When you’re finding it tough to find motivation to write and to play you need to take a step away from what you’re doing and go back to your roots. For me, Liverpool Football Club are my roots (from a Footballing point of view anyway). The first management simulation game I ever played was Championship Manager 4 and that was coincidentally the last time I enjoyed a successful save with my beloved club. With that being said that I see Football Manager 2017 as the platform to relive those childhood memories that got me interested in the management side of the game we all know and love to begin with.
Throughout my adventures on Football Manager 2017 so far the performance of Liverpool often varies with the club either flying high near the top or lying in the bottom end of the table, and in a way that summarises the inconsistency we’ve suffered as a club throughout the past decade or two, although not on such a contrasting scale. Similarly, I myself have been inconsistent in what I do having gone from such a successful Benfica adventure on Football Manager 2016 to being 5 months in with nothing to show for it on this year’s title, and that is why I have decided to bring myself back to Liverpool, to start fresh.
I’m not going to go too in-depth on this front as I’m aware the majority of you will be aware of who Liverpool are and how they operate. In joining Liverpool I’ve joined arguably one of the biggest clubs in the World with the club amassing over 600m fans worldwide (that’s almost 10x the population of the UK!). This job and blog is going to be all about big expectations, big dreams and high amounts of pressure, but what more could we expect from such a wonderful club?
From a financial standpoint the club are in an extremely good position, around £40m has been set for the opening season with projections escalating over the next few seasons. The club certainly has the backing we need in order to grow, we just need to produce the results and consistency on the pitch.
Seeing the Barclays Premier League title in the honours list still makes me grimace, the one trophy we’ve failed to get our hands on for the past 26 years with the last title coming way back in 1990 under Kenny Dalglish. In terms of the cabinet itself, there are plenty of trophies on show but I’m sure we can add a few more.
The UEFA Champions League is also a trophy I’d like to get my hands on, my last Champions League win came last year with Benfica in a stint which took around 5 seasons, it’s a time-frame I’ll be looking to beat here with Liverpool although the challenge will certainly not be an easy one.
My first task upon arriving at Melwood would be to make necessary changes to the backroom staff. While Liverpool already boast a strong coaching set-up, I wanted to add more quality where possible in both the first-team and youth squads. A few scouts were also hired to begin building the foundations for what I hope will be an extensive scouting network in years to come.
With the backroom side of the club reinforced I next turned my attention to the players I have inherited in an attempt to identify where our strengths and weaknesses were. Overall, we have a very good squad but there were a few players who I felt could benefit from some playing time and so I decided to set-up some loan deals.
Most notably, Sheyi Ojo and Marko Grujic have been sent to the Championship in a bid to develop their attributes while some of the younger players have been distributed throughout the tiers of English Football. Only one sale was made during the opening transfer window and that was the sale of 3rd/4th choice keeper Adam Bogdan who has made the move to French side Olympique Lyonnais, surplus to requirements.
Daniel Sturridge was originally a player I deemed unfit for my tactical system and so he was offered out. French Champions PSG came in with a £30m bid which we accepted, although personal terms could not be agreed.
Now, anybody who has watched Liverpool over the years knows that we’ve struggled to find a good left-back since the days of John-Arne Riise way back when. With that in mind I decided to sign Marvin Plattenhardt from German side Hertha Berlin for a deal worth up to £9m.
With Nathaniel Clyne dominating the right-side with his work-rate, pace and technical ability I decided to turn my attentions to a more defensive minded left-back and as you can see by his stats, Marvin fits that bill while still possessing attributes worthy of attacking where possible. His low work rate and good tackling made him suitable to play as a more defensive minded player while his dead ball ability means he can operate as our most prominent set-piece taker, something Liverpool heavily lack at the start of the game.
Next up I decided to bring in a defensive midfielder, originally a position I didn’t feel we needed until my scouts turned my attention to a certain Serbian player.
Nemanja Radoja joins us from Spanish side Celta Vigo for a fee of £8.5m after we triggered his contractual release clause. Much like his namesake, Nemanja is a hard-working, high-quality defensive midfielder who can provide a stable shield for our defenders when our full-backs move into the more advanced areas. Lucas Leiva operates in this role in reality, but in game I need to look for a replacement for the ageing Brazilian.
