Out of the frying pan, into the fire?
First things first, let’s take a moment to remember what I said in the last blog post as I arrived in Norway.
“With only 7 league games remaining, it’s a bit of a free hit as long as we don’t fall into the relegation spots. I like that it gives me some time to experiment with player selection, tactical ideas and generally get used to the place, before the fresh start of the 2023 campaign.”
– Some FM-playing melt who was evidently too confident. Me.
Talk about tempting fate.
Although I could already sense from my initial look that the team was a little imbalanced, overall Tromsø looked in decent shape, sitting 12th of the 16 teams in the Eliteserian and well stocked in terms of playing staff. After 2.5 seasons in Romania, I was ready for the challenge of working at this level.
What I wasn’t ready for was failing to win a single game in those remaining 7 fixtures, escaping relegation by a single point.
The final whistle on the final day in that away match at Vålerenga couldn’t come quickly enough. I was pleased to wave the 2022 campaign goodbye. At least to the small portion of it that I ruined.
October 2022 – April 2023
Time for a complete rethink.
Out went 11 players for a combined income of £875,000. In came 7 players for £1.2million. Net spend = £325,000.
I’ve always been a big fan of ‘get stuck in’ and I do love a 4-4-2. I seem to usually strategise to one extreme or the other. If it’s short passing; it’s tiny triangles of keep-ball in a narrow system without wingers, a team full of diminutive technical players. If it’s FM Tahiti-inspired blood and guts violence – it’s route one, full-backs who solely defend and a real focus on aerial prowess, aggression and work rate. Among other brutal methods of opposition elimination of course.
While adopting either school of thought, I always target the most creative and prolific players in the opposition team by tracking key pass numbers, opposition striker xG and pass receipt locations, then adjusting instructions accordingly before and during matches. For Tromsø I have decided to ramp up the whole concept to the extreme.
This is the shape and system.
Our goalkeeper Jacob Karlstrøm is 6 foot 7 with aerial reach 20. The average height of our back four is just shy of 6 foot 2. I want monsters in the air. I know height doesn’t matter literally in an ME sense, but is usually indicative of high jumping reach, which is the case here. The three defenders above with a ‘defend’ duty also have an average bravery attribute of 16.67. Perfect.
All three of those are new signings. The impressively named Simen Wangberg previously spent nearly 7 years at Tromsø before moving to Rosenborg‘s bench to waste 2 years of his career before I brought him back to captain the club for just £40k.
I know it was only 7 games, but we seemed to lack a physical presence at the back. I don’t mind seeing my defensive players being occasionally out-paced or seeing a full-back beaten by a touch of magical mystery feet, but I cannot stand the type of player who would probably have a weak handshake and close his eyes a minute and a half before heading the ball.
Moving into the midfield…
Sigurd Grønli is the key pivot in the centre of the park. He is quite the contrast of the defenders behind him. Short but agile, technical and mentally very well rounded, Grønli’s passing from deep positions as well as work ethic and level headedness will be central (literally and figuratively) to our attacking play. Grønli actually starts at Tromsø in FM21 (at least in the pre winter update db), but the previous manager had let him go to Finland for free in 2021 before I brought him home for £200,000. FM Samo got a real tune out of him back in FM19. Hopefully I can do the same here.
Prosper Mendy is a classic winger (despite being in fact a natural left-back) who despite his 6 foot 1 frame, his key strengths are his pace, dribbling and crossing. Ideal. On the other flank, new signing Eirik Ulland Andersen is the polar opposite. Not quick and can’t dribble, but has great vision, long shots, crossing and should be deadly from corners and free kicks. Think James Ward-Prowse when he plays on the right flank for Southampton, but Norwegian; and on £1800 a week instead of per hour.
The other midfielder, Icelandic newgen Óliver “OJ” Jónsson, is something special. The world of Twitter seemed to agree.
Jónsson is going to be an absolute monster, if at SIXTEEN YEARS OLD he isn’t already.
His attribute mix for a central midfielder provides a fantastic starting point. His main job defensively will be to close down opposition threats, winning the ball back before it reaches our back four (tackling 18, bravery 18, aggression 15). Offensively he will be required to move into the channels between opposition defenders, receiving the ball in tight areas and laying it off to more creative players (first touch 15, composure 13, balance 13). Throw in his well above average physical profile, strong free kick ability and strong crossing if and when he drifts out wide and we have the definition of a ‘wonderkid’ on our hands. I am already training him to ‘dive into tackles’ and to focus a little more closely on his passing, vision and technique. His personality will grow and change in time.
At the top of the pitch, one side of our strike force consists of Fitim Azemi who was one of the few players from the dreadful 7 game run who actually passed with flying colours. He bagged 4 goals and looked a constant menace.
The other is a new signing. 21-year-old, 6 foot 5 Markus Eiane. Eiane is another player I am excited about. Lacking in technical proficiency in a couple of ways (dribbling, first touch, technique) but a physical force in the air coupled with wonderful mental strengths for an attacker (anticipation, composure, flair, off the ball) while still being considered a good finisher from short range as well as long, his potential could be as high as his jumping reach (groan).
With the “off season” lasting four years between campaigns in Norway, we had to play 200 friendlies to pass the time.
They went well.
Some of the direct passing was a joy to behold. The way Fitim Azemi took this down on the turn to finish made me happier than it should have. Welcome back to my WordPress formatting favourite, big white gaps above and below embedded video clips, for no reason.
It’s safe to say I do not expect us to be as tragic as we were in those 7 games when I first took over. 7 of the starting 11 are new players. New players that really do fit the requirements for what I would like Robert Vonsen‘s Tromsø to do.
Here’s an analysis of defending and attacking attribute strengths across the team. More complex analysis may come in time, depending if there are problems that plotting out the numbers will help fix. Standout has to be 16-year old OJ, as incredibly the nearest thing we have to an all-rounder both offensively and defensively. I am happy that three of my first choice back four rate well in a defensive sense, while new playmaker Grønli is clearly our best all out attacker. The relationship between those central midfielders is key, and according to their attributes, they should complement each other well.
Speaking of our German managerial alter-ego, we have finally managed to get some coaching qualifications on the go.
With the three National licences in the bag. Continental C was the next big one to grab. Now that we have that too, it’s Continental B time. Fingers crossed that 6 months down the line we have the funds to study for the A. Then it’s just the Pro licence and then the sky is the limit etc.
Oh and this happened.
We’ve got the badges (sort of), we’ve signed the right players (on paper), embedded a new tactic and prepared well. It’s Tromsø in 2023. We are 100-1 for the title.
It’s go time.
Thanks for reading.