This is the start of a new series written by guest writer @Footy Asian who did another series a few years back. Some of you might remember it as it was about Pierre van Hooijdonk and posted on the old blog. Either way be sure to give him a like or follow if you like what he’s written.
THE DIARY OF NIGEL MARTYN
A LEEDS UNITED FM18 SAVE
I was absolutely ecstatic when I was approached by Andrea Radrizzani to take over the reins at Leeds United. Since our promotion back into the Championship in 2010, we have not gotten close to promotion in any of the past seven seasons. The lads went close to securing a playoff spot last campaign but the season ended in agony as we finished 7th. Garry Monk rejected the club’s offer of a 12-month extension and here I am…
I’m a retired goalkeeper who made 680 club appearances for the likes of Bristol Rovers, Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Everton from 1987 to 2006. I also managed 23 caps for England and would definitely have gotten more if not for that ponytailed txxx. According to many, I’m a calm manager whose door is always open to my players. I’m decent at tactical and goalkeeper coaching (better than David Seamen) from my glory days in-goal at Elland Road. I demand the highest level of discipline at the club just like how Jose Mourinho does but he dislikes me for no apparent reason. On a more positive note, I’m pleased to find out that both Sam Allardyce and Eddie Howe fancy me a little, just like how I admire them for their work.
While the media tipped us to finish bloody 7th again, I see a squad capable of challenging for the playoff spots. I have a decent number one in Felix Wiedwald, who needs to improve a whole lot more if he wants to get close to my level during my playing days. Bailey Peacock-Farrell is a decent backup choice and he’s still only 20, 30 bloody years younger than I am. And no, I’m not jealous.
I’ve decent full-backs but Gaetano Berardi is out nursing his dislocated shoulder and Vurnon Anita will get beaten in the air at the back post every single time. Liam Rosenior was brought in on loan as a stop-gap. Matthew Pennington’s loan deal was terminated as he’s expected to be out for 2 to 4 months. Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper will be my first choice center-back pairing but that’s all we have in central defense. Luiz Felipe and Joleon Lescott were brought in as cover but the former is too raw and the latter is too slow. As they were all I could afford in the summer, I’m praying hard for both Jansson and Cooper to stay fit throughout the season.
We have no midfielders who love defending enough to anchor our midfield. Since we both fancy each other a lot, Sam Allardyce agreed to loan out Beni Baningime to us and the youngster will go straight into our starting 11. Elisha Owusu came in on loan too and the Olympique Lyonnais man will be second choice behind the Englishman. I did not tell anyone that I love Ronaldo Vieira like my own son and he certainly excites me the most out of everyone else in the squad. His mental and physical strengths are remarkable for someone his age and I’m looking forward to building my team around him. Hopefully, he loves me back as much as I adore him and he can stay with me throughout my tenure at Elland Road.
Two of my most technically gifted players, Samu Saiz and Ezgjan Alioski can’t speak English and I ordered them to take up intensive language lessons immediately. They won’t play until they can communicate with me as I am not intending to learn Spanish or German. Hadi Sacko’s pace and trickery excite me but I have doubts about his end product. Kemar Roofe and Stuart Dallas will start on the wings on either side of Pablo Hernandez, who has better technique than most players in the league.
I’m extremely concerned about our goal sources. Jay-Roy Grot and Pierre-Michel Lasogga are the best striking options in the squad but Lasogga only understands German and I can only speak English. Kun Temenuzhkov has great potential but he’s too small and too young to play upfront in the Championship. Grot will be our number nine from the start and I’m hoping that his incredible physique can make up for his lack of composure and finishing ability.
The Tactical Approach
I am a huge admirer of both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola and it is no surprise that my tactical approach is heavily influenced by their two main strengths. I like to play deep and keep things tight like how the Portuguese does. We also prioritize possession like how the Spaniard does to help us control or see out games in the closing stages. Moving on to formations, I do not play a fixed shape and tend to switch them around from game to game depending on our opposition. The formation will be selected based on the following basic principles:
- The number of center-backs must be higher than the number of opposition strikers.
- The number of players on our flanks must not be exceeded by the opposition’s.
- The number of players in central midfield must not be exceeded by the opposition’s.
This is to prevent the opposing teams from creating overloads in all parts of the field. We man-mark all of the opposition’s central midfielders to help us win the ball back quickly and subsequently retain it better with enough passing options/angles. I am also extremely cautious away from home against teams of similar quality and will more often than not settle for a point late in games.
Unbelievably, the lads surpassed both the media’s and our board’s expectations and went a step further to win the Championship! We finished on 92 points, three ahead of fellow overachiever’s Preston to gain automatic promotion back into the Premier League. Preston, Wolves and ourselves constantly exchanged positions at the top towards the end of the season and thankfully, we did just enough to edge ahead at the end. To everyone’s surprise, Wolves failed to achieve promotion with arguably the strongest squad in the league and Derby finally got themselves back in the top flight after a Playoffs Final win against Bristol City.
Moving on to the cup competitions, we did well in the Carabao Cup before a home defeat against Leicester City in the 4th round. We were however very disappointing in the FA Cup as the boys failed to turn up against Charlton in a 3rd round 1-3 defeat. Nevertheless, the joy from gaining promotion definitely outweighed the minor cup disappointments and I was pleased to see both our fans and the board happy with the season’s work.
The Players’ Performance
Many of the boys surprised me with their level of performances. Grot managed to dispel all my doubts about him and only went on to finish top of the goal-scoring charts in the Championship with 24 goals. He is not the best at working the channels but most of the center-backs couldn’t handle his physicality. His finishing ability had been a pleasant surprise as well. Roofe covered Grot well in his absence and was a constant threat whenever he played down our right flank. He ended a productive campaign with 7 goals and 12 assists in 30 starts. After Alioski mastered English, he slotted seamlessly into our first 11 and managed 12 goals and 4 assists in only 25 starts. That certainly helped us over the line during the last third of our season.
At the back, Jansson was solid all season and even managed to nod in four at the other end. De Bock was reliable at left-back when called upon and Ayling played with remarkable consistency on the right of our defense. Having played in all 46 league games, Vieira developed well and managed to bag 6 important goals from the number 8 position. Wiedwald and Baningime were the other two players who started in all our league games. Baningime was my proudest signing as he anchored our midfield superbly and ended the campaign with an impressive 93% passing accuracy. He cost us a mere 1,000 pounds per week in wages without any loan fees. What a bargain!
It still feels unreal that we find ourselves back in top flight at the first time of asking. However, to put things into perspective, we are going up with a Championship squad and not many of our players are of Premier League quality. Jansson and Alioski should be able to make the step up and Vieira can grow into a Premier League midfielder, but that’s about it. As much as I want to keep the squad together for the upcoming campaign, we need upgrades in most positions if we want to avoid relegation. Nevertheless, we have waited 15 years for this and we should look forward to the season ahead, no matter how tough things are going to be. Bring on the new season!