Firstly, I just want to say thank you to everyone who took the time to read the intro to this save, it is greatly appreciated. At the end of the previous post I had just found myself the first job (in January 2022) on this journey, taking over at Union St. Florian in the fourth tier of Austrian football. That’s seems like a good place to start for this post, so without further ado, let’s get into it.
Union St. Florian
Founded in 1947 the club has been in and around the lower leagues of Austria since its inception. I wish I could give you an exciting backstory about the club but there just isn’t one. The most encouraging thing is that it’s a relatively stable club, for a first job on FM that is definitely a good thing.
St Florian is the patron saint of Linz, he was a Christian holy man. Born in 250 AD in the ancient city of Aelium Cetium (St Pölten) he joined the Roman army where he rose through the ranks to reach the post of commander. He was also in charge of a group of soldiers who were responsible for fighting fires, due to this he is considered to patron saint of firefighters. During the persecution of Christians by the Romans, Florian refused to enforce the orders set by his superiors which led to him being executed.
Linz, the capital of Upper Austria and the third largest city in Austria with a population of 204,000. Located in the north of the country, it is right on the Danube and approximately 19 miles from the Czech border. The city is known for its vibrant music scene and contemporary artists.
The FM Save:
Upon my arrival at St. Florian at the end of January 2022, I noticed that we had played 27 games already this season. After a look at the fixtures I realised that when the team came back from the winter break there was in fact only three games left of the season. So, that is why this blog is 1.2/2.1, I didn’t think an end of season blog after three games would be that interesting.
This is the team I inherited, I’m not going to do an in-depth breakdown of the squad, largely because going into next season there will be a lot of new faces so it makes sense to go into detail then. There’s a need for a rather swift overhaul as we are currently 100k in the red and about £400 over the wage budget.
Recreating the Wunderteam tactic:
As mentioned previously, I would like to emulated the tactic of the Wunderteam, given that we are currently in the fourth tier of Austrian football, I do question whether it’s possible at this level. This tactic is open to change and tweaks to suit the team and level we are at, for example Matthias Sindelar was a False Nine, but I don’t think at this level we would be able to effectivley use this role in the way this system requires. So, taking that into account I’ve opted for a DLF, the idea behind the 5 forward players was that they would all interchange which would create space that could be exploited. The obvious downside to this tactic is the defence will likely be exposed, for that reason it is also in my mind that instead of a BWM a Half Back might be better suited but I’m going to see how this plays out for a few games first.
I’ve developed two alternate tactics, the first being a 4-1-4-1, I’ve created a match plan where this system is utilised for 10 minutes after we go 1-0 up. I don’t want us to fall into the trap of going 1-0 up and then immediately losing our lead. The idea of switching to the 4-1-4-1 is to give us a bit more stability and prevent our opponents from drawing level.
The next tactic is a 4-3-3, this might be something to switch to if we are chasing a goal, it would provide us with a bit more defensive shape and cover while still allowing us to attack in numbers. This is what I can see us switching to if we need a goal and the clock is against us, sort of 10 minutes left type of scenario.
Getting into the first three league games, which are the final three games of season 1, things started off quite well. We grabbed a win away to ASKÖ Oedt who were in 3rd place, they threw everything at us but only managed to break the deadlock once. I wish I could say it was a good defensive performance but Dominik Leonhartsberger was phenomenal in goal. All three of our goals came courtesy of swift counter attacks, Robin Mayrhofer grabbed two while Simon Pranzl came off the bench to grab a goal in the dying minutes of the game. We followed this up with another 3-1 victory at home to ASK St. Valentin, this was a much better performance by us; we were much more in control as Mayrhofer was on the scoresheet for us again, joined by Samuel Grillmayr and Mathias Haider. The final day of the season was a disappointment as we suffered defeat at the hands of already relegated SV GW Micheldorf, as you can see we had 35 shots, an xG of 2.99 and 59% possession. Well and truly FM’d.
The three games of my tenure so far had no real effect on our standing as we finished the season in mid table.
