OGC Nice: The LQS Obituary

The proverb says “All good things must come to an end”, hinting that happiness is fleeting and often said when the good times stop. But, luckily for FM Adventure and I, bad times also end. The Latte Quarterly Save (LQS) was an FM in real-time approach to blogging: we played a month of FM time in a real-life month. The intention was to keep the good times rolling, a single season save with OGC Nice to span the cycle of an FM edition. But the good times ended around September/October…thereafter the bad times arrived: defeats, injuries and failed transfer deals. We targeted Europe qualification in Ligue 1, yet by February we were fighting for mid-table with a cautious eye behind us.

It shouldn’t have gotten this bad. The LQS format meant we could draft ‘specialists’ into the save to refine our training, set piece and tactical approaches. The crème de la crème of FM Blogging guiding us to virtual glory? Well, not really. It goes to show that you can be as methodological and in-depth as you want in Football Manager…it can still go wrong.

That’s what is hard about this post. Writing about when things have gone irreversibly wrong like this is challenging. Usually FM blogging only likes to show you the good times, or when the bad times are corrected and come good. This is neither of those things…it’s an obituary. We didn’t get sacked, we resigned. Sparing our blushes for what was about to happen. I’m therefore structuring today’s post as to my thoughts about what went wrong, before I invite FM Adventure and FM Rensie to pen their final reflections about our 6 month stay on the French Riviera.

FM Grasshopper

I am writing this a few weeks after making the decision with Matt to stop the save. Somehow (and it still baffles me now) we never got sacked! Our final two results, yet to be documented in our monthly blog, were both defeats: PSG 4-0 OGC Nice and OGC Nice 1-3 Montpellier. A run of five defeats in a row led us to chuck the towel in. 14th in League 1 and early exit from all cup competitions. C’est fini.

Readers may be asking “What If you carried on and turned it around?”…believe me, we wouldn’t have. There was something about this save which infuriated us, after our brief honeymoon period. But we’ll start with tactics, because we had a rather haphazard/muddled approach over the course of our 6 months in Nice. Perhaps both Matt and I went at it in the wrong direction, we built two systems in the early days…but never had that discussion as to our true philosophy. Perhaps we should have fixed on that in pre-season and never steered away from it. Are we a team that controls possession, in a patient style? Do we counter, play fast and direct?

However, we were still methodological (we’re latte afterall); we analysed the squad and we each consulted the team report. But, ultimately we came at it with slightly different views and never agreed on a stance. We would switch tactics and formations fairly fluidly. Maybe an inconsistent run with the same tactic for 10 games, before it becomes stable, is better than clutching for wins and draws over 30 games with tactical switcheroos? Lesson Learned: undertake a ‘deep dive’ into how we want to play, don’t work in a silo…talk to Matt, Matt talks to me. We find a process, trust it and recruit to it.

A nice segue into my second lesson learned, where I constantly cite our transfer activity as being a major part of our struggle. “Why didn’t you sign the right players then?”, I hear you ask. Well, we were hours away from Islam Slimani joining us on loan before the French transfer window closed in September. A deal that would have eased our dependency on Kasper Dolberg for goals. We missed out on him by a couple of hours, and then had the heartbreak of seeing him agree to a move to Zenit.

Maybe it was an Algerian curse on the save…as we saw Youcef Atal reject big money moves to China which would have paved the way for a huge January rebuild. I winced at the £25m we never got to play with. Still, the four players we did bring in were solid and cost-effective. Maybe they will get a taste of what a victory feels like under the new management? Lessons Learned: check when the transfer deadline ends, and do your utmost in making sure the deal is sewn up early. Don’t assume players have yours, or the club’s, best interests. They’re bastards.

Injuries. I am going out on a limb here (no pun intended) by saying that the injury to Kasper Dolberg’s left knee is the single/most game changing moment of the save. His goals to game ratio was better than 1 in two for us before the injury. He scored all kinds of goals too, and seemed to make others around him better. His injury left a huge void and I never liked the options we had as a central lone Striker post-injury. We were crying out for a Islam Slimani-type player, but he was all the way in St. Petersburg. Lessons Learned: I suppose this one is linked to the previous two above. We could, maybe should, have rested young Kasper more. But did we have a choice?

That’s me out. I enjoyed catching up with Matt, and a few others in the save, over the course of 6 real-life months that featured dark nights, lockdowns and many defeats. It made Friday nights sociable again, and I have zero regrets…because I know we will be back.

Back, stronger. Back, together.

FM Rensie

I know I mentioned it several times in the past, but the fact we all are playing the Football Manager differently is perfect to follow.

I was invited to this LQ save with OGC Nice mainly to help Matt, Tony and co. with set pieces. We didn’t score a high amount of goals from corners or free kicks. But the squad was more dangerous within set pieces in my eyes for sure.

Exactly as Tony mentioned in his part, I enjoyed being part of this save and being able to chat with him, Matt and others involved in the save.

There were some painful performances and results to watch while drinking (another) beer to not see all the weird things.

I’m not too much about sharing/succession saves but this one got me and I thought about what we would be able to improve even when I didn’t have time to play my FM21 save.
My main point from the following matches was that the team was too passive and we were just waiting where we will concede.

I decided to load the save on my own and tried to make some changes within the tactic to make the team more aggressive and more active to ensure we will be the dominant team.
I shared my thoughts with others and we tried some of them. But it’s collective save and not all things I tried were added. That’s nothing wrong.

If I remember it right, FEO had the save for the domestic cup match against US Marseille Endourne at the beginning of January 2021 (in-game date) and he secured a 6:0 win. I had the saved file after this cup game and decided to apply my changes for the next match against Rennais.

I didn’t have enough time to concentrate on my save due to a hectic working schedule so I just played slowly this LQ save when I had time and energy to load the game.
The results within January 2021 and a half of February 2021 went great. Nine matches, eight wins and a draw against PSG.

I’m sharing this just because I enjoyed the time I spent together with Matt, Tony and others. And to show that small changes can turn everything completely around.

Danilo and Maolida were the main men during “my separate” time within the save. Danilo was the main Mezzala with the attack duty and Maolida was the Advanced Forward within the 4-3-3 formation while Dolberg was still injured.

The save didn’t go as well as we wanted probably but I would like to say a big thank you to all as I enjoyed being part of this “team”.

fmadventure

Oh, how quickly things can change in Football Manager. Picking OGC Nice wasn’t just a name out of a hat scenario. We spent some time finding a club at the right level and with a good group of players we felt could be exciting to manage. It felt like Nice had the perfect blend of youth and experience.

It started so well with an impressive pre-season and two wins to start off the league season. It wasn’t too long before the performances started to dip and the results with them. Thinking back, maybe we were a bit too quick to make tactical changes when things weren’t going right. Sometimes in FM, it helps to try and ride out the storm a bit. However, when you’re playing that bit more slowly like we were from week to week, it just feels like you have a lot more time to consider the minutiae. It almost feels like you maybe need to tinker that bit more.

How would I sum up this season in the LQ Save? Frustrating, very frustrating. Despite that, I really enjoyed how we ‘co-managed’ during the season. It’s something we’ll definitely come back to but not with OGC Nice. Never again.

OGC Nice: January 2021

As our poor form with Nice continued to build up a head of steam, we had eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Winter Transfer Window.

After a week of discussions, we (fmadventure and FM Grasshopper) had finalised a set of profiles for potential targets. After a bit of player searching these profiles turned themselves into shortlisted players.

Three great bastions of defence: Nicolas Nkoulou from Torino (£2m transfer; £59k/week wages), Jeffrey Bruma from Wolfsburg (£550k; £36.5k/week) and Jesus from Roma (£850k; £40k/week).

Two central midfielders capable of performing defensive actions: Etienne Capoue from Watford (£10m; £50k/week) and Danilo Cataldi from Lazio (£10m; £64k/week).

Two bustling centre forwards to fire us to glory/away from damnation: André-Pierre Gignac from Tigres UANL (£3m; £64k/week) and Andreas Voglsammer from Arminia Bielefield (loan for £750k fee; minimal wage contributions).

Having been given a transfer budget of £12m and an available wage budget of £30-40k per week, it was clear that if we wanted to sufficiently improve this Nice squad we would need to sell first to generate some funds.

As one of the highest earners, aging defender Dante was earmarked for departure. Having initially agreed we would be happy to allow him away on a free just to free up the wages, we were shocked to receive a bid of £140k from Botafogo for the former Brazil international. Youcef Atal was another player we had noted as available for departure – chiefly due to the current interest in his services and our reckoning that we might be able to get somewhere in the region of £7.5 – £10m for the wingback. As it happened the bids from several Chinese Super League clubs reached a high of £25m – our elation soon turned to deflation when Atal rejected these bids as he was holding out for a move to Manchester United that never transpired.

So, with little added to our war chest (more of a war envelope in my opinion), we looked at our shortlist once more and whittled it down to what we believed to be the bare essentials: in came Nicolas Nkoulou for a fee of £1.9m on £64k/week, Andreas Voglsammer on a full transfer for £1.1m on £16k/week and André-Pierre Gignac for £3.5m on £64k/week. We made one final signing on the recommendation of our trusted advisor FMRensie – Pichu Atienza from Real Zaragoza for £800k on £10.5k/week.


We kick off 2021 in domestic cup action – our Coupe de France Ninth Round fixture against semi-pro US Marseille Endoume before a return to Ligue 1 action against Stade Rennais. Success dependent, we’ll then have a Coupe de France Tenth Round and Eleventh Round match either side of an away league match against AS Monaco. Finally, January will finish by hosting RC Lens at home, our last league match of the month.

We made the decision to welcome back our old friend @FromElevenOne for this month’s cup match(es). A chance for FEO to redeem himself after his disappointing (but probably to be expected) loss against PSG earlier this season.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Róbson Bambu, Guylian Zouma, Andy Pelmard; Stanley Nsoki; Pierre Lees-Melou, Danilo; Rony Lopes, Amine Gouiri; Myziane Maolida

Subs: Khephren Thuram (for Pierre Lees-Melou, 61 mins), Hicham Mahou (for Myziane Maolida, 71 mins), Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (for Danilo, 79 mins)

Stanley Nsoki was the man chosen to patrol the gap between defence and midfield while 21-year-old Hicham Mahou makes his first appearance from the season from the bench. There was also a debut for Guylian Zouma, 17 year old brother of Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma.

