Welcome back to Barcelona! As promised in the introduction post, I’ll be covering the first half of the season today – there’s a lot to get through…
After giving a brief report on how things stood last time out, I’ll first get stuck in to a very busy summer of transfers, followed up with a quick reminder of my first attempt at a tactical set-up.
I’m going to touch upon some training talk, with a focus on player traits, before cracking on with the season proper.
I’ll finish off with a quick mention of some goings on behind the scenes, and the imminent return of an old favourite…
I’ll deal with our outgoings first, and there were a few:
I mentioned that there were three players transfer listed when I arrived, and although I elected to keep Almamy Touré, the other two (Eric Dier and Frenkie de Jong) have been allowed to depart. As a 32 year old back-up CB, also taking up a valuable non-EU spot, it was an absolute no brainer to let Dier go. In the case of de Jong, it was simply that he was well down the pecking order, and the offer was great.
Of the other departures, I was a little disappointed to lose Guille Morillo. He did a good job for me on loan at Milan, and I would’ve liked to keep him, but Fiorentina had an option to purchase him during his loan spell, and they exercised that option. £6.5m is a steal. Martín Núnez is promising, and I anticipate he will return to play for us next season.
A few outs from the B team too:
Both Ánder and David have had buy back clauses put in to their deals in case they come good. I didn’t particularly want to sell Dave, but he kicked up a fuss about being a back-up, and I can do without the strife.
So, the fun part – transfers in:
As you can see, loads of them (including six that will go straight into the B team). We’ve outspent everyone this summer, although despite us and Madrid being the top two spenders, the Premier League still doubled the outlay of La Liga:
I will try and temper my desire to show you images for all of them, and instead pick out one defender, one midfielder, one striker and one youngster to focus on. If you want to see Willem Geubbels, see last week’s post.
I’ve reinforced the defence with three major signings, and although I’m excited by Nick de Rooij (D/WBL) and former Milan target Hugo Alves (DC), it’s another player I’ve had my eye on for a few years that I’ve picked out:
I was after Adrien Breton as far back as my late Frankfurt days, going so far as to personally scout him a few times, but his price tag was always too high. It dropped a fair bit, and with Barcelona’s considerable resources, I pounced. There’s a small concern about his bravery, but otherwise he ticks all the boxes, and I’ll likely use him as an anchorman occasionally when seeing out tight matches.
The midfield probably needed the least bolstering, especially considering my penchant for playing strikers on the wing. Alin Mihali is a promising central midfielder who will see game time, but my focus will be on Sébastien Bonnet, who comes in to provide depth on the right:
I almost signed Milan favourite Emanuel Vignato, but was put off by his and his agent’s outrageous demands. Bonnet is younger and about a fifth of the price. I hope he settles in quick, as first choice superstar Chardonie Banza is agitating for a move to the Premier League.
Despite his ludicrously low transfer fee, Abdelkader Loucif is my favourite signing up front:
I’m really excited to see what he can do. If the scouts had found him a little sooner, I may not have spunked £37.5m up the wall for fellow wonderkid Jonathan Ros (who has further irritated me by demanding first team football after the signing of Geubbels, just days after joining the club!). Loucif has got a lot going for him, although “Shoots From Distance” is gross.
Of the youngsters, I really like Enrique Peláez:
There’s some work to do with him, but defensively minded midfielders are something the squad lacks, and hopefully this signing will improve that area for years to come.
The £12.25m minimum fee almost put me off, but how could I not sign him after seeing this:
After giving the lowdown on the tactics last week, here’s just a snapshot of the first team line-up:
My two main concerns are; 1) focusing too much on the board’s desire for possession football, and 2) using two playmakers in the same team. I shall keep an eye on both potential problems.
I usually spend pre-season and the first few weeks of the season focusing on tactics and fitness in training. What I want to focus on however is player traits. As such, the below is a screenshot taken from September:
There are a couple of examples of attempting to remove undesirable traits, but mostly I’m trying to instill traits that I believe will improve the way we play. I could be barking up the wrong tree, but to me, player traits are preferable to player instructions. My logic is that if the player knows how to do it, he should be more successful than if I’m just asking him to do it. Hit me up with a comment somewhere if that’s nonsense (I do very little research).
