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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.