“Come in!” The voice on the other side of the door sounded distracted, and when Andreas Pollasch opened it he could see why. The office was organized chaos, but still chaos. Photo’s on the wall, piles of paper on the desk, left over lunch plate on the corner. The only personal item he saw was a small photo in a heavy frame, a couple holding a baby, wearing older BFC Dynamo scarves.
“You wanted to see me Coach?”
Nicholas looked up from the laptop, smiled and nodded, gesturing to the chair across from the desk and asking him to shut the door. When Pollasch sat down Coach held up one finger in a “just a second” fashion, and then almost exactly a minute later, sighed, shut the laptop, took his glasses off with one hand and ran his other hand thru his hair.
“Everything OK Coach?”
“Yes and No. Here’s the deal Andreas,” Nicholas said, putting his glasses on and sitting forward, elbows on the desk. The action showed Andreas two things, one was the Coach had an aura about him, confidence, willpower, you name it, he had it. The second was that he was still younger than a lot of guys on the squad.
“When the door is shut, and it’s just you and I in the room, it’s Andreas and Nicholas, OK?”
“Not Nikki?” Andreas asked with a small smile, which was returned briefly with a nod. There was quiet for a moment.
“I am sorry I lost touch with with you,” Andreas said. “I know we weren’t the closest of friends on that team, but I want you to know that.”
Nikki nodded, and Andreas noticed him glance at the photo.
“I appreciate that,” Nikki said. “I have a problem, and I need your help with it.”
“In my capacity as Captain?” Andreas asked.
“No, in addition to your position as Team Captain. You are a good one, The guys listen, and you appear to have bought into the program bought in as well. I expect you to do everything a Captain does, and all of the little things a Captain isn’t supposed to do but does anyways. I have not been disappointed in that regard. Thats the problem, and it’s a good problem to have but its a problem.”
“Do you know why I was hired?”
Andreas shook his head.
“Ownership wants the team to get promoted. To Bundesliga 2, in seven years. I told them I could do it in five if they backed me up in certain things, player moves, contracts, things like that. In return for those considerations I promised I would not interview with any other clubs while Coach here, no matter where we are in the standings and who comes asking.”
Andreas was quiet for a moment. A lot of ocaches in the past had used Dynamo as a stepping stone, several players as well. If the club did good, they could do up, but if Nikki had tied himself to the club only to see it fall as spectacularly as it were to rise, it didn’t bode well for his future.
“Do you think we can be promoted this season?” Nikki asked.
Andreas shrugged, then thought about it for a few moments.
“I think we can contend for a promotion spot. I think we can get into the playoffs, and once there anything can happen.”
“But we are a Semi Professional team whose best attacking option is 34 years old and is clearly on his last legs,” Nikki said in a matter of fact voice.
“True, but if he knows we are going out a winner, he’ll give you everything you ask him for and more.”
“Can I expect that of him? Can I demand that of him?
Andreas was puzzled for a moment, thinking before answering.
“I think you could. Assuming others are brought onto the plan as well. Schulz, Breitfeld, Sommer.”
“That’s what our meeting tomorrow is about.”
“Than why am I here?”
“Because I need a friend who will talk to me openly and honestly, a friend who will tell me what others won’t, a friend who knows that I am doing the best I can for the team, even if it means letting that friend go at some point in the future. That friend has to have some influence in the team, something to provide cover for what he is going to say and when he says it. As Captain you and I will agree on everything even when you are wrong,” Nicki said with a smile. “But there needs to be a time in place where you and I sit down and we are not Coach and Captain, but Nikki and Andreas, and whatever we say stays between us.”
“The coaches-” Andreas started to say, before Nikki cut him off with an upraised hand.
“I haven’t earned their respect yet. Give them credit though, they are trying, they are good coaches for the most part, but this untested youngster comes in and wants to shake things up, they are waiting to see what happens. On one hand I don’t blame them.”
They sat in silence for a moment.
“I am young, I realize that. I can be friendly with the guys, but I can’t be their friend. I am their coach first. I have to be. I can wrap that up in as much velvet as I can, but at the end of the day it’s still covering the fist that will whack them upside the head when they screw up, still the man who’s going to let them go, and possibly end their career or dream.”
“Are you looking for validation?”
“No, just honesty. And maybe a few moments from time to time where I can be human.”
