Featured post

More Than A Slaughterhouse; The Dresden Revival | Pt.6 2019-20 Pre-Season

This blog is brought to you in partnership with FMBase

There was once a time where Dresden was a center of art and achievement. Founded by Augustus I in 1560 and further cultivated under the reigns of Augustus II and Augustus III, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden remains one of the oldest and most notable art institutions in the world. Through this, Dresden became a leading city in art and technology.

With their famous 2.Bundesliga triumph and promotion to the German top flight, Dynamo Dresden, under trainer Andrew Thompson, have set their sights on re-establishing the city as an influence on the domestic and continental landscape. This time, through football.

Celebrations of their historic campaign during the 2018-19 season continued long into the summer months. All around the Aldstadt, at the foot of the Frauenkirche, in the Altmarkt (and Neumarkt) Square, and down the Prager Straße and Postplatz, you could find jovial fans reliving their favorite moments weeks after the event. But for Thompson, his staff, and the players, work began immediately in preparation for what would be their toughest obstacle yet.

Pre-Season program

Without running the risk of turning into a proverbial task-master, Thompson decided to put his troops through their pre-season paces with a more demanding approach. The aim was simple; hit the ground running as quickly as possible, with the aim of better fitness levels early on coming into play for an opening month of the season that was sure to test their limits.

An introduction to life in the Bundesliga was to be provided by Borussia Dortmund, now under the guidance of former RB Leipzig and FC Ingolstadt headmaster Ralph Hasenhüttl. Dates with Hertha BSC, RB Leipzig, TSG Hoffenheim, and Bayern Munich would follow over a period of a month and a half. Hard truths would have to be met with hard work if Dresden was to avoid being blown clear out of contention for safety by the Winterpause.

The tail-end of Dresden’s pre-season program, as well as the opening weeks of the 2019-20 Bundesliga campaign

With the help of an experienced fitness team and a now-expanded physio department, a heavy three-a-day training regime was implemented for the entirety of pre-season; one that would carry over into the first weeks of the league campaign.

Most importantly, Thompson and the backroom staff were pleased to observe how the squad handled the heavier pre-season workload. Not only were the squad enjoying the new program, but there was an actual decrease in injuries suffered in comparison to last season. The risk certainly paid off.

Collective over sentiment

Despite promotion and the clubs increased financial capacity, it was always a worry that some of Dresden’s key first-team assets would demand larger wage packets. At the tail end of the promotion campaign, this is something that Thompson had to negotiate to the detriment of the clubs wage structure, and, unfortunately for him, he would have to part ways with two of his best assets on the back of it.

Moussa Koné was one of the difference makers during the second half of the promotion campaign. After losing his starting place at center forward to youngster Dejan Joveljic, Koné found a new lease on life on the right flank of Dresden’s forward line. After ending the season level with Joveljic for the team lead in goals, it didn’t take long for the Senegalese international and his delegation to begin overtures for a new deal.

The meeting was happily entertained by Thompson, who saw Koné as a key to help avoid relegation, but after demands of a fresh ₤25k/week deal with heavy bonuses came across his desk, all talks were suspended and Koné was immediately placed on the market. The same can be said of Brian Hamalainen, a player whose influence on Dresden’s approach when in position was vital. He too demanded a bumper deal that could not be accommodated, but the acquisition of Zlatan Sehovic during the winter transfer window, and his performances during the remainder of the season made Hamalainen’s departure easier to cope with.

Showing himself to put the team and club before the personal financial demands of a player – no matter how important – was unanimously supported by the fan base and board alike. The eventually agreed fees for both players would allow Thompson greater maneuverability in the summer market after the board had become increasingly closed-off to the ideas of additional investment.

Summer investment and long-term planning

Coming into the summer it was always the intent for Dresden to look at improving squad-depth, improving on the clubs’ youth intake, and ensuring a deal could be struck for Dario Dumic. Despite the nature of the departures of Koné and Hamalainen, fans can be confident that Dynamo goes into the league campaign with a squad capable of fending off relegation.

The deal for Dumic ended up going through without a hitch, with the pre-agreed ₤1.3m fee included in the loan agreement triggered, and the player was more than happy to make Dresden his new home. In addition, an unexpected upgrade in the heart of the defense came when a surprise deal worth ₤2.7m was struck with Partizan Belgrade for highly-touted Serbian international Svetozar Markovic.

Further deals were agreed for Croatian goalkeeper Marko Malenica (NK Osijek), Slovakian international David Ivan (Free Transfer), loan deals for Palko Dárdai (Hertha BSC) and Erkan Eyibil (Mainz 05), and multiple deals for U19 players with the future in mind.

Dresden’s commitment to localized recruitment has also remained going into Thompson’s second season in charge. Incapable of truly competing in the larger markets, Dynamo’s current ability to peg players off clubs from surrounding nations or in eastern Europe has genuinely paid dividends.

The affiliate-club relationship with Puskas Akademia was retained going into the new season and players from their academy continued to supplement the youth pipeline in the Dresden area. Stronger ties with fellow Hungarian clubs MTK Budapest and Ferencvaros also took root, as Dynamo scouts could regularly be found keeping tabs on their youth sector.  Much the same can be said for clubs in Serbia and Croatia, as the success of the deals for Joveljic, Hasic, and Sehovic was deemed to have provided ample evidence to continue to monitor matters there.

Moving forward, it is assumed that recruitment centers will continue to be established in the areas in question, as there is no guarantee that the club will look to pump its own financial resources into homegrown youth recruitment past a certain standard. This could be seen as a potential point of contention, however, as Thompson has insisted that the future of the club be firmly placed in its ability to cultivate young players, especially domestically.

The run-up to the Bundesliga campaign 

As pre-season progressed the air around Dresden was one of caution. Sometimes fans succumb to that until they have something tangible to hold on to. Once the preparation fixtures began in earnest, however, everything was back to normal.

Dynamo kicked-off the final weeks with friendlies against affiliate clubs Borea Dresden, Dresden 06, and Bautzen with 8-0, 4-1, and 2-0 wins respectively; though the Bautzen scoreline flattered their opponents. Those would be followed up with clashes against SK Dynamo České Budějovice and Post SV Dresden, before a much bigger and more important face-off with Schalke 04.

As an acid test, there are few better sides in the Bundesliga than Schalke, and though Thompson’s side was eager, they ended up scraping out a 1-1 draw while debuting a new back three setup that the Dresden headmaster had been toying with in the weeks before. The ability to set his team up away from home and limit quality chances, against much tougher opposition, would be a potentially valuable asset in the bid for point generation.

Against the Gelsenkirchen-side, it showed promise. Schalke generated more chances but failed to carve out a single clear-cut chance or half chance after 90minutes, relying on a brilliant 25-yard curling effort from Leandro Trossard. Still and yet, Thompson took the result back to the drawing board for tinkering in the hope that he could confidently set up his team in this manner when it was prudent to do so.

To close out the pre-season program, Dresden labored to a 0-0 affair with Rapid Vienna, and then a 3-0 win away against Zrinjski Mostar, having only surrendered 2 goals in 8 matches in the process.

