defensive Winger?

  • Determination
  • Positioning
  • Work Rate

Pace, Acceleration, Teamwork, Stamina, Tackling & Aggression will all be an added bonus, but as of yet I am unable to find a Wide Midfielder with all these attributes, so ho does Deulofeu match up.

gerard-deulofeu_-overview-profile

With Deulofeu it’s his pace, stamina and his determination that makes him work as a DW in the Stuka system. Going forward his has all the attribute you could ask for from a winger. He technically shouldn’t be a good DW but I can’t put up a reason to keep him out of the side.

I am currently training up some defensive minded fullbacks and wide midfielders that have come through the academy over the last 2 years in a DW role, so the future ma hold a more purpose built DW ready to exploit this position in Stuka.

When facing a 442, 433 or a 4231 we seem to manage well, coping with the oppositions wingers and advancing fullbacks. The only system so far that we seem to be struggling with is a 424. My 3 CB’s have to mark 2 ST’s so that makes covering the width difficult on one side. This is where the DW struggles and needs support or changing role to a deeper WB position.

Thank you so much for reading, any feedback on this post will be much appreciated as it’s something very different. Be sure to check out the incoming post for season 5 at RCD Espanyol.


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2 comments

  1. Keysi Rensie · February 23

    Finally had time to read it, Marc. It’s great post, really enjoy it 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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