The scoring was opened on 7 minutes when Rony Lopes successfully converted his penalty. Lope was on hand to set up the second as his freekick was volleyed in off the crossbar by Róbson Bambu in the 13th minute. Some patient play from the back finally left the ball at the feet of Amine Gouiri in the 18th minute and he expertly forced his way into the box and placed the ball into the bottom right corner.

Gouiri popped up again just after the half hour mark as he leapt to meet Youcef Atal’s cross and head in the fourth goal of the game. Gouiri completed his hattrick in the 81st minute as he managed to get a head to Rony Lopes whippped cross and gave the opposition goalkeeper no chance. Nice’s sixth goal came in the last few minutes of normal time as Rony Lopes notched up a hattrick of assists when his corner was nodded in at the near post by substitute Hicham Mahou.

Talking Points:

  • Rony shows his capability from a dead ball yet again, if only he could find some consistency.
  • It was nice to see a debut for Guylian Zouma

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordon Lotomba, Nicolas Nkoulou, Stanley Nsoki; Hassane Kamara; Hicham Boudaoui, Danilo, Morgan Schneiderlin; Alexis Claude-Maurice, Amine Gouiri; Andreas Voglsammer

Subs: Myziane Maolida (for Amine Gouiri, 75 mins)

It’s a debut for both Nicolas Nkoulou and Andreas Voglsammer against a Stade Rennais side that are gunning for a top four spot.

With just 14 minutes on the clock we were behind at home. The defence failed to adequately clear Faitout Maouassa’s freekick and centre back Nayef Aguerd capitalised on the confusion to poke the ball home inside the six yard box.

In truth, it was the only real action of the match as neither side created any further chances of note in the remaining 76 minutes. OGC Nice managed to register just 2 shots on target in the entire game.

Talking Points:

  • As always, we manage the build the ball up from the back so well but lack any source of creativity in the final third
  • Another goal conceded from a mistake in defence – is there a leadership void in this backline?

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordon Lotomba, Pichu Atienza, Nicolas Nkoulou, Hassane Kamara; Danilo, Morgan Schneiderlin, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde; Myziane Maolida, Amine Gouiri; André-Pierre Gignac

Subs: Pierre Lees-Melou (for Danilo, 64 mins), Andreas Voglsammer (for André-Pierre Gignac, 71 mins), Stanley Nsoki (for Hassane Kamara, 81 mins)

Another chance for FEO to take us on in our cup run. Two more debuts for OGC Nice, this time for centre back Pichu Atienza and potential season saviour André-Pierre Gignac.

It took just 8 minutes for Nice to get off the mark as Jeff Reine-Adélaïde latched onto a half clearance from Le Mans and scored on the half-volley. It was six minutes later that the lead was double as Amine Gouiri’s neat work down the right work led to a cross that was converted by Myziane Maolida.

The game went a bit quiet until the 79th minute when Jeff Reine-Adélaïde’s lovely through ball found substitute Andreas Voglsammer who had managed to beat the offside trap. The German striked hit a sweet left footed shot to register his first goal for Les Aiglons. It felt somewhat inevitable that Nice would concede and they did just that on 83 minutes when Begue was left unmarked in the box and his weak effort beat Walter Benítez.

Myziane Maolida completed his brace on 93 minutes thanks to a second assist from Reine-Adélaïde. The cross finding Maolida at the back post to volley home the final goal of the game.

Talking Points:

  • Jeff Reine-Adélaïde excelled as a Deep Lying Playmaker – could he be the answer to the creative woes?
  • No dream debut for Gignac but it was great to see Voglsammer get off the mark

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Nicolas Nkoulou, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Myziane Maolida, Danilo, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, Amine Gouiri; André-Pierre Gignac, Andreas Voglsammer

Subs: Khephren Thuram (for Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, 60 mins), Alexis Claude-Maurice (for Myziane Maolida, 71 mins)

With two match fit forwards finally on the wage bill, we see it as time to push a 4-4-2 formation in the hope of reclaiming some glory. Last time out against AS Monaco we had just made it two wins from two and were riding high at the outset of the season.

Any semblance of positivity was crushed with a mere 31 minutes on the clock as AS Monaco recycled possession from an overhit freekick to allow Florentino Luís to cross to Djibril Sidibé at the back post and head in the opening goal.

Nice took until the 52nd minute to register their response, Myziane Maolida’s run down the right wing giving him a chance to shoot at goal. The shot parried straight to the feet of Gignac who made no mistake from just 5 yards out to equalise. Cries of “Are we back?” could be heard from those in attendance.

Their answer given in the 89th minute when Sidibé’s cross was turned into the back of the net by Stevan Jovetic. A much needed point was almost in our hands but so cruelly grappled away in the final minutes.

Talking Points:

  • Jeff Reine-Adélaïde was anonymous as a DLP in a match against a higher level of opponent
  • Gignac has goals in him, this one wasn’t impressive but there’s more to come if we can just find that vital supply line

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Róbson Bambu, Nicolas Nkoulou, Hassane Kamara; Stanley Nsoki; Danilo, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde; Myziane Maolida, Amine Gouiri; André-Pierre Gignac

Subs: Rony Lopes and Andreas Voglsammer (for Jeff Reine-Adélaïde and Amine Gouiri, 58 mins), Pierre Lees-Melou (for Stanley Nsoki, 72 mins)

Sadly FEO’s Coupe de France dream came to an end in the Eleventh Round with a defeat away to Montpellier.

Montpellier took the lead on 25 minutes and it was a goal worthy of any end of season highlight reel. Téji Savanier picking the ball up 30 yards from goal and rifling the ball into the top left corner of the Nice goal.

It was an evenly played game and finally Nice looked to be on to something when they found an equaliser in the 74th minute. Hassane Kamara’s low cross finding Andreas Voglsammer free in the box for his second goal in as many cup games.

Sadly it wasn’t to be as Montpellier broke from defence to attack with 9 minutes remaining and Gaetan Laborde found the back of the OGC Nice net to break hearts on the French Riviera.

Talking Points:

  • For once, there can be no complaints about the goals conceded. Both well taken and we were just very unlucky here

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Nicolas Nkoulou, Pichu Atienza, Hassane Kamara; Stanley Nsoki; Danilo, Khephren Thuram; Alexis Claude-Maurice, Myziane Maolida; André-Pierre Gignac

Subs: Amine Gouiri (for Youcef Atal, HT), Rony Lopes (for Hassane Kamara, 50 mins), Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (for Khephren Thuram, 62 mins)

Andreas Voglsammer’s injury means a return to a lone striker in André-Pierre Gignac. Not ideal timing given our dire need to end this run of three consecutive league losses.

Lens opened the scoring on 39 minutes when Massadio Haidara’s cross found Ignatius Ganago at the near post to sidefoot past Walter Benítez, it was all too easy for them. The reaction from OGC Nice was superb though as Les Aiglons struck back straight from the kick off with André Pierre-Gignac scoring his second Nice goal with a neat left footed finish from the edge of the box.

RC Lens found the winner just after the hour mark with some pure route one football. The long ball forward, knocked on into the path of the on-running Ignatius Ganago. Ganago’s 20 yard lob over Walter Benítez was worthy of winning any game. A great finish but the Nice defence were nowhere to be seen.

Talking Points:

  • Four consecutive losses equals our worst run made in October/November. We’re stuck in a rut and seriously lacking any route out
  • Voglsammer and Gignac clearly have the ability to drag us out of a hard spot but without the right level of service they are totally wasted.

Having failed to pick up a single point in the month of January we slip down two places in the table. As if this wasn’t bad enough, we were requested to attend a meeting with the board…

Being the cunning negotiators that we are, we’ve managed to banish any talk of sackings or even ultimatums. That said, the board do have one promise they have signed us up to – improving their overall level of confidence in us. It’s a very vague statement but with having not won in our last six league games, surely the only way is up?

Latte Quarterly Issue Seven

It’s time for Issue Seven of Latte Quarterly.

We’re Football Manager’s only e-magazine and we’re delighted to bring you the latest issue collated by FMSamo, fmadventure, FMGrasshopper, TedRedwood and AccordingtoFM.

In this issue we’re joined by FMOldDog. If you’d like to contribute to a future issue of LatteQuarterly then send us a message via Twitter DM, message any of us on Slack or send us an email.

You can also view this issue on Yumpu by clicking here (this link is external).

We hope you enjoy reading. Grab yourself a Latte and dive in.

OGC Nice: December 2020

Last time out in November we had enlisted the help of our good friend FMRensie to sort out Nice’s set piece options. The arrangement proved very worthwhile as we began to see the early signs of success from the new routines. After some discussion, FMRensie agreed to continue with us as a trusted advisor on an ongoing basis.

December was set to be our busiest month of the season so far with a full seven games on the calendar. We were buoyed by consecutive victories however faced a hammer blow in that victory over Bordeaux when Kasper Dolberg picked up a knee injury which would keep him sidelined for the next three months. With the transfer window a full month away and a serious lack of alternative in the forward department, it forced a serious tactical rethink.

A move to faux strikerless?

Cast your mind back to Euro 2012 and the success Spain achieved by adopting a faux strikerless approach. If we don’t have a natural striker then we go strikerless. However, this does not mean that the ST slot becomes redundant. We looked to build a ‘strikerless’ system utilising a False Nine to drop deeper and link up with the midfield and wide men.

  • Our AP-A in the central midfield slot becomes a CM-A to encourage more penetration from the deeper area;
  • We adopt a WB-A on the left of the defence and the more conservative FB-S on the right hand side;
  • We go narrow in attack to encourage the wide men to play closer to the F9 and central midfielders.

December begins with our away Europa League tie against Sporting CP before a return to home and domestic football against Dijon FCO. Staying at home, we’ll complete our European group campaign against Spain’s Real Sociedad. On our travels next, we face Strasbourg before facing a strong Lyon side who are mounting an early title challenge. We finish the calendar year with consecutive away games against a Reims side that are defying all expectations in the league and FC Nantes.

Tactic: It’s the debut of our new faux strikerless approach, a baptism of fire for the untested set up.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordan Lotomba, Róbson Bambu, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Danilo, Hicham Boudaoui; Myziane Maolida, Rony Lopes, Amine Gouiri

Subs: Jeff Reine-Adélaïde & Youcef Atal (for Danilo and Myziane Maolida, 78 mins)

Amine Gouiri was the man given the nod to play the new False Nine role, largely because he was of only two players other than Dolberg who had some form of familiarity with the ST role.