After one last team meeting, in which it was unanimously agreed upon that the squad was more than capable of staving off relegation, Dynamo Dresden started down a path many dream of but only a few are lucky enough to experience. First up, the first round of the DFB Pokal and minnows SSVg Velbert 02, before the Rudolph-Harbig would once again welcome Dortmund to Saxony.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured post

More Than A Slaughterhouse; The Dresden Revival | Pt.5 History Makers

This blog is brought to you in partnership with FMBase

Kit design via Request A Kit, who I owe a massive thanks for his brilliant work

It was always seen as nothing more than a pipe dream; Dynamo Dresden in the Bundesliga. But stranger things have happened…pipe dreams can become reality. The Bundesliga now has another debutant occupant.

Ruckrunde review

On the back of scintillating form in the first half of the 2018-19 campaign, first-year manager Andrew Thompson forever wrote himself into Dresden lore by guiding them into the German top-flight for the first time in their history.  It was not without its own set of struggles, however.

After kicking-off the second-half of the season with consummate 2-0 wins against Arminia Bielefeld and Heidenheim, Dresden suffered their first defeat in all competitions in a resounding 3-0 defeat at the hands of Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund at the Rudolph-Harbig. The immediate aftermath of the poor performance – despite always being massive underdogs – was one of struggle.

DD struggles

A spirited 3-3 draw away at Hamburg followed the Dortmund result, with a 4-0 thrashing of Jahn Regensburg seemingly putting Dresden back on track. However, four draws in the subsequent five fixtures (which only featured a combined 4 Dresden goals) threatened to grind their title challenge to a halt. What’s worse, was Serbian U-21 startlet Dejan Joveljic had stopped scoring and was in the midst of a run of 8 matches without a goal. Thankfully for Thompson and his troops, the ship would right itself in the business end of the season.

A timely home outing against relegation-threatened Union Berlin gave Dresden the springboard they needed to rebound. A 3-1 win – which featured Joveljic breaking his duck – would proceed three further wins on the spin, including a 6-1 demo-job of promotion candidates FC Köln at home that would confirm Dresden as 2.Bundesliga champions.

DD Business end

Thompson and his elated squad would round the season out with draws against FC St.Pauli, Holstein Kiel, and a 4-1 home win on the final day against SC Paderborn.

The promotion brought more than enough joy along the Elbe, but the manner in which it transpired is what set the record books alight. Not only did Dresden go unbeaten over the course of the season – a first in the 2.Bundesliga – but Thompson also was at the helm of a side that broke the record for points in a season, finishing on 80 and besting SC Freiburg’s previous record of 72.

DD ending table

It was a happy time for individual plaudits as well. Joveljic (13 goals) may have missed out on a chance to finish atop the goalscoring charts, but together with Haris Duljevic (12 goals) and Moussa Kone (13 goals), he combined to be a part of the highest-scoring forward-line in the league.

Keeping with Duljevic, the Bosnian international finished the league campaign with the highest match rating in the division (7.45), while Danish left-back Brian Hamalainen topped the assists charts with 12.

DD 2BL TotY

DD end of season awards

All in all, it was a brilliant campaign in a city desperate to leave their footprint on the footballing landscape.

Commercial care package

One of the biggest struggles for Thompson upon his appointment was the financial restraints crippling the club. The long-term goal of gaining promotion was going to always – over time – help Dresden in a big way if it was achieved. Having to only wait a season put the club in a far better situation than it could have dreamed.

As the season concluded, Dresden was in the red by over ₤4m, mostly due to a wage structure that began the season at a sustainable level but increased dramatically given the need to hand out bumper deals to quite a handful of key first-team assets. Once confirmed as champions, however, Dresden’s bank balance ended up in the black by over ₤10m from the winners’ purse alone.

Though it was not noticeable at the time, Dynamo’s commercial activity and matchday/ticket revenue both increased. This was also aided by four new sponsorship deals, including a new 2-year deal with global telecommunications company T-Mobile, to go along with a change in kit manufacturer from Craft to Adidas.

In celebration of their historic achievement, Adidas released a limited-edition commemorative third kit, paying homage to the cities iconic skyline.

home

away

third

If nothing else, Dresden will look the part as they take on their biggest challenge in club history.

DD commercial activity

DD BL matchday revenew

Most importantly, the club would come into their first-ever Bundesliga season with matchday earning power that – based off numbers from the 2018-19 season – exceeded Mainz 05, SC Freiburg, and VfL Wolfsburg, while the ability to leapfrog FC Augsburg remains a real possibility. It’s a stable financial platform to take into a new era.

DD extended financial projections

Long-term projections looked even better; certainly pleasing to new owner Jannik Hofmeier, and director Bartu Yiǧit. Baring Thompson navigating the Bundesliga sufficiently enough to keep the club in the top flight for the near future, Dresden’s financial projections over a three year period would put the club in a position to make a real push to turn themselves into a side capable of pushing for the middle-third of the table.

Media Predictions and board expectations

DD media prediction

As expected, it was not predicted to be a kind first year amongst the German footballing elite. With odds coming in at 950-1 to win the title, Dresden is far and away projected to be the ones propping up the table. Even Köln, who finished 13-points adrift of Thompson’s side, was given far better odds at avoiding relegation.

Thankfully for Thompson, board expectations are – in his estimation – achievable; avoid relegation. Dresden may be bolstered by the fact that they managed to best Köln on both occasions the previous season, scoring 9 goals in the process. Augsburg, predicted to finish 16th, narrowly avoided the drop during the prior campaign by way of a relegation playoff home-and-home triumph against Darmstadt 98.

It’s not mission impossible for Dresden, but Thompson will have to be dialed in all summer if he is to put his team in as strong a position as possible. His first order of business going into the summer would be to make sure vice-captain and defensive stalwart Dario Dumic was secured in a full deal from FC Utrecht. Securing his services for the foreseeable future would provide a valuable piece of a spine strong enough to navigate Dynamo Dresden through their date with destiny.

 

 

Featured post

More Than A Slaughterhouse; The Dresden Revival | Pt.4 2018-19 Hinrunde

This blog is brought to you in partnership with FMBase

 

After completing the pre-season program without a hitch, new Dynamo Dresden manager Andrew Thompson was primed for his first season at the helm.

The question was always going to be if the German-born American could deliver some semblance of stability in year one of the Dresden project. A mid-table finish would be nothing to scoff at, but expectations of something bigger began to spread through the fanbase and staff alike.


Predictions be damned

As Sunday’s date at home against MSV Duisburg approach, countless walks along the Elbe took up Thompson’s time away from the Rudolf-Harbig. Racking his brain about his first XI, faith in a flat-three midfield, and how his young goalkeeper would fair all featured in his thinking.

Once matchday arrived, however, a sense of calm and faith in his plan and players was a welcome realization; it would pay off in spades. Dresden ran out 2-0 winners in front of the home support, and it was a performance that had K-Block rocking. Goals from Rico Benatelli and Dario Durmic started what would be a 20-match unbeaten run through all competitions.

