KINGSMEN – Season 1 – Just Gotta Get Thru This.

The first update from my save with Willem II is here – you can read the introduction here. For me, the first season is mostly about getting through it – learning about the strengths and weaknesses of the personnel that have been inherited. I find that it is always after the first season that you can really start to put your own stamp on things. In the words of 2002 pop sensation (?) ‘I just gotta get thru this’.

Life at Willem began by bringing a Dutch legend to the club – the incomparable Dennis Bergkamp joined the coaching staff to provide us with a much needed improvement in the standard of coaches. Mohamed Taabouni and Rav Van Den Berg were the only transfers in during the summer window, both on season long loans. Neither will be a starter for us but they provide some depth in attack and central defence.

Being in The Netherlands my initial thoughts towards tactics were to try and implement a total football system (even have an entire blog post in the drafts dedicated to this). I swiftly had to abandon this approach as we don’t have players of a good enough ability to do this, however I would like to return to this idea at a later date, maybe when we have established ourselves in the top flight and can attract a higher calibre of player. Instead we opted for a 4-4-2 formation with the intention of utilising our pace down the flanks and getting crosses into the box.

August – October 2022:

The campaign got underway with a surprising 3-0 victory at home to Jong PSV, a team we were not expected to beat and a performance that I was not expecting. I was immediately brought back down to earth by the loss to FC Eindhoven, it became very apparent that this season was going to be a bit of a slog and the league was going to be very competitive. The results through September and October were very good and we found ourselves in fourth place which would see us qualify for the play offs if we were able to maintain this throughout.

November & December 2022:

November began with a disappointing loss to fellow promotion chasers Heracles, however our form did pick up and we were able to pick up another three wins mostly due to the form of Jizz Hornkamp (what a name). Looking at the data hub ahead of the January transfer window it became clear that we were reasonably efficient in attack yet we weren’t translating this into goals scored. The way I wanted our 4-4-2 to work was to use the wingers to get plenty of crosses into the box – January priorities were soon identified as a winger and a target forward to provide us with a physical presence to aim for.

Christmas came and went with us still chilling in fourth place, by this time Roda JC had established themselves as firm title favourites. We made two signings in January, the first being Chelsea winger Juan Castillo who joined for 90k as he was going to leave on a free at the end of the season, The Blues decided to sell him to us for a small sum. He’s nothing sparkling attribute wise but he has great pace and can cross a ball which was all he needed to do in this team.

The New Year:

Speaking of blues… the January blues certainly struck us pretty bad when it came to our form on the pitch, a shocking month of results where we looked incapable of scoring a goal and on the rare occasion that we did, it was inevitable that we would then concede. Too much Christmas cheer for us I think!

By the time we reached Deadline Day we were still in need of a target forward, or at least another striker of some description. We took a bit of a chance on Maarten Pouwels, signed for 100k purely on the basis that he’s tall and can jump. A few tactical tweaks were made to accommodate him in the starting eleven, a switch to positive mentality and changing the central midfielders to a CM on defend and a Mez on support just to ensure that we play down the wings and have one midfielder acting as a bit of a shield to the remaining defenders.

February & March 2023:

Maarten Pouwels big moment, his debut for Willem was against Helmond Sport, could he handle the pressure? He smashed it, scored four goals and assisted another one in a 6-2 victory. He forged quite the partnership with Hornkamp up front as the pair would score fourteen goals between them during the months of April and March. Our sustained good form saw us climb up to second in the table, maybe we could attain automatic promotion after all.

As we know, March is the month we get our youth intakes, the newest generation vying to make their mark on our teams for better or worse. I haven’t mentioned anything prior about our potential youth intake as it wasn’t anything to write home about – touted as an average intake and I think my HOYD was right. I have picked out the best two players from this season’s crop – Gust Doomernik & Robin Sleeger.

April 2023:

I have no words.

May 2023: The Fight For Second

After that rather shambolic month of April, we fortunately managed to turn our form around in May. After picking up two wins against Telstar and Jong Utrecht, below is how the table looked going into the final game of the season. We were one point ahead of Heracles going into our final game which was against already crowned champions Roda. Heracles final game was against Jong Ajax, a game I fully expected them to win so would have to put in a massive performance away at Roda to secure promotion.

How very wrong I was! We scored very early on through the main man Hornkamp and then proceeded to cling on for what felt like an eternity. Constantly checking the latest scores, on the 75th minute I couldn’t believe our luck as Jong Ajax went 1-0 up against Heracles! If we could just see this out, we were up… we continued to ride our luck until the 91st minute when Mr Jizz Hornkamp bagged another goal to seal the victory (what a man). Heracles scored a last minute equaliser in their game but it didn’t matter. Eredivisie here we come.

Looking at some end of season stats it appears that the tactical style paid off as we sit comfortable atop the crosses completed table while Hornkamp and Pouwels both make appearances in the leading goal-scorers and assisters tables.

Just a final thought on the man that changed our season – Maarten Pouwels. Signed back in January, he made 16 appearances for us and scored 12 goals. A brilliant return from a player I didn’t expect too much from if I am being completely honest. A timely reminder to disregard attributes and look at if and how the player will actually impact your style of play for the better when making a signing in FM.

That is season one over in The Netherlands. Now I feel like I can really build the team into the way I want to play, and of course adhering to our ‘must have a Dutch passport’ rule. Going forward I plan on writing two blogs per season with a bit more detail of tactical style, chosen signings and general decisions made in the save.

In the meantime, please check out my fellow DPFM bloggers as they are all wonderful human beings and great writers too! Finally, if you like you can find me on twitter.

Many thanks, Beth.

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