It was a familiar start to the game from Nice, dominating the play in build up but failing to find anything of use in the final third.

And yet with just ten minutes gone, the players failed FMRensie on their defensive corner responsibilities. Sebastian Coates headed the ball back across goal from an inswinger and Sporar was found in acres of space to tap home the opener. As minute 33 appeared we issued the ‘Berate’ touchline to Rony Lopes, a man we were quickly losing patience with – the mercurial wide man responded by blasting the ball into the back of the net from 18 yards. Bravo, Rony.

We were level for merely two minutes of play when Sporting found themselves with a corner again. Joao Palhinha managed to get a run on his marker and headed Sporting in front once again. Somehow our team had managed to forget everything they’d been taught about defending set pieces. Sporting grabbed their third in the second half from an unstoppable Nuno Santos volley, the winger was left inexplicably unmarked as our right back Jordan Lotomba had some how found his way to the left wing. The game was dead and buried in the 87th minute when Matheus Nunes headed in from a Pedro Porro cross.

Talking Points:

  • Despite being in control for large periods of the game, we succumbed to a 4-1 loss away at Sporting.
  • Qualification from Group K remains on a knife edge with OGC Nice now needing a win at home Vs Real Sociedad.

Tactic: We stick with the FMG Faux Strikerless, there were plenty of positives to take from the last match despite our defence’s ineptitude at marking in that previous 90 minutes.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Róbson Bambu, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Danilo, Hicham Boudaoui; Myziane Maolida, Rony Lopes; Amine Gouiri

Subs: Racine Coly (for Hassane Kamara, 45mins), Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (for Myziane Maolida, 70 mins), Pierre Lees-Melou (for Hicham Boudaoui, 84 mins)

The only change to the starting eleven is Youcef Atal in place of Jordan Lotomba after his mid-match walkabouts in Portugal.

Once again we dominated the play, creating lovely passing patterns all over the pitch. Once again, we just lacked that final spark in the crucial moments. The goal was decided by a solitary goal and it was one straight from the FMRensie playbook as Rony Lopes’ corner found Stanley Nsoki at the near post to head us the victory. It feels like some just payback for our set piece consultant after the aberrations against Sporting.

Stanley Nsoki had the ball in the back of the net again in the second half, a neat sidefoot finish from a Rony Lopes free kick from deep. Upon review, Stanley had strayed marginally offside and the goal was disallowed. VAR denying us this beautiful moment.

Rony Lopes collected a player of the match award, largely thanks to his consistency in set piece delivery. Might he just be starting to win us back over?

Talking Points:

  • Stanley is a threat at set pieces.  Not only highlighted in the goal, but several set pieces too.  We should keep him here, even when Dolberg comes back.

Tactic: We keep faith with the process and the FMG Faux Strikerless rides again.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Róbson Bambu, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Danilo, Hicham Boudaoui; Myziane Maolida, Rony Lopes; Amine Gouiri

Subs: Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (for Danilo, 81 mins)

We were three points behind our Spanish opponents as we sat in third place. Our previous match up had been a scoreless draw so the requirement was simple: all we had to do was beat Sociedad at home to progress.

Sadly, what is easily said is not always as easily done. Sociedad had the better of the possession with 60% of the ball over 90 minutes. Despite their dominance on the ball, there weren’t too many clear cut chances for the visitors that came to mind. Rony Lopes’ renaissance had been short lived as the Portuguese failed to make any significant impact on the game. We tinkered with the tactics but couldn’t find the breakthrough.

Defensively we were very impressive, Nsoki and Bambu complement each other very well despite their combined age of just 44 years old – that’s just 7 years older than one Dante.

Unfortunately our European dream fizzles out to an end with a scoreless draw.

Talking Points:

  • Our defence was amazing, but so was Real Sociedad’s.  We’ve played out two 0-0s now and neither side wanted to progress, but sadly it was the Spanish.
  • Rony Lopes was awful.  We really need to re-think his role in the side…he should be much better than this.
  • We dropped F9 for DLF, before ending on AF.  Neither role had any danger, Gouiri is struggling as the ST.

Tactic: Having learnt a fair bit over the last few games, we’ve tweaked the faux strikerless system. The midfield line up is simplified to a Support-Attack-Defend set up. We’ve dropped the False Nine for an Advanced Forward – we are strikering again!

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Róbson Bambu, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Danilo, Pierre Lees-Melou, Hicham Boudaoui; Alexis Claude-Maurice, Rony Lopes; Amine Gouiri

Subs: Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, Racine Coly & Khephren Thuram (for Rony Lopes, Hassane Kamara and Danilo, 69 mins)

The underperforming Morgan Schneiderlin drops to the bench as Pierre Lees-Melou steps in, Danilo moving to the MCR spot. Alexis Claude-Maurice replaces the injured Myziane Maolida.

Alexis Claude-Maurice (ACM from here) needed only 6 minutes to prove his worth, getting on the end of a Hassane Kamara cross to open the scoring early on. Nice’s lead was doubled just 3 minutes later as ACM led a breakaway move and played Gouiri in behind the Strasbourg defence, Gouiri making no mistake in his well placed finish.

13 minutes gone and Nice had a 3-0 lead, another win for the set pieces as Pierre Lees-Melou is the free man on the edge of the box to strike goalward. With 17 minutes on the clock, Stanley Nsoki made it 4-0 as he headed in from a Rony Lopes corner – OGC Nice in dreamland!

Strasbourg hit back a minute later as Adrien Thomasson found himself with a small pocket in space in the box from a Ludovic Ajorque knock down, the midfielder volleying into the top corner. Strasbourg reduced the deficit further in the second half when a Robert Snodgrass (yes…) freekick was headed in from the penalty spot by Kenny Lala.

Talking Points:

  • Traditional CM roles in a higher line.  Starting with an AF and it all looked better.
  • A lovely first 20 mins saw us run riot against lowly Strasbourg, scoring 4 goals!  It all seemed to be gelling nicely until we inexcusably took our foot off the pedal.
  • It finished 4-2 but it’s another Jekyll & Hyde performance.  However, three league wins won in a row now and we’re in the top half!

Tactic: We run as before, making decisions not to change a winning tactic despite the second half drop in performances.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Róbson Bambu, Stanley Nsoki, Racine Coly; Danilo, Pierre Lees-Melou, Hicham Boudaoui; Alexis Claude-Maurice, Rony Lopes; Amine Gouiri

Subs: Myziane Maolida (for Rony Lopes, 45 mins), Hassane Kamara (for Racine Coly, 67 mins), Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (for Pierre Lees-Melou, 71 mins), Jordan Lotomba (for Youcef Atal, 86 mins), Morgan Schneiderlin (for Hicham Boudaoui, 89 mins)

The only change to the starting line up was Racine Coly replacing Hassane Kamara, the left back was not quite 100% after a busy spell of games.

With FMGrasshopper and FMRensie unavailable due to personal commitments, it was fmadventure left to go it alone on this one. Lyon were chasing PSG at the top and had the best defensive record in the league – it wasn’t going to be an easy game.

Despite the obvious mismatch in season performances so far, it was a fairly even game. Both sides having a few opportunities but the defences standing strong. Lyon did have the ball in the back of the net on 85 minutes when defender Marcelo managed to get on the end of a freekick from deep but it was disallowed for an obvious offside.

We edged possession with 56% and fully deserved our point from this one.

Talking Points:

  • We looked defensively solid, Stanley and Bambu are beginning to form an impressive partnership at the back. 
  • Once again, the build up play was fantastic. Gouiri ran his heart out but we miss a natural striker in the side while Dolberg is out. 
  • The lone management experience was not enjoyable

Tactic: We stick with the latest tactical iteration. It has served us well so far.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Róbson Bambu, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Danilo, Pierre Lees-Melou, Hicham Boudaoui; Alexis Claude-Maurice, Myziane Maolida; Amine Gouiri

Subs: Morgan Schneiderlin (for Pierre Lees-Melou, 62 mins)

Stade de Reims are having a superb season, riding high in 5th position and pushing for a European qualification spot. We go with largely a settled side, one notable change being Myziane Maolida replacing Rony Lopes – he’s just not doing it often enough for us.

It took just 3 minutes for Reims to find an opener. Mathieu Valbuena received the ball 40 yards from goal and sent Youcef Atal in all directions as he bore down on goal. Valbuena twisted his hips and curled a side footed finish into the net in an animation so impressive that we had never seen it before in FM. Truly impressive, sadly.

Things went from bad to worse on 57 minutes when Alexis Flips was allowed the freedom of our box to waltz through and put the ball beyond Walter Benítez from an acute angle. 2-0 down and a whole month of hard work seemingly down the drain.

With all hope seemingly lost it was left back Hassane Kamara who came up with the goods. As we retained possession from an attacking throw, Kamara moved inside and collected the ball on the edge of the box before rifling a shot low into the far corner with his less favoured right foot! A superb moment of brilliance from the 26 year old who has quietly been amongst one of our better performers this season – also worth mentioning that he is a former Stade de Reims player, so it was almost inevitable that he would score.

Nothing to lose and we made the switch to Very Attacking mentality. It was seeming like a lost gamble until 90+3 minutes on the clock. Myziane Maolida leading the ball out of his own half on the left wing, played a searching cross field ball to find ACM on a path inward towards goal. Without even taking a touch to set himself, ACM played off a beautiful 1-2 with Amini Gouiri to find himself in space and possession in the Reims box. The ball sneaked in at the goalkeeper’s near post and we celebrated a 93rd minute equaliser as if it were a winning goal in a World Cup Final.

Talking Points:

  • Two mazy dribbles, two Reims goals.  Defending a real issue for this side, then so is the attack.  Did I mention we need a Striker?
  • But wait, a little reshuffle with AML to Inside Forward and Alexis Claude-Maurice as Winger Attack and we had a comeback.
  • Our left Wing Back dealing out the Remis mazy dribble goal to give us a lifeline.  Before FM Adventure did what FM Adventure does best: pursues it.  We went Very Attacking, Alexis Claude Maurice drives into the Reims half in a Nice counter, and sends the ball to our Striker.  Makeshift Advanced Forward Gouiri swivels on the ball, caressing the ball with the Gaelic flair and artistry like a peak Zizou, before returning it to Alexis who takes one or two touches before rifling it in the net.  2-2 FT, no less than we deserved.

