We’re one third of the way through S17, so it’s as good a time as any for a quick review and update of how things are going here in northern Germany.
We had a miserable time in the top flight, finishing bottom with a record low points total. Not entirely unexpected, and not much fun.
We lost in the playoffs in S13, and then avoided relegation to D3 in the final game of S14, before plunging back down the following season.
We knew back then that we needed to do some work flipping an aging first team – an aging first team that had been assembled from trading younger players for higher ratings to get promotion after years in the D3 midtable wilderness.
Since our D1 (mis)adventure, I’d been building my youth team (which I’ll come back to), while trying (and failing) to maintain a aging higher rated first team to sustain at least D2 football. Our first season back in D3 saw my aging team floundering in midtable again, so I sold off most of them for some younger lower rated players… and then also started getting better results.
Which got me thinking….
Now, most seasons I like to start with some new-fangled formation and tactics that is finally going to blow the notorious SM match engine wide open, before reverting back to the tried and trusted 4231B attacking-direct-down-both-wings formula that staves off inevitable relegation and puts you back in with a decent chance of promotion, but not quite.
Last season was no different. 4222 (which I’ve used successfully in one other game world) was my stupid, stupid choice for S16.
In a nutshell, my stupid formations yielded a weedy 28 points from 26 games, while good old-fashioned 4231B produced a sturdy 27 points from just 12 matches – title-winning form!
It was a no-brainer. Like DP 91 before me, I had proved what everyone already knew. S17, therefore, I would stick with 4231B, with a few tactical variations for playing home or away against stronger or weaker teams and collect my D3 title. Mission accomplished!
Thankfully in SM, nothing ever works out quite like you expect it to, and with just 9 points from 8 games religiously sticking to Plan 4231B at the start of this season, something had to change.
We switched to Plan 442 (short passing), which we used successfully in friendly games at the end of S16. Can’t remember who I stole that idea from, but fairly certain it’s not something I can claim any credit for.
Since then, we had four straight wins, including at then second placed Wolfsburg, prompting disbelief and self-loathing from the Wolves’ gaffer.
Anyway, early doors to get too carried away, and disappointed to manage only a draw at home to second bottom Napoli on Sunday when a win would have put us in second place. Especially after being two goals up. But delighted to be up there and in contention at this stage.
Back to my youth team. Another good start in the Youth Cup. We’ve sacrificed a lot to try to build a strong and successful youth setup over the past five or six seasons (youth squad highlights from a year ago: U21, U20, U19, U18).
But it had to be done, and while there are others who could have, and have done, better jobs – and faster – at their clubs, I’m still pleased with the work here.
We got to the Youth Cup semi-final last season, and the aim has to be the final this season. Even though this looks like the strongest Youth Cup competition I can remember. No doubt SM will now have me heading for the Youth Shield at the earliest opportunity!