DD Hindrunde

 

Come the Winterpause, Dresden would be crowned Herbstmeister with SV Darmstadt 98 nipping at their heels just five points back. Given pre-season expectations from the bookmakers pinning Dynamo for a mid-table finish, despite the Rückrunde to come, the Dresden faithful could not help but dream of what everyone thought was out of reach.

DD year 1 winterpause


Three key’s to initial success

I. Identifying and putting faith in Dynamo’s strengths 

Going into his first year in Dresden, one thing Thompson knew he had to do was to find the pulse of his team and keep it stable. In a results business, managers that dial in on a system that maximizes the effectiveness of your players as quickly as possible often hit the ground running. For the former Kaiserslautern youth product, it was all about keeping it simple.

Even after the summer additions of Gianluca Gaudino, Dzenis Burnic, and Dejan Joveljic, Thompson did not have a first-team chock-full of technical wizards or brilliant passers. Ironically, Burnic came into the team and immediately became the player most adept in both categories. Given the reality, a possession-based approach – something Thompson was never strongly considering to begin – would never be relied upon. Quick, incisive, and direct football was to be the order of the day in Saxony, and it has paid dividends.

The numbers behind Dresden’s Hinrunde form are in contrast to the results that have generated. The Saxon’s have managed to control 50% of possession or more in just six of their twenty fixtures in all competitions, the high-mark coming in their opening-weekend 2-0 win against Duisburg.

On two occasions Thompson’s troops have seen less than 40% of the ball, winning one of those matches (2-0 v SV Hamburg) and drawing the other (2-2 v SC Paderborn). The old adage of it’s not how much you see the ball but what you do with it has defined his first season at the helm. Despite this, it was during the same draw against Paderborn that saw the only instance of Dresden tangling with an opponent who crafted more chances than they could themselves create. Who needs tiki-taka, anyway?

II. The left flank overload 

Creation of operating space – and the subsequent goal scoring opportunities – for your teammates is as important a maxim in football as anything else. For Thompson, the lack of strong technical quality throughout the side made it that much more crucial.

Because of his direct approach, one that features an inside forward (LW), a mezzala (LCM), and an attacking full back (LB), the influence of Dresden’s left flank overload has been a highlight of the season thus far.

The results have not just benefitted the aforementioned players, either. New signing and Serbian youth international Dejan Joveljic tops the Dresden goal charts with 9 goals in all competitions, 8 of which have come from fifteen 2.Bundesliga appearances.

DD big 4 stats

As for Haris Duljevic (LW), Rico Benatelli (LCM), and Brian Hamalainen (LB), all are on pace for career seasons and have combined for fourteen assists through twenty 2.Bundesliga fixtures.

Residual goal scoring has been a big factor for Dresden as well, and much of that is owed to the opportunities crafted by the focus down the left side, either from direct crosses into the area, or quick switches of play into the acres of space on the right that was created. All-told, 9 additional players have found the back of the net in the league, equaling twelve goalscorers through matchday twenty. A very solid return indeed.

III. No one is bigger than the club

Squad harmony is everything; and not just in football. The best work environments often feature office staff that gets along, work hard, but have mutual respect for their coworkers as well as their boss(es). For Thompson and the Dresden first-team, this remained a key component. Sacrifices had to be made.

Over the course of the summer window and deals agreed for January/February transfers, the young headmaster cleaned house of anyone – regardless of ability level – that did not put the collective first. The list of those who would head to the departures gate was long and distinguished…insert Top Gun joke here.

Sascha Horvath, Aias Aosman, Philip Heise, Florian Ballas, and Patrick Ebert were all sold on during both the summer and the winter window. Further deals were struck late for the sales of Patrick Möschl and Lucas Röser, while Baris Atik remained unhappy with his lack of first-team football.

Despite those who were moved on, Dresden kicked-on without issue, and long-term investment in player personnel thanks to fee’s received continued. A total of ₤2.3m in sales revenue was spent lavishly, but effectively.

DD Ajdin Hasic

DD Mehmet Kaya

Fifteen players at or younger than the U18 bracket were purchased, mostly from Eastern European clubs the likes of Puskas Akademia, MTK Budapest, Ferencvaros, Dinamo Zagreb, HNK Sibenik, and Partizan Belgrade. Amongst those brought in by Thompson were Zlatan Sehovic (₤800k), Ajdin Hasic (₤450k), and 15-year-old Mehmet Kaya (free transfer). Both Sehovic and Hasic immediately were introduced into the first-team set-up, with an eventual Hasic brace against SSV Ulm cementing his place in club history as the youngest goalscorer in a competitive match for both Dresden and in a DFB Pokal fixture. The future is now.


End of season goals 

A lot changes when you defy the odds. Dresden was plotted to finish a respectable 8th at the beginning of the season, with the bookies quoting 30-1 odds for the title. A ₤100 would have gone quite a long way for anyone that dared to dream.

As it stands for Thompson, topping the table on forty-six points from eighteen matches, with the best goal return in the league, means only one thing; promotion as 2.Bundesliga champions or bust.

Surely second would do in the end should a dip in form befall Dynamo, even a stretch at a promotion playoff if slipping to third became a harsh reality, but the key moving forward over the next three months is to remain consistent.

As investment in the long-term future of the club not only via player acquisition but the board (under new president Jannik Hofmaier) backing the improvement of the clubs training facilities would aid in the development of the young players that have been brought in over the course of the season.

It is a near certainty that one or two established vital first-team assets will attract interest over the summer. Haris Duljevic has already garnered suitors, namely Lique 1 outfit Amiens, while other clubs at a higher level than Dresden have begun to circle. Thompson’s task other than promotion must be the continued progression of a young core of players that – hopefully – will be able to avoid the drop should they reach the land of milk and honey.

 

 

 

 

Featured post

FM Tactic’s Table; No. 1 – flat-three midfield

Hello hello hello. It has been quite a while since my last post; life happens to get in the way of what we enjoy. But at last, I…have…returned, and with some awesome news! I am happy to now be a part of the FM-Base community of streamers, bloggers, and fans alike.

I have been playing Football Manager for years, but only recently have I begun to try to find my niche in the FM community. FM-Base is chock-full of a fantastic group of knowledgable individuals both about the game and football as a whole. I cannot recommend them enough and thank them for bringing me on board.

During my time away from my blog – and to a similar extent my actual writing commitments – I gave some thought on some topics I wanted to cover once I found the grove again.

As a coach in the real world (U14-U18), something near and dear to my heart is priding myself on my tactical mind. There are many of you out there as well, so naturally, we can all agree on the level of enjoyment we get from unleashing our creativity in Football Manager.

One tactical aspect that has been up for much discussion and debate for quite a while is the role of a defensive midfielder. DM; the over-used and so-often-misunderstood position.

If you are an Arsenal supporter such as my self, then you are far too familiar with the endless stream of our fanbase clamoring for a “world class DM” for years. You may then recall the fair few who blanket-labeled Granit Xhaka as such a player. Much of the same can be said to a certain extent about new-boy Lucas Torreira, as well as Mohamed Elneny when he was purchased from FC Basel. There has been a general obsession across the board with the role and it has done more harm than good.