Tactic: We stick with it, at 2-0 down v Reims it might have been another tactical switch on the cards but that late fightback gave us hope for this set up, at least until we can hit the transfer market.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Róbson Bambu, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Danilo, Pierre Lees-Melou, Hicham Boudaoui; Alexis Claude-Maurice, Myziane Maolida; Amine Gouiri

Subs: Rony Lopes (for Myziane Maolida, 21 mins), Jeff Reine-Adélaïde & Morgan Schneiderlin (for Alexis Claude-Maurice and Pierre Lees-Melou, 61 mins)

With Nantes down in 14th place, and ourselves on a high from five games unbeaten in a row, it seemed like the perfect time to make a statement. The team remained unchanged. We had faith.

Little did we know that statement would be more of a bumbling cry for help. Little did we know that our faith was misplaced. Little did we know.

With the game barely started, Róbson Bambu was penalised for a seemingly innocuous challenge. A penalty awarded, confirmed by video review, and Marcus Coco pops up to convert the opportunity.

Nice created very little of note in the remaining 85 minutes of the game. Even a late switch to Very Attacking again couldn’t muster up any chances to talk about.

Talking Points:

  • Tired legs, so we ploughed on knowing this was the final game before the Christmas Break.  Probably the wrong decision.
  • Our 1-0 defeat perhaps highlighted what we need: a brain in midfield, a striker and perhaps a sensible head defensively.
  • Roll on January.

8 points from a possible 15 in the league this month but we’ve managed to gain one place in the league. Last month we talked about putting a run of form together and looking toward Europa League qualification – it’s hard to imagine that happening currently. Our immediate aim is to return to the top half of the table.

Our European travels disappearing with a 0-0 draw at home to Sociedad is a miserable way to end the continental campaign. We move on and focus on the upcoming domestic cup.

How glad we are to have finally reached the end of 2020. With the January transfer market on the horizon, maybe our season will be saved by virtue of our recruitment plans.

We have just three Ligue 1 games in January but the month begins with our entry into the Ninth Round of the Coupe de France. If we find success in the cup we’ll have the Tenth and Eleventh rounds to play also before the month is out. Could this month revive our season?

OGC Nice: November 2020

October was a focus on training aided by our very own FMSamo. With tactics an ongoing work in progress and now our training schedules implemented, we decided to devote some time for the in-game month of November to look at set pieces. When it comes to discussing set pieces in FM there is only one person to turn to – FMRensie.

@FMRensie

When I opened the set pieces part of the tactics screen within the LQ save with OGC Nice, it reminded me of my post when I wrote about the set pieces from scratch in the past.

There was only one attacking corner set and even this one included one of the most common mistakes within the FM “community” – the set piece taker was assigned to some other role in or around the penalty area so this position/role was always empty. Because we can’t be at two places at the same time, right?

An uninspired routine hallmarked by common mistakes

I decided to adapt some my own routines to OGC Nice. But not only for corners.

We all consider set pieces as a big part of real-life football these days but we are also able to ignore them in the game. And if we concede after some set piece, we blame the game despite we didn’t do enough.

Probably the best example within FM21 is throw-in routines. The default attacking throws were changed for the new edition in terms of the positioning of all players around the pitch. There is a lot of misplaced throw-ins, mostly the short throws. It’s caused by several things.
The throws delivery is set to Mixed by default so it depends a lot on the decisions attribute of the taker.
Almost all players are set to attack within the default throw-in routine and that leads to conceding a lot of counter goals as the AI will break the defensive line.
There are usually not good enough players set to receive the ball and it leads to losing the ball and conceding too.
The solution? Just set your own routine. It’s easier than to moan on social media.
I conceded several goals during the beta version before I realised this is the issue of my routine. And I decided to regroup the players around the pitch to have more than only two players set to stay back.
And I didn’t concede from this situation since this change. But I didn’t lose the quality in the attacking phase and I’m scoring from short throws.

Same as OGC Nice scored too after we tweaked the routines.

The successful throw-in routine

This system of watching, analysing (it’s too flashy word maybe) and tweaking applies to all routines.

Sometimes, only checking the required attributes for each role within your routine, is good enough because you will, at least, find out why the player XY was not successful as the taker or why the player YX was not good as the one who offers the short option. (The key attributes are, for most roles, available to see in the right part of the set piece creator).

In my eyes, the whole FM game, not only set pieces, is about the off the ball movement. But it applies, even more, to set pieces because it doesn’t matter how good your taker is. The only exception can be direct free kicks but not every time.

I had quite a lot of hopes for Kasper Dolberg within set pieces so I recommended using him as the player who will attack the near post within corners or far post within free kicks as his attributes are perfect. But he didn’t deliver the joy to see the ball in the net.

On the other side, I think four matches are not enough of a sample to prove the routines are good/bad. It’s a lot about patience and trying. Even swapping two players can help a lot (I saw that in my own save recently).

I would surely recommend using the Delivery training session before the match. And mainly, give it some time. And check the routines before every match, especially if you are making changes in the line-up because one small change can ruin all the routine. Not only for the upcoming and nearest match but in the long-term too.

This applies to both attacking and defensive routines.


November is a busy month with six matches on the horizon. We begin with our third and fourth consecutive away games, FC Lorient in the league before Galatasaray in our European group. FC Metz is our return to home fixture before another trip away to Stade Bretois 29. We finish November with two matches at home – firstly it’s Galatasaray again in Europe and then Bordeaux in the league.

Tactic: We’ve gone back to our 4-2-3-1 as we anticipated Lorient playing a back three. They’ve bluffed us though and gone 4-4-2.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordan Lotomba, Dante, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Hicham Boudaoui, Morgan Schneiderlin; Myziane Maolida, Rony Lopes, Amine Gouiri; Kasper Dolberg

Subs: Racine Coly (for Hassane Kamara, 61 mins), Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (for Amine Gouiri, 61 mins)

The game wasn’t even 5 minutes old when Quentin Boisgard took advantage of a calamitous error in the six yard box to side foot the ball into the back of an unguarded net.

The next 85 minutes was a painful watch as OGC Nice never truly presented any danger to the Lorient goal with any of their 4 shots on target.

Talking Points:

  • Concede with the 1st highlight and then never look like recovering.
  • We spent too much time focusing on reducing threat from 3-5-2 formation (they eventually went 4-4-2) and didn’t focus on ourselves.
  • Dante is past al dente.

Tactic: We revert to our fmadventure v2.0, a somewhat adventurous tactic for a tricky away tie in Europe but we’re in need of a revival and some positivity.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordan Lotomba, Andy Pelmard, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, Hicham Boudaoui; Myziane Maolida, Amine Gouiri, Kasper Dolberg

Subs: Khephren Thuram (for Hicham Boudaoui, 45 mins), Rony Lopes (for Amine Gouiri, 65 mins)

Fearing we were well beyond Dante’s peak, he was dropped to the bench in favour of the more mobile Andy Pelmard. Rony Lopes also fell victim to the chop on account of his continuing to live up to the hype.

Nice again were on the receiving end of an early goal, this time when Arda Turan popped up in the area in the second minute to head his side into the lead. Yes, an Arda Turan headed goal. Hope was restored in the 9th minute when the Galatasaray goalkeeper dropped the ball from a corner and Belhanda’s half clearance found Myziane Maolida unmarked to volley through a crowd of players and level the scores.

Deflation turned to elation on 15 minutes as some of that trademark Nice passing play saw Hassane Kamara in down the left and his cross was headed into the bottom corner to give Nice the lead. Truly “one for the neutrals”, the game had a fourth goal after just 22 minutes after Mbaye Diagne swept home following Benítez’s parried save.

Both sides came out slightly hesitant after the half time break but it was Galatasaray who found their feet first. Arda Turan finding himself a pocket of space in the box to head Galatasaray into the lead for the second time today. Yes, another Arda Turan headed goal. Try as we might, Nice couldn’t get a grip on the game and it was Arda Turan’s hattrick goal that sealed the 3 points for the Turkish side. Turan’s neat movement from the corner allowing him to head beyond the reach of Benítez to double their lead. Yes, a hattrick of Arda Turan headed goals – is this a world’s first?

Talking Points:

  • Back to 4-3-3, we looked better. But who honestly concedes three Arda Turan headers and expects a result? He rose up each time like a tuna, Arda Tuna. Never liked the stuff.
  • Goal for Dolberg as AF!
  • Ondrej says he likes Maolida as a winger but would probably take Shorter Passing off and add Counter.

Tactic: We persist with the fmadventure v2.0, we know there’s gold in it but it just needs some more refinement. This is also the first match back after handing over the save file to FMRensie to work his set piece magic.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Youcef Atal, Andy Pelmard, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, Hicham Boudaoui; Myziane Maolida, Rony Lopes; Kasper Dolberg

Subs: Amine Gouiri (for Myziane Maolida, 60 mins), Alexis Claude-Maurice (for Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, 67 mins)

We needed a reaction and this was part of the decision to give Youcef Atal and his 19 for aggression a run out in defence.

FMRensie’s set piece work pays off just 13 minutes into its debut as we hold possession following an attacking throw and find Morgan Schneiderlin lingering on the edge of the Metz box. He strikes the ball and leaves the Metz goalkeeper with absolutely no hope of reaching it, a glorious start to the game for Nice.

The lead lasted a mere ten minutes as Nice’s defensive frailties were laid bare once again. The defence’s inability to track the movement of a forward dropping deep gave rise to Aaron Leya Iseka’s opportunity to break beyond his marker and level the scoring. The warns came on 42 minutes when Metz had a second disallowed by a marginal offside, Julián Álvarez sneaking in behind his marker as Nice stepped their way lazily out of a defensive situation.

With a mere 46 seconds of the second half gone, Metz had themselves in front. There was perhaps a touch of misfortune for Nice in the way that Leya Iseka’s blocked shot landed kindly at the feed of Habib Maïga for the easiest of finishes. However, it was a common theme to the game as the chance arose from a ball in behind the lackadaisical Nice defence.

