Project Red Wine – A FM15 Story About Liverpool
Welcome back to the next installment of our sizzling save, Project Red Wine! I hope you enjoyed reading part 2 of my FM15 story Project Red Wine series with Liverpool FC. In the previous chapter of my Football Manager 2015 story we saw our beloved Liverpool lift the Premiership trophy as conclusion to our very first season. Despite an FA Cup Final loss, The Reds succeed to bring back the glory of old!
We now begin to defend the EPL crown and see if we can attain a better finish in Europe. As discussed in the previous post, we have new members joining the club. Gerrard has already fled to the Hills of Beverly in the land of opportunity, US of A! His departure will not be felt as we have a sufficient replacement for our long time club servant. Now let’s talk about the pre-season for a bit.
I have set the pre-season to begin one notch shorter than the maximum. I see less people moaning about training camp starting too early selecting this option. Prior to beginning the season I also took out everyone’s individual training to give way for a more rigorous fitness regimen during the first two weeks of the pre-season. I see that doing this brings players fitness up faster when team training is set to average and days off only after games. As a practice, I also set up friendlies for the senior and reserves every five days for each team. I just make sure that no two games happen on the same day. This allows me the flexibility to field in more senior squad players each game to bring them faster to full match fitness. As for the under 18s, I set it once a week with rest days only after games. I believe in investing in the pre-season to prepare the squad for a more taxing and demanding season ahead.
After meticulously setting up my pre-season, I once again assessed the squad to see potential gaps. I know I have identified the right central defender position as a potential weak link. I also realized that Jose Enrique, my backup left back will have his contract expire in a year’s time. I also had to recognize that Glen Johnson was steadily declining while on an ungodly, 97K/week. I have identified these as the most pressing issues which definitely affected my final senior squad selection and transfer activity.
My right central defender search was inspired by this article from Chris Darwen. Putting it into practice, I found several candidates whom I felt would fit the bill. I also had to take into consideration that Vallejo will be my long term right central defender. This narrowed down my search to looking for bargain buys rather than a star signing. I was looking for pace, youth, experience, a mentor, a high performer, and of course a price tag that would not break the bank. This led me to sign an obscure Slovakian from Catania by the name of Norbet Gyomber.
He arrived at Anfield for a measly 2.1M after scoring 3 goals, garnering 7 PoM awards while averaging 7.22 in 40 appearances in his second season with Catania. Star rating-wise, you would find that his 2 and half stars won’t speak for his current performance.
Gyomber has started to challenge both Lovren and Skrtel for the spot in question. In 15 appearances he has started 11 averaging 7,17. With a 74% pass completion and 83% tackle ratio, he has shown solid sweeping ability playing as CD-C role. His high acceleration, positioning, and anticipation show in the number of interceptions he has at 109. For 2.1M, this guy is a steal. One goal and zero mistakes leading to a goal, Gyomber represents value for money. I do hope his excellent form continues throughout the season as I see Skrtel possibly leaving due to age and lack of playing time.
Another key transfer contributing to our awesome standing is Lucas Silva. We can recall that Real Madrid let this guy go for 7.5M with room to grow. I initially planned to train him as a striker to serve as a either my DLF or DF but saw that Henderson, my convert, was starting to grow into the job. An early season injury to Joe Allen forced me to really ditch that plan and play Silva in central mid as either a Box to Box or a Roaming PM. A total of 13 appearances with 11 starts has seen him average a 7.25 rating despite having little time to adapt to the new system. An 85% pass completion ratio with 20 key, 48% SOT with 40 in total along with 3 goals has seen his value rise to 18.5M.
Let’s now discuss Enrique and Johnson. I know that I said I will be keeping the core of the Liverpool team intact unless any of them requests to leave or is poached via market value bid. Hence I have started planning for succession.
Jose Enrique’s contract expires at the end of the season and I do feel that it will not be wise to extend his tenure as I have Moreno who looks to be a solid LB/LWB. My only prospect coming through the ranks worth utilizing is Brad Smith. I have started exposing him to first team action with 3 starts and a total of 11 appearances. He looks to be half decent and will be retained as I need players to Champion’s League roster requirements. I see him being a first level tutor long term if he doesn’t moan about playing time.