To begin, a DM does not automatically equal a defense-first minded player, and likewise, a DM doesn’t always have to sit behind a midfield pair in a 4-3-3. Like virtually anything involving tactics, positions, roles, and instructions are fluid while taking many different shapes.

Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo; midfield maestro extraordinaire

There are a great many who automatically equate a DM to players such as Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, and Sergio Busquets. There are some still who even gave the moniker to Andrea Pirlo during his later years at Juventus. Nevermind such a grossly blasphemous statement, but this was during the height of the assumption that deepest was a direct connection to defensive responsibility. Oh, how wrong that turned out to be.

The simple way to understand this is that your drawn-out position on the tactics board is merely a starting point from which your tasks at hand on the pitch begin. There is no guarantee that said tasks will correlate to the position.

No one would call Thomas Muller a winger yet much of his career was spent being deployed on the right-side for both Bayern Munich and Germany. This led to the term Raumdeuter being coined because Muller in his prime rarely spent any considerable amount of time on the flank. Formation on paper does not indicate responsibility.

To be fair, there is a sense of safety and stability that calms fans when they see a deeper midfielder linking play and offering additional protection through the spine. It certainly is an understandable reaction and desire. It is, however, not necessary if roles are clearly defined and mesh together correctly. Building your midfield system and player roles in Football Manager mirror real life structuring in this regard.

In my current long-term save with Dynamo Dresden, I broke tradition and tested this. rather than set-up and put in place a traditional 4-3-3 with an inverted triangle midfield, I went with a flat-three. It has done wonders overall, but so much depends on more than available players and base-line selected roles.

DD midfield 3

Dynamo’s dynamic midfield trio

In the 2.Bundesliga, like most second division leagues, it is of vital importance to quickly understand how to get the maximum out of your players and adopt an approach that highlights your strengths as much as possible. This holds true in any professional league, but so often the gap in quality across a second division is far tighter than in the top tier, making the necessity to have a maximum understanding of your strengths and weaknesses vital to your success.

There are always hidden gems outside of the top flight competitions across Europe (and the globe), but on average, players at this level are there for a reason…at least at the start of a Football Manager save. Despite this, the cream will rise to the top and such players will develop and deserve a step-up in their career.

Coming into this save, knowing how I wanted to set my team up before even kicking a ball in training, I knew investment and readjusting the squad was required. Dresden had an overabundance of attacking players, midfielders included.

The acquisitions of former Bayern Munich youth standout Gianluca Gaudino and current Borussia Dortmund product Dzenis Burnic did much to bolster the midfield. More importantly, it gave me the requisite types of players to implement a flat midfield three the way I was hoping to.

As shown in the picture above, the midfield is deployed (from left to right) as Benatelli (Mezzala), Gaudino (Deep Lying Playmaker), and Burnic (Advanced Playmaker). Do not let the base-value roles fool you. This is where player traits and instructions come into the fore.

It may be silly to mention, even stating the obvious, but many do forget that whatever formation(s) you set when building your tactics are just that; a formation. For 90% of the match, your players will not be in that shape. It is absolutely key to pay attention to how your overall team tactics coincide with not just player instructions, but player traits. This is what allows a flat midfield to work so well without the need for a dedicated DM.

When I set out to structure the team on the pitch I only ever wanted to play with one center forward. With the additional knowledge that I had no plans to deploy a CAM, it was important to make sure that a Mezzala was one of the midfield trio. Such mobility, especially taking up residence in the left-side half space and zone 13, Benatelli would not only become a highly important structural link, but also a source of goals from midfield that eases the burden off the attacking players.

Benatelli Heat Map

A recent match against MSV Duisburg (2-0 W) shows the positions Benatelli regularly occupies. Roughly 85-90% of his time is spent occupying zones outlined in yellow. The left half-space (red) features a large portion of that, while zone 13 (white) is where he links play during the overload phase and either recycles play back into midfield or looks to craft a scoring chance.

In conjunction with Benatelli’s movement when we have possession, I’ve deployed an attacking fullback in Brian Hamalainen and an inside forward courtesy of Haris Duljevic. These three players in tandem create an overload down our left flank that so often free’s up space for others. In doing so, both Gaudino and Burnic, with their ability to pick a pass, often craft chances down the right flank or the right half-space after Benatelli has possession recycled through him.

The midfield system I have in place is so much more than just Benatelli in a – now highly popular – Mezzala role. The aforementioned Gaudino and Burnic have as much responsibility, though reversed from what you’d expect.

Though in the center of the flat-three, Gaudino is tasked with being even more mobile than Benatelli and is not the “sitter” in midfield. This comes down to his traits, which have been exploited rather than hindered. A player who wants to be on the ball and dictate the tempo, unshackling Gaudino and allowing him the freedom of movement in a DLP support role coupled with his player traits ends up looking something like this;

Gaudino and Burnic HM

Gaudino crops up where he is needed, and more importantly, where there is space that needs occupying. He will either sit behind Benatelli and offer support and look for a quick diagonal ball into the right half-space or right channel, or he will occupy the right half-space direct when has come deeper to link play. Burnic (heat map not actually shown) spends most of his time in areas outlined in red.

When added to Benatelli’s heatmap, we see the following;

Combined midfield HM

The average areas that are taken up by each midfielder; Benatelli (white), Gaudino (yellow), and Burnic (red).

When it all goes smoothly (let’s face it, things will go pear-shaped) there is a strong balance in midfield that not only avoids overcrowding but provides balance if possession is lost.

Equally as important as to how this operates when we’re in possession, the midfield structure has a high success rate of guaranteeing a smooth transition into defense if we lose the ball. As shown above, either one of Gaudino or Burnic will drop deeper out of possession to give much-needed aid to the back line. Further still, Gaudino can easily slide over to cover the overlapping runs of Hamalainen if he is caught out further up the pitch.

It is important to note that the above also does not depict the occupied zones of my center forward or either winger. Duljevic (L-IF) or my center forward will regularly drop or shift into the whole between Benatelli and Gaudino. This gives any mentioned player four or five passing options at any giving moment, including the right winger who exclusively stays out wide to offer width after the overload has done its job.

DD midfield combined stats

Combined stats of Dynamo’s main midfield trio through all competitions up to the Winterpause.

All in all, the flat midfield three has done its job and then some. Though a 13 goal and 11 assist return in a combined fifty-two appearances are solid for a single player over two seasons, the actual breakdown is more impressive. Through nineteen matches, Dynamo’s first-choice midfield averages 0.68 goals/match and 0.57 assists/match for a combined goals contribution of 1.25/match. Even more telling is their contributions on the other side of the ball.

It is fair to say that neither of the three main options excels defensively, despite Burnic’s media description listing him as a defensive midfielder. Irrespective of that, 7.6 headers/90min as well as 5.21 interceptions/90min show their understanding of our counter-press and willingness to support the center-back pairing in the air.