In the 62nd minute Nice appeared to have learnt something from this game. Not how to shore up their own defence but how to exploit the high line of another. Hicham Boudaoui’s inch perfect lofted ball found Kasper Dolberg running into the box and the move with finished delightfully to bring Nice back on a par with their opponents.

It was all in vain though as Metz pounced in the 70th minute to take the victory. Maïga’s shot appeared to be headed straight for the arms of Walter Benítez when somehow Aaron Leya Iseka nipped in ahead of him to knock the ball into the net.

Talking Points:

  • We scored two goals. One of them was a Rensie set piece (thank you comrade).
  • We conceded three.

Tactic: We stubbornly and steadfastly stick with the fmadventure v2.0, minor changes made but the ethos remains the same.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordan Lotomba, Andy Pelmard, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Danilo, Hicham Boudaoui, Morgan Schneiderlin; Myziane Maolida, Rony Lopes; Dolberg

Subs: Róbson Bambu (for Andy Pelmard, 61 mins), Pierre Lees-Melou (for Morgan Schneiderlin, 61 mins)

Andy Pelmard and Stanley Nsoki continue to partner in defence, hoping that consistency will breed results. Lotomba returns in place of Atal though due to the latter’s failure to show any of his promised aggression over 90 minutes. It’s a much awaited return from injury for Danilo, hopefully to inspire a turnaround to our form.

If I were to say Nice started slowly it would be a lie. As truthfully Nice never really started the game at all. 2 shots on target in the whole game tell the story of a team far from glory.

It was Irvin Cardona who gave Stade Brestois their win on 41 minutes with a goal almost identical to that we conceded against Metz in the last game. Romain Philippoteaux’s shot was headed straight for the clutches of Walter Benítez when Irvin Cardona popped up out of virtually nowhere to poke the ball into the Nice goal.

It’s officially time to panic. Four losses in a row, eight games without a victory in all competitions. The 6-1 hammering of Lille feels a lifetime away now.

Talking Points:

  • Merde!

Tactic: After lengthy discussions (and that is no exaggeration) and with the help of FMRensie again, as a trio we evolved to the fmadventure v3.0, subtle tweaks designed to get the most out of a team on the cusp of free falling.

fmadventure v3.0

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordan Lotomba, Róbson Bambu, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Hicham Boudaoui, Danilo, Morgan Schneiderlin; Myziane Maolida, Rony Lopes; Kasper Dolberg

Subs: Youcef Atal (for Rony Lopes, 77 mins), Khrephren Thuram (for Hicham Boudaoui, 86 mins), Jeff Reine-Adélaïde and Amine Gouiri (for Danilo and Kasper Dolberg, 90 mins)

With the new tactical set up in place there was only one other matter to deal with: Arda Turan. The players were instructed to press him, mark tighter and tackle hard. We would not accept any repeat of the three headers debacle from the last game.

Nice’s play throughout was neat and the minor changes made appeared to be having majorly positive effects. It was a result of the attractive passing game that allowed Myziane Maolida in behind the Gala defence to pass the ball under the diving goalkeeper.

With just five shots in the whole 90 minutes, we won’t claim that we were dominant throughout but we were confident in our play. For the first time in almost in over seven weeks we come away with the win and knowing that we deserved it!

Talking Points:

  • We made some tactical tweaks, after all…8 games without a win says it all. We changed CM-A to AP-A and had CM-S either side of him. The left sided is told to Hold Position, given that he has the IF-A and WB-S to his left.
  • We said goodbye to a lot of instructions that limited our GK’s distribution. We would simply let Walter B do his thing.
  • Stay On The Feet was dropped. “Welcome to Nice, Gala”
  • 1-0! Up the Adventure-ball!

Tactic: It’s fmadventure v3.0 again! We’ve regained our confidence and have the feeling that we might just be back…

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordan Lotomba, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Hicham Boudaoui, Danilo, Morgan Schneiderlin; Myziane Maolida, Amine Gouiri; Kasper Dolberg

Subs: Rony Lopes (for Danilo, 71 mins) Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (for Kasper Dolberg, 90 mins)

We don’t want to mess too much with a victorious side and so only one change, Rony Lopes is dropped as he continues his failure to impress with Gouiri given the go in his stead.

This was the Nice we remember from the start of the season. A side with confidence and swagger. From the moment the game kicked off we had a feeling that we had this one in the bag.

With 20 minutes gone we took the lead. Recycling possession from a broken down freekick, the ball was moved back goalward. Kamara picked out Maolida whose header down was met by the right footed half-volley of Danilo! The Brazilian has become our beacon of hope this season and he drilled that one into the back of the net like a man on a mission.

Defensively we were strong, the newly formed partnership of Bambu and Nsoki looking impenetrable. We could have coasted out to a solitary goal win in the second half but we wanted to press on and get a second, really boosting our morale. So, the second goal came in the 58th minute with the midfield trio progressing the ball through the centre of pitch before offloading to Maolida who played a perfect through ball for Gouiri to meet with the finish. It was a delightfully, aesthetically pleasing goal and it raised the question – are we back?

I’d love to say this was the perfect game but the sting in the tale came in the 90th minute when Kasper Dolberg picked up a serious knee injury – torn ligaments – that would rule him out for the next 3 months.

Talking Points:

  • Great goals. Maolida’s knock down for Danilo’s half volley was great…but his 2nd assist to Gouiri was awesome.
  • Another clean sheet but…
  • Kasper Dolberg, our only Striker is out for 3 months. RIP guys.

Despite just 3 points from our last four league games, we’ve only actually dropped two places in the league. With a decent run of form we could put ourselves back into contention for a European spot but our immediate attention must be on returning to the top half.

The win against Galatasaray keeps us right in the mix for qualifying from our Europa League group. Sporting CP away and Real Sociedad at home are our remaining group games. Can we turn our season around by being a European success story?

It was an absolute joy to have FMRensie not only to give us a lesson on Set Pieces but also to get involved in turning our form around.

December is an even more busy month than November for us. We have our remaining Europa League group games along with five Ligue 1 matches to round of the 2020 calendar year. All of this comes at a time that we will have to seek an answer the the problem of replacing our only recognised striker.

Latte Quarterly Issue Six

It’s time for Issue Six of Latte Quarterly.

We’re Football Manager’s only e-magazine and we’re delighted to bring you the latest issue collated by FMSamo, fmadventure, FMGrasshopper and AccordingtoFM.

In this issue, they’re joined by FMStag and Colin Sisson. If you’d like to contribute to a future issue of LatteQuarterly then send us a message via Twitter DM, message any of us on Slack or send us an email.

You can also view this issue on Yumpu by clicking here (this link is external).

We hope you enjoy reading. Grab yourself a Latte and dive in.

OGC Nice: October 2020

For the month of September we focused our efforts on ‘Big Game Management’ but the behemoths of PSG proved too hot to handle on our first meeting. The month threatened to be a total washout as we went through a three game losing streak but there was light at the end of the tunnel. That light manifested as a 6-1 demolition of Lille OSC at the Allianz Riviera.

In October we approach the subject of team training schedules for which we enlisted the expertise of one of our own – FMSamo. 

@FMSamo

Nice have been performing almost to expectations so far. September was a rough ride but that 6-1 trouncing of Lille, who are supposedly due to finish above us in the league based on the pre-season bookie and media expectations, was a nice way to finish it off.

So far FMAdventure and FMGrasshopper set out the tactical approach for the season, while FromElevenOne was recruited to share his expertise on prepping for a huge upcoming match. Having written about my approach to training quite a few times over the years since it’s been changed in-game, including in Issue Two of Latte Quarterly, I’ve been recruited to shake this Nice side up on the pitches of the Parc des Sports Charles Ehmann.

Most of my work on training so far has been coupled with the fact that I’m aiming to build a dynasty at the club I’m managing. I want to be there for multiple seasons. 

It’s hopefully not a secret that this LQ Save is just a one season playthrough with Nice. This sees me shift my approach and my priorities. I said before that training should be geared towards winning but there’s also been the other aspect of developing players and enabling young players to reach their potential. I’m throwing out that latter point and going all in on the former. We need to do all we can throughout the week to gain the best results on the pitch when it matters.

It’s quite experimental for me but the approach I’ve gone for is to prioritise training modules which give the team a boost for the upcoming match. These can be found in the Match Preparation section, plus the Set Pieces section. The next part is to work on getting the team familiar with the tactical approach and working as a cohesive unit. Again, these modules can be found in the Match Preparation section as well as the Extra-Curricular section.

Teamwork, Defensive Shape and Attacking Movement all give slight boosts for the upcoming match on the following areas across all player units (Goalkeeping, Defensive and Attacking); Teamwork, Pressing, Defensive Positioning, Marking, Attacking Movement and Passing. They all also give work to boost Tactical Familiarity and Team Cohesion too. I’ve decided to at least fill the day before matchday with these sessions, and where I can, I’ve spread them out across the two days before a match. 

Corners, free kicks and throw ins are a massive part of football now, so it makes sense that they should be a massive part of Football Manager too. They’ve been scheduled in where time is available to train them, and working on those gives a boost for the upcoming match. 

Working on Tactical Familiarity and Team Cohesion means scheduling Match Preview sessions pre-match, Match Review sessions post-match and Match Tactics sessions semi-regularly too. Currently familiarity the tactic isn’t quite maxxed out and the current cohesion level across the squad is average. That’s fine, it’s still a new manager and players getting used to operating as a collective, but there’s work to be done to cultivate that positive atmosphere in the camp. 

It always makes sense to schedule some Community Outreach or Team Bonding across the season. They aren’t just fun to make up scenarios in your head of what your team is doing, they’re also important in-game for improving Team Cohesion and providing a Teamwork boost across player attributes and for the upcoming match. Team Bonding also greatly increasing Happiness. Happy players perform. I’m really hoping these tweaks result in some good performances on the pitch at the Allianz Riviera. 


October brings us our first foray into European competition with OGC Nice – Europa League Group K contains ourselves, Sporting CP (Portugal), Real Sociedad (Spain) and Galatasaray SK (Turkey). It’s a really competitive group and not quite the easy passage we’d have hoped for in the early stages. 

Domestically there are three Ligue 1 games to bring you: Angers SCO away, Olympique Marseille home and Nîmes Olympique away.

Tactic: The fmadventure 433 v2.0 brought us an emphatic victory over Lille and so it would be foolish to change a winning thing. 

