The Versus Series has been really well received by the community, and it’s been great to see challenges being laid down, and grudge matches being played between managers. I’m delighted to welcome John Dwerryhouse to Occasional FM, as he gives us the run down of his Versus Series match against Alexi Duggins. Without further ado…
The First Battle
So, I’ve finally got into the Versus series, a brilliant idea from the great man himself, FM_Samo. A simple idea, you export your Football Manager side, and face off against another FM player. I’ve been waiting a while for both time and a challenger to arrive, and finally my time and challenger have come.
A very very brief intro about me. My name is John Dwerryhouse, I write a regular blog for FM Central called The Boss, where my girlfriend acts as my Director Of Football at Arsenal. Having a DoF that’s not especially knowledgeable about football, and certainly not experienced at Football Manager, this results in hilarity and pandemonium. If you’re interested, head over to FM Central and check it out!
Tale of the Touchline
In the away dugout, Alexi Duggins, writer and freelance journalist extraordinaire. He can give a list of recommended London pubs to visit, and then a shortlist of 10 FM16 wonderkids to sign when you get home. Rose to FM prominence by taking on the poisoned chalice at Aston Villa. Made a guest appearance on The Deep Lying Podcast where he enthused on the happiness that today’s opponent had brought him in The Boss series. You can follow him on Twitter @AlexiDuggins
In the home dugout, resplendent in his comfortable matchday armchair, the Head Coach of the Arsenal side whose tales are told in FM Central’s The Boss series, John Dwerryhouse. I write regularly for FM Central, have my own blog at foronesaveonly.wordpress.com, and as previously mentioned, half of the team behind The Boss. My FM achievements have included winning the Champions League with a complete novice as my Director Of Football, breaking the Bayern dominance in Germany, getting Preston North End into Europe, and getting relegated from the English Premier League with two clubs in two seasons… I can drink enough Coca-Cola to sink a small battleship, and can always be found here.@JDdwerryhouse prowling Twitter for tactical advice.
My Arsenal side tends to keep the ball relatively well, using a short passing game focused on pressing the opposition. Using my excellent wide players, we get the ball into the box a lot and try and keep the other team in their own half. Gotze is surprisingly decent as a Complete Forward with a bit of training, although he does lack the height and heading ability that someone like Giroud offers. This is the tactic I plan on using against Alexi’s Villa side, which I still haven’t seen yet.
As fans of The Boss will know, my Arsenal side is still made up of the main core of Wenger’s squad. Two key signings have been Mario Gotze and Timo Horn, both of whom get the nod for today’s grudge match.
This is the first time I’ve seen Alexi’s side, and my word is it powerful. Some of the best known wonderkids in Football Manager are gracing his Aston Villa side. Jack Butland will prove difficult to break down, especially with Vallejo and Peruzzi in defence. I have managed Villa briefly on this year’s FM, so I know that Amavi can perform very well at left back, while Suliman was a good prospect on my save, unfortunately I was sacked before he developed properly. Grealish and Ayoze Perez are another two players I have experience with, both very good during my time in charge. This will not be an easy game.
We both go 4-2-3-1, although I use my traditional asymmetric variant up front, with Ozil playing just behind Mario Gotze. Aaron Ramsey is a roaming playmaker with Santi dictating from deep.
Within 5 minutes, I’m already up and out of my seat. Aston Villa have the first chance, Ayoze Perez heading narrowly wide. We go up the other end and Mario Gotze does the same a minute later. He’s not exactly dominant in the air, so I’ll let him off this one.
8 minutes in and Mesut Ozil gives away a penalty. I’ve been bigging him up all through the pre match pleasantries, extolling his virtues as a superb attacking midfielder, and this is how he repays me. To the delight of the Aston VIlla fans, Horn goes completely the wrong way and Lucas Ocampos scores. Ozil tries to redeem himself by taking a snapshot from the edge of the box a minute later, but it slides just past the post.
We’ve already conceded 5 fouls inside the first 10 minutes. I pause for a tactical break, removing the Get Stuck In instruction, then running to the fridge for a second beer. The first one has already been downed nervously after Ocampos’ penalty. In the next 5 minutes, we dominate possession, the figures going up to 55% possession in 15 mins. A long but superb passage of play results in Ozil tapping in after Oxlade-Chamberlain squares across a deserted 6 yard box. Alexi immediately pauses, either to make tactical changes, or just scream at Gino Peruzzi for losing the Ox so easily.