You may be able to tell from the training that I’ve got my eye on a different style of play from that which we’re starting with. I’m a big fan of player traits, and usually try to add one to most players each season, until they’re either too old, or too well stocked with traits to learn any more.
I do take into account individual players’ attributes when deciding which to add, but usually I’ve got an idea of what I want based on position. For example, I like my wide defenders to get forward, and so I’ll be training that into them. Perfectly logical. At the same time, I try to keep my central defenders to stay back, mark tightly and unless they’re very talented with the ball, play simply.
This is something I’ll also utilise with my most defensive midfield option, encouraging them to pass the ball to the more creative players and try to restrict the amount they shoot for good measure. The playmakers will be encouraged to play through balls, dictate the tempo and take risks, safe in the knowledge they have defensive cover.
I like my wingers to run with the ball, and to stay as wide as possible, stretching play both vertically and horizontally. Conversely, I like to have an option on the other flank that will cut inside, although still run at defenders. The link between these two can be very effective indeed.
Of all the positions on the pitch, the striker is the one which I will base my decisions more directly on the talents of the player. I like them to get into space, so moving into channels and breaking offside traps are common choices for me, but any traits relating to finishing will depend on the individual.
August To October:
Our Champions League group offers a good challenge, although as manager of Barcelona, I expect to come through any potential group:
Not a single easy tie in there, on paper at least.
So, how did we start?
With an epidemic of green circles.
When we’ve put it together, we’ve been fantastic (see Lyon and the second game against Real Madrid). At times we’ve been more than a little fortunate (Real were easily the better side in the Supercopa Final, and Man Utd should’ve taken us down).
We’ve been surprisingly strong defensively, and set pieces have helped us too.
Quick mention for my first ever Manager of the Month award:
And a new record for wins, all but two of which were under my reign:
We’re largely satisfying the board for philosophies too, although our lack of high profile signings has been noted:
November and December:
Finally some draws:
Very little to complain about as we continued to look good. If I search for things to grumble about, it’s that our strikers are very streaky, and our style of play is a little slow for me. But then we knew that already.
Willem Geubbels has been brilliant, scoring 13 goals and providing 6 assists. He’s formed a formidable partnership down that flank with Aarón Martín, the left back assisting seven goals too.
Sergio Gómez has been the heartbeat of the team, scoring 10 goals and assisting 8. And Lluís Reig has been productive too, quelling my worries about using two playmakers somewhat.
Unfortunately, Philippe Coutinho has taken a pretty serious hip injury, and won’t be back until March in what will probably be his final season at Barcelona.
We’ve helped knock United out of the Champions League:
And sit proudly atop La Liga:
For the first time in this save, one of my players has won the Ballon d’Or:
Sergio Gómez is a marvelous player, and deserves this recognition. As well as that, he completed a magnificent double by winning World Player of the Year. Great to see LDG there too.
Behind the Scenes:
As I alluded too previously, I’ve convinced the board to drop their demand for possession football:
Despite how well things are going, a change to a slightly more direct tactic will be on the cards. I’ll probably only be looking at minor tweaks in the new year, perhaps finding a middle ground between our current possession based game, and the system I’ll be wanting us to play next season – something a bit more swashbuckling. In theory.
So, to the promised old favourite:
I couldn’t resist. He will be a high profile signing, hopefully pleasing the board, and will more importantly please me, because he’s great. We’ll also be doing away with an extremely short lived trouble maker (who also played badly for us), so win-win.
Not really sure about this though:
This is a first for me, and I really have no idea what to expect.
With an election coming up, Banza and Cassamá still determined to move to England, likely tactical tweaks and Klingy coming in, there are plenty of changes afoot for the second half of the season.
I think the title is on it’s way back to Barcelona, but I don’t think we’re ready to succeed in Europe just yet. Many of our back-up players are not quite convincing me thus far, so any injuries will hurt us. But it’s been a great start.
Hopefully next week I’ll be able to conclude the season in one sitting, though with so much going on, it’s likely to be a fairly large post (again). Thanks for reading!