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordan Lotomba, Dante, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Pierre Lees-Melou, Danilo, Schneiderlin; Youcef Atal, Myziane Maolida; Kasper Dolberg

Subs: Hicham Boudaoui (for Pierre Lees-Melou, 61 mins), Rony Lopes (for Myziane Maolida, 76 mins)

Rony Lopes continues to struggle for match fitness following his broken arm and so Youcef Atal moves forward to the AMR position with Jordan Lotomba returning to the defence. The starting team is otherwise predictable. 

The game began in superb fashion for Nice with Danilo opening the scoring after just 9 minutes. Successive one-twos with Youcef Atal and then Jordan Lotomba allowed Danilo to find himself a yard of space outside the box and his fierce shot arrowed into the bottom far corner, the goalkeeper left with no chance of stopping it. 

Sadly, from then on it was a return to what has become familiar for us. We dominated possession, controlled the game, built up play well from the back but simply couldn’t find the cutting edge. This squad is still a work in progress and so we came away wanting more but content with the progress and a second successive league win. 

Talking Points:

  • We were impressive in building up play from the back but seem to freeze in the final third
  • Defensively solid, even if against lower quality opposition
  • Danilo is quickly becoming the star of the show

Tactic: Firm believers in the process, we stuck with the fmadventure 433 v2.0 that has seen us claim maximum points in the last two games.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordan Lotomba, Dante, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Danilo, Pierre Lees-Melou; Youcef Atal, Amine Gouiri; Kasper Dolberg

Subs: Myziane Maolida and Hicham Boudaoui (for Youcef Atal and Pierre Lees-Melou, 62 mins)

We have high hopes for Rony Lopes in this save but at less than 100% fitness he has been a passenger for us in recent games and so has been rested from the squad entirely for this one. The Sud Derby is a big game for us this month and so we shuffled the pack from within to try and affect the game – Pierre Lees-Melou hasn’t done enough so far this season and so we switch him from MCR on an attack duty to MCL on support to try and get more out of him in the build up phases of play. 

It was a confident first half from Nice until Darío Benedetto put the ball in the back of the net on 37 minutes very much against the run of play. The Argentine striker found himself a pocket of space between our centre back pairing to head in from 6 yards – to our relief the assistant’s flag was raised and a Video Review confirmed he had strayed into an offside position. 7 minutes later and Marseille took the lead for real, Benítez kicking away possession from his hands, Marseille moved it forward with urgency and Benedetto hit a fine effort from 20 yards beyond the goalkeeper’s reach. So, we entered the break 1-0 down but once again dominant in play. 

The next 35 minutes was more of what we expected. We kept our shape well, moved the ball nicely and were confident that (eventually) our goal would come. So it did on 80 minutes when Danilo managed to thread his pass through the eye of a needle to find Amine Gouiri advancing into the box from the left hand side, the inside forward volleying the ball beyond the goalkeeper’s near side to level the scores. 

What happened over the remaining 10 minutes left us entirely shell shocked as Marseille came storming back into the game. Nice seemed powerless to resist and spent the entire time pinned back on the edge of our own 17 yard box almost begging for the final whistle to come. Marseille registered 6 of their 12 shots of the game in these final 10 minutes, drawing four superb saves from Walter Benítez and seeing two last ditch blocks from the defence to allow us to keep a point from this game. 

Talking Points:

  • Solid 70/80 mins against a bigger side,  Wasted chances though
  • Final 10 minutes were painful.  Is it too many players with poor concentration?  Too many young’uns?  Worth a review

Tactic: Well aware of the problems we’ve faced against a back three, we deployed a player in the AMC slot for this game by moving to a 4-2-3-1.

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordan Lotomba, Dante, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Danilo, Morgan Schneiderlin; Youcef Atal, Rony Lopes, Amine Gouiri; Kasper Dolberg

Subs: Jeff Reine-Adélaïde and Myziane Maolida (for Youcef Atal and Rony Lopes, 62 mins), Hicham Boudaoui (for Danilo, 86 mins)

Rony Lopes returned to the side for our first European night in this save. We had to make a choice of who to drop from our usual midfield three and the decision didn’t require too much thought – Pierre Lees-Melou has been a disappointment thus far and so would take a place on the bench. 

It took 12 minutes for the opening goal to arrive. Rony Lopes picked the ball up in his own half after some wing play from Sporting broke down. The on-loan playmaker marched his way into the opposition’s half and slid a delightful ball through the Portuguese side’s defenders to find Kasper Dolberg who chipped the goalkeeper from outside the box, a delightful goal! Such a joy to see a direct impact from the move to field an attacking midfielder. The rest of the first half unfolded into the same old sorry story as we moved the ball superbly from one end of the pitch to the other but failed to capitalise and extend our lead. 

The second half was a different story entirely as Sporting took control and laid siege to our goal. We managed to escape without damage until a minute before the end of normal time when centre back Zouhair Feddal rose highest in the box to head home from a corner. Two points lost as opposed to a point gained here. 

To make matters worse, Danilo picked up a knock to his foot that would potentially see him ruled out for the next 3-4 weeks (a possible 5 games missed). 

Tactic: Sensing a chance to get back to form and get a big result we go back to the fmadventure 433 v2.0, a tactic we knew was capable of getting the goals we so desperately crave if only we could get the players to click. 

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Jordan Lotomba, Stanley Nsoki, Dante, Hassane Kamara; Hicham Boudaoui, Khephren Thuram, Morgan Schneiderlin; Alexis Claude-Maurice; Amine Gouiri; Kasper Dolberg

Subs: Myziane Maolida (for Alexis Claude-Maurice, 61 mins), Rony Lopes (for Khephren Thuram, 71 mins)

Pierre Lees-Melou was again benched, this time in favour of Hicham Boudaoui. Khephren Thuram was given a run out in our efforts to replace the growingly irreplaceable Danilo. Youcef Atal picked up a knock and so Claude-Maurice gets his first start of the save.

This was a disaster from start to finish. Easily the worst game we’ve played so far as we failed to really get going. Goalless at the half, we prepared ourselves for the usual hour mark sub to change the game but were caught napping as Moussa Koné’s effort from 30 yards evaded the clutches of Benítez to give Nîmes the only goal of the game. 

It could have been a lot worse if not for the heroics of Benítez throughout the game as he batted away a further 7 attempts on target. 

Tactic: In a desperate search to claw something back in this month we wiped the tactical board clean and swiped a 3-4-1-2 from the fmadventure Atalanta save. We’d start two strikers for the first time this season. 

Starting XI: Walter Benítez; Andy Pelmard, Stanley Nsoki, Dante; Youcef Atal, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Pierre Lees-Melou; Rony Lopes; Kasper Dolberg, Amine Gouiri

Subs: Myziane Maolida (for Amine Gouiri, 61 mins), Hicham Boudaoui (for Rony Lopes, 80 mins)

Andy Pelmard came in for his first competitive minutes this season while Pierre Lees-Melou returned to the side in hope of us finding a player with a point to prove. In the absence of a second natural striker, Amine Gouiri partnered Dolberg up top. 

It was always going to be a tough game against very capable opposition but the three at the back marshalled the opposition well with Stanley Nsoki playing superbly in a stopper duty. Despite the attacking set up, there were only two genuinely profitable chances in front of goal which Dolberg squandered. 

We take a draw in a tricky away tie which was pleasing in the context of our current run of form. This won’t be the settled tactic we keep going forward but gives us plenty of food for though as we seek the answers to some very difficult questions. 

Talking Points:

  • Perhaps a back three is the way to go for the Europa League nights. Andy Pelmard especially looked commanding and anticipated a number of Sociedad attacks
  • Obviously issues remain in attack, we did not create a great deal and we’re short up front and need an extra Striker.
  • Unsure how Rony Lopes fits in with this formation. He was a passenger and has had a horrible few weeks in a Nice shirt

The table makes for uncomfortable reading as we still sit down in 10th place. Last month’s belittling of Lille seems a distant memory already. Is it time to start again tactically or is there a diamond to be polished with what we have?

2 draws from 2 games and it’s all very much still to play for. Sporting were there for the taking and Galatasaray haven’t impressed in their opening games. Time to be optimistic. 

November is a busy month with four Ligue 1 games and our Galatasaray double header. Three at home and three away. We just need to find a way to make that killer pass.

OGC Nice: September 2020

In our previous post we tackled one of the fundamental parts of a new save – setting a tactical direction. August allowed us to begin our Ligue 1 campaign with two wins from two games and set us off to a healthy start on the Côte d’Azur.

September sees a somewhat straightforward month with just four domestic league matches. However, one fixture stands out above the rest here and it is our home match against Paris Saint-Germain. For this month, we have enlisted the help of our first guest writer – @FromElevenOne. FEO talks about preparing for a big game and things to consider before we allow him to take control of the big showpiece itself.


@FromElevenOne

I’m usually pretty consistent when it comes to sticking to a tactic, but sometimes, when you’ve got a particularly strong opponent on the cards, deeper analysis is required. I’ll look at the likely formation and line-up, and see if there are particular things to fear and/or exploit. Do they have a star man to look out for, and can you plan to stop him in particular? Are there any recent results where your next opponent has been bested? If so, what can you learn from that? Take a look for any key players struggling for fitness or suspended, and see if you can expose any weaker replacement players specifically.

It’s no surprise that PSG have supreme talent. Where do you even start? Mbappe. That’s where. He’s incredible. Trying to reduce the space he has to work in is a top priority. Scout reports say he’ll play as the central striker. His strengths are the main reason I go with a tweaked FMGrasshopper 4123, rather than the FMAdventure 433. A defensive midfielder and a deeper defensive line almost look essential in this case.

Where can we hope to compete? Maybe set pieces are our best bet. PSG are better than Nice at almost everything but perhaps we can match them from set pieces, both defending them and on the offensive. Putting an extra player on “stay forward” when defending set plays…can we get a coveted “counter corner” goal if they over commit?


Our fixtures for the month of September are as follows: RC Lens away, Paris Saint-Germain home, Montpellier HSC away, Lille OSC home.

Tactic: On a high from our two wins in August, we stick with the fmadventure approach and seek to take the game by the scruff.

Starting XI: Walter Benitez; Jordan Lotomba, Stanley Nsoki, Dante, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, Pierre Lees-Melou; Rony Lopes, Myziane Maolida; Kasper Dolberg.