Many will say that a dedicated defensive midfielder sitting between the midfield and defense is well-capable of registering similar numbers on his own, especially in interceptions. While this may indeed be true, it normally coincides with little-to-no defensive support from the midfielders ahead of him, which can come back to haunt if he either puts in a poor performance or if the midfield is overrun.

The over-saturation of discussion and perceived importance of having a true defensive midfielder – I feel – has been vastly overstated and overvalued, especially in Football Manager.

As with everything in football, it is the teams that produce the best collective efforts on both sides of the ball that often the most successful. In this instance, with the right set-up and the right players, a flat midfield three can provide more than enough stability without the ball while supplying you with ample opportunities in the final third.

Go on…give it a spin. At worst, it is nothing more than a bunch of 1’s and 0’s.

For more from FM-Base visit their main Twitter account and do not hesitate to join the growing community.

 

More Than A Slaughterhouse; The Dresden Revival | Pt.3 Preseason & summer upheaval

It was a summer of change along the Elbe in Dresden. A new manager, fresh direction, and while no one would utter it in public, a sense of expectation. Andrew Thompson certainly delivered thus far.

Backroom upheaval

To get the maximum out of your players, regardless of talent level, you need the best backroom staff possible. Needless to say, it was eluded to before that Thompson would be dropping the ax on a fair amount of the previous regime’s staff. Few survived the Stalin-level purge.

As promised, the scouting and recruitment department was the first to be targeted. Ralf Minge (director of football), and Jan Siefert (head of youth development) were both deemed as untouchable, while chief scout Kristian Walter and club icon Hans-Jürgen Kreische (scout) also remained.

Four new faces were recruited, giving Dynamo a better understanding of both central and eastern Europe. Two regions that were sure to be heavily scouted over the coming months and – hopefully – years.

Zumdick

Ralf Zumdick once again takes up the touchline as an assistant manager

Next on the chopping block was assistant manager Massimilian Porcello. The highly experienced Ralf Zumdick was brought in as the replacement. Zumdick boasted a strong CV which included spells at VfL Bochum, Ghana, SV Hamburg, Borussia Dortmund, and Ferencvaros.

U-19s manager Matthias Lust was retained as well, with his strong ability to work with young players impressing Thompson. His assistant Lars Jungnickle failed to make the grade, however, and was replaced with Patrick Westermann; a relatively young coach with youth management experience at both TSG Hoffenheim and Karlsruhe, as well as first-team staff-work at Karlsruhe and Ingolstadt.

Westermann

Patrick Westermann returns to coaching after a two-year hiatus.

Westermann had a keen eye for young talent as well, which made him a must-have asset for aiding Thompson in molding Dresden to a haven for young footballers.

An entirely new coaching staff was recruited in what was one of the sections heaviest hit by Thompson’s ruthless streak. Former professionals Matías Delgado and Bixente Lizarazu were given opportunities, while technical wizard Hans Visser was seen as a coup for the club.

Perhaps surprisingly, the entire U19 coaching staff was retained, but ultimate purges fell on the physio, sports science, and analysis departments. Massive upgrades to the staff were the result, and it was viewed as a big step forward for a club looking to make strides on and off the pitch. (see below for Dynamo’s staff rankings in the league)

Avg Ratings DD

At the completion of his staff revamp, Thompson had doubled the population of backroom employees, ensuring that each department had been improved on by the start of preseason. It was a quantum leap in comparison to his first day in charge.

Thompson targets the first-team

When he took over at the club, Thompson had specifically noted that the Dynamo first-team suffered from a serious balance issue. Creativity is always required by any manager who aims to be positive in his approach, but there was a massive overload in attacking midfielders and a deficiency in dedicated central assets. It was time for another ruthless streak from the first-year trainer.

Given the transfer budget and wage structure laid forth by Michael Born, it was clear that Thompson would have to sell a handful or high-value assets and replace them with younger, more suitable players. This would guarantee a continued healthy financial state for the club, while also targeting player development and longevity.

In concordance with his plans, Ralf Minge was given a list of three first-team players that would need to be sold. Surprisingly, they included Philip Heise (₤1m; rising to ₤1.3m) and promising attacking midfielder Aias Aosman (₤400k). The Syrian’s departure was viewed with a certain degree of angst from some sections of the fanbase, and the loaning of Austrian U-21 international Sascha Horvath (with a view to buy for ₤900k) to Rapid Vienna didn’t help. But Thompson had one or two surprises up his sleeve.

Gianluca Gaudino, a former Bayern Munich youth graduate, was brought in on a free deal. Guadino was once highly thought of in Bavaria but failed to make the grade. Dresden was seen as the perfect place to kickstart his rebirth. The center of the park was further reinforced with the loan-signing of Dortmund midfielder Dzenis Burnic, with the deep playmaker addressing the outbound creativity.

DD Gaudino

DD Burnic.JPG

DD Joveljic

Wolfsburg’s Dominik Franke was also brought in on a season-long loan deal, adding solid depth in the wake of Heise’s departure.

But the coup of the window for the club came by way of the ₤700k-deal for 18-year-old Serbian U-21 international Dejan Joveljic from Red Star Belgrade. Though striking options at the club were covered through new signing Moussa Koné, Lucas Röser, and youngster Vasil Kusej, Joveljic was highly-touted in many circles and presented Thompson the opportunity to bring in a young player who could truly become a cornerstone of Dynamo’s revival over the coming years.

The U19s also received much-needed reinforcements through youngsters Ibrahima Diallo and Ashvin Rungasamy. The 16-year-old pair arrived at Dynamo from Swiss-side FC Servette for a combined ₤84k. Diallo came with a growing reputation in the Swiss youth sector and signaled another good piece of business.

DD transfers

All-in-all, it was very good business conducted by Thompson and Minge, netting a ₤600k profit overall, which could increase by an additional ₤1.2m depending on further considerations

All told – not to forget the free signing of Vyacheslav Lukhtanov (a former graduate of Dynamo Kyiv’s youth system) – Dynamo could now boast a much more balanced squad heading into the new 2.Bundesliga campaign. But first; preseason.

Preseason positivity 

With an established balance in the team, Thompson’s Dresden-side tackled their nearly month-long pre-season fixture list. As he hoped, the German-born American was able to utilize the 4-3-3 (flat midfield three) deployment while ensuring his best playing assets were suited.

New signing Gianluca Gaudino impressed throughout, as did club stalwart Patrick Ebert before suffering an ankle injury which would keep him up for 3-4 weeks. Moussa Koné and Lucas Röser battled back and forth for the center forward birth, with no clear-cut winner emerging.

It appeared that goals from midfield would be a key piece of the puzzle for Dynamo as well. Rico Benatelli, Patrick Möschl, Erich Berko, Haris Duljevic, and youngsters Justin Löwe and Max Kulke all added to the goal totals by Gaudino and Ebert.

Another bright spot came from 20-year-old goalkeeper Markus Schubert, whose form and potential rocketed him up the depth ladder. He would be given the number 1 shirt and named the first-choice keeper.