Glen Johnson on the other hand has declined steadily in the first 1 and a half season I have coached him. His decline is mainly due to Lazar Markovic taking the RWB starting job. His wages at 97K/pw is a major issue as well. I feel that at I should offer him at the next transfer window following the Moneyball rule to sell players within the 30 year old range. He is currently 31 and looks like a prime candidate to move. With this in mind, I see Ryan McLaughlin as my second stringer. He will do the job and I am sure of it! Ryan is averaging 7.46 in 10 apps with 8 starts. Again, he will come in handy for the roster requirements but I do not see him challenging Markovic for the starting gig anytime soon.
Moving on to the team’s current standing, I am proud to say that we are top of the food chain again in the EPL after 16 games. Although Chelsea is breathing down our neck only 3 points behind. Champion’s League looks good as we are already qualified for the next round with a game in hand. I will also be playing Manchester United in the Cap One Cup quarters. Millwall is up next in the FA cup third round. I can attribute the good performance to a better rotation pattern and a clearer understanding of players locked into the team’s best eleven. Oh and I won the Community Shield against Tottenham as payback for last year’s FA Cup Final defeat.
The last point I would like to discuss in this update would be the tactical changes I have made over the break. Slight changes here and there have refined the already awesome tactic I had last year. And I think that is what is important with FM. As cliche as it may sound, we have to adapt. See what works better and test our own creations. Relying on a tactic produced by someone else takes the fun out of the game in my eyes. Play your way. This is basically what I followed when revising the existing tactic. I felt that I could have done better by balancing the actual formation. Below are the changes I made with some simple reasoning based on my interpretation.
AML moved to MCL as a Roaming Playmaker – Lucas Silva was starting due to the injury of Joe Allen. Seeing that his long shots were at 17, I felt that putting him on the left side may produce some goals. This play maker status should also link up well with the changes I implemented on my STCL.
DMR moved to MC as a Central Mid with a defend duty – Adding a player instruction to dribble less, I want this guy just passing and not being that mobile with the ball. Khedira and Illaramendi are not the best dribblers in town nor to they have bags of pace and acceleration. But they do have great positioning. They protect the central defense dropping into the DM strata forming a triangle with the two defenders. This position also forms the base of the mid field diamond.
MCL moved to MCR as a Central Mid with an attack duty – Coutinho plays here as a Central Winger inspired by @JLAspey’s article. I see him running down the flank supported by the RWB picking passes to the strikers or even giving it a go himself. I also saw that this side previously did not have any attack duty player up top. Forcing Markovic into the a CWB-A may result into more goals leaked from this flank.
STCL duty changed from DLFS to DLFA – This spot is the Mobile Targetman position. This is the second time I am using this as part of my tactic and I am fairly familiar on what I want to achieve. Problem is Lambert isn’t the most mobile of people. Slow and lumbering. Balo on the otherhand suits the role physically. Mentally is another discussion altogether due to his low work rate and teamwork. So I thought about making him more aggressive to capitalize on his scoring mentality. He still roams and and dishes off. But he scores more. 15 starts and 17 goals with 4 assists. 24 key passes with a 76% completion rate. He is averaging 7.72 and has also upped his form internationally. Not bad for a one-time castaway.
This is how the whole tactic lines up. Still with a defensive mentality, I have changed the shape to flexible.
I have also moved away from short passing and switched to retain possession. I still want players passing into space and running at opponents. The crossing is just a personal preference but anything will actually work. No specific penetration instructions since I feel that I have balanced it out and the attack and build up would be more unpredictable. The rest are relatively the same. The offside trap is implemented when I have Gyomber on the pitch though. The keeper was switched to SK although I find that there is really not much difference between the two options when on defend duty. I still maintain the old tactic but seldom use it. In line with my philosophy of playing my way, I am also developing an alternative which is far different from the two that I currently have.
With the team in superb form, I see that the changes I have made look to be effective and promising. At this point I am slowly seeing my vision for the club turning into a reality. I know this is far far far from how The Reds are in real life. Fans like me can only hope to gain this dominance and form in a game like Football Manager. Hopefully though, things turn around for my beloved team in real life just like how Hairy Potter has transformed this club using the core group of stars.
I shall provide another update after the January transfer window. Let us see what is in store for all of us! Stay tuned and see you all in the next episode. Shalom!