With a place in the Europa League group stages guaranteed, it was on to the 2014/15 season. In my last piece, I suggested the squad would need a serious padding to deal with the increased number of fixtures this year. The group was always going to be as far as we got in Europe but six games more than last season, plus long runs in the Ligakupa and Magyar Kupa, was always going to make things tricky. In the end we had to deal with 62 games (by my count), which is tough at the best of times, but when they stick a two-month winter break in there, then things get… interesting.
The first part of the season was geared almost solely towards the European games. The team would be rotated almost entirely at times to ensure we were at our best for our tough Europa League group. As expected, we finished 4th in the group, but made what I feel was a really good impression on the continental stage.
Turning one of those draws into a win would’ve given us a real chance at progressing to the first knockout round. Given all of the three teams we played pay their top player more than our entire wage budget, I’m very happy indeed to get a close 4th place finish.
However, the major downside of ploughing all our playing resources into Europa League matches was that league form suffered. For the first half of the season, our place in the table was fairly poor. In the first twenty weeks of the season, we tended to yo-yo up and down the table based mainly on how many European games we’d played recently. Eventually we managed to stabilise in 4th place, where I was hoping we’d push on and grab 2nd place. Unfortunately, in the reverse of what happened last season, we were pipped to the post by Debrecen and they nabbed 2nd off us on the final day. I was more than happy with consecutive 3rd place finishes given the added strain on the squad.
As with last season, I created another stats spreadsheet. I’ve also added a few more columns, notably NPG+A P90 and T+I P90. I reckon this gives a fairly reasonable (if vague) idea of attacking and defensive contribution respectively.
Because there’s a few more columns to the spreadsheet this time, you might want to open that image in a new tab or window so you can actually see it. If that’s what tickles your fancy.
note: Krisztian Simon, Bavon Tshibuabua and Janos Nagy were not included as they were sold (or loaned out in the case of Nagy) at some point during the season. It’s a bit of an arse to separate their Újpest stats from their overall stats so I’ll just leave it. They left because of a lack of impact so it doesn’t really make a difference anyway.
also note: Esteban Orfano was signed in January, after I had agreed a deal for him to join on a free transfer in June, but was able to negotiate a 20k fee for him to join immediately – he was a massive upgrade on Janos Nagy so I was happy to send some money across to Boca to have him join early.
also also note: Adama Niame joined on a free transfer with very little left of the season.
Going solely on the stats and ignoring everything else I know is difficult given I’ve guided the players for a season. But there were certainly some noteworthy performances over the course of the season that I wasn’t expecting. But there was definitely a few things I could take from the stats that were either interesting or would be helpful leading into next season;
1: Péter Kabát had a stonking season, aged 37. To produce a scoring contribution of 0.73 P90 was particularly exceptional given last season he scored only four goals throughout the year. In order to consolidate our position domestically, it was vital that we had strong backup for Jarmo Ahjupera and Kabát was more than able to provide that. Mainly through a series of wonderful free-kicks. Unfortunately, though, Kabát’s decided to call it a day at the end of the season. As club captain, and a senior Hungarian in the team, he will be missed, but Adama Niame looks like a more than capable #2 for Ahjupera’s throne. But Niame producing 0.68 NPG P90 is incredibly unlikely in his first proper season in Hungary so is something we’ll have to account for.
2: It was the year of the attacking midfielder. Nebojsa Kosovic, Asmir Suljic and Coco were arguably my three best players. However, my 4-2-1-2-1 formation only allows room for two of them in the team at any one time. As a result, it became something of a pre-match ritual to spend fifteen minutes deliberating whom to leave out. More often than not, it was Suljic, as his direct approach offered an outstanding substitute option should be need to chase the game. It’s important to remember that these guys are all young and developing, too. Okay, Kosovic won’t be with us for the long-term (or perhaps even the short-term, although Standard have accepted our renewed loan bid at time of writing), but the point stands. And with attacking contributions of 0.93, 0.85 & 0.75 at the ages of 20, 23 & 22, the future’s bright. In the end, Kosovic netted the award for League’s Best Player, and Suljic was subject to bids just shy of £1million.
3: On something more of a negative note, the stats flagged the need for a proper defensive midfielder. As it stands, we’ve been using Henri Eninful as our primary DM-D, with splatterings of two others; Victor Lekhal and Balasz Balogh. Lekhal will stay with the club long-term, partly because he’s a fantastic developing talent, and partly because he RTed me on Twitter – what a guy. And whilst Balasz Balogh sounds more like an evil wizard than a midfield marshal, he’s actually quite a handy regista. Romauld Lacazette gained more minutes than I’d have liked, mainly in the DM-D slot, and as a result, my main priority over the off-season will be to bring in a talented ball-winner.
Off the pitch we were also able to develop the club as a whole. One of my main aims was to improve upon either the training or youth facilities. The board agreed to upgrade the youth, and the first team are getting an upgrade next year. When both the facilities upgrade projects reached completion, the club’s value shot up to a new high of £2.9m.
As well as that, some quality European nights meant we were actually able to get some fans in, which is always nice.
Aims for Next Year
• Title Challenge: I mean a sustained title challenge rather than finishing top three or top two. Videton have swept the league in years gone by and I don’t want it to be as easy this time around.
• Reach Europa League playoff. Anything more is a bonus.
• Develop a proper secondary tactic rather than relying solely on 4-2-1-2-1. Don’t mind playing with a similar shape or style, though.
• More Hungarians in the first team squad. There’s currently only six with one out on loan. I’d like to reach eight, ideally.
• Some silverware would be nice.