Subs: Amine Gouiri (for Kasper Dolberg, 68 mins), Alexis Claude-Maurice (for Rony Lopes, 79 mins), Youcef Atal (for Jordan Lotomba, 79 mins)

Taking the lead from our talking points after the AS Monaco game, we started Jeff Reine-Adélaïde in the CM-A role to continue on his good work from that position – this decision was made easier for us when Danilo picked up a foot injury late on in the AS Monaco fixture. We keep the faith with Maolida who has been impressive thus far this season. Youcef Atal made his return from injury from the bench.

Despite going into the half goalless, we were satisfied that the chances were going to fall for us sooner or later. We’d created plenty but just needed the right bit of luck for one to land. That moment came on 76 minutes when Maolida’s lovely weighted through ball found the advancing Rony Lopes inside the box to finish with aplomb!

With an eye on our next fixture with PSG and seeing that Rony Lopes had taken a slight knock, we made the decision to bring him off with just over 10 minutes of normal time remaining. It was from that point that things began to unravel. Gaël Kakuta ran riot and tore us apart. His two goals either side of a Corentin Jean finish in a 4 minute spell left us in a deep hole. As we pushed players forward in search of something, Kakuta rubbed salt into our wounds by completing his hat-trick in the 95th minute of play.

Talking Points:

  • Myziane Maolida is not afraid to make an assist
  • Rony Lopes has 5 minutes of magic in him that can turn a game
  • We don’t look good vs a back three. We need to consider a top two or an AMC when Team Reports highlight when a back three is being played
  • Mentality is weak.  10 mins to go we were 1-0 up and lost 4-1.  Maybe Danilo was a big miss in the midfield
  • Really didn’t like our midfield in that game.  Looked like butter defensively and stale in attack.

@FromElevenOne takes the reins

Tactic: Given that PSG are quite good, the more defensive FMGrasshopper 4123 was our base, with a few changes to attempt to counter specific threats, and target perceived weaknesses.

A few changes from the original FMG tactic

Starting XI: Walter Benitez; Youcef Atal, Stanley Nsoki, Dante, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Pierre Lees-Melou, Danilo; Alexis Claude-Maurice, Myziane Maolida; Kasper Dolberg.

Subs: Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (for Danilo, half time), Khephren Thuram (for Pierre Lees-Melou, 61 mins), Amine Gouiri (for Myziane Maolida, 72 mins), Jordan Lotomba & Racine Coly (for Youcef Atal & Kasper Dolberg, 79 mins).

“Perceived weaknesses” indeed. It’s PSG, so there weren’t many. With Mbappe, Neymar and Di Maria as the front three, the defence had their work cut out for them but perhaps Nice could dominate in the air. The main tweak to the 4123 came in the shape of the “force opposition outside” team instruction.

Pre-game prep focused on defending, and plenty of time was spent on set pieces, perhaps the one area we were on a similar level.

Two days before the match, set piece maestro Rony Lopes broke his arm in training. Better news came with Youcef Atal and Danilo being available for selection.

1-0 at the half, with the only goal being a penalty, gives the illusion of a close game. It was not. PSG had plundered 20 shots, with an xG of 2.75. Half time brought a change of tactic, the FMAdventure 433 was introduced and a complete flip-flop along with it, with “force opposition inside”, such had been PSG’s dominance out wide. The already flagging Danilo was withdrawn. A 3-0 second half result belied the closer game, PSG were clinical where they had previously been profligate, their second half xG of 0.82 rewarded with three goals. But there can be no arguing that the final score was a fair reflection of the game overall.

Talking Points:

  • Forcing the opposition outside was largely a failure. The PSG triumvirate were merciless, rotating in the wide positions, skinning the full backs at will before cutting inside to create chance after chance. The instruction was removed well before half time.
  • Forcing the opposition inside was largely a failure. Goals two and three came from through balls up the middle.
  • Dante’s lack of pace (7) was cruelly exposed, especially for PSG’s third.
  • Nice look to be lacking in squad depth, any injuries or lack of fitness to even one first team player is a serious blow.
  • PSG are really, really good.

Tactic: We went back to our roots for this one in the fmadventure set up. We were favourites and expected to put right the wrongs in the last time games.

Starting XI: Walter Benitez; Youcef Atal, Stanley Nsoki, Dante, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Pierre Lees-Melou, Danilo; Rony Lopes, Myziane Maolida; Kasper Dolberg.

Subs: Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (for Rony Lopes, 66 mins), Amine Gouiri (for Lees-Melou, 75 mins), Jordan Lotomba (for Youcef Atal, 85 mins)

We were hurting from the last two matches having conceded seven goals – seven more than in our previous two games. Rony Lopes picked up a broken lower arm in training in the lead up to the previous game but his condition was otherwise fit to play – it was a risk we decided to take.

Much like the Lens game we were goalless at the half but felt in control. Yet again, it felt like we were just waiting for the right chance to land but it never did. Andy Delort’s 72nd minute goal was given no riposte from Les Aiglons. The Lopes risk brought no reward and in our desperation we brought on Amine Gouiri with 15 minutes remaining to play two up top but to no avail. Three losses on the trot and suddenly we feel like we’re in the midst of a downward spiral.

Talking Points:

  • When we come up against a back three Dolberg is rubbish.  He needs people around him, was bullied too easily. We failed to heed our own earlier advice
  • Rony was just not on it.  Maybe needs to regrow that arm
  • RB offered a lot, but nobody really to cross to…could consider asking him to cross low.  Was a bit wild and wasteful at times

Tactic: There’s no doubt about it – we had to stop the rot. Three consecutive losses doesn’t look good on any manager’s CV, let alone in the embryonic stages of their career on the big stage. Enter the fmadventure 433 v2.0 – we’ve taken note of our own previous observations and adjusted accordingly.

Several role changes across the board to right the wrongs from previous games

Starting XI: Walter Benitez; Youcef Atal, Dante, Stanley Nsoki, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Danilo, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde; Myziane Maolida, Amine Gouiri; Kasper Dolberg

Subs: Hicham Boudaoui, Khephren Thurman & Rony Lopes (for Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, Morgan Schneiderlin & Myziane Maolida, 71 mins), Pierre Lees-Melou (for Danilo, 81 mins)

Rony Lopes would not be risked from the start today as his condition was not quite 100%, Amine Gouiri starting at AML with Maolida moved to AMR. Pierre Lees-Melou was dropped for Reine-Adélaïde to be given another change in the CM(A) role that we believed he was capable of. The team was, otherwise, as expected.

Nice began with the intent we’d be looking for all month and Amine Gouiri had his 4th minute goal chalked off for offside upon VAR review. Undeterred we pressed on, Dante’s tap-in from a deflected free kick was the start of what was to be a roaring resurgence from Les Aiglons. Kasper Dolberg doubled our lead from the penalty spot a few mintes later before doubling his own tally on the half hour mark. Jonathan David pulled a goal back for Lille on 36 minutes but it was Amine Gouiri who hit back just moments later to give OGC Nice a 4-1 lead at the half.

We were all too aware of the possibility of a #MythMike – a highlightless second half – but with our new found confidence we kicked that idea into touch with 14 minutes remaining of the game. Hicham Boudaoui had not previously been on the radar for a spot in the first eleven but with his first touch since entering the field (first touch of the ball this season) he extended our lead. The cherry on top came in the dying moments of normal time when Kasper Dolberg completed his hattrick via a delightfully executed near post finish.

Talking Points:

  • We previously had a DLP-D on the left and, although it did well in the first two games, I thought it disadvantaged us having a playmaker a bit off-centre. DLP-S will drive forward a bit more and support forwards, and after a perusal of Danilo…we deem him better suited over Morgan Schneiderlin
  • The IF-A was once again majestic and the structure of our attacks seemed better with a move supportive midfield (CM-S and DLP-S) linking up
  • Dolberg announced himself as ‘Gol-Berg’

It was a sobering reality check to begin the month of September but sometimes you need a few difficult moments to identify the missing components within your tactical set up. We could have scrapped it all and started fresh with a new outlook on how we play but that result against Lille was proof of the concept of evolution over revolution.

We thank @FromElevenOne for his contribution to the save. I don’t think we can hold too much against him for that result to a PSG stacked with such talent.

The work is far from done as we linger in mid-table. The month of October brings the Europa League Group Stage draw and another three Ligue 1 fixtures.

OGC Nice: July/August 2020

It’s a new save and we’ve ticked off the ‘New Save’ checklist as discussed by TedRedwood and FM Grasshopper in Latte Quarterly Issue Five. The next step is to get stuck into the Tactics screen and decide what sort of football we want to see OGC Nice play this season.

For this first post we have drawn upon the knowledge of fmadventure and FM Grasshopper in the search for tactical enlightenment.

fmadventure:

In my mind, Football Managers can roughly be associated into two categories: tacticians and motivators.

Tacticians have a system or a style of play. Not necessarily a formation that is defined by a numerical string but more of a methodology – it should also be said that the tactician doesn’t have to be someone who plays an ‘attractive’ way of football. Drawing on a few examples from recent footballing history you could consider Jürgen Klopp and his high press, Pep Guardiola and his domination of possession, José Mourinho parking the bus or even Sam Allardyce and his long ball approach.

Motivators don’t necessarily have a tactical blueprint for success but, rather, find their joy in getting the best out of their group of players. Sir Alex Ferguson was famed for his ability to handle his squad, similarly Harry Redknapp’s Spurs was most definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The same can be said, to some extent, for Claudio Ranieri who presents himself as such a likeable character.

Of course, not every manager can be pigeon-holed. Klopp is a great tactician but his effervescent nature serves to boost his players significantly. Ranieri is a great man-manager but his title-winning Leicester side of 2015-16 weren’t just aimlessly riled up and sent to take the field. Think of it as more of the ‘fmadventure managerial venn diagram’ than simply two labelled boxes.

Why is all of this relevant? Well, I feel it necessary to state from the outset that I am not a master tactician. When it comes to setting up a team in FM it’s a lot more trial and error than defined pathway to excellence for me. With that in mind, I took a look at this OGC Nice side with a blank slate in my mind and the intention to build a tactic that fit the squad rather than select the players to fit my tactic.