DD preseason

Results reflected the growing cohesion on the pitch as well as the players being utilized properly. Wins against Ligue 2-side Brest (4-1), 3.Liga outfit FSV Zwickau (2-0), and a dominant 1-1 draw against Fortuna Liga-side Slovan Liberec highlighted what Dynamo may well be capable of in the coming season.

The only downside to what has been a successful adjustment period for Thompson has been the many injury issues that cropped up during preparations.

Dynamo goes into the first league match of the season (home to MSV Duisburg) missing no fewer than six first-team players, including defensive veterans Sören Gonther and Florian Ballas, as well as goalkeeper Tim Boss. Though Boss has unquestionably lost his place in the team to Schubert.

Added to the treatment tables were Möschl, Ebert, and Kulke, but of the six unavailable for the opening exchanges of the season, only Möschl and Ballas remained a long-term concern.

Despite the first-team not being one-hundred-percent available, Thompson was ready and raring to go in Sunday’s date with destiny.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned as the next installment delves into the opening few months of the 2018-19 2.Bundesliga season. Feel free to give a follow to the website or my Twitter account via the follow button below. Until next time; immer vorwärts!

 

 

 

More Than A Slaughterhouse; The Dresden Revival | Pt.2 The Journey Begins

18 June 2018; Andrew Thompson takes charge of Sportgemeinschaft Dynamo Dresden e.V., replacing Uwe Neuhaus and becoming the 43rd manager in the clubs history. The German-born American signed a one-year deal worth ₤9.5k p/w.

Dynamo press officer Dominik Dörfler cited a muted excitement amongst the fan-base, hopeful of a fresh approach under a young manager with a growing reputation. A new chapter in Dynamo football has begun.

Managerial background

Like many young managers coming through the German pipeline, Thompson had an under-the-radar playing career. Though American through his father, Stephen, a U.S. Air Force captain who was stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base, his mother Caro is a native German, hailing from Kaiserslautern. Born in Landstuhl, Thompson came through the 1.FC Kaiserslautern youth ranks and broke into the first-team at nineteen. Two years later he suffered a series of ankle injuries, and it was at the tender age of twenty-one that he decided to call time on his budding young career.

With the full support of his parents, his first steps in football post-retirement were as a scout for local-side SV Morlautern. He simultaneously attended Technische Universität Kaiserslautern to study Business Studies and Economics. His work for Morlautern and his understanding of the game beyond his years earned him a position on the coaching staff.

After graduating from TUK, the 25-year-old got his first big break when he was hired to come into the Kaiserslautern fold as a coach for the U-19’s. Such was his reputation as a young player that this was a highly suitable starting place for him. Two years later he was promoted to head coach of the U-19’s, with his ever-growing tactical astuteness being cited.

As his reputation in the youth sector grew, Bundesliga clubs started to take interest in offering him first-team coaching positions, but his loyalty to Die roten Teufel put any rumors of his departure to bed. Soon after he was brought into the first-team fold at the Fritz-Walter Stadion, and a year later he was named assistant manager under the newly appointed Franco Foda. He would go on to keep his position despite the managerial rotating door, working under Kosta Runjaíc, Konrad Fünfstück, and Norbert Meier.

During his time as an assistant, Thompson attended and successfully completed his coursework at the Hennes-Weisweiler-Akademie in 2016, graduating in the same class as Domenico Tedesco and Julian Nagelsmann.

Thompson profile

When Meier was sacked during the 2017-18 campaign, many around the club assumed Thompson would finally get his chance to take the reigns on the touchline. The club instead hired Jeff Strasser, and once he stepped down due to health concerns, replaced him with Michael Frontzeck. It was at this point where Thompson began to consider his future at the club, and once Kaiserslautern confirmed their relegation to the 3.Liga for the first time in the clubs history, he resigned his position at the club.

It did not take long for Thompson to receive overtures from a handful of 2.Bundesliga sides, but it was Dresden that made the most enticing offer and he wasted little time signing on the dotted line. His first real managerial test was about to begin.

Initial club directives

It would turn out that, on the surface from the start, Thompson and Dresden were the right fit. In his first meeting with managing director Michael Born, it was put forth to the new headmaster that there was a desire for the club to develop players via the youth set-up.

DD Club directives

This was perfect for Thompson, a manager who spent considerable time coaching at the U-19 level and was an advocate for promoting and relying on young players of the required level. Saxony at large, however, has struggled overall to consistently produce good crops of young talent.

With that in mind, Thompson began to plan his review of his staff with the target of improving its ability to bring in quality local talent, but also talent from neighboring nations.

First scouting department meeting

Thompson’s first day at the Rudolph-Harbig complex was a complete whirlwind, and up next was a meeting with chief scout Kristian Walter and the rest of the recruitment team.

After a two-hour session – which included a specially-catered buffet lunch courtesy of Estancia Beef-Club – it was decided that Dresden would push to increase the scope of it’s scouting reach. Now included along with Germany would be the entirety of central Europe at both the professional and youth level.

Such a direction was championed by Thompson who, as an amateur historian, intended to mold his approach to scouting and recruitment to mirror the historical regional importance of the city. Financially it still fell within the clubs spending limits.

Despite the positive nature of the meeting, the new Dresden trainer would undoubtedly look to improve the quality level of his scouting department. Robert Simon was all but sure to be bought out of his current contract, and three new faces were to be hired. Former player and club legend Hans-Jürgen Kreische – now seventy – would be kept on for the final year of his deal.

A scouting budget of ₤175k was more than adequate for trips in the surrounding region, which would include the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, and many other parts of Eastern Europe. This would also ensure that any new players coming in the door would have an easier time adapting to life at the club and in the local area.

On the table for discussion was also any potential business the club would consider. The overall assessment of the squad was decent enough. It was never expected for Thompson to achieve promotion in his first season, and while he could call upon some solid assets, this was always going to be considered through a long-term lense. The state of the U-19’s, however, was unacceptable.

DD U19s

Just five U-19 players were at the club full-time, and considering such, Thompson immediately made it a priority to rectify the state of the team in short order. The vast majority of his first transfer window at the club would consist of bringing in young players in accordance with the directive handed down by the club’s hierarchy.

It was soon time for Thompson to do what he does best.

Financial report and projections

Despite languishing in the lower echelons of German football, Dresden was in a somewhat healthy financial state at the time of Thompson’s take over.

DD financials

Club projections put Dresden at a nearly 250% increase in terms of their overall balance, giving Thompson increased spending power in the coming seasons. His current available transfer budget sat at just ₤1.75m, but this figure only represented 70% of the available funds. Increasing his market resources via results and strong management of player assets would be another immediate goal in his first season at the helm.

With an overload in the squad in certain areas of the pitch, Thompson was strongly considering residual player sales as a way to buffer the club coffers.

First-team assessment & initial tactical issues

To close out his first day in charge Thompson held a meeting with the Dresden first-team. Simple introductions of course, but it was clear that he was on the same page as the squad.

The initial goal for his first season in charge was a mid-table finish, with the aim of building a solid base to kick on from for the following campaign. Sources close to the club have confirmed that the squad responded well to Thompson.

