Before we begin, a huge thank you to Martin Morpain for his incredible work on the Dnipro and CSKA Moscow fictional kits. They are stunning pieces of work, and will feature in my game! Please check Martin’s work out, he’s a very talented designer, and deserves plaudits.
Part Two: An Academy of Football
As eluded to in the last piece, it became clear pretty quickly that transfer wise, we would be offered slim pickings in the Soviet Top League. Probably more so than I first thought. Perhaps this was down to teams refusing to let go of their best players (if you can’t command a high fee, there’s no need to let go is there?). I want players of real quality and intelligence in my team, and to be perfectly honest, with the budget we have (despite being “rich” in this league), there is no way I can go after any big hitters of rival clubs. On reflection, I think I really like this. I am limited to creating a team from the players we already have, the youth academy, and a few bargains from the market. There are no short term fixes. If I want a new Soviet Iniesta, I am going to have to make them from scratch!
Our ambition is to become a Soviet factory of football. A club built on good footballing ideals, with a solid line of players either coming into my team, or going off to influence and strengthen the Soviet divisions. It would need quality staffing, and quality scouts, finding those rough diamonds around the league who we could give a footballing education to. That is where I found our first problem…
We have one scout and a Director of Football on the books. It’s not good enough for my ambitions for the club, and whilst I am wary of over spending, I put out an advert for a scout.
The same goes for coaching. We are near capacity with staffing, but with a few places on the staffing team left, I look at the areas we vitally need boosting. Attacking and goalkeeping seem to need stocking up on, with Valeriy Gorodov coming in as goalkeeping coach, before the board interject and tell me that “you cannot have another coach”. We’ll have to make do with what we have, for this season at least. Bloody Soviet Bureaucracy!
Our academy of football features several Dnipro veterans, intelligent (that word again) players who can pass on a thing or two. So when it comes to looking at our youngsters, the first thing I do is pair youth players with older pros, to be tutored off the pitch, all to increase their game knowledge. I will continue to do this throughout! You’ve got to pass on your knowledge to the kids!
Cruyffism with Soviet Characteristics
These early stages of preseason are about getting your ideas into the team, and boy, do I have some ideas. You may remember in the last piece, I started with a 4-3-3 formation, and whilst that is still an option, I really want this save to be something more ambitious.
Leo Fotov, (my manager personality) is an idealist. Whilst the 1990’s were a rather turbulent time for the Soviet Union, the strength of the national game, and the international teams performances were great escapism for citizens looking to ignore the continuous political fighting between the reformists and the hardliners. Growing up in Volgograd, Leo Fotov is no different, and after being selected for the Dnipro academy at 13, a great effort was placed on footballing education. The increase in technology meant that football from behind the wall was being pumped into academies up and down the country, “Let’s see what they are doing, let’s see what we can do better” being the mantra. The Johan Cruyff Barcelona dream team left a lasting impression. With it’s 343 formation, it’s clever play, it is what Fotov adores.
This is what we are attempting to create at Dnipro. Ambitious? Most certainly.
Whilst our players may not be of the same level of Guardiola, Koeman and Bakero, they almost certainly possess the game intelligence to operate in such a system at this level, and with a bit of time, we’ll hope to develop our own players in this system.
A Tactical Breakdown
The tactic is heavily influenced by Ö-zil’s tactic, with a few minors adjustments. I can’t take credit for thinking up this brilliant work. Please check out the original piece in the link above.
The tactic itself on the face of it is a 3-5-1-1, but in practice, operates as a 3-4-3 diamond. The idea behind it is to flood midfield, with easy progressive passing options available for our players. It is fluid in nature, with a strong emphasis on retaining possession, high pressure, high tempo, and winning the ball high up the pitch, all whilst forcing errors from opponents, and forcing them to lose the ball, either via our pressure, or by them resorting to long ball to escape advancing players. Each player has an important role in the squad, although a special note must be paid to the “no4” position, the Deep Lying Playmaker.
The Goalkeeper: Adopting a sweeper keeper support role, our keeper is in many respect, the first line of attack for us. His aim is to get the ball out to the play makers and do it quickly.
Left and Right Centre Backs: Whilst I want all my centre backs to be pacey, I have to accept that in the Soviet Top League, I take what I’m given. Therefore, Cheberyachko and Chygrynskyi, my two senior centre backs, play each side of the central defender, doing the basic defensive duties required.