As mentioned above; I intended to overhaul the squad and that my friends is exactly what I did. Firstly, I noticed that we had a U18s team but had no players, so I also set about making sure we actually had a youth team that could develop players into first team candidates. It took me two real life days to get all the transfers done (two days well spent if you ask me). The board wanted me to sign players under the age of 23 for the first team, coupled with our wage budget issues, it was pretty obvious that I had to mostly target young players with potential, possibly a couple of experienced players if we could afford it. I’m not going to show you every player we signed because that would be tedious for both you and me. Here are the signings that I consider our ‘key’ transfers:
Benjamin Cuic, a 16 year old left winger with very good physical and mental attributes, technicals aren’t bad either. Christoph Groinig, another 16 year old, this time a DM, I mean, look at those mentals! Daniel Aybar who one of the best players at the club if I’m honest, a right winger who can also play in an attacking midfield role, low determination needs to be worked on but overall I have high hopes for him. Lukas Favre, another attacking midfielder/winger with great potential. At 35 Michael Kölbl comes in to add some much needed experience! Mohammad Sadeqi is in on loan from RB Salzburg to be our starting striker for the season. Noel Alou, yet another promising midfielder- 16 passing ability already, 12 vision- could he be our creative outlet? Serdar Yusufov a 23 year old LWB comes in to be a starter, very well rounded player for this level. Finally, another coup for us; Syrian international Ninos Gouriye agreed a deal, he can play anywhere in attack so he could be utilised as a striker, attacking midfielder or winger if needed.
There’s nothing unexpected in the club vision although I don’t really know how the board think I’ve repaired the financial damage as we are still 80k in the red!
Goalkeepers: looking at the keepers we have what I would class as a pretty average group. They all possess (relatively) good handling, arial ability and reflexes. None inspire confidence with their 1v1 abilities so if the opposition manage to get through the defence I’d lay odds on us conceding. Dominik Leonhartsberger is arguably the better overall player, while I’d class Per Rabe as the weakest.
Defenders: Overall the defenders are not a bad group of players. For me, Milenko Kukolj is a very exciting prospect; notwithstanding the unambitious personality, he possesses high attributes in aggression, bravery and tackling whilst his other attributes are decent especially for a 17 year old. Dominic Winkler who is our club captain, I consider to be our best overall defender so he will occupy one of our two starting CB roles. Machreich is the more senior player so he will likely partner Winkler in defence but I do intend to give the aforementioned Kukolj plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
Midfielders: In terms of our midfield, we have some very talented players for this level. Haider and Grillmayr renewed their contracts with us for another season so there is some continuity there. The two that I am most interested to watch develop are Noel Alou and Daniel Aybar, the Dominican teenagers currently don’t possess the best mental attributes but have some very useful technical attributes which will undoubtedly pay dividends in terms of our attacking proficiency.
Forwards: Without question Mohammed Sadeqi is our most talented player going forward with Robin Mayrhofer a close second. The only acquisition I’m not so thrilled about is Tyrone McCargo, I signed him when we had virtually no players and he ended up being more of a panic signing than anything. I did change his expected playing time from regular starter to fringe player and he didn’t kick off about it so I’m more than happy to have him as a third choice forward for the foreseeable.
Now for the sake of a bit of realism, it’s unlikely that a club is going to a hire an unknown manager and allow them to just start bringing in their own staff, so I assigned the staffing responsibilities over to the chairman. The first thing he did was bring in Milan Baros as my assistant, no complaints from me about that. As you’d expect at this level the assembled staff have a real mix of styles and abilities. We are very attack heavy in the coaching department, when coupled with the formation I intend to use, the lack of defensively minded coaches does slightly bother me.
Other than our Director of Football who I actually think is quite good for this level, our scouting department is nothing to write home about. The medical department doesn’t fair much better to be honest. With the majority on one year contracts, if it looks like I’m going to be here at St. Florian for another season I think I will assess our staff and look to bring in some new faces to implement some form of cohesion in each department going forward.
Preseason consisted mostly of playing friendlies against the big teams in Austria like RB Salzburg, Austria Wien and co. to try and make a dent in the poor finances. We didn’t get thrashed by any of them thankfully but as you can imagine it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for us.