Now I know many Liverpool fans feel that a central defender is very much needed if we are to succeed in our quest for glory, but I’m happy with the players I currently have and wanted to see how we could get on with as few additions as possible, but it’s still in my mind for the January window.
Overall, a quiet but productive transfer window for us.
Pre-Season went as expected for us as we picked up 9 straight victories on our tours of Europe and China before taking on A.C. Milan back at Anfield. These games were used in an attempt to bolster our tactical familiarity and gave me a good period of time in which I could find a way of fitting all of our talent into a single tactic. Raring to go ahead of the season, for which we are predicted to finish 5th.
I mentioned above that I used pre-season to mess about with tactics, and having spent hours and hours staring at the screens of Football Manager I was able to come up with these two formations.
Liverpool are a team who possess a lot of attacking prowess with the likes of Firmino, Coutinho, Lallana, Sturridge, Origi and more, and this means it can be difficult to keep everybody happy while remaining strong at the back.
The formation on the left (we’ll call it a makeshift 4-2-3-1) is a formation I intend to use and develop more as the years go by. The DLF and SS link-up play is phenomenal and at times has brought nothing but joy going forwards while the defensive minded left-back and midfielders allow us to quickly win back possession when lost. This tactic will be employed more in games where I expect us to dominate, games we should be bagging 2 or 3 goals in.
The 4-3-3 on the right side is more of a counter-attacking tactic that allows us to press higher up the pitch with our 3 forwards. This tactic will be utilised more against teams who like to build from the back such as the top teams, with a defensive midfielder offering added protection to our back-line.
I’m not going to go into any more detail on these tactics in this post, but if you would like to know more about the tactics or would even like me to make a post about them, I’m only a message away!
The media predicted a 5th placed finish for us heading into this season and with our signings and team looking good, I had firm ambitions of reaching the top 4, especially with the lack of fixture congestion we face throughout this first season.
Fast-forward 20 match weeks and you’ll see we currently find ourselves occupying second spot, 5 points behind leaders Arsenal. The opening 20 games have been phenomenal in which we’ve picked up 14 victories, 3 draws and only 3 losses which came against Swansea, Southampton and Arsenal (all away).
We currently sit 10 points above our predicted finish of 5th and with just under half of the season to play it’s safe to say the happiness and belief is there to see.
From the above screenshot you can see the competitive results so far, in which we also were eliminated from the EFL Cup at the hands of league leaders Arsenal in the Quarter-Finals, a 4-0 thumping at the Emirates. Generally things have gone very well and I’m very happy with how we’re performing, especially in the amount of goals we score and the amount of clean-sheets as of late.
I want to draw your attention to the 7-1 thumping of the Champions at the King Power Stadium.
Now, this match was possibly one of the best I’ve ever witness on Football Manager. Leicester deployed their very familiar 4-4-2 with two deep midfielders which ultimately played right into our hands. But for a late goal for Leicester we were inch perfect, dominating possession and scoring with the majority of our chances on target.
These two images from the analysis screen show the amount of dominance we showed in the central areas and while not many of our key passes made it into the box, we proved to be clinical as ever when they did. This pressure in the final third is what I expect to see from my attack-minded formation and it’s great to see things paying off.
This final screenshot shows Divock Origi’s first of two goals in which the build up play from the back was outstanding. One-touch, quick tempo play with a clinical finish from 16 yards, pure art.
All of our players so far have played at least 2-3 full matches worth of time while the goal, assists and key-performances have been spread out throughout the team. Roberto Firmino currently leads the scoring with 10 goals while Sadio Mane has set-up the most goals, 6 so far. Marvin Plattenhardt, our new signing from Hertha Berlin currently boasts the highest average match rating with a 7.45 average rating (And 3 goals from free-kicks!), he has been brilliant.
I’m delighted with the fluidity of our players and look forward to the second half of the season in which I hope we can push on and secure a top 4 finish and hopefully see out a good run in the FA Cup.
Until next time…
Thank you for reading the first of what I hope to be many save updates here with Liverpool Football Club. For any questions, feedback or requests please message me over on Twitter.