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.

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