I’ve never promised regular updates on this site, but the second half of season 3 seemed to take longer than usual to play out, so apologies for that. The curtain has now closed on my 3rd season at RBLeipzig though, so it’s time to look back and see what we managed to achieve. I wanted to challenge for the Bundesliga this season, and at the half way point of the season, we were 3 points behind 1st placed Bayern after having only lost 1 game. Things were going well and we were in position to maintain that challenge. Did we though?
Similarly to my 1st season at the club, season 3’s January transfer window was hugely uneventful. I managed to keep my squad together which is something I’m really keen to do for as long as I can, while sending a couple of fringe players out on loan.
Taher Mohammed had arrived in the summer on a free transfer but the 21 year old Egyptian had struggled to really make a breakthrough in the 1st team. He packed his bags to join our underachieving cousins in Salzburg for the rest of the season. The other outgoing was also on loan, this time to struggling Augsburg, who were staring relegation right in the face. It’s been a battle to get Dorin Rotariu to perform for me since he joined at the start of season 2, he just hasn’t managed to settle into the system we’ve been playing. Could he be the catalyst Augsburg needed to find some form? (Spoiler, he wasn’t and I recalled him later on in the season for back up)
There was only one arrival in January. I’ve got Ralf Rangnick, our director of football, set to use his knowledge to find me young, talented players for the future. However, he only seems to spring into action to do this as soon as transfer deadline day hits. Anyway, he managed to find 17 year old Nicholas Ziegler, who joined for what I thought was a relative knockdown fee of £325k.
Results Pt. 1
I’m doing this a little bit differently this time, so do bear with me.
We returned after the winter break refreshed after a warm weather training camp in Turkey, ready to try and exact revenge on Dortmund for that crushing 6-2 defeat on matchday 1. We did manage to put up more of a fight this time, but couldn’t break through a dogged Dortmund defence, Sokratis Papastathopoulos getting the man of the match award for the away side. That was followed up with another defeat, away at Wolfsburg. Those results saw us drop to 5th in the table.
The green dots returned though, as we sneaked a 1-0 over Hertha, comprehensively beat Hamburg at the Volksparkstadion, and a Dadachov double downed newly promoted Stuttgart at home. Valentine’s Day wasn’t to be a romantic one for Davie Selke, as one of our star men from the 1st half of the season would tear his hamstring and pretty much be out for the remainder of it.
Our first foray into the knockout stage of the Champions League ended in a respectable 1-1 draw against Manchester City in an entertaining game, with both sides sharing 38 shots in total. A drab 0-0 away at Gladbach, on which I’m blaming European hangover, ends this first part of the results. We were back up to 3rd, but had lost ground on Bayern and Dortmund, as they both had only dropped 2 points so far since returning from the break.
Results Pt. 2
Now, I don’t know what it was about that Gladbach match, but I felt a change was needed. The trusty 4-2-2-1-1 had served me well and we were still able to grind out results. I wanted more control over games though, our reputation is ever-increasing, we need to start showing it on the pitch by dominating. Let me introduce you to this (needs a name, any suggestions?).
It’s purely based around the fact that I’m loving the combination play between my targetman and shadow striker, so why not introduce a second shadow striker into the mix. I’ll write about it eventually, but for now, let’s have a look and see how it did.
It looks as though they took to it like a duck to water. However, those initial results are slight vanity metrics. I mean, yes we did eventually dominate Mainz (32 shots and 58% possession) but if it wasn’t for a missed penalty, we would have been 2-0 down after 18 minutes. Burke had put us 1-0 up over Werder, but they missed a penalty to immediately equalise, before Dadachov scored our 2nd to seal the win. City just took the tactic apart in a thrashing at the Etihad, attacking the initial lack of thought behind v1 of my new tactic. What you see above is v1.1, with the defensive CM on the left covering the WBL’s forward runs, and both full backs encouraged to not be as direct in their passing as we just kept giving the ball away.
The changes were immediately seen, as Karlsruher were swept aside by a Dadachov quadruple. Schalke were dispatched in consecutive 3-1 wins, first in the league, and then in the DFB-Pokal, taking us into the semi final for the 1st time.
Dortmund and Bayern played out a 1-1 draw on matchday 27, which Dortmund followed up with a 1-0 loss against Mainz, who were punching above their weight in European qualification spots. Our form had lifted us into 2nd, with this 2nd part of the results ending with a solid 2-0 win over 4th placed Leverkusen.
