The First Half

Welcome to the second episode of ‘Another 4 Year Plan’, if you haven’t read the intro you can find it here…

As you may have heard on the 5 Star Potential Podcast I played the last three games of the 2018/19 season on Twitter and secured safety with one game to go which ticked off the first objective.

  • Avoid Relegation ✅
  • Complete evaluation of playing staff and non-playing staff
  • Secure first team contracts
  • Find appropriate parent club
  • Find a midfielder to build the club around
  • Season 1 – Achieve mid-table security
  • Season 2 – Challenge for the playoffs
  • Season 3 – Promotion campaign
  • Season 4 – Premier League football

Squad Evaluation

I have played Football Manager/Championship Manager for around twenty-five years and although there is a brilliant Team Report section I still revert to pen and paper when evaluating my squads. My personal process is to have two players per position and three extra players that play in different positions to my set tactic, giving me options if it all goes pear-shaped.

 

 

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I will point out that the Squad Depth > Position Overview (CA/PA) screen is really good for checking your strength in depth, especially if your Assistant Manager has good JPA/JPP.

The Championship is a tough league and my first thoughts were to improve the firepower at the club. Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah came in on loan along with veteran free transfer signings David Nugent and Peter Crouch. I am hoping that Nketiah’s youthful exuberance and pace mixed with Nugent & Crouch’s mental attributes will be the perfect foil for this campaign. As with most Championship sides, the loan market plays an important part of the preparation and helps clubs like QPR strengthen their squads without crippling the bank account. Manchester United were kind enough to send Dean Henderson, Axel Tuanzebe and Angel Gomes to Loftus Road and we also picked up Brad Smith from Bournemouth, Sean Longstaff from Newcastle and Matthew Pennington from Everton. The £275k signing of Danny Rowe from non-league AFC Fylde was the only money spent on improving the playing squad – his signing is a risk but with the other three forwards ahead of him it’s a risk we were willing to take.

Contract Renewals

Cast your mind back to Part One and you will remember that the contracts of Jake Bidwell, Patel Wszolek, Jordan Cousins and Joel Lynch would be decided once the threat of relegation was gone. Thankfully Les Ferdinand was on hand to get these guys signed up quickly – he may have been set to handle contract renewals prior to me joining the club, he also gave a contract extension to Angel Rangel who has the athletic ability of breeze block, but I suppose his loyalty is worth £8.75k per week…

The Parent Club

I had the option of three Premier League clubs:

  • Manchester United
  • Manchester City
  • Arsenal

I’d already fleeced United of three players so I thought it best to keep them at arms length for now. Arsenal’s reserves were depleted with their best prospects already out on loan which left City who had a huge number of players available in reserve and would pay us the highest annual fee, £115,024. Amit done the deal and the excitement of signing players like Patrick Roberts, Douglas Luiz or at a stretch Phil Foden crept in. The reality was somewhat different to the experience and it was soon apparent that the City prospects we wanted would not be making their way to West London. I knew I should have chosen United…

Pre-Season 2019/20

I’m a fan of a long pre-season, especially when there are a number of new faces to integrate in to the squad – years ago I read a post from Cleon81 on The Chalkboard Diaries which has stuck with me; his refreshed version can be read at teaandbusquets.com/blog/making-pre-season I wanted to concentrate on tactical familiarity of our two systems, a 4-4-2 & a 4-2-3-1, maximise player fitness and match sharpness and lastly create an excellent squad morale.

You may think that twelve games is excessive and you’d probably right, I think 10 is a good number of games to play to tick all the boxes of pre-season. We opened the pre-season campaign with a trip to Holland; in real life I have spent time in Holland as a youth football team coach and as our town is twinned with Cuijk it always feels great to take my virtual team there on pre-season to play JVC Cuijk & NEC and we finished pre-season with a morale boosting victory against Chelmsford City. The highlights of pre-season was seeing Bright Osayi-Samuel perform well and our strikers finding the back of the net regularly.

The Championship 2019/20

The Championship is a tough league and as easy as you can find yourself fighting for a playoff position you can find yourself in a relegation scrap. The plan for this season was to finish mid-table, the media however predict a 14th place finish. Using my expected points spreadsheet I’m looking to accumulate 68 points over the season which last year would have resulted in a 9th place finish. I have had people ask how or why I predict my expected points and the answer is always simple, past games x how I expect us to perform, nothing more, nothing less. It’s just a nice way to track the team’s progress against my pre-season predictions.

We started the season well, unbeaten in four, albeit not as predicted, with Eddie Nketiah and David Nugent opening their accounts early. That start was quickly cut short with four defeats in succession, all by one goal which whilst frustrating gave me hope that only minor tweaks would be needed to cut short this poor run of form.

We changed from the cautious 4-2-3-1 to the more balanced 4-4-2 and with the returning Eddie Nketiah playing with strike partner David Nugent the results came back. A run of 19 games unbeaten pushed the R’s up the table towards the playoff positions and a 2-0 win against Wigan saw QPR end 2019 in 5th position.

Finding That Midfielder

Another objective of this save was to find a midfielder to build the team around and up until now I am still not sure we’ve found a player that is as influential as Alejandro Faurlin or Adel Taraabt. Sean Goss & Eberechi Eze gave me hope, but I don’t think Goss has the quality as we look to push to the upper levels of The Championship and beyond. Eze has some quality and his coach report indicates that he has decent potential. I will give him game time in the second half of the season, let’s hope that he takes the opportunity with both hands. As far as our scouting goes, Enzo Loiodice & Andre Dozzell look like potential signings to fill that spot.

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We arrive in 2020 sitting in the playoff positions and in my mind all I keep thinking is that we’re jumping ahead of our objective. I’m planning on cutting some players in the January window as we’re a little heavy on the wage budget and will only recruit if the right player becomes available.

Thanks for reading. Joe.