Central Centre Back: The central defender of the back 3 is set to cover. This defender sweeps up, and does not hold their position. They are pacier than the other two, and must act as a mobile defensive unit.
The Deep Lying Playmaker aka The No 4: The only out and out play maker in the team, this player is the route of all our build up. This is Pep Guardiola, Busquets,…Tom Huddlestone. An intelligent player of the ball, they are to hold their position in front of the back 3, never venturing further forward, and always been available to receive and distribute the ball to all angles of the pitch.
The Central Midfielders: Set to support, these two midfielders must be ready to receive the ball, offering support to our DLP, and move possession forward with their own movements and passing. Depending on the player, their individual instructions are varied, with some more attack minded players told to race forward.
The Wingers: The mobile, pace driven players of the game, our wide men act as the width, stretching our opposition’s defense, pulling defenders away from position, and leaving space in central midfield for our oncoming midfielders and striker. Despite being set to attack, they still track back, providing much needed defensive cover out wide. They also cut inside from time to time, with the oncoming central midfielders overlapping to still bring great width to the pitch. At the moment, we don’t have an out and out solid right winger, but right backs Artem Fedetskyi and Valeriy Luchkevych are capable of filling in this position, and are solid in the defensive aspect of the game.
The Attacking Midfielder: This fellow is a high playing pivot.With his back to goal, he receives the ball, and distributes quickly to his team mates, moving up the pitch afterwards. He is instructed to hold position, working within the space behind the striker. He can also rush the box, providing a secondary striker role when necessary. At the moment, No10 Roman Bezus is a shoe in for this position, although he does lack some of the game intelligence and physical stats need for the role. I hope we can bring a solid AM in to the team in the next few seasons.
The Centre Forward: Set to support, our CF can lead the line, hold up play for others during our pass and move build up, or drops deep into midfield to provide us with huge numerical superiority in the centre of the pitch. They should be able to bring others into play, as well as seek out scoring opportunities of their own. The great thing about this role, and the team in general, is that we aren’t really looking for players to create their own chances. We work as a unit together, and thus the CF really just needs to be in the right place at the right time.
It’s a great idea on paper, but it will never work in real life
Three games into preseason, and the results of the tactic have been highly successful. I know, a full season is to come, and I may regret these words come the next update, but 3 games, 3 successive wins, and 3 goals in each game is a good success indicator. Our domination of possession and chances should also be noted, as we seek to stop our opponents from even the slightest opportunity.
It’s still early days, and we haven’t hit anywhere near the fluidity I would like, but with a few new faces, and match practise, I do think we have the ability with this tactic to cause a few scares around Europe.
Our transfer kitty is small, but 2 deals have been struck for 2 players who will bring something to the team. The first is Yugoslav U21 Nemanja Antonov, a left back coming in from OFK Beograd for £925k. A big expense, but with great potential, I really see him as a player who can perform for us in the coming seasons. He also has great stats for the role of Ball Playing Centre back, and can double up as a mobile Central Defender in the 343 formation.
Another defensive addition is CSKA Moscow defender Victor Vasin. By no means a regular starter, Victor provides me with an alternative in defense. Playing 3 at the back is great, but when you only really have 2 solid defenders, and a few youth prospects, another safe body would no doubt be useful. He joins for £975k.
Our team is certainly getting on, especially in midfield, and whilst I want to reduce the average age, this will have to be done gradually. We have quality veterans in the team, with short contracts, the captain Ruslan Rotan being one. Whilst looking to keep our wages down, a few veterans have been given new contracts, for an extra year at least, when I can use them to tutor others. I would however, like to bring in a young midfielder, just so I am not relying completely on the over 30s in midfield.
We still have a few friendlies to go in preseason, it could all fall apart from now, but I would like to ship one or two reserves out to the next division, and maybe sign that younger midfielder, albeit for little money!
That about sums us up for this piece. I realise it was more of a ramble of telling you information, and I promise the next edition will be something more coherent, with a chronological narrative at least! What do you think of our actions so far? What would you do to build the “Academy of football”? and what do you think of 343?
Thank you once again for reading. You can keep up with me @VRFussball. Hope to speak to you soon!