Results Pt. 3
Koln pushed us to the limit in the DFB-Pokal semi final. 3-0 down until the 56th minute, Mihajlovic pulled one back and a triple substitution in the 69th minute turned the tide in our favour.
To come back from 3-0 down in a cup semi final is outrageous, and I was absolutely delighted to do it. Especially so as FM awarded me one of their much sought after (!) achievements, the comeback king. The 2 wins that followed took us to matchday 33, and the league table looked like this.
Who were our opponents? Bayern, of course! The new tactic was in place, it’d come unstuck against City, but had done well in big(ish) matches against Schalke and Leverkusen, we’d won 13 of the last 14, so I went with it.
We dominated Bayern for the 1st time in my 3 seasons at the club. 4 shots on target from 21 shots wasn’t great though, did it translate into a win? Nope. 1-1 was the final score, with our equaliser not coming until the 80th minute. Was there to be drama and heartbreak though? You bet there was. From a Bayern corner in the 92nd minute, reigning European Golden Boy, Oli Burke, one of the reasons I’d started this save, found himself through on goal in our own half. 1 on 1 with the imposing Manual Neuer, could he finish it and potentially seal RBLeipzig’s first ever Bundesliga title?
Sitter. Was there tears? Maybe…
The draw meant that the title would have to be decided on the last day of the season. Dortmund had picked up 3 points during our draw with Bayern and jumped ahead of us into 2nd.
Bayern win, Dortmund win, Mainz score an 89th min equaliser. Title is Bayern’s, Dortmund 2nd, RBL 3rd #FM17
— FM Slackmo (@FM_Samo) January 29, 2017
Dortmund won but Bayern scored in the 87th minute of the last game of the season to win the title. In the end, it wasn’t to be, we challenged for the Bundesliga but had to make do with a 2nd consecutive 3rd place finish. Here’s how the table looked at the end of the season.
But wait, we still had the DFB-Pokal final to play!
Delighted to secure my 1st bit of silverware at RBLeipzig! We were ruthless against a really strong Dortmund side who’d obviously just pipped us to 2nd place in the league. I feel like this was us playing with confidence and letting out our frustrations of the last couple of league games.
Notable mentions for my forward line. Poulsen hit 13 goals, his highest tally yet. Werner was fans player of the season again despite not hitting the heights of his 28 goal haul from last season. His rhythm suffered from my strict fitness/rotation policy, and he only managed 12 goals in the end. Dadachov benefited from Selke’s hamstring tear to go on and finish as our top scorer for the season, hitting 16 goals in all competitions. Not a bad return at all from the now 20 year old, labelled the next Oliver Bierhoff.
Sabitzer was a man reborn with the tactic shift, ending the season with 6 goals and 9 assists. While Mihalcea and Burke both got 8 goals and 6 assists. Again, we had the 3rd best defensive record in the league, and Vanja (in goals), Klostermann (RB) and Halstenberg (LB) played 9,141 minutes of football between them.
I’ve been informed that the purchase of the Red Bull Arena has finally gone through, to also be met by the news on the same day that the board are looking into building a new stadium. Nothing more has been revealed on that yet though.
The youth and training facilities are now top and excellent, so I’ll be looking to keep on improving them to see what talent we can bring through and how well we can develop the current crop of players.
Again, we’ve made strides in increasing our reputation. Thanks to the Champions League results, we’re up from 49th to 34th in Europe. In the German club reputation rankings, we’ve gone from 16th to 11th. Not long to go before we break into the top 10!
If you haven’t been reading @From_the_wing‘s Taste the Feeling save over on The Higher Tempo Press, I’d urge you to do so. Inspired by him building an empire of Coca Cola clubs, I really want to take charge of RBSalzburg so I can utilise them as my feeder club more in terms of sending players there and having complete control over their game time and development. I can’t actually believe Stefano Colantuono hasn’t been sacked yet as they’ve been performing woefully so far, with 5th, 3rd and 4th place finishes in the Austrian Bundesliga. It’s my intention to take them over as well as RBL ahead of season 4.
If you’re a member of #FMSlack, then you’ll have already known all of this (I mean, I did Tweet about it too, but it was a Sunday afternoon, there was football on, nobody cared)! There’s some brilliant conversations and interactions going on in, so if you want to join #FMSlack, the best thing to do would be to either DM me (slide on in) on Twitter, or send me at email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you over a quick invite link.