“We all know you are human Nikki,” Andreas said. “We all know you have a lot to prove, and frankly so do a lot of us here at the club. I want to play as long as I can, we all do, but at the same time, I am a realist, we are all realists. You don’t play at this level for this long without realizing that.”
Two hours later there was a knock on the door, and Frau Hoffman, the club secretary, stepped inside.
“Coach, you asked me to tell you when it was 6PM. It’s 6:07, and I am leaving for the day.” She smiled and nodded, and then left, leaving the door open.
Andreas stood up, wondering where the time had gone. The past couple of hours had been the two of them sharing stories, mostly game related. Anytime Andreas tries asking about family Nikki deflected it, but it was time well spent.
As he shrugged his jacket back on and walked to the door, Andreas turned around.
“Coach,” he said, and Nikki looked up at him.
“You remember when you ran Goetze into the ground, that U19 match?”
Nikki responded with a small smile and nod of his head.
“Show that sort of drive and dedication to the team, and it will be rewarded, I promise you that.” With a smile and nod of his own, he left, reaching for his phone to call his better half and to let her know he was headed home. He ran into the secretary as he was leaving, and held the door for her.
“I hope he doesn’t stay the night again,” she said as they walked out.
“Coach Schmidt. Since he arrived, he hasn’t gone home but four or five times, and I suspect that’s for a change of clothes. He’s been working since he arrived.”
“Doing what exactly?”
“Watching film, reading reports, studying. If he’s not careful he’s going to burn himself out.”
Older, Experienced, Solid, with a couple of youth players to be excited about as well. The average age is 26.1 years old, and that’s not exactly a concern, but the ago of some of my better players is. An unexpected surprise in some ways, but there are holes to fill, and future seasons to prepare for.
The preseason is going to be all about which senior keeper get the job. Hamrol is taller, Sommer is better skill wise in some areas, but there’s a phrase that goes something like “If you have solid option, you have no great option either.” And that is the theme of this squad, solid players who can do their job quite well, the issue is can they do better when required without falling flat on the face and hurting the team? Hainke and Kaidru are emergency options at best for first team play, I am hoping the experience they get at the U19 level will help them improve, because if they don’t we are going to have to look elsewhere for help between the sticks.
I think this is a good group of players for the level of football we are playing at. We’re the 4th league of German Football, and to be honest I think anything over 15 for an attribute is either going to be a gift, or an anomaly. At this level of football, you aren’t looking for players who are “Good” at everything, you are looking for players who are “Good” in those areas their position demands of them. What I mean is this:
A Centerback (CD(De)) needs to have solid numbers in the following attributes (I call them Role Requisite Attributes. It will catch on eventually. 🙂 )
- Jumping Reach
Secondary Attributes to look at are
- Decision Making
Then there are whatever attributes you as a manager look for as well. Because I know the formation we are going to be playing, and the style of football, I’d like my players to have decent
Taking into consideration the level of football we are playing at, for Requisite Role Attributes, I would say a minimum of 10+ is the requirement. Secondary Attributes, 8+. For my preferred Attributes, while I want to say 10+, I have to be realistic, and say that as long as the majority of them (3 out of 5, depending on the 3), are higher than 6, I’ll be a happy Manager. Now, I am realistic enough that I know that at this level of football almost all of my players are going to fall short in many of the secondary attributes required for the position, and for my preferred attributes as well, and in some cases one of their Requisite Role Attributes as well, but considering who and where we are playing, and that almost every other team at our level is facing the same problems, it’s not a big deal. At least it shouldn’t be, sometimes that lone digit in red just stands out so much it makes your eyes start to twitch and you’re looking to move them on…
Anyways, here is what we are looking at from the Central Defenders Point of view:
Reher and Blum are good solid players. Duncan, his negatives outweigh his positives. The fact he is probably the most athletically gifted of my defensive backs doesn’t do enough to cover the role weaknesses he has. Brandt is the best player we have for the D(C) role, but we’re going to have to bring in some depth as the youth squad leaves a lot to be desired.
I am planning on Breitfeld and Klump being the starters at the wingback position, with Kleihs being their primary backup, but their versatility, and other players versatility as well means they could be playing and contributing in other positions as well. Meyer is young and has potential, while Ekalle is older and has probably reached his potential, he can still contribute off the bench.
