Lille Mix – Season 1 Review

So I had a pretty rocky start to FM19. I had a clear vision of how I wanted to play in the build-up to release; building on my favourite formation of FM18 – the narrow 4-3-1-2. I took it to Salzburg…and was sacked at the end of the season (slightly unfair I thought).

I then took it to Sociedad and, whilst it wasn’t disastrous, it was not a lot of fun at all, it just didn’t play how I wanted it too so I decided to knock it on the head and go back to the drawing board. 

Narrow systems were out of the picture for me so I thought I’d look at a standard 4-2-3-1 wide. I mucked about on FMT for a time to test it out and early signs were positive so I decided to take the plunge. With Lille.

I used the preset direct counter-attack tactic with my own tweaks of course

A recent World Cup win, a plethora of young talent, French football is on the rise again so I thought I’d see if I could ride the bandwagon.

In this post I’m not going to divulge into my processes, training, scouting or anything of the sort for now. I just wanted to get back in the process of putting my FM journey into some form of media since the DLP is no longer around…I used to be somebody you know?

I’d like to focus retrospectively on how my first season with Lille went so I’ll quickly summarise the season:

  • First 24 games unbeaten, 13 wins/11 draws
  • Consistently among the top 3 in the league until the final 6 games of the season
  • However, we were the draw specialists, ending the season with 17 of them (18 wins & 3 losses)

After a close run season, here’s how it finished:

We also had quite a generous but great cup fun in the Coupe de France; making it all the way to final only Toulouse…on penalties. Despite being 1-0 and 2-1 up going into the 120th minute. C’est la vie. 

I wanted to look back on the season and see what made us overachieve. We were anticipated to finish top half so a top 4 finish is fantastic – even if we were top 3 for 75% of the season, I still can’t have any complaints. 

A lot of people have spoken about how strikers aren’t functioning properly no matter what role they’re in and I definitely sympathise was this – I rotated through 3 or 4 different roles across a few different players and rarely was I happy with how my strikers performed. I think this is reflected in how their stats look come season end:

Ikone top, Remy 2nd & Leao 3rd

Our top scorer was Ikone who predominantly played IF(A) from the right though had a few stints up top when Remy was injured. Only 14 goals across 40 games…isn’t a bad return for an IF. Remy with only 13 goals across 34 appearances as my main man up top was quite disappointing.

This FM was the first I consistently watched games on extended highlights and I cannot recall just how many times I was frustrated with my strikers. 

Xadas was pretty good this season, 10 assists though he was our primary set-piece taker and you can see from where the assists from our goals came from that we scored from 18 set-pieces (not including throw-ins or penalties). Pied on the other hand was our main danger on attacks when he found space on the right wing as our WB(A). Ikone would tuck inside often providing plenty of pitch for Pied to exploit. 

A little more on how we fared in the league this season:

4th in the league for possession – averaging 53%

2nd in goals scored on 66 (PSG the highest with 78)

16th for cross completion ratio on 14% (compared to the highest of 23% with PSG) yet we did still complete the 2ndmost crosses in the league with 223 behind PSG’s 309.

21 of our goals were from set pieces (not including throw-ins) equating to around 32% of our total goals

Pass completion ratio was low (72%) and we were 16th in the league for total passes completed. I’d put this down to our attempt at a direct, counter-attacking style where players are asked to be more direct with their passing at a slightly quicker tempo.

I do feel that with a central midfield 3 of Thiago Maia, Thiago Mendes & Xadas I have the potential to either lower the tempo and/or shorten the passing lengths in an attempt to ensure our passes are more accurate – but I’m not someone who cares too much about this, nor indeed how much possession we have.

We were 9th in the league for chances created which is definitely something I’d like to improve on. It states we created 71 chances this season…but scored 66 goals. I have no idea what FM defines as chance creation as there is no way on earth we were scoring with nearly every chance we created. I’d imagine that may be clear cut chances created which averages out at just under 2 per game. Indeed our conversion rate to shots was only 10% which was better than the 3 teams that finished above us.

Defence wise here’s how we stacked up:

3rd in the league for goals conceded (34)

7 goals conceded from corners. Monaco only conceded 1! I’ll have to ask Titi his secret.

16 clean sheets (4th in the league) Maignan was pretty great this season from what I saw.

We made a league high 586 fouls and notched up 93 yellow cards, also a league high. Only the one red card though so it was good to see we didn’t lose our discipline too often. Yellow card suspensions did hamper us throughout the season however but I like the players to get stuck in as part of our style of play. We made 1312 tackles, 2nd highest in the league too.

Attendance wise we were only averaging a stadium 57% full throughout the season so there’s huge scope financially to improve on this.Going straight into the Europa League group stages should go some way towards improving our attendances I would hope.

Another great way to see how we over-achieved this season is in net transfer spend where we sit nicely in 20th place having made a £7m+ net profit on players this season. In comparison to the teams around us…

We are 6th on salary spend but still paying our players less than half the total spend by Monaco in 4th place on this table. Our finances are ‘Ok’ but I’m conscious I’ll need to come out of the other side of this summer window in a positive net spend to ensure our finances don’t get worse.

I won’t delve too deeply into individual stats for the season but it’s great to see Jose Fonte top of headers won with 319 and Xadas top for key passes with 54 and joint second on chances created with 15 (again, I’m guessing these are key chances created).

Rafa Leao was the surprise package of the season for me as he made the wide left W(S) role his own. He barely featured in the first 7/8 games of the season but repetitive 10.0 ratings in training had me thinking I had to give him a go and we never looked back. He was dangerous and contributed 3 goals in his first 4 games. He’s young and has plenty of potential and it was great to see how much he progressed through the season. 

Taking everything into account for my first season with Lille and I’m happy with how things went. Financially things aren’t looking too rosy and we will be heavily restricted on new recruits for season 2, which will be an interesting challenge if we want to repeat the same achievements for a second season running. 

We created most of our chances either from set-pieces or crosses from the right wing and this was where was seemed to get most of our joy, it’s got me thinking, if our best form of attack is through crosses (though I’m always a lover of defence splitting, central passes) then how do I adapt my team to take full advantage of this?

Do I look for more of a target man up front? We scored no goals from long balls over the top which either meant we just weren’t looking for that opportunity or did not have the pace and composure to take the long ball chances that did come around. I feel like the striker role could be pivotal to adding another dimension to our team. I’m definitely looking to upgrade on the ever-slowing Loic Remy who is now 32 but everything hinges on clever maneuvering in the transfer market and probably making the most of loans.

I’ve always been one to play the game very quickly, but I purposely slowed things down when watching matches and it’s definitely helped. Trying to gauge why we were successful, why we drew so many games is a nice conundrum I have going into season 2. And there’s also the challenge of juggling European football this time around…

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