Eskozia La Brava | A Squad Game

At the halfway stage of my first season in charge of Eibar on FM20 we were riding high in the Champions League qualification spots in LaLiga. This surely wouldn’t last but based on our performances, we certainly deserve to be there. A reminder that the board are looking for a mid-table finish which I certainly think we’re on course to deliver.

Could we sneak into Europe for the first time?


2019/20 January to May

I knew January would be a tough month, with matches against Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia, but I didn’t expect to be put out of the Copa del Rey 2nd round by Barakaldo. The Segunda B side scored very early and defended brilliantly. Only four of our 19 shots were on target in an embarrassing performance that the board weren’t happy with at all.

To get those wins against Betis, Granada and Sevilla during that poor run in January and February would be absolutely vital come the end of the season.

March went excellently as the club picked up an award double. Loanee, Ruben Pardo, won Player of the Month for his four goals in four matches while I won Manager of the Month for our four straight wins, including another brilliant home win against a club from Madrid, this time Atletico.

After going unbeaten against them in the first half of the season, our Basque neighbours handed us defeats in the second half of the season in Bilbao and San Sebastian. We did the league double over Alaves though and were unbeaten against Osasuna.

A few more red circles in the second half of the season compared to the first, would it cost us dearly?

Little Eibar have qualified for Europe for the first time in their history with their highest ever finish in the Spanish league system. What an achievement in my first season at the club. We’ll head straight to the Europa League group stage next season. Who needs to draw matches when you can just win or lose them…

A Squad Game

The first season on any version of Football Manager can sometimes be a tricky one. You decide to join a club that you know very little about, you’ve hardly heard of any of the players, you’re not sure how it’s going to go at all. It’s sometimes a skill in itself to get through it.

Mainly due to the lack of available budget, I decided early on that I wasn’t going to make huge changes to the squad in that first window when I joined. I signed a couple of young Norwegians as additional squad players alongside the hugely important loan signing of Ruben Pardo. There are far more talented squads in LaLiga, but I felt the one I inherited could achieve our mid-table expectations. It obviously went on to do much more.

Luck was on our side, injuries didn’t hamper us too much across the season while we obviously had minimal midweek matches with us not competing in Europe. However, like the title suggests, I think our success was down to the work I put in with the squad to get them operating like a team.

Friendlies

First up, 10 preseason friendlies were organised against a variety of clubs. We beat Galatasaray and Anderlecht, we lost to Leicester and West Brom and comfortably sailed past some local Spanish minnows. Starting the save at an earlier point in the summer than recommended for the nation didn’t give me an advantage here because the players weren’t back from their summer break yet, but playing 10 friendlies did get us in great shape, for fitness, gelling as a team and tactically, come the start of the season.

Training

I’m planning to write about training again at some point, I’ve tweaked my approach slightly from FM19. One change I haven’t made is I’m still a big advocate of the specific Match Preparation modules of Teamwork and Match Tactics, plus both Extra-Curricular ones.

By scheduling those two Match Prep modules before every match, especially so in preseason and the early stages of the season, it works to improve our familiarity with the tactic and increases team cohesion. The Teamwork module also gives players a slight boost in how they press for the next match, vital for our La Furia high tempo pressing style, alongside a slight boost for teamwork as well.

You might think the Extra-Curricular modules of Community Outreach and Team Bonding are great ones for you to schedule in to play a bit of FM narrative role playing in your head, especially at this festive time of the year, but I actually see them as really important to schedule in at various points throughout the season. Both increase your team cohesion and work on the teamwork attribute, similarly to the Teamwork and Match Tactic modules, but Team Bonding also boosts your teamwork for an upcoming match alongside improving the happiness of your squad.

Basically it’s all about the teamwork, because that leads to these developing.

On-Pitch Relationships

I love these lines. I love them so much I want more of them. Why can’t Jose Angel work well with Sergio Álvarez, why haven’t my main goalscoring threats of Ruben Pardo and Sergi Enrich got an on-pitch relationship?

Anyway, the work done on the training pitch alongside settling on a regular starting eleven, and throwing good form into the mix too, sees these on-pitch relationships form. I’ve written about them before and I even got to announce an FM20 feature related to them which was awesome.

Talking of a regular starting eleven. Everything I’ve said so far could be absolute rubbish and our great season could’ve just been down to this. Below is my squad split up into the first choice starting eleven and the bench players that got the most minutes.

Marko Dmitrovic played every minute of every match this season and you can see the back three have formed a good partnership and enjoy playing alongside each other. That contributed to our 19 clean sheets across our 38 league matches.

Sergi Enrich hit 17 league goals to finish third top scorer in the league, and he worked well in tandem with Kike, our main Pressing Forward. Takashi Inui on the bench was also often utilised in that role alongside Enrich, doing the dirty work to occupy defenders for Enrich to finish chances.

The star of the midfield was Ruben Pardo. He finished with the highest average rating, 7.41, and most Man of the Match awards, 7, on his way to scoring 11 goals from that Mez(A) role. I think Real Sociedad realised the mistake they made when letting us loan him for the season for absolutely nothing when they tied him down on a new deal during the season. Edu Expósito owned the DLP role with Sergio Álvarez and Gonzalo Escanlante sharing the Box-to-Box slot.

None of this is rocket science. You might have other methods you like to do or you might just stick eleven players on the pitch and hope for the best. I personally love delving into these little details that I feel like can have an impact on how well my players play, and how in tune they get with each other.

¡Aupa Eibar!


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