Our possession stats continue to improve, going up to 62%. Chances dry up a bit for both sides, which means I can afford to sit down. Relaxing is out of the question at 1-1 though.
Hector Bellerin makes an effort to get the game going again when he receives the ball short from TImo Horn and then starts running. His Flash-like pace takes him the length of the pitch past 5 Aston Villa players before his shot is saved by Butland for a corner. Ozil’s corner is met by a Sanchez volley, which almost knocks Jesus Vallejo out on the line. Vallejo eventually wakes up and the game continues.
Just before halftime Peruzzi comes off for Calum Chambers. Peruzzi is already on a yellow, and has had no idea where Oxlade-Chamberlain has been for the first 45 minutes, coming off with a 6.0 rating. This means that Calum Chambers is on the pitch for both sides….the ultimate paradox!! Which Chambers will win?
At halftime I make some tactical decisions of my own. I send on another Boss signing, Yohan Cabaye, in the Roaming Playmaker role, and switch Aaron Ramsey to the Deep Lying Playmaker slot. Having a sneaky look at his side’s ratings and spotting Jesus Vallejo on a 6.4, I set Gotze to close him down, hoping that he can take advantage of any mistakes..
Straight after halftime there is a series of counter attacks. After a Villa set piece we counter through Sanchez, which leads to a corner after Oxlade-Chamberlain is too slow to shoot. Villa counter and get a corner themselves. We re-counter and Oxlade-Chamberlain runs straight out of play. Stupid boy.
In the 51st minute, finally a corner pays dividends, but not for me. Jesus Vallejo knocks in a crossbar rebound from his initial shot from a Villa corner. Luckily straight away, Sanchez equalises from close range after a loose ball bobbles around the box. I barely had time to get depressed. Olivier Giroud comes on up front to replace the tiring Gotze. This gives us a bit more of an aerial threat up top. I instruct the players to focus down the wings and get some crosses in. At 2-2, the nerves are starting to kick in. What will The Boss say when I tell her we couldn’t win?
It seems to be working well, only a superb double save from Butland denies Sanchez. Sanchez is really getting down the right wing now, Amavi just can’t cope with him. Whether Alexi has told Amavi to get up the pitch or not, Amavi seems to have that idea.
That man Sanchez is inevitably involved in the next chance. He headers a Oxlade-Chamberlain cross onto Giroud who headers onto the bar. I jump up in outrage that he could miss an easy chance like this, but WAIT!!! The ball drops down onto the diving Butland and bounces slowly but inevitably in. That is one of those goals that results in broken laptop screens in bedrooms across the world. 3-2. While I dance around the room celebrating, yet another lengthy tactical time out from Duggins. After what seems like a lifetime, he sends on Romelu Lukaku.
With Coentrao booked I use my final substitution, he goes off for Gibbs with 12 minutes left. It would be just my luck to lose a man at this vital stage.
To further cement my winning position, I take the most shameful tactical decisions possible. I tell my team to Waste Time, Play Even Safer, and for the last 10 minutes, we play with a Contain mentality. Hopefully this will be enough to keep out Romelu Lukaku, who has a knack of scoring goals on FM16…
My heart rate returns to normal after 93 minutes, when the referee calls time on an absolutely thrilling match! A 3-2 win snatched from the jaws of Alexi Duggins is a rightful result in my eyes. Let’s take a quick look at the stats.
Alexis Sanchez takes the Player of the Match award with a 9.0 rating, although special mention must go to my PoM, Hector Bellerin. He’s never ever let me down, and his fine form kept Grealish reasonably quiet. My wide players all had good games, the Ox getting an assist.
On the other side, Alexi’s anger at Gino Peruzzi was well founded. He had a disastrous first half, giving the ball away then allowing Oxlade-Chamberlain through to set up our first equaliser. If he’d stayed on the field, maybe I’d have won by more goals.
Looking at these stats, we did very well. More shots on target, more chances all round, and my main concerns, possession and pass completion, are both very good. Both sides had several corners to take advantage of, yet only 1 of the 5 goals came from a corner. Something for us both to work on, methinks.
All in all, an incredibly enjoyable experience. Alexi was a very sporting opponent, the in game chat was rocking with good discussion and was a laugh a minute! Thanks to Alexi for the challenge and to Chris, aka FM_Samo, for coming up with the Versus Series, and for letting me besmirch his superb site with my inferior writings….
You can find The Boss here, and if you’re interested in reading more of my writing, I have a humble little Football Manager blog here. I’d love to do more of these challenges so if you think that you can take on The Boss, bring it on!!!