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So, the end of the 2017/18 season and I’ve been sacked up one club and now find myself at Wealdstone FC. After in a way, resurrecting the season for Wealdstone FC and helping them build a solid base, I made the decision that this season needed to be better.
I had a meeting with the players and they want a push for promotion. The board are happy with my use of young players, but looking at the squad as a whole. The U23s and U18s are not entered into leagues. With this in mind, I set a long-term plan to bring in a wide variety of players and build a team using the youth teams.
The U18s youth recruitment was rather successful during last season. So, the start of a long-term development can begin there. There are a few players that caught my eye when it comes to future planning.
The first player, Barry Crook. This is a player that is marked to be a future star for Wealdstone. Looking at this attributes, I am not surprised.
The second player from the youth recruitment is Billy Walters. Another player tipped to be one one of the be one of the top players for Wealdstone FC in the future. I am looking forward to seeing both Crook and Walters develop as they play for the youth teams.
The title of this post suggests an invasion of the French. That is exactly what happened during pre-season. I invited a few French reserve teams for friendlies at Wealdstone. I wanted to test the team during pre-season and show them the quality that I want them to aspire to.
During these games, I wanted to experiment with tactical layouts, tactical instructions, player roles. The board would like the team to be playing possession football, whether that is possible in the lower leagues is yet to be seen. With the passing attributes of the players that I have, I would guess not (at the moment).
Before the pre-season games were planned and, even before the transfer window had opened, I had already welcomed 14 players new players to the club.
As I previously mentioned, I want to build from the ground up. Some of these players that I have brought in are going to be placed in the U23s to help them develop and increase their match fitness. Some might never play a game for the Wealdstone FC first team, but 95% of the players are on amateur contracts so there is no financial burden to the club should they not develop as hoped.
For the first match against Lille Reserves, I started simple and tried to make the team play possession football. Using a standard 4-4-2, I set the team up in a simple shape which aims to act as a solid base. After the first few minutes of Lille dominating, I changed the tactic to a 4-1-2-3 which seemed to offer a bit more in term of solidarity.
Unfortunately, as I predicted the team’s ability to pass the ball was evident. Players spent too much time pondering on the ball in an attempt to play possession football. But, the result was just the ball going sideways or backwards which was keeping the ball but, getting the team nowhere in terms of an attacking threat.
A lot of my players lack the creativity, most of the time. When there wasn’t a simple pass on, I found that they just ended up playing a long ball in the hope the hope it would find someone. The analysis of this shows a different picture. Of the 67 interceptions that Lille successfully completed, most of them were from long hopeful balls from my players.
A break down of the goals shows how much work is needed before the season starts. The first goal was scored due to a lack of marking during a corner. The attacker for Lille found a nice little pocket of space in the penalty area, the ball was sent straight to him to slot home. The second goal was down to colossal mistakes. My players seemed to want to play on the counter, with balls coming from the back being aimed at the striker or wingers. However, it was like a blind man had kicked the ball in the lead up to Lille’s second goal. The ball was rebounded off one of our midfielders into the path of a Lille attacker who was successfully tackled by one of the Wealdstone defenders. The defender attempted to get it clear but the ball again rebounded into space. The Wealdstone GK, Nathan Ashmore thought it would be okay to try and come out to collect to clear the ball only to miss kick the ball to a Lille attacker who slotted the ball into an empty net for Lille’s second and final goal of the game.It was after this game that I decided that possession football wasn’t going to work.
The second game against Lens, I tried an asymmetrical tactic. That was rather messy and was quickly scrapped resulting in me using last season’s tactic of 4-1-4-1 to save any embarrassment. Using the asymmetrical tactic, Wealdstone were 0-3 down by halftime against Lens Reserves. In the second half, I shut up shop, played on the counter in the hope of at least getting one goal. It wasn’t to be and the game ended 0-3 to Lens Reserves.
It wasn’t until the third game against Caen Reserves that my team scored their first pre-season goal. Last season’s striker Jonathan Nixon scored after an incisive long ball from CB, Ciaron Brow to the striker, Jonathan Nixon who slotted the goal past the keeper in a one-on-one situation. It’s goals like that, that show that possession football is not needed. That wasn’t the only goal in the game though. Don’t get too excited, it was the only goal for Wealdstone. Cean Reserves won the game 1-2. Some pitiful defending by the Wealdstone centre backs allowed the Cean striker, Guedder to find space and score following a cross that should have been dealt with. Cean’s second goal came from a counter after a poor corner by Wealdstone. The ball was headed away by the Cean defenders and Cean broke away with their attacking midfielder, Guesnon dribbling down the wing eventually picking out an easy pass to Diame who scored an easy tap-in.
The final game against Amiens Reserves was another close encounter like the Caen Reserves game. Before this game, I took the time to assess the club’s new arrivals. I found that I have brought over 30+ players to the club.
From a defensive aspect, I have brought in a lot of centre-backs. With that in mind, I decided on a new tactical approach which some might deem to be risky in the lower leagues – a 3 at the back tactic. For the Amiens Reserves game, I decided to go with a 3-5-1-1.
The layout was very basic. No nonsense defenders at right and left centre back set as Defensive Centrebacks on Cover duty with a standard Centreback on defensive duty attempting to make a diamond with the two defensive midfielders and centre midfielders.
The attacking shape came by advice some social media. The Inverted Winger, a new position on FM18. The forwards shape up with a Shadow Striker and a Deep Lying Forward. The idea is that the Winger should have three targets to aim for with crosses into and around the attacking third.
The analysis shows a good shape. However, it is apparent that my team struggled in an attacking. Most of the game was spent playing on the counter. This is going to take some thought, tweaking and playing around with player roles. Some might think that playing a back three in the lower leagues is risky but, I’m going to go for it.
At the end of August 2018, I had signed a total of 48 players. Most of the players were moved to the U23s to forward their development. It’s fair to say that I have improved the squad depth. Should the team start to struggle with the back three, I have the option of forming a back four. For the moment, I’ll go with the back three and see how we go.
Next time… Season 2 with Wealdstone.
Will the back three work? Can the team improve on last season? Have I stockpiled too many players?