Probably the best group of players we have on the team, and it helps that we have other players like Brandt who can step in and play with little drop off as well. Siebeck doesn’t have a weakness in his game, which means he isn’t really excelling in anyone area either, but that makes him versatile and reliable, and at this level of football, that’s not a bad thing. Pollasch is the number 2 midfielder on the team ability wise, and the team Captain will be a full time starter. Schulz is also a very good midfielder for this level. What I would like to try and do is set up a rotation where Pollasch is starting every game with whomever isn’t starting next to him coming off the bench. Siebeck’s versatility could mean he’s starting games at positions other than M(C) though, but with Schulz there to take his place I still have a quality midfield duo in my opinion.
Geurts is probably the only natural Attacking midfielder we have on the squad, and that’s fine. Suljić is also a fine attacking mid, but he play the same position as Geurts, and seems to be better suited to playing forward. Advanced Midfielder is going to be one of those positions that is going to see some rotation probably, as neither Franke, who comes in on loan, or Walther are good enough (yet) to be starters. But I do have players capable of playing attacking mid.
Christian Beck is the only pure forward we have on the squad, and he is very much your prototypical Target Man, and that’s the good news. The bad news is that he is 34 years old, and as he and the other attacking players go. so does squad. If he stays healthy, and if his attributes don’t start to fall off a cliff, I like our chances. That’s a lot of if’s though. On paper Euschen is our 2nd Forward, but I have other players with better numbers in the Requisite Attributes. His versatily does make him useful, but I don’t know how much he will contribute this season.
Spoiler Alert, this was taken at the end of the season
I settled on this formation for a variety of reasons:
- It allowed me to play my best players
- It allowed me to play them in their best or second best position
- Because of my players versatility, it left me very few weaknesses if I had to move players around.
Attribute wise, they look like this:
And when you keep it to just the guys who are the Starting XI more often than not, and exclude the Keeper (Sorry Sommers), you get this:
Doesn’t look like much at first glance, but consider this: The Green Highlighted Squares are their Role Requisite Attributes. The Blue Highlighted squares are those Attributes that I am looking for the team as a whole to be decent in. At first glance, and second and third and all of them really, you have a squad that’s slightly above average, so you have to look at where they are the strongest.
With 4 decent header’s and 4 decent backline passers, we could play a 4-4-2 long ball type of defense. Likewise, a 4-3-3 with one at the top could also be a viable formation, but I like have two strikers at the top.
My defender are all decent, although my D(C)’s could hit the weight room a little more often, and they are OK passers as well.
My wingbacks can cross a ball, but they can’t dribble it worth a darn, but they are both quick and pacy, and they are OK passers, and average defenders.
My midfielders are solid, and my Advanced Midfielders are better than average Acceleration and Pace wise, with decent off the ball movement and good First Touch.
My Forwards are typical of the role they play. So what else am I looking at?
My Wingbacks and midfielders have good work rate and decision making, but their lack of dribbling leaves a lot to be desired. With OK first touch, they would appear to be decent one touch passers.
My midfielders are much the same, decent Passers, OK Decision Making, but their vision is also better than average as well.
My Advanced Midfielders are fast, agile, with decent off the ball movement, decision making, technique and first touch.
So what do we have at the end? Slightly better than average crossers, not the best dribblers, average first touch, passing, technique, anticipation, composure, and concentration; better than average decision making and determination, OK Off the Ball, positioning, team work, work rate, vision, and better than average Athletically speaking.
However, I am a big believer in risk mitigation. The more risks you take in game, the more chances there are for things to go wrong, and when things go wrong, they usually don’t go well, so why leave it to chance?
We are going with short passes, and as the squads dribbling as a whole is less than average, we want to not dwell on the ball, keep it moving in shorter, simpler passes that leave less room for error. That means very short passing at a very high tempo. From the centerback, who give it to the Midfielders, to the wingbacks overlapping on either side, who receive the pass, and either try to whip it in the box for my forwards and advanced midfielders to go for in the air, or they pass it to them directly, and with the arrival of the midfielder to the box, we have the numbers to overwhelm the defenders who are going to be tired of chasing after all of our short passes.
The Proposed Movement
The Proposed Outcome of the Plan
It also means out two midfielders are the pivots, which means the passing should break down like this:
It certainly briefs well, doesn’t it?
But that is all theory. Sure, anyone can draw up a tactic and do what the can to mitigate it, but the FM Gods are a fickle bunch, and as I am fond of saying “Custer had a plan too.” For those of you wondering about that, I suggest reading this.
Up next, in a couple of days, a look at the first season!
Thanks for reading, and if you want to see how well I can screw things up on video, come watch me try an rebuild Saint Etienne here.