AZ & Ed – Part 5 – Mid-Season Review

Part 4 took us to the beginning of October. Things move quickly in Zed’s FM world and Part 5 brings you the mid-season review.

We immediately lost our fantastic unbeaten start to the season away at table toppers Feyenoord going down 4-2 losers despite pegging them back to 2-2 from 2-0 down, alas an offside goal to take them to 3-2 saw us throw caution to the wind and concede another.

Away from home we continue to struggle, performance-wise if not results-wise at least. I’m constantly tweaking things but, as much as I think the match engine is ok, the lack of crosses and frustrating wide play does get on my tits. Tactics remain a work in progress 4 months into the season. I hoped to have a tactical analysis post up by now but whilst both systems remain unfinished this’ll probably wait till season end.

So how does the table look at the halfway stage?

It’s tight at the top…

I’m really pleased to be sat in 2nd place having lost only 1 game so far this season. It’s fair to say I’m disappointed with Ajax & PSV but they’ve still time for a resurgence. FC Utrecht are the surprise package this season that’s for sure. A top 4 spot is still the aim (3rd & 4th qualify for Europa) and we’re well on track.

Plenty of greens

We’ve not been blowing teams away but had some really promising results culminating in a crucial, last-gasp win at home to Feyenoord.

How do we stack up against the rest of the league?

  • Highest average posssession (58%)
  • Most penalties awarded (7) scoring 6
  • 39 goals scored (3rd)
  • 23% of crosses completed (4th)
  • 1 goal from a corner (13th)
  • 6 goals from indirect free kicks (1st)
  • Pass completion ratio is 84% (1st)
  • Chances created – 41 (6th) Utrecht top with 69!
  • 13th in shots on target…
  • 7th in converting them
  • 17 goals conceded and 7 clean sheets
  • 90% tackles won (1st)

Some interesting statistics; glad that we are topping possession in the league as this was one of the footballing philosophies I required of myself at AZ. I look at how Utrecht have created multiple chances and reckon I might have a look at their tactical setup (at least as far as formation and roles go) to see if I can adopt some of their practices to better my own team. We’re very efficient tacklers and passers yet definitely not making the most of corners so I’ll need to tweak my attacking set up.

Who are the key men so far?

  • Calvin Stengs – 28 games, 8 goals & 14 assists
  • Dani de Wit – 26 games, 11 goals & 3 assists

Stengs has predominantly featured as an AP-A from AMR and has comfortably been my best player. I think his stats are slightly inflated from assisting at set pieces but he’s often the player my team turn to when in possession.

de Wit has been solid in the middle of the park and dovetailed really well with Stengs mostly as a BBM at MCR. Stengs often finding de Wit with a cutback from the byline (because no one wants to cross the ball).

Some bad news…Ron Vlaar; he broke his leg vs Feyenoord and it well be his final game in an AZ shirt. He’s 36 and his contract expires in the summer and I’m not sure I can warrant a new deal. He’s been fantastic for us this season but it looks like his time with us is up. This segways nicely into…

Recruitment

With Vlaar breaking a leg I felt I had to react, we lose vital experience at the back with his loss, so in comes Damien Lowe from Start in Norway (bloody love shopping there). He costs us only £250k but wages come in at £5.5k p/w making him our 5th highest earner.

Evjen also comes in from Bodo/Glimt in a pre-arranged transfer. One of the few future transfers in FM that I’m well on board with. Looks a real prospect.

No other transfers were made and no key players left. We’ve some great prospects coming through and obviously I don’t want to hinder their progression. With the long-term aim of having 50% of my senior squad filled with academy graduates.

I also received an interesting news item…

Initially I thought this was a bug but it turns out it’s a feature working as planned, just poorly worded. It basically means the club wants to redirect transfer profits, thus reducing our revenue to 55% and if we sell a further +£30m then they’ll consider us to have enough funds for transfers, thus further reducing our revenue to ensure more money goes into the club’s coffers. It’s an interesting development and one that’ll probably help me to focus on my youth players. Talking of which…

This lovely new screen pops into my inbox. Unfortunately it’s not better news and it seems we’re due for a pretty average intake this year. So I’ve requested the board to improve all our facilities and thankfully they acquiesced.

One final thing

We’re back home :)

So next comes the final stretch, how far can we go in the Europa League? (Sporting Lisbon up first). Can we sustain a title challenge? I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

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