Club captain Marco Hartmann spoke candidly with Dominik Dörfler and highlighted his new boss’ calm yet self-assured nature. All members of the first-team have been given a new-found level of positivity that was sincerely lacking coming into the summer break.

DD first team new

 

It is a feeling that may not last too long, however. It has come to light that Thompson’s initial assessment of the first-team has noted a serious lack of options in central midfield, as well as an overload of central creative players. The issue of squad balance was sure to be addressed in short order, and a change of faces may soon be on the way.

On the flip-side of the coin, the age profile of the first-team was highly thought of by the new man. Seventeen of the twenty-four players in the squad were 25 or younger, while 6 were 21 and under. Thompson had an immediate appreciation for the potential within the team, with important building blocks being identified early.

The issue of squad balance was still a concern, however. Thompson’s preference to deploy in a 4-3-3 (flat or diamond in midfield) was severely hampered by a lack of dedicated central midfielders. The question would now become – given a rather small budget to utilize in the market – is whether he would adjust his plan to suit the squad or try to revamp his personnel to suit his plans as early as possible.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned as the next installment delves into the entirety of the pre-season, Thompson’s navigation of the transfer market, and how season expectations stack up to what Dynamo Dresden has on offer. Feel free to give a follow to the website or my Twitter account, which you can find on the pinned feed. Until next time!

 

More Than A Slaughterhouse; The Dresden Revival | Pt.1; History

People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

It was 10:13pm local time on 13 February 1945. The fifteen minutes of terror that would transpire brought the historic city of Dresden to its knees. British Lancaster bombers of RAF Bomber Command unleashed the first of a series of bombing raids on the capital of Saxony. The resulting firestorm caused by incendiary bombs, and the outright destruction due to the sheer tonnage of ordnance dropped on that night and the subsequent raids that carried on till 15 February resulted in 90% of the city center destroyed. An estimated 22,000-25,000 civilians were killed.

From atop the Dresden Rathaus (City Hall), the level of destruction was clearly visible.

Though justified by the Allies as the targeting of legitimate military targets, many historians and experts have argued that at the time of the bombings, Dresden posed no credible piece of the now nearly non-existent German war machine.

It was the lowest point in the cities history, one that is far more influential than many outside of Germany understand.

Straddling both banks of the Elbe river, Dresden played a very minor role in the region’s history up until the late 15th century, when it became the seat of the Dukes (and eventually the Electors) of Saxony beginning in 1485. When Frederick Augustus I, Elector of Saxony, was crowned King Augustus II of Poland in 1697, the central seat of Saxon governance quickly became a city of much greater importance under Polish hegemony.

Augustus began assembling some of the best musicians, architects, and painters from across Europe in what was now considered to be a royal residential city. It was during this period that Dresden emerged as a leading city in Europe for technology and the arts. Beautiful baroque landmarks were erected. Substantial museums were established that housed impressive collective works of art.

Though it would suffer during the Seven Years’ War at the hands of the invading Prussian army, the city would rebound and establish itself as the capital of the Kingdom of Saxony. It then evolved into an economic and manufacturing center in the post-Napoleonic years, and in the run-up to the second world war, was a hub of European modern art.

The Augustusbrücke in all its splendor

After its destruction in 1945 – which Vonnegut was a first-hand eyewitness due to his time spent as a POW – it became an important industrial center in the newly formed German Democratic Republic during the Cold War era. After German reunification and another period of reformation, Dresden now once again thrives economically. It is home to Silicon Saxony, maintains a massive pharmaceutical sector, and boasts major mechanical and electrical companies entities such as Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory and a branch of Siemens AG.

Indeed, Dresden has been at the very forefront of culture and advancement in Europe in multiple periods of its history. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for its footballing past.

Dynamo Dresden; a brief history

Sportgemeinschaft Dynamo Dresden e.V., or simply Dynamo Dresden, is a club with some interesting and –  much like the city it calls home – forgotten history.

Formed in 1953 under the umbrella of the East German police, Dynamo became arguably the most successful club in the DDR-Oberliga. Crowned league winners and runner-up a combined 16 times (more than any other DDR club), Dynamo was an East German staple and one of the most popular in the country. If not for the influence of the East German State Security Service (commonly known as Stasi) and its propping up of Berliner, it’s likely that Dynamo would have been crowned champions on further occasions.

The club also has produced some notable players to don both the East German and unified German national team kit. Bundesliga and Germany veterans Jens Jeremies (1860 Munich, Bayern Munich), Ulf Kirsten (Bayer Leverkusen), Olaf Marschall (Kaiserslautern), and Alexander Zickler (Bayern Munich) all spent considerable time at the club. Jeremies, Kirsten, and Zickler came through the youth ranks as well.

Matthias Sammer in action at Euro ’96. One of countless displays that calendar year that would see him win the Ballon d’Or.

Dynamo’s most famous son of both city and club was none other than Matthias Sammer. Having spent the entirety of his youth career at the club, Sammer went on to play for VfB Stuttgart, Inter Milan, and Borussia Dortmund. Having been crowned DDR champion with Dresden on two occasions before reunification, he would then win the Bundesliga on three occasions (Dortmund twice, and Stuttgart once), multiple DFB-Supercup wins, while being a part of Dortmund’s famous Champions League win over Juventus in 1996-97 as well as Germany’s triumph at Euro ’96. His list of personal accolades includes German Footballer of the Year (1995, 1996), European Championship Player and Team of the Tournament (1996), and of course the Ballon d’Or in the same year. He would go on to be nominated into World Soccer’s 100 Greatest Footballers of the 20th century.

After great success in the DDR-Oberliga, Dynamo found life in the Bundesliga significantly harder. For four years they lasted, from 1991-95, often battling relegation. After finally failing to avoid the drop and a subsequent immediate denial of entry into the 2.Bundesliga on account of debts accrued (including the imprisonment of club president Rolf-Jürgen Otto for embezzlement), Dynamo landed in the third tier of German football. They have since never been back to the top flight, with their best-ever season coming in 2015-16 when they finished first in the 3.Liga.

Dynamo Dresden is a club crying out for rebirth, much like the city itself during its history. With an interesting history of East German dominance, notable player production, and hailing from a city rich with history, it was a no brainer for me to start a long-term save with them.

The words of Vonnegut ring true indeed. In the case of Dynamo; immer vorwärts!

Scouting and Youth Recruitment

Hello all. I thought it quite fitting to kick off the new personal blog with a piece on what is – for me – the meat and drink of Football Manager. Scouting and youth recruitment.

It’s fair to say that the new scouting model/system is rather divisive. For me personally, I like it quite a bit. In terms of my overall preferences, it’s easier to really get into the details you want to look for regarding your players, while still understanding that it is all relative to the club you find yourself in charge of.

Considering that last statement, let’s start there. But before we move on, it is important for me to stress that anything I write about in this blog is directly connected to my experiences, preferences, and playing style in Football Manager. It’s not based on an exact science around the game. That’s the beauty of it. You get a genuine feel of personalization when you delve into the FM world. So please bear that in mind moving forward.

