Welcome back to Serbia! In case I didn’t make it clear last time, the Serbian SuperLiga splits in half after 30 games, into a Championship group, and a relegation group. So, with the first part of the season in the books, we’ve got a ten point cushion to keep us out of the bottom half of the table, with nine games to play…
…so I’m pretty confident we should be looking up, not down. The top two are gone, but with the league well broken up with points gaps, we look to be in our own little group, between 3rd and 5th. That would be pretty great, however it breaks.
But before we dig into that, let’s have a little tactics talk, and first, a look at the business done during our first transfer window…
With even our meagre wage budget and low expenditure on facilities leading to a loss, there’s not much in the way of transfer budget, and what little there was, was quickly siphoned into wages instead. I’m trying to get by without relying on loans, but we found a few likely candidates out there for free:
We weren’t able to land a centre back unfortunately, but hopefully the first two names will boost our firepower.
I had my eye on Marko Mrkic from early on, and he’s a legit Serbian international, which brings us up to *checks notes* one Serbian international in our squad:
On paper, he’s about on a par with our current first choice, Djordje Susnjar, though with a bit more about him mentally. Djordje hasn’t done a whole lot for us so far, so hopefully this new signing will make his mrk.
Miroslav Markovic is a bit less well-rounded, but more of a finisher, and with goals the problem at the moment, I think he’s worth a go too.
With these new fellas aboard, I’ve allowed the big man Nikola Asceric to leave on a free, saving us a bit on wages. He didn’t really fit our system of play, and hadn’t done anything to impress me so far. Other than Asceric, there are no permanent outgoings, although four squad players leave on loan.
With two of our full backs rapidly aging, Mile Sarenac was brought in as cover. A world beater he ain’t, but at least his physical’s aren’t dropping like a stone, and his versatility will be an asset on the bench.
And lastly, the very un-Serbian sounding Lucas Marciante. This signing is all “Project Vincent”. I can only assume he stowed away on a flight to get the scout report, because no way is Argentina within our range, and I didn’t approve the job:
He has some holes in his game, certainly, but I’ve highlighted the attributes for “Winger” as I think with a bit of positional retraining, he could be a tricky option out on the left. A project within a project if you will.
As I mentioned last time, there has been the occasional suggestion that we’re not all that entertaining. I’ve noticed that our striker is an isolated irrelevance a lot of the time, so in an effort to combat these issues, we’re trying something else:
I hasten to add that we’re only going to be trying something else in games not featuring the other members of the top five.
So, the changes include upping the mentality one notch and ditching the team instructions “Narrow” and “Be More Disciplined”. These two I had in mind when thinking we’d be in a relegation scrap, I don’t think they’re necessary any longer. The main change is replacing the DM with an AMC, in an attempt to make the man up top more relevant. I don’t have a successful history with the 4231, but I think it’s a logical step with the personnel we have.
I’ve also slightly tweaked our former tactic, with this new version having the same TI’s removed for the same reasons, and the Central Midfielder put on an attack role to try and help link to the striker. We’ll still be using this shape for our harder fixtures.
February to April:
Don’t let us immediately scoring thrice fool you, first game out of the traps and we were 3-0 down after 49 minutes. A desperate triple substitution into a 424, and we salvaged a draw with three debut goalscorers. Would this “entertainment” continue?:
Our continuing home/road split has overridden any sense I have for tactics working or not. I think we’ve got the striker role more involved, but we haven’t had a lot of standout performances from the AMC, using a couple of different roles.
But hey! We managed to beat Partizan and Red Star in successive games. We certainly rode our luck in both games, but the fact we were able to compete at all is great, a level I thought beyond us. Of course, we were at home.
So how did we finish the preliminary phase?:
It’s marvelous! Home form for the win, and 3rd to 5th looks an absolute lock. With the Kup Srbije final to be contested between Red Star and Partizan, 4th position would be good enough to seal a place in the Europa League qualifiers…
April to May:
Once again, the fixture computer was relatively kind, giving us four home games, with three of them against the lower finishing teams, but first a pair of difficult away games:
After a tough start, we finally got going after grinding out a 0-0 draw with Partizan. I was hoping for eleven or twelve points from these seven games, and we managed eleven. So how high did we finish?:
Third! It really helped that our nearest rivals both stumbled badly in the final phase, only adding eleven points between them.
Third place is just about as well as it could’ve gone, so I’m very happy, and we’ll be entered into the EL qualifiers, which will hopefully make up for the paltry league prize money of just £51.67k.
And to demonstrate the perils of finishing in that lower group, the bottom four all went down, with Proleter Novi Sad standing out as a cautionary tale to me, after they had finished the preliminary stage in a respectable 10th position.
Our team of the year finished exactly as it should have:
Milos Adamovic deservedly took the Fans’ Player prize, the main creative outlet of the side, he finished with eight assists and six goals from central midfield. Our search for a reliable goalscorer continues to be in vain, and our top scorer was, for me, our second best performer, Nikola Kovacevic from CB, with his seven goals all coming from corners adding to his impressive performances marshalling the defence.
Oh yes. Despite securing the double, Savo Milosevic is beaten into second place.
As well as single-handedly unearthing us a signing, VVR has made a bit of progress, with his Judging Player Ability attribute up from ten to eleven, which I think you’ll agree that, it’s one louder, isn’t it? He’s also gained plenty of scouting knowledge for Serbia (unsurprisingly), Croatia and just a little bit from England, which I believe comes from a couple of post-match sit downs with me, a bottle of red, and a conversation that likely started “Did you know I managed Concord Rangers in FM18?”. Poor Vincent, he could’ve gone anywhere…
Behind The Scenes:
On the face of it, the financial situation is less than ideal:
We’ve got European Qualification, which should come with a bit of prize money, but we may not be able to rely on that every year. Hopefully, with our increased reputation, and a more successful season than anticipated under our belt, we should see some natural growth in things like sponsorship money, and attendances for gate receipts and the like. So I’m not too worried yet, but hopefully the next couple of months will provide us with some better news. More to come next time.
You may have noticed the lack of youth intake talk. Yeah.
Finally, a quick look at how I’ve done with the Club Vision this season:
The competition stuff is in the bag, and it’ll be interesting to see how the board’s demands change before the next season. Their feelings on club culture swung all over the place during the year. We scored some early set pieces, they were delighted. We didn’t score one for aaages and they were devastated. Then we grabbed a few and arrived at pleased. As for defensive football, we’re the third tightest defence in the division, after the big two. It’s likely not going to improve from that for a long time.
This has been a longer post than I had anticipated, I think I may have gotten the balance wrong, something I’ll consider going into season two.
Next time we’ll cover the summer transfer business and how we’re going to approach the second season, before getting stuck into some unexpected European adventures. It promises to be an eventful one, for many reasons…
If you managed to stay with me this long, thanks very much for reading!