Having a bottomless pit of money and buying any player you want is one of those things that can help you get back into FM, but it’s got something of a sell-by date. And instead of deciding to move on in that save, I imagine it’ll be far more interesting to begin again and journey into a country I’ve never managed in before.
After much deliberation on Twitter, some excellent choices were suggested but I eventually decided on Újpest FC in Hungary. The aim is to stay with Újpest for the long-term, creating them into a dominant force in European football, dragging the rest of Hungarian football with it.
Currently sitting at 36th in the continent’s most reputable domestic competitions, Hungary is some way off the pace. To give a rough comparison, the English Championship and League 1 are at 12th and 34th respectively. Whilst this shows how poor the league is as a country’s first division, it’s also pretty handy for me as Újpest manager. The club has affiliations with Charlton and Wolves, so I essentially get the pick of their youngsters out on loan for a season. I also have the same deal (although perhaps more lucrative in this case) with Standard Liege of Belgium, whose youth academy has produced the likes of Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas in recent years. From Standard, the club already had Pierre-Yves Ngawa and Nebojsa Kosovic, both of who I expect to make an impact in the first-team. As well as those two, I also brought in Julien de Sart on-loan from the Belgian giants.
For obvious reasons, the focus will be on youth development as we attempt to make Hungary a force to be reckoned with. My aims can be split into five stages;
1: Domestic Consolidation and Foundation Laying
• Top half domestic finishes
• Begin to build a viable youth academy
• No real focus on nationality
2: Domestic Dominance
• Consistent title challenges year-on-year
• Steadily improving youth academy
• Beginning to focus more on Hungarian talent
3: Continental Consolidation
• Improved performances in continental competition each year. Good European performances are key to improving the ranking of the Hungarian league.
• Viable youth academy
• Beginning to focus more on Hungarian talent
4: Continental Dominance
• Year-on-year challenges in European football
• Flourishing youth academy
• Massive priority on Hungarian talent
5: World Dominance
• Hungarian national team World Cup win.
I’m expecting to get to stage 3 rather quickly. I imagine with this squad and our links with other clubs abroad, we’ll be able to mount a moderately serious title challenge from year 2 onwards. If we can ensure a top 4 finish, we get a place in either the Europa League (2nd/3rd/4th) or the Champions League (1st). Hopefully that’ll be the last time without continental football for a while.
For now, we sit firmly in stage 1. And it shows – the fans aren’t exactly flooding in:
It’s at this point I’ll link to some of the more interesting articles I’ve read lately. Having always been a fairly attacking manager in setting up my sides, I was particularly interested in reading @Cleon81’s take on the ‘Defensive’ setup he used to take his Sheffield United side to an incredible unbeaten season (read here: http://community.sigames.com/showthread.php/391083-The-School-of-the-Defensive-Arts). Upon reading Cleon’s thread, I decided this new save was the time to give it a go. And thus far it’s been a lovely change from the ultra-high pressing I had in operation with PSG.
Cleon went for a 4-1-2-1-2 tactic in his setup. I’ve gone for something slightly different – a 4-2-1-2-1 that looks as you’d expect:
All of our formations have a minimum of three players in the centre of the midfield (one has 3, the others 4 and 5). That’s for several reasons. No, we’re not looking to dominate possession. But we are looking to flood the centre of the pitch and make it really difficult for the opposition to push through there. Combine that with the ‘Defensive’ strategy, and the two CAMs will also put the work in on the defensive end. This makes the 4-2-1-2-1 a real bitch to play against.
In order to stack the centre of the pitch, we’ve had to sacrifice the wings. But in our stand offish play-style, the area I feel is best left free for the opposition is with their full-backs. There’s a really good article from @MerryGuido on his ‘Strikerless’ blog (read that article and lots more excellent content on his blog here: http://strikerless.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/why-wing-backs-are-hardly-ideal-to-start-the-build-up-play/), where he illustrates why it’s often okay to leave the opposition full-backs free when you’re defending. He suggests it as a compromise to ensure you can still operate using a high-pressing style, but I think it’ll work equally well with a deeper defensive line and a packed middle of the pitch.
Another idea that I took from Merry’s blog came from a different writer, @JLAspey. Jonathan made a wonderful post on defensive football (read here: http://strikerless.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/the-great-wall-of-italia-parking-the-bus-in-football-manager/) which further convinced me to take such an approach on this save. But one point he made that I found particularly interesting was his use of the defensive diamond. But I knew I didn’t want a libero or sweeper in my tactic, so how was I to create a similar system with Újpest? This is what swayed me from using Cleon’s 4-1-2-1-2 to the 4-2-1-2-1 I showed earlier. Whilst a 2CB-2DM tactic looks like a defensive box at first, it spends the majority of its time as a misshapen defensive diamond.
The same affect applies on the other side, where Eninful and De Vries (the two DMs) would push across whilst the Central Defenders hold their positions. The screenshot also shows how far we’re willing to let the opposition full-backs go before we even go near them.
Transfers and Pre-Season
If I start a new save in the first season of the game, I always try to change as little as possible. Mainly because the club will often have signed a number of players during that Summer in real-life, so if I sign plenty too, it can seem like two Summers worth of transfers in one and take the players ages to gel. We had massive shortages at left back and defensive midfield, so Gyula Forro and Remon de Vries were brought in for a combined £6k. Both will be starters, although de Vries I very much expect to move on after this season.
The third signing was the aforementioned Julien De Sart from Standard Liege (screenshot available previously), who offers even more depth at the CAM position alongside my new Spaniard, Coco. The name rang a bell as soon as I saw him, and the 4.5* PA rating meant I was more than interested, too. Having then scoured the FM community for any sign of him, I remembered it was @flipsix3_FM who had him. Coco appears to me to have been one of the key players in Dave’s Strasbourg side before the save corrupted. To be a starting CAM in the French Ligue 1 is certainly promising given how much better that league is than the Hungarian counterpart. Read Dave’s blog and, specifically, more info on Coco here: http://flipsix3fm.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/so-much-for-taking-it-slowly.html.
Pre-season began with games against Lokomotiv Moscow and Frankfurt. I was expecting this to go only one way – two routine batterings. However, we did more than put up a fight, with the games finishing 2-2 and 0-1 respectively. Whilst Frankfurt certainly outplayed us, the performance against Lokomotiv was very promising indeed. We actually created 4 CCCs to their 0, against a side that contained the likes of Lassana Diarra, Mbark Boussoufa, Vedran Corluka, and Maicon (the striker).
Our other two games were routine morale-boosting wins against lowly Hungarian opposition to take confidence into the new year. And it seemed to work too, 24 seconds into my competitive reign we were 1-0 up. And after 9 minutes, 2-0 up. Very promising indeed…