The ‘Spine’

Like many people, I like to consider the spine of a team. The vital components that run top to bottom who will be the focal point to which I can build around. Those four at Nice for me will be: Goalkeeper Walter Benítez, Defender Dante, Midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and Forward Kasper Dolberg.

Walter Benítez is a solid stopper. He has great Reflexes and Concentration, rates highly in his Strength and shows good handling and Command of his Area. He’s a goalkeeper. A good one.

Dante is the most experienced player in the squad. The Brazillian centre back was part of a very successful Bayern Munich side in that 2012 to 2015 period. He may not be the quickest at the ripe age of 36 but with age comes great wisdom and that is displayed in his well rounded Mental attributes. He’s also still sufficiently proficient technically with a 15 in passing that many a midfield playmaker could appreciate.

Morgan Schneiderlin is the next oldest in the side at 30 years old. He’s not a world class player but well rated in Technical attributes that will make him a useful cog in the midfield roles. Along with this he also rates quite highly in Stamina – an admirable note for someone you want to be able to run the midfield battleground for 90 minutes at a time.

Kasper Dolberg – it’s hard to believe he’s still only 22 years old! The ex-wonderkid may no longer be as highly thought of as he was a few years ago but he’s got a lot about him to get you excited. At 6’2” he can lead the line of attack with his height but also his speed of Acceleration and Pace. His Finishing, Technique, Composure and Off The Ball attributes give a glimpse of a player that work himself into scoring opportunities and have the confidence to convert them.

Formation, Roles, Duties and Instructions

The order of the day here is very much KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. It’s four men in defence, three in midfield, two wide and one up top.

We play with a positive mentality – the idea to push ourselves forward but not too aggressively. I see Nice as being amongst the stronger teams in the league and so we should play positively but not naively and taking unnecessary risks.

The left Full Back will push forward in attack while the right Wing Back will retain a support duty to link with the midfield and his winger ahead of him.

Across the midfield the Deep Lying Playmaker should provide a modicum of stability and cover while also being a focal point of launching attacks from lower down the pitch. The Mezzala on Support will link well with the winger and provide some support going forward. Our Central Midfielder on Attack will be expected to make surging runs toward the box and find himself in profitable situations in the final third.

The Winger on the right will provide a wide outlet and supply crosses from a decent area. The Inside Forward will look to cut in on his stronger foot and fashion out some chances for himself or the on-runners from midfield. The Deep Lying Forward will link with the midfield and be as much creator as scorer.

Team Instructions are self explanatory. The team is capable of building from the back and so will play out of defence. The goalkeeper should distribute the ball by rolling it out to the centre backs who are comfortable on the ball. When we’re on the backfoot I want the team to stay on their feet – going in foolhardy could leave us in a precarious position on the counter attack when our centre backs don’t really have outstanding recovery pace.

FM Grasshopper:

OGC Nice are predicted to finish 7th in Ligue Un, according to the season preview. Whilst this means we are expected to beat the vast majority of teams, there remains six better teams ‘on paper’. Combine that with the fact we are also relatively green when it comes to European Continental Competitions…I think we may need a tactic fit for an underdog. A counter mindset by keeping things sensible.


Next, I consult the Team Report and our Assistant Manager advises that we have a Goalkeeper that is adept at kicking long and throws it well. The early stages of our transition game is forming in my mind, based around an Argentine Sweeper ‘Keeper in Walter Benítez. Further reading suggests we have a team who possess high levels of Pace, and strengths in Acceleration and Dribbling. I therefore want a few roles who get on the ball and dribble more.


The Squad Depth screen shows a lack of real depth at STC, with only Kasper Dolberg as anything above 3 stars in Coach Rating. He possesses great Off The Ball movement with good levels of quickness and Finishing. He’s my Advanced Forward. The real depth in quality lies in the attacking wide spaces…so we’ll go with an AML + AMRs. In roles that help unlock the Advanced Forward (Advanced Playmaker) and get alongside him (Inside Forward).


The central midfield area is one that excites me, it’s industrious and full of great Stamina. The Assistant’s report shows that Danilo and Pierre Lees-Melou already have a good partnership. In the early days of building tactical familiarity their understanding will be key. Danilo looks to be the holder at DM, with good Concentration, Positioning and Tackling but equally he is Brazilian and has the Flair, Passing, Technique and Vision for a Deep Lying Playmaker role. His partner Melou in front of him is the workhorse, able to go box-to-box with great values of Stamina, Teamwork and Work Rate. To Melou’s left we have a more attacking central midfielder, one who loves to get on the ball, run with it and do the unpredictable. I place Jeff Reine-Adelaide as a Central Midfielder on Attack duty. We also have a wealth of youth coming through in central midfield, and I am sure we can channel them into one of the attacking, supportive or defensive player roles.


The wide defenders are naturally Wing Backs, to make use of the natural inversion that we are going to see from those attackers previously mentioned. It’s a strong area at Nice and one where we’d be looking to rotate and give plenty of minutes to the likes of Jordan Lotomba, Youcef Atal, Racine Coly and Hasane Kamara. All of whom are yet to reach their primes years.
At Centre Back, I opt for an older guy (Dante) and younger understudy (Stanley Nsoki) combo…both naturally left footed, I will have to see if that’s an issue with the Latte boys.


Having set up our pre-season schedule to mirror Nice’s as closely to real life as the game would allow, we played our way through 6 friendly fixtures.

In order to get as deep a look at both tactics as possible, we alternated between the two from match to match. After a shaky start, the results and performances began to flow culminating in consecutive wins against fellow Ligue 1 opposition.


Alas we arrive at competitive football with just two Ligue 1 matches to be played in the month of August.

Tactic: given our friendly victory using the same, we opted for familiarity in using the FM Grasshopper set up with a DM.

Starting XI: Yoan Cardinale; Jordan Lotomba, Stanley Nsoki, Dante, Hassane Kamara; Morgan Schneiderlin, Danilo, Pierre Lees-Melou; Rony Lopes, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde; Kasper Dolberg.

Subs: Myziane Maolida (for Reine-Adélaïde, 76 mins), Khephren Thuram (for Danilo, 84 mins), Alexis Claude-Maurice (for Lees-Melou, 88mins)

Walter Benitez was struck down with a bout of food poising in the days prior to the game and would be unfit to play, handing the opportunity to Yoan Cardinale as a result. Róbson Bambu was not at peak condition and so Stanley Nsoki was preferred at centre back.

Romain Hamouma’s strike toward the end of the first half left many questions being asked of the OGC Nice squad, with little chances of note created to that point. A second half switch to the fmadventure flat midfield three opened the game in Les Aiglons favour, the introduction of Maolida on 76 minutes a particular delight as the Inside Forward inspired the side to victory by laying on the winner for Kasper Dolberg.

Talking Points:

  • Cardinale’s distribution in the first half was wasteful and his decision making suspect. The ‘distribute quickly’ instruction would need to be reconsidered.
  • Maolida’s introduction sparked the game to life and he created trouble for the Saint-Éttiene defence with his incisive movement and eventually game winning assist.
  • Nsoki was rock solid, winning all four of his aerial duels. Dante lacks pace but this is counteracted by Nsoki’s physical proficiency and the two make a strong pairing.
  • Set pieces needed some refining. We created little from the 12 corners we won and looked vulnerable on the counter with only two sitting back to defend.
  • Jeff Reine-Adélaïde did not impress in the AML slot but perhaps has the skill set to play centrally and would perform better making those runs from deeper on the pitch.

Tactic: The fmadventure set up is our preferred home tactic regardless, however, the strong showing in the second half previously solidified our choice to use it.

Starting XI: Walter Benitez; Jordon Lotomba, Stanley Nsoki, Dante, Hassane Kamara; Danilo, Pierre Lees-Melou, Morgan Schneiderlin; Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, Myziane Maolida; Kasper Dolberg.

Subs: Rony Lopes (for Danilo, half time), Khephren Thuram (for Morgan Schneiderlin, 73 mins), Amine Gouiri (for Myziane Maolida, 73 mins)

Walter Benitez returned but this time it was Rony Lopes made doubtful by food poisoning, fit for the bench but not enough to start. Maolida was given a start after his impressive appearance from the bench at Saint-Éttiene.

Nice dominated the game from the off, creating chance after chance but failing to find the net throughout the first half. Danilo picked up a foot injury toward the end of the half and so was replaced at the break by Rony Lopes – Lopes went on to the AMR slot and played as an Inside Winger (support) with Reine-Adélaïde being given a chance as the Central Midfielder (attack). Jordan Lotomba was changed to Full Back (attack) to encourage his movement to join the attack.

The change paid off immediately as Reine-Adélaïde found himself free in the box in the first minute of the second half to open the scoring. Rony Lopes created the second as his curling shot from the edge of the box hit the post and crossed the line courtesy of a bounce off the Monaco goalkeeper’s back. The scoring was completed in the 56th minute of play when Rony Lopes’ cross-field ball found Maolida on the left wing and his cross was nodded in by Dolberg for the Dane’s third goal in two games.

Talking Points:

  • The right side of play was disappointing in the first half, however, the tactical changes (W-S to IW-S and WB-S to FB-A) paid dividends in the immediate plays at the start of the second half.
  • Jeff Reine-Adélaïde’s move to CM-A was the right call and he was obviously more effective through the middle, not least of all shown by his goal.
  • We are blessed with two capable Inside Forwards in Myziane Maolida and Amine Gouiri, we should be able to comfortably rotate the two throughout the season.

With just two league fixtures played in the month of August, Nice have claimed maximum points from two potentially difficult fixtures and sit confidently joint top alongside PSG, Marseille, Lyon and three others – only pushed to 3rd place by way of goal difference. An early season victory over AS Monaco in the Côte d’Azur Derby will have done no harm to our standing with the board and fans alike.

Latte Quarterly Issue Five

Football Manager 2021 is here and so is Issue Five of Latte Quarterly.

We recently celebrated our first year of bringing you Football Manager’s only e-magazine and we’re delighted to bring you the latest issue collated by FMSamo, fmadventure, FMGrasshopper and AccordingtoFM.

In this issue, they’re joined by TedRedwood and CharlieTango. If you’d like to contribute to a future issue of LatteQuarterly then send us a message via Twitter DM, message any of us on Slack or send us an email.

You can also view this issue on Yumpu by clicking here (this link is external).

We hope you enjoy reading. Grab yourself a Latte and dive in.