It’s the end of season one, so WTF happened?
Cut to the chase, Robert Vonsen‘s U Craiova 1948 were promoted as champions of Liga 2 in Romania at the end of our first season.
Unbeaten in the first phase, losing just once in the second. Finishing the overall campaign as winners by 14 points. Joy.
We were tossed out of the Romanian Cup 4-0 by domestic rivals CS Mioveni in the 5th round, but the board weren’t bothered since we bagged promotion.
How did you do it?
Although we stuck to the aggressive and relatively direct 442 I had envisioned for the team, I was completely wrong about the players I would select, mainly because of the painful registration rules.
I famously said in blog post one alongside the above screenshot, “There are also some non-EU and homegrown player requirements, which I am sure I will get used to in time.” It turns out that this was an ambitious lie.
I played pre-season, got my preferred team all lined up and ready to go; only to realise that you need 14 players under the age of 12 with double-barrelled names and dual Romanian-Egyptian heritage in the starting 11 in order to play in competitive matches (<- exaggeration).
To be fair, pillar of the community and Romanian football delegate FM Pressure then said to me, after the fact. “You should’ve asked, I’d have told you the pitfalls.” I guess I’ll know for next time.
As a result, predicted key man Marian Anghelina (Jolie) had to drop out of the “first choice” starting eleven, and young and aggressive but otherwise underwhelming midfielder Dragoş Albu had to play most of the time instead.
In a similar extension of this narrative arc, I had predicted Valentin Munteanu to be our key source of creativity down the right-hand side. Nope. He also had to be largely displaced for a younger model, the more handsome but lesser footballer, Samuel Zimţa.
I had previously called out that we needed a new goalkeeper, so in came Ismet Kisyo, a promising young Bulgarian. On a free of course. Unfortunately it turned out he wasn’t young enough. So to satisfy the u18 rule, I had to play our existing youth keeper, Robert ‘Big’ Popa instead. I didn’t misunderstand his age, just the league rules. I’m not a (complete) moron.
Thankfully Popa is actually a really good prospect and improved immensely across this first season. What you see below to the right is him after an entire season of small but steady attribute improvements. A happy accident.
I made one other signing. A wonderful Uruguayan man. His goals fired us to the title, and I hope he stays here until the end of time. I love him. Introducing Williams Peralta.
After 25 goals in 27 games coupled with 9 assists and an average rating of 7.54, Peralta‘s initial nine month deal signed as a free agent (obviously), turned into a no-brainer decision to offer a three year contract to a man who will be 36 years old when it expires. I hope he plays (and lives) forever.
Tactically, as I’ve mentioned, our aggressive 442 worked well for us. The deep-lying playmaker knocked timely lofted forward passes at the right time whenever the marauding wingers weren’t an attacking option. The full backs focused mainly on their defensive duties and a pressing and an advanced forward partnership complemented a generic central midfielder who regularly moved into the channels to create “pockets of space.”
I particularly liked the spread of assist types, a penchant for placed finishes exhibiting good technique, a tendency to start games on the front foot by scoring early and the team creating just under 2 clear cut chances every 90 minutes, while conceding just over 1.
These numbers are taken from the in-game analysis. They are nice and useful when thinking about what works well and what doesn’t in your tactical approach, even if the numbers can be inconsistent due to known FM issues.
Look at the analysis with your eyes, now, below. The SciSports polygon and graphical plots from the end of season review are at the end of the article. Because that’s a more logical place to put them.
Worth mentioning too was that U Craiova 1948 captain William Baeten also loved a long-range driver. I say loved; he only scored three goals all season, and two of them were in one game. They were both so good, however, that it was worth immortalising them below. The second goal and the Baet-man‘s player profile are in the comments of the Tweet if you use your mouse or trackpad, hover your arrow somewhere specific and do that clicking thing I’ve read about.
What else happened?
We had a youth intake that didn’t produce anything worthwhile, and why would it? Our facilities are woeful.
The board inexplicably decided to build a new stadium despite our financial situation being what could kindly be described as “in freefall” but I did manage to bag a coaching badge before the board realised there was literally no money left.
We hired a new Director of Football who used to play for Paris Saint Germain so therefore must be brilliant, and hired a new coach and chief scout. One I vividly remember playing for Real Madrid, Chelsea and Newcastle, and the other played for Sevilla and was capped a million times for Mexico. We pay absolute buttons to these staff members, but more fool them if they are happy to do the job.
Now this is where it gets subjectively interesting.
My thinking was (because I am a realist) that when we get promoted to the top tier, there will still be absolutely no money in the bank. The guaranteed wage rises that already feature as part of the vast majority of player contracts in the squad (pretty much everyone will be paid 25% more when we move up) will kill any hope of having a transfer budget of any description. Plus, there’s the new stadium still to pay for. This in turn will destroy any chances of me being able to tell the board of any prospective new club we may move to in future that I am “good” at managing in situations with a limited budget. Merrily skipping into bankruptcy was not on the agenda, nor is it a good look.
Then something crazy happened that confirmed to me that it was definitely time to leave.
I was offered the opportunity to be interviewed for the Cluj job, arguably the biggest club job in Romania. I hadn’t applied, it was nice to be asked. My stock must have been high.
This little invite ultimately led to an absurd over-confidence in the ability of the manager to move up the career ladder and get a better job this early on.
Ultimately, Cluj chose to hire Cosmin Contra instead. A 72-times capped former manager of the Romanian national team who previously played for both Milan and Atlético Madrid. How that was preferable to a German with less than 30 matches on his CV along with a National B licence and not a single attribute yet near 10, I’ll never know.
With my contract expiring (and moving to a rolling one) I effectively applied for EVERYTHING. Semi-professional teams in Denmark’s lower tiers? Check. A Finnish team who are solely made up of part timers? Check. A South Korean team with 7 players in their first squad? A Colombian second tier side adrift at the bottom of their table? Check and check.
It wasn’t looking promising. I’ve never been “laughed off” so often in my life.
Effectively I chose gambling to stay at U Craiova 1948 for at least another season over unemployment and applying for roles for months. A three-year deal was signed, and we soldier on.
We do get to play against bitter (and much, much better than us) rivals CS Craiova next season, so I guess my situation this early in a journeyman save is nothing to “Crai ova” (thanks Ed, I didn’t think you’d mind if I shamelessly stole that one).
You could say that failing to find the next step on the ladder after a strong first season is a horrible failure (like my good friend Rock’s End FM suggests), or that another season in Romania might just do our job prospects the world of good.
Only time will tell.
End of season (1) review
Thanks for reading.