Past and Present #2

Dave Black (@CM9798) is back with the second part of his FM19 series. If you've not checked out Dave's past work based on Championship Manager 97/98, then I'd highly recommend following him on twitter and checking out his website dedicated to CM 97/98

Hello to you and welcome back to my adventure in FM19. I’m really out of my depth with the modern-day FMs but I’m having a go and that’s the main thing. I’ve been in the Newcastle job a for a week and so far, so good. A routine friendly win, a transfer record smashed and Dennis Bergkamp on the staff. Speaking of which, let’s try and figure out this training malarkey.

I’ve assigned Bergkamp the technical elements of the training responsibilities, that is his thing after all. We’re still hopelessly short of a proper amount of staff but this is all we have to work. Bergy is at least motivated but then again, he was afraid of flying for a bit, hopefully he’s got over that.

A loophole appears that we need an Under 23 assistant manager and Keith Millen wants to be it. He joins up and can help with the training. In your face Mike. To keep it 90s, Brian Deane joins as the manager of the Under 23 squad. We’ve now got 3 stars in every area on the staff responsibilities screen, so that can only be good news. I think?

I’ve looked at the training page and frankly it scares me. So I’m going to do nothing just yet. I’ve also looked at the possibility of signing more players and that seems even less likely. That Sessegnon deal has literally cleaned us out. It’s a good job he’s versatile.

Atalanta is the second and final stop of our Italian tour. Totally against the point of pre-season, I’m sticking with the same team. I’d rather see how our best available matches up and then make changes, there are plenty of other friendlies to rotate the squad for yet.

The one draw back with that plan is that when we are woeful and 2-0 down at half time, you start to question everything. The tactics. The players. The whole idea. Some stern words at half time briefly rally us but Murphy and Perez miss great opportunities before Sessegnon comes off injured. If that is serious, I’m in trouble. We do pull one back courtesy of an own goal but we slip to defeat despite dominating the game. Should that trouble me?

3-4 weeks for Sessegnon. That’ll take him out for the remainder of pre-season pretty much but it could have been worse. Off we go to Edinburgh for some bonding. That’ll help.

I’ve braved the training page to switch to the template of “Early pre-season Tactical” which sounds ideal. I think I would be foolish to change too much at this stage. Besides, it’s time to face Falkirk.

I’ve rotated the whole squad this time, with the exception of Shelvey and Fernandez who are really picking up the slack of Ki and Schar who remain on their sun loungers. Shelvey puts us ahead with a long-range strike before Joselu heads in a Ritchie corner. It’s all very comfortable and I can with draw Shelvey at half time. Although we are briefly made to sweat from a set piece goal, the quality of our subs see us go up a gear and Rondon and Perez add gloss to the score line. A wins a win.

That again means we can play our alleged strongest team for the tougher game, Motherwell. Shelvey has a great time and scores again from the edge of the box and Atsu adds a quick-fire second. The usual raft of changes also sees us wheel out the 5-3-2 for the first time but it is rather ineffective and Motherwell even pull one back. Maybe we aren’t ready for that just yet.

We have to wait 8 days until the visit of Mouscron but it’s the first chance I’ll get to see Muto, Schar and Ki in action. I’ve used the downtime to watch a great video from @bustthenet on how to set up for set pieces. His advice is valuable as he seems to know what he is doing. Obviously, I can’t take it all exactly as he advises. He is playing as Lyon so whilst he has Nabil Fekir pulling the strings I have Ayoze Perez or Matt Ritchie. Not quite the same. Nevertheless, I’ve opted to try his short corner routine going forwards and if it works, great. I was particularly keen to improve how we defend set pieces as it has been a vulnerability even against poor opposition so far. All in all I feel it was an exercise worth undertaking and we’ll see if it makes a difference after some training.

We’re in Belgium. All three of the late returnees start in a mix and match side designed to get more of the squad up to full pace. Muto plays as a pressing forward and scores twice, both pouncing on opposition mistakes. That will be useful. Everybody comes through unscathed and the only negative is the goal Mouscron pull back – a long ball over the head of Schar and Olinga ran through to score. Schar lacks pace and I might have to look at dropping the defensive line deeper if he is playing.

That just leaves the Benfica game though I have a horrible doubt that I’ve left us under-cooked.

The Benfica game is the last chance to get minutes in the players’ legs before the big kick off against Crystal Palace next weekend. It’s a mixed side again but I’m cursing my own tinkering when they score from a corner after just three minutes. It’s a near post flick on that causes carnage and that’s disappointing. We do draw level from a set piece of our own though. Shelvey curls in a beautiful ball to the back post for Matt Ritchie to equalise. It looks set to peter out into a draw but we get caught from our own throw in. What I don’t understand about this is that our right back was so far forward from a throw in on the left. A sweeping pass later and we’ve lost. I’m pleased it doesn’t really matter but it just goes to show, never mess with anything. On the plus side, Sessegnon returned and got 45 minutes under his belt. Jacob Murphy was injured though. Swings and roundabouts.

That’s pre-season over with. I don’t feel like I’ve particularly learned anything. It’s an away trip to Crystal Palace to look forward next time we meet. Until then, thanks for reading and goodbye for now.

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