The first season at Újpest has finally been completed. And it’s gone really quite well.
Having checked the actual standings for the Nemzeti Bajnokság 2013/14 in real life, I’d found Újpest had finished in 13th, only a few points above the relegation zone. This was not promising. I’d made a few changes to the squad, but a top-half finish would have done me. One of the main reasons I picked Újpest was because of their lowly standing even in their own city, Budapest. The aim was therefore to finish above either MTK or Honvéd, and take my place as the 3rd best club in the city. So top 8 in the table and top 3 in the Budapest mini-league.
What actually happened…?
I wanted to be the 3rd best in Budapest but ended up as the 3rd best in Hungary. That was despite sitting 4th for ten weeks prior to the last game of the season. In truth, I’d be the first to admit that the trio of Ferencváros, Debrecen and Videoton were well ahead of the rest of us throughout the campaign. Videoton were 1st from the seventh week onwards and their swarms of Portuguese players were impressive throughout. But we managed to nab 3rd in the end. And, vitally, we grabbed Europa League qualification: a factor that needs to be considered over the Summer as we broaden the squad.
As I say, at one point, it was looking very unlikely that we were going to make the top 3. Just a clarification on the rules for European qualification in Hungary:
With the Cup final following the last game of the season, it meant to confirm our Europa League place for next season, we had to get top three (Debrecen were only confirmed after Ferencváros beat Haladas a few days later). But for a while it looked like we’d be the ones waiting to find out our fate, as this happened on the must-at-least-draw final game of the season:
We had to better whatever result Debrecen got. So if they won, it was still out of our hands. So going down 2-0 after five minutes meant I’d all but resigned myself to our [probably deserved] 4th place finish. But we nabbed one before half-time, when I noticed they were 2-0 down. Obviously we grabbed a second, and the rest is history. Shortly after, Debrecen’s manager was sacked. The board didn’t even wait to see if they made it into Europe (which they eventually did). Ouch.
My board were slightly more pleased than his, and my fellow managers were slightly more impressed:
I’m pretty bored with just reporting on what’s happened and I’m sure you’re bored of reading about it. So, other notables:
Personnel and Tactics
Throughout the year, we stuck with the 4-2-1-2-1 as a base tactic and adapted based on the opposition. Usually I’m far more reactive in changing my shape but I wanted to see how the ‘defensive’ setup fared in Hungary. And it’s worked really well. One reason I can tell this is actually by the players I had in the Team of the Year:
The reason I’m so pleased to have Forró, Ngawa and Ahjupera as my three TOTY players is because they sit in what are probably the three most important positions in my tactic. And given one of the main aims of a tactic is to accentuate your strengths, I’m delighted. The only worry is that Ngawa is only a loanee from Standard Liège, so the potential for not having him back again next season is high. He’ll be tough to replace.
Under the Spotlight: Jarmo Ahjupera (TM-A)
Whilst the two Complete Wing Backs are vitally important to the tactic, the man leading the line is probably the most important. And Ahjupera is basically the perfect man for the role, at this sort of level. At the age of 30, it’s time to look at options to replace him with. But for now, he’s fantastic.
With five central midfielders, it goes without saying that we need plenty of goals from the frontman. But it’s important he provides much more than that. With two players behind him who are vital to the attacking phase, Ahjupera must also drop deep and look to play the onrushing midfielders in past him. The idea is that he drags a central defender with him, as the SS-A or AP-A bomb on into the open space. It also works with the BBM and even occasionally the two CWBs. This is essentially the ideal:
I had a chat with @Cleon81 and @rtherringbone on Twitter about the TM-A role I use(d) for Ahjupera. Cleon in particular was critical of the role, but having used it all season I wanted to argue why, actually, a Deep Lying Forward wouldn’t quite do what I wanted.
Whilst dropping deep and creating space for the two CAMs is a large part of Ahjupera’s game, it’s not the be all and end all. With a creativity of 6, and a passing of 9, I understand that he’s not going to set the world alight in that way. Whilst the perfect striker would be a Lewandowski-type figure, Ahjupera isn’t quite at that level. But he’s capable of dropping off and playing simple passes in – I just have to hope my CAMs off-ball movement is good enough to ensure there’s not too tricky a pass available. One of Cleon and rtherringbone’s major criticisms was that the likes of a Target Man role can create a fairly one-dimensional attack. A vast number of our attacks do come through Ahjupera; so in that sense, I’d be inclined to agree. But once he receives the ball, I’d suggest Ahjupera is far less one-dimensional than I’ve found a DLF-A to be. He has his limitations, and with the TM-A role, if the pass isn’t on, he won’t play it. The TM-A role is there for guys who aren’t as adept with their feet, but will still drop deep and let others play around them. It’s particularly ideal when there’s lots of players nearby – a valuable facet of my 4-2-1-2-1.
Ahjupera also contributed in more traditional target man-esque ways, too. His 16 heading & 15 jumping combined with his 17 strength & 6’5 frame meant that he was more than a match for the central defenders at Hungarian league level. However, he was able to add a potent goalscoring threat this season, mainly due to good tactics and the playmaking abilities of the players behind him. Despite playing without wingers, Ahjupera was still able to score a number of headers, mainly due to crosses supplied by Forró and Ngawa. This translated to international form too – having previously played 20 international games for Estonia without scoring, he netted two goals in his next game. Progress.
A Season in Review & 2014/15 Aims
One other thing I was able to get sorted in my first season was some lovely looking new kits, thanks to @StatisticalApp. There’s a link to his YouTube channel on the image – go check it out.
On the whole, it was a very promising season. I went a bit over the top and created a stats spreadsheet, too. I’ll stick it up here for progress tracking more than anything. I think it’ll be interesting to compare these stats to future teams – it’s not something I’ve done before.
(note: doesn’t include goalkeepers or two players loaned out in January)
I only did this after the season finished and it was certainly a decent learning exercise for me. I think, at times, I’m guilty of rushing through the game and relying on average rating more than I really should do. For example, Juanan had a fairly poor average rating throughout the season, and got slightly less playing time as a result. However, statistically, he was probably my best central defender. I was considering selling him previously, but now he’s a vital part of my plans.
Next season, the main aims are as follows:
• Top three league finish (title challenge)
• Avoiding embarrassment in Europa League
• Agree another upgrade to youth and/or training setups
After a fantastic season, the board have given me £2.24m and £31.39k p/w to play with. Just a bit more room to work with than the £0 and £16.5k p/w I was given at the start of this season. I’ll probably give a short mini-update outlining my Summer transfer dealings and any other interesting little snippets.