So, here we are. My first save – and first proper post – on the shiny new blog.
I decided I should stick with what I know, so I settled on managing the youthful AFC Ajax in the Eredivisie. My reasoning was simple: They’re a club I have enjoyed managing on this year’s version of the game so I know them quite well, they’re a club that puts heavy emphasis on youth development – which I enjoy, they’re a decent sized club in an okay league – not OP but not a headache of a struggle either, and they have a wealth of young prospects and talented players in general. All in all, I think they’re a good pick for my first publicised save on the new blog.
Not going to lie, I’m a little nervous about it all.
First things first, here’s the squad at the start of the game:
As you can see, we’ve got some pretty good looking prospects here. If past saves are anything to go by, then Kasper Dolberg could well turn into a key man for me up top, with Joël Veltman and Jairo Riedewald at the back. I’m also expecting big things from Donny van de Beek and Abdelhak Nouri.
Also Frenkie de Jong because I like his name.
Key players: Joël Veltman, Jairo Riedewald, Lasse Schöne, Hakim Ziyech, Kasper Dolberg.
Hot prospects: Andre Onana, Kenny Tete, Donny van de Beek, Daley Sinkgraven, Frenkie de Jong, Abdelhak Nouri.
As far as tactical set ups go, I’m going to be using the very fluid 4-1-4-1 created by the wonderful Ö-zil to the Arsenal! from the Sports Interactive Community forum. I’ve always liked smooth, free flowing football and over the years I’ve developed a deep appreciation and affection for the great Ajax and Barcelona teams featuring Johan Cruyff, so it makes sense to match the two. Originally I was going to try to build my own system, then I ran into the slight (major) issue that I couldn’t actually do better than he did, and what he came up with was exactly what I wanted my system to do.
So I shot him a message, asked if I could use his system and he very graciously said that yes, I could. Another thank you for you, sir.
I’ll be using the version he developed for the second season of his save and, for those of you that aren’t familiar with his work (shame on you; ring the shame bell) and have yet to click the link provided (which you should absolutely do, and then give him all the props ever), here’s what it looks like:
For more (read: actual) in depth analysis, read his post about it. You really should.
After looking at the system I want to be playing, and looking at the players at my disposal, I’ve moved some players around between the various squads available to me.
Vaclav Cerny, despite his potential, has been placed on the transfer list. He simply doesn’t have what I’m looking to use in this system, and would be low down in the pecking order behind a couple of players who would be better than him where I’d use him. So on the list he goes for the payday.
David Neres has been moved down to Jong Ajax for positional training. Simply wasn’t going to get regular game time in either of the positions I might use him in (striker, left midfield) in the first team, and I want him to get the game time to get used to playing where I want him to – without threatening my hopes for success.
Bertrand Traoré has had his loan cancelled simply because I was never going to use him, preferring instead to use talent under contract at the club.
Carel Eiting and Che Nunnelly from Jong Ajax, and Matthijs de Ligt from the Under 19s, have been promoted into the first team to provide cover and further their development.
In terms of transfers in and generally strengthening the squad, I have my sights set on this guy as my first choice left fullback:
I have nothing against Nick Viergever, I just don’t have anything particularly for him either. I feel he’s better suited to playing backup. The same goes for Damil Dankerlui, especially as he is better suited to an inverted wingback role, rather than the pure fullback role the system calls for.
My current first choice line up looks a little bit like this at the start of the transfer window:
I chose Veltman on the right over Tete simply because he can play both fullback and centre back equally well, and I felt that this would give me a good foil for the marauding fullback overlapping with Ziyech on the left, and Younes as a winger with an attack duty in front of him. To paraphrase the well known cliché: defensive stability and security is the new black.
Van de Beek plays the holding role in central midfield over Thulani Serero by virtue of the fact that, simply put, he’s the younger option. They’re both roughly the same in terms of ability but my boy Donny has more room to grow. He can also play the pure DM role that Schöne can’t, really, which I’ll be using when we face top heavy teams. In which case, Schöne will move to a CM role with a support duty and Van de Beek will drop back to DM, thus giving me flexibility built into my starting eleven. Serero and Eiting will be rotation options for those two roles, Nouri and de Jong for the CM with an attack duty.
Sinkgraven is the rotation option for basically everywhere.
So there we have it. Welcome to my first publicised save. In the next post, we’ll dive into the friendlies, the possible (almost definite) transfer drama and the first qualifying stage for the Champions League.