Guest author Ben a.k.a. Rien102 continues his story in the latest part of The Prodigal Daughter Returns.
For her third day on the job, Penny had two things on her agenda. The second item was the one she was looking forward the most; the first training session on the pitch with the players. First though, she had to take a good look at the squads’ contracts and wages. On arrival, she had a little meeting with the Managing Directors and they brushed a quick picture of the finances: all that was related to her were within the planned budgets. To that, she has a little over forty-two million pounds available in transfer budget; she would need it for that wingback she looking for and maybe some reinforcement in the midfield.
Once she was in her office, she opened her computer and started to work. The overall wages was a little staggering: two hundred and fifty million pounds per annum. She knew that there were a lot of players wearing the Arsenal colours but still… The main squad was composed of twenty-five players and the average age of the squad was about twenty-seven years old, which wasn’t bad. There still was three players over thirty-two and none under twenty-four. The latter being a bummer in her point of view. She also knew that the squad wages was among third or fourth in the EPL; this was very high but for now, since the club management didn’t raise any red flag, she’d go with it. She knew that she would reduce it at some point but she figured she had until the end of the season to start doing anything.
For the reserve squad, she was swimming into another kind of water. It was composed of forty-three players, with eighteen of them that just returned from loans. She started by checking the basics: three players were old players that didn’t have the level to play for the main squad anymore. At least, all of them were on contracts that would run only for a year… but two of them were over ten million pounds per annum! There were seventeen players that were beyond their twenty-first birthday so, this meant that to be able to use them as subs, in an injury crisis, she would need to have them registered… and the squad was already full so… She made herself a note to talk about this with the U23 manager before doing anything. As for the Academy issued players squad, other than being nineteen players strong, and that four of them were already eighteen years old, there wasn’t much to say. To have so many eighteen years old still was a bit too much for her taste … It was something to check with the U18 manager. As she was taking notes for the meetings, the alarm on her phone started to ring; it was time for the tactical training session outside; this was the next item on her agenda, and the one she knew she would like better.
As Penny was arriving to pitch number three, she saw that the small scaffold with stairs, not a ladder, was already on the side of the pitch. On it was a gigantic magnetic withe board plus a little tarp, just in case. The players were slowly gathering around the scaffold after their warm-up session. As for the staffs, Jon was there, Tim Bakens, her Offence coach and Andy Butler, the Defence coach. All already knew what system they would practice. Penny started to get up the stairs. As she arrived at the top, she noticed that a few water bottles were there too; Sue, her ex-teammate, had thought of everything…
Good day men! she said when she saw that all the squad was there. Now that you all got a good look at the way we’ll play with Jon, Tim and Andy, it’s time we put some of it on the pitch to get a feel of it all. First, we’ll work on defence… The squad were split into yellow and red teams. Once all the players were in place, she reminded them some of the instructions and then, the players started to play. At one point, she saw something and blew her whistle twice to stop the players: Stay where you are! she said loudly. The reds were in possession and just crossed the midfield line. She called on the pair of midfielders, Endri Muca and Diego. Endri and Diego! You should be lower than that! Remember, the D-line is playing lower so you are the ones who are supposed to compress the space between the midfield and them. Endri looked around.
Boss, should I go at them instead? She looked at the space.
Not as of now. Since yellows are playing the same way, your man is in midfield but your task is to force the forwards to go into the D-line, not to cover them.
But… Penny interrupted him.
Endri, for now, we’ll focus on the defensive phase since it is the scenario in play at the moment. Just focus on the tasks at hand, ok? Drop enough to force their frontline to go at our d-line and cover the midfielder assigned to your space. Cut the vertical line of passing and that’s it. With the Three Lions, she learned to appreciate the player but he was prone to lapses in concentration. Despite being a rather good deep-lying playmaker, he was often more inclined into putting himself into a mode where he would start to think at the transition, if and when the ball would be recuperated, instead of focusing on making sure the ball was recuperated first. This meant that he would often position himself a wee bit too high, giving precious space to be exploited by a forward willing to play a little in front of the D-line.