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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.