The relative nature of scouting

This is something that is rather important to remember, but I feel it’s something most do not factor in.

When you scour the world for hidden gems from all corners of the globe, there are two things you should factor in; 1. the rating(s) and knowledge base of the scout who has found the player in question, and 2. the size and reputation of your club.

You would imagine that the first point is straight forward and, really, a no-brainer. Most FM players I have come across go to great lengths to bring in the best scouting team possible. For me, this is always the best policy and it is the first thing I look to sort out when conducting a full review of my staff whenever I begin a new save.

Building on the first point on ratings, it’s useful to understand how it translates into actively scouting.

Here is an example of one of my scouts in my FM19 story save as part of my work at Football Manager Daily; Grads Fühler. Now, for me, the three attributes that are the most important in a scout are – of course – the judging of both player ability and player potential, but also tactical knowledge.

The default rating in-game that is highlighted as more relevant than tactical knowledge is adaptability. Adaptability, in this case, refers to how quickly a scout can gain higher knowledge of a country through his assignment(s). In my experiences, however, I found that scout reports generated by my staff have been far more efficient relative to the tactical knowledge of the scout in question. Why is this important? Simple; it increases the likelihood that your scout(s) will understand the tactical role being played by the player(s) they are scouting.

Due to these factors, it is highly likely that a different scout from the department will have feedback that differs from that of Fühler’s.

I have pulled up the report brought back on SSC Napoli’s Elseid Hysaj to reference. If you refer back to Fühler profile, you’ll notice that his knowledge of Italy sits at 99%, giving him every possible chance to be accurate when covering players from that country. But this also is where his ratings will come into question. Both ratings in judging player ability and player potential are 15 – which is quite solid for a scout – but there will be some degree of inaccuracy in his reports. This is something you must factor in. A scout with the same knowledge of Italy, but with better ratings in the aforementioned categories, will likely have somewhat different pros and cons lists in his observations, as well as a different recommendation level and star ratings. While Fühler feels he would only be a good signing, a different scout may feel he’s only decent, or on the flip side, very good.

You yourself can also take a look at over his overall player ratings, his personal stats from the current campaign, and any other intangibles that you so choose. If those don’t stack up with the feedback you’ve received, then that’s another clue for you to have a different pair of eyes give him a look.

What you can take away from this is that you’re better off doing your due diligence with scouting. Have multiple scouts compile reports on the same player, as well as having your chief scout have a look if it is someone you are seriously considering.

It should also be mentioned that the level of your club, its stature, and the league you are competing in, all play a role in the feedback you receive. This is where those star ratings for ability and potential that you see in your scout reports come into play.

Again, this may seem pretty much straight forward and self-explanatory, but it really does come down to your personal need and preference in the end. Let’s take Quincy Promes and use him as an example. When reviewing the scout report on him, there were 10 pros (3 of which were bright green) and only 1 con citing poor aerial ability. On the surface, this is as good a report as you’d come to find. Despite this, he was given a 54/100 in overall rating with 3-stars for both current and potential ability. But if you dig deeper you’ll notice a few things may well be off.

For starters, the fact that he is being scouted for Arsenal means that any feedback is relative to the level of club you are at. If I was in charge of, say, Sheffield Wednesday, the recommendations around him would read entirely differently on average. His overall rating would be considerably higher than 54, and itis likely that his current and potential rating would be more than 3-stars. More importantly, this is where looking at who scouted him is of the utmost importance.

A quick look tells me that Christoph Lehenbauer scouted him. There are a number of problems with this. First, Lehenbauer has a tactical knowledge rating of 4, which means he very easily could have included inaccurate information on Promes. He had the same rating as Fühler in judging ability and potential, and his adaptability was high (17), but his knowledge of Spain overall was 5%. The lower a scouts knowledge of a nation, the less-accurate his feedback on players from those countries tend to be.

Scouting is all relative; this is something that is crucial to remember.

Youth Recruitment

There are quite a few streamers and bloggers that have tackled this topic at length, but I wanted to give my own opinions on the matter. Why bother having a blog at all if that wasn’t the case.

For starters, it is important to note the difference between your youth facilities and your training facilities. Youth facilities strictly deal with how good your youth intake has the potential to be, The better the facility, the better the ability of the young players brought in to your club each year.

In noting that, you must realize that it is your training facilities that have greater importance overall. Having a lower rated youth facility means the consistency with which you bring in good players in your youth intake is decreased, but it can still happen. At that point, your training facilities take over (you also have to factor in the level and ratings of your youth coaches). If you have superb youth facilities, but poor training facilities, your young players are then void of access to the ability to train at a higher level and thus their overall ability level is less likely to improve to match their potential. It is incredibly important to remember this.

When push comes to shove when going to the board and asking them to invest in the expansion of your facilities, pick training over youth every time if you think you can only convince them to do one or the other. Naturally, do both if you’re able.

The level of your youth recruitment is also tied into this; the more extensive your network, the wider your reach regarding the players you bring in automatically in your youth intake.

With that out of the way, we can turn to the importance of your Head of Youth Development. To quickly debunk a myth; the notion that your HoYD needs to have a high rating for working with youngsters. He doesn’t. At no point is he training your players. He certainly can and will advise you on their development and how to tweak it, as well as potentially handling youth contracts, but he is not a hands-on member of the training staff.

Now, in terms of what ratings you should pay the most attention to are the obvious two (I really don’t even have to mention them at this point), but also the sleeper category of his preferred formation. It’s worth noting that because you are dealing with youth players, his ability to judge potential should outweigh his ability to judge current ability.

Why is preferred formation important to consider? Because it is more likely that he will look to bring in youth players that fit the formation he prefers rather than what you are utilizing at the club. It’s incredibly important that your HoYD prefers a formation that you play, or at the bare minimum, prefers one similar to yours.

If you are utilizing a 3-5-2 at the club, but the preferred formation of your HoYD is a 4-3-3, the likelihood that players capable of playing as a wing-back coming into your club via your youth intake (or young player signings that you allow your HoYD to make) are slim.

Some streamers such as FoxInTheBoxFM have stated that the personality trait of your HoYD matters and will be mirrored by the personalities of the players he will bring in. The stronger his personality, the stronger it will be in the youth intake/signings. It isn’t something that I usually paid attention to, but his recommendations are pretty spot on, so by extension, I will recommend the same to you.

Also mentioned by Foxy was the fact that there is an in-game (under the hood) cap on the level of youth player regens that countries are able to produce. It is entirely in line with the nations you would expect. The likes of Brazil, Argentina, France, and Germany have the highest chance to produce world-class regens. Smaller nations such as Armenia, Belarus, and others of that level have a much low percentage chance.

With that in mind, it is important that your HoYD has – at least – a good knowledge base on nations who have a strong ability to produce youth players. If you can’t get the highest level, then targeting countries like Belgium, Croatia, and Serbia would be good shouts.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and given this a go. Any (constructive) thoughts, opinions, or general feedback are always welcome. Feel free to drop a follow on Twitter if you so choose. Thanks again. Until next time!