We started season 2 with a 0-0 draw away to SV Bad Schallerbach, not the most exciting game but it was a defensively solid performance by us which did alleviate some of my concerns prior to the season kicking off. Three days later we stormed to a 2-0 win (which should have been more) at home to SV Gmunden; new signing Benjamin Cuic opened his account with a deft finish on three minutes after latching onto a through ball from Mohammad Sadeqi. Robin Mayrhofer converted from the penalty spot on 75 minutes to wrap up the points for us. Up next was St. Martin, here we put in one of our best performances, Sadeqi opened his account after 10 minutes with a header from a Daniel Aybar cross, the Afghan then doubled his tally and our lead on the hour mark with an exceptional solo run after we had successfully defended a corner. Sadeqi then turned provider (as he had in the previous game), he picked the ball up in the middle of the park and played a lovely ball through for Lukas Favre who was running in off the left wing to place his shot into the far right corner. The only negative was conceding in the 80th minute after Emil Harrer played a poor back pass which allowed St. Martin’s striker to simply round the keeper and pass it into the net.
We kicked off August with a last gasp 2-1 victory against Union Vöcklamarkt, we found ourselves down by one after 10 minutes, luckily Lukas Favre was on hand to equalise three minutes later, then in the 93rd minute Ninos Gouriye scored a lovely curling shot from the edge of the area. Next up was a disappointing 0-0 draw with SV Grieskirchen, there’s not a lot to say about this match- we had plenty of chances just didn’t take them. This was followed up with another draw, this time against Union Edelweiß, a game that they dominated and in fairness we didn’t deserve to come away with anything; a Daniel Aybar volley ensured that we grabbed a very undeserved point. I was a little disappointed by the contrubitions from Sadeqi and Mayrhofer by now so in came McCargo for his debut. He took full advantage, bagging two goals in a comprehensive victory away to ASKÖ Linz. Our first defeat of the season came at the hands of SPG Wallern, Gouriye put us in front after 15 minutes and then we just disappeared from the game, a real lack of effort in this one. We concluded the month with another draw, this time at home to SPG Pregarten, Daniel Aybar scoring a close range header at the far post after a cross from Serdar Yusufov.
I was starting to become concerned with our performances, we looked incredibly shaky in defence and the DLF was becoming largely ineffective during games. So back to the drawing board I went; the most obvious change to make was to switch from a BWM to a HB in order to provide additional defensive cover. Then I decided on putting the AMs as Attacking Midfielders on Support, the idea being that they will be more likely to drop back into midfield in order to pick up possession and plug the gaps. The Wingers are where we will get the width from, Aybar being on attack due to his technical abilities and finally we weren’t getting the best out of Sadeqi as a DLF, he would often drop back into midfield to collect the ball but then we wouldn’t have the runners going forward. At this level I think it is beneficial to have an out and out striker, hopefully by changing him to a Poacher he will have more of an effect on games by leading the attacking line.
September started with yet another draw, this time to SV Bad Ischl, this was particularly disappointing as we went 2-0 up thanks to a double from Sandro Burger. We then conceded two goals in the final 10 minutes. Thankfully we were back to winning ways against USV Dietach with goals coming from Daniel Aybar and a spectacular long range effort from Noel Alou. Another good win came against ASKÖ Oedt, goals from Gouriye and Sadeqi ensuring us the points. Our second loss of the season was against Union Mondsee, a game by all accounts we really should have won. Goals from Gouriye and Burger ensured we picked up all three points in a comfortable win against St. Valentin. We closed September with a victory away at SPG Friedburg thanks to Serdar Yusufov arriving late in the penalty area to blast home a cross from Daniel Aybar in the 93rd minute.
It’s quite strange to say that we have reached the halfway point in the season at the end of September. We find ourselves top of the league thanks to the fact that SPG Pregarten have a game in-hand. Given that the board were expecting mid table we are doing very well, especially considering all the upheaval of the transfers.
A look at the data hub shows that we are for the most part exceeding expectations with our performances. We have an xG per game of 1.66 while we are only scoring 1.4 goals per game so we are rather wasteful with our opportunities. We are conceding 0.67 goals per game which is higher than the league average, something to investigate further I think. How much of this can be put down to the formation we play and how much is defensive weakness or errors?
We have a lot of defensive actions close to our own goal which does indicate there’s a lot of last ditch defending going on. However when we do win possession back it is higher up the pitch which does bode well for launching counter attacks. I do wonder if there is a lack of effort from the forward line to win the ball back or press our opponents though. Plenty of things for me to look at and assess as the season progresses.
To summarise: there’s been a mass exodus to cure the wage budget problems, we’ve heavily invested in youth. We’re top of the league at the half way point. I haven’t been sacked. Things are going alright!
